My biggest problems with the original three X-Men films (which two were directed by Bryan Singer) was the lack of focus on the Xavier-Magneto relationship. Not to say it completely left it out, because it didn’t, but it was usually sidelined for the team-up against the threat to mutants which sucked because the bad guy wrap sheet hasn’t been that impressive. So when First Class was released and they cast two immensely talented actors in James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender to play younger incarnations of Xavier and Magneto respectively, it was a breath of fresh air. Not to say that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen were bad, just underutilized.
X-Men Days of Future Past continues the story of friendship, betrayal and reconciliation between Xavier and Magneto as it should be: a foundation in which to build the rest of the film upon. Using the fight between the two younger men to catalyst the 1970s plot-line and the reconciliation from the original three movies with the older men created for an epic-scale of drama placed inside of some insane action pieces and a tension-fueled third act.
X-Men Days of Future Past picks up with the original cast as they fight for their lives against the Sentinels, an advanced army of robots bred to weed out and eliminate mutants. The crew made up of Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Bishop (Omar Sy), Storm (Halle Berry), Blink (Bingbing Fan), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Xavier, Magneto and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) hide out in a remote place in China with one last plan to defeat the Sentinels. They are going to send Wolverine’s consciousness back to 1973 so that he can find the younger versions of Magneto and Xavier and convince them to work together to stop the birth of these robots.
As expected, this is met with turmoil because Xavier has been cooped up inside his dilapidated school/house with Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) or Beast. In the case of Magneto, after being linked with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, he has been put in a secure prison in the middle of the Pentagon. This leads to probably the most fun scene of the entire film which includes newly added Quicksilver (Evan Peters) breaking out the mutant.
Compared to Singer’s other two efforts in the franchise, DOFP carries a more consistent pace in its story. Probably the foundation of the Xavier/Magneto turmoil helps that but he also remembers to sprinkle in a little action and intrigue to always keep you keen on the screen. Like with the Quicksilver scene, he also had some fun and deviated from his more standard blockbuster mold that he seemed to stick to with the first two films. This flexibility, or more looseness, reminded me more of Matthew Vaughn’s First Class with a hint of X2 which made it all the more fun.
Next to the action sequences that made X2 one of the defining movies of the franchise (or out of all superhero movies), DOFP didn’t hold back at bringing the scale to the sequences and having many moving parts at work. It doesn’t have the fluid team fighting that Joss Whedon inserted into The Avengers or Edgar Wright inserted into The World’s End but Singer does a solid job of letting all parties be involved. The final battle with the original cast is wreaked with tension and gives some players (mainly McKellen’s Magneto) their best fighting stage yet.
McKellen and Fassbender continue to set the bar for the character of Magneto and having them both playing the part in this film created one of the most interesting contrasts in a superhero movie I’ve seen. While usually vile and making the choices that Xavier can’t, McKellen’s Magneto seemed more restrained and seeing him work fully alongside Xavier was engrossing. His final scenes with him are affecting and well-acted. On the other side, Fassbender brought back the intensity and fear that he instilled in First Class but it worked more powerfully in this film thanks to the restraint and more knowledge that McKellen had on the other side.
Overall, X-Men Days of Future Past is probably the new bar for X-Men films and a treat for superhero fans to see both casts working simultaneously in one movie. McKellen, Fassbender and of course Jackman as Wolverine lead the cast of talented actors getting a chance to get back into a skin that made most of them. It still didn’t dig deep into the mutant struggle with rejection from society but that could be more prominent in the sequel that focuses on ancient mutant races and Apocalypse.