Box Office Democracy: “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
Bryan Singer was making watchable superhero movies when no one else was and because of that I want to give him a lot of slack. I’ve even mostly forgotten Superman Returns ever happened. I liked more about X-Men: Days of Future Past than I didn’t but there’s a nagging doubt in the back of my mind that if this were a movie by a less famous director I would be ripping it apart instead of trying to patch the pieces together.
The plot is so much of a continuity nightmare that I spent a fair amount of time wondering if it was a bizarre homage to mid-90s X-Men comics. I’m not sure anything in the first two movies holds up at all anymore and I’m quite curious when exactly Mystique decided she wanted to look like Rebecca Romijn instead of Jennifer Lawrence as most people are pretty much done changing physically in their late 20s. An awful lot of characters that act like they have no history at all in the first X-Men film had apparently been hanging out regularly for some 30 years before it started. I understand this is the consequence of a movie series lasting 14 years and starting before every superhero franchise had to be a well-crafted franchise but I can’t ignore that this movie now exists in a world with those well-crafted franchises in it and it just all feels so unpolished.
There are also some insane contrivances in service of the plot. Charles Xavier doesn’t have his psychic powers because he’s hooked on Hank McCoy’s mutant heroin that lets him walk. I’m not bringing external baggage with that heroin comparison as it is absolutely dripping off the screen. I could have lived and died without needing to see Professor X tying off a vein. Wolverine is also incapacitated by a traumatic flashback during a scene where he could have easily fixed everything that goes wrong and sets up the third act. The Wolverine I know and love from the comics isn’t quite so delicate and I’m really not buying that time travel makes someone so consistently portrayed as hard this emotionally vulnerable.
X-Men has the most star power of any film franchise and the cast really shines in this one. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are, again, amazing as Xavier and Magneto and watching them have more and more emotionally charged scenes as their friendship moves toward the enmity that will define their relationship going forward. Hugh Jackman has to carry a lot of plot in this one and he does it while still managing to radiate Wolverine in that way he’s done so much. While rebooting the series might clean up some of the continuity and put them on equal footing there’s something about having people like Jackman (and Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and even Shawn Ashmore) inhabiting these roles for a decade and a half that serves the belivability of a movie about people who can walk through walls and turn in to metal.
Spoiler: Like every movie that involves time travel, X-Men: Days of Future Past ends with a scene where the main character comes back to see the changes he’s made. In this movie one of the first ways Wolverine knows that he’s in the good future instead of the bad one is that Bobby Drake is dating the person he’d rather he be with. A touching moment but also a shout out to the ‘ship culture of the Internet I thought. A moment of “hey, Wolverine is just like us” thrown in to what is otherwise a bit of a soft reboot. It’s not good or bad it’s just interesting and that is, unfortunately where a little too much of this film ends up.