As I walked out of the movie theater last weekend, I couldn’t help but be haunted by a slight sense of lingering disappointment. “Godzilla” — one of my most anticipated movies of the summer — was a lot of fun, with plenty of monster mayhem, but it didn’t quite live up to the high hopes I had for it. However, my box office blues didn’t last long, thanks to the arrival of this week’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Not only is it one of the best films in the X-Men franchise, it will probably make a strong case for my favorite movie of the summer.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” opens with a bleak version of the future, landing viewers in the middle of a post-apocalyptic battle that threatens to doom Earth’s remaining mutants. Faced with the extinction of their kind, long-time friends/enemies Magneto and Professor X decide to make a dangerous gamble: sending Wolverine back into the past to try to change the mutants’ grim future. Wolverine must convince the younger versions of Magneto and Professor X to work together to stop blue-skinned mutant Mystique from assassinating an important scientist — a man whose death accelerates the mutant apocalypse.
“Days of Future Past” is a complex film, and with so many characters and time-jumping subplots, the film could have easily become too convoluted. And while there are a lot of details to keep track of, director Bryan Singer (returning to the franchise after “X2: X-Men United”) guides the cast smoothly through the film, giving the plot emotional weight without losing a sense of comic book superhero fun.
It was fun to watch the casts of the original X-Men trilogy and the prequel come together. Although Matthew Vaughn’s 2011 X-Men prequel “First Class” is my favorite film in the X-Men franchise, it earned a respectable but not dramatic $55 million its opening weekend. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy gave strong, authentic performances as the younger versions of Magneto and Professor X, and I wish the film had earned more than it did. Initially I was a bit disappointed that “Days of Future Past” wasn’t a straight-up sequel to “First Class,” but I shouldn’t have been worried. “Days of Future Past” wisely keeps much of the focus on what are arguably the franchise’s three strongest characters: Magneto, Professor X and Wolverine. It was great to see the younger and older versions of Magneto and Professor X in the same film, bringing the return of actors Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart.
I won’t give away anymore of the plot, because a lot of the fun of watching the movie is wondering what is coming and how Wolverine’s attempt to manipulate past events alters the future timeline. The movie is book-ended by two cool action sequences involving eerily shape-shifting, mutant-fighting robots known as Sentinels, and it’s also impressive to watch Magneto levitate a massive sports stadium and drop it on the White House lawn. However, my favorite scene was probably the Pentagon prison break, featuring the lightning-fast mutant Quicksilver. It’s a trippy, clever sequence laced with fun humor, and it actually earned a round of applause and cheers from the audience during the showing I attended.
As with any film, there are places you could be picky. Jennifer Lawrence has a powerful screen presence but I do wish the script writers had given her a little more to do as Mystique in this film. However, overall the film is just what a summer blockbuster should be: fun, exciting and carrying just enough emotional resonance to make it more than just a spectacle.