In the wake of The Avengers, movie franchises have aimed for larger scales and the combining of movie casts. The Fast & Furious franchise folded in Jason Statham’s Transporter character with the closing scene of Fast & Furious 6. Man of Steel is begetting Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which is ultimately begetting a Justice League movie.
Not to miss the boat, the X-Men franchise delivers their attempt at a combined hero action movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, which unites the cast of the 2000-2005 X-Men trilogy and the cast of the 2011 prequel-boot X-Men: First Class. Gloriously, X-Men: Days of Future Past is many things at once — a combined hero action movie being just one of them — and succeeds on all fronts.
Taking place in a dystopian 2023, the seventh entry in the superhero franchise imagines a future of blackened skies and mutant concentration camps. The U.S. government has created robotic “sentinels” that hunt down mutants. To make matters worse, the sentinels are able to adapt to any mutant attack, making them nearly invincible — and all because of the shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).
In the 1970s, Mystique assassinated the military scientist behind the sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), before being herself captured – giving the American public a distrust and dislike of mutants and giving the American government Mystique’s adaptive DNA, which was used to create the adaptable sentinels.
As four of the last mutants left alive in the future, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and Storm (Halle Berry) visit a small camp of young, mutant survivors – one of whom is able to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to prevent Trask’s assassination. (If this all sounds confusing in writing, don’t worry; it’s a lot simpler in action than it reads.)
X-Men: Days of Future Past works as a time-travel movie, as a period piece, as a dystopian thriller, and as a superhero movie. While the science of its time travel is gobbledegook, it’s treated with the grit and gravitas of the Terminator movies. What’s more, the movie works just as well on its own as it does as the seventh in a series.
Much like how The Avengers was mostly a sequel to Thor yet didn’t require foreknowledge of it, X-Men: Days of Future Past is less a crossover picture of the old and new generations than it is purely a sequel to X-Men: First Class, but it succeeds perfectly well as without having seen the 2011 origin story.
The cast is impressive, combining the talents of the old (Jackman, Stewart, Berry, McKellen, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore), the recent (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult), and the new (Dinklage, Evan Peters, Omar Sy). Everybody plays their parts perfectly and nobody upstages anyone else, Jackman included.
Director Bryan Singer was a pivotal figure in creating the modern superhero movie, having started their contemporary era with 2000’s X-Men. He also helmed X2: X-Men United, the best entry of the first six movies in the series, due to its darker tones, clever subtext, and daring chances. Singer’s return to the universe of Marvellous mutants after more than a decade away manages his most impressive feat of all: seven movies into the series, X-Men: Days of Future Past is probably the most solidly constructed and all-around best X-Men movie yet.