Synopsis: In the future, giant robots called Sentinels have all but wiped out the mutant population and the world has became a dark, grim place gripped by constant war. In order to win a war that cannot be won, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) devise a plan to put a stop to it before it has even begun. Using the powers of Kitty Pride (Ellen Page), Professor X sends Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 and tasks him with uniting the younger Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to destroy the Sentinel program before it ever gets off the ground. But there are massive complications with this plan and as time is running out in the future, Wolverine runs into major problems centered on Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) who is dead set on the very course of action that will begin the winner-less war.
What I Liked: As I was preparing for X-Men: Days of Future Past, I went back and watched all of the previous X-Men films and rediscovered how much I truly love this franchise. As a kid, I watched the Saturday morning cartoon religiously and collected the action figures and I think the highs of this movie franchise are on par with any superhero movie out there. But the lows (like 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine and ESPECIALLY 2006's Last Stand) leave a bad taste in one's mouth and in some ways cheapen the achievements of the superior films. Without going into spoilers, what I love most about Days of Future Past is director Bryan Singer basically pushing the reset button and striking those lesser films from the X-Men canon. This is an incredibly ambitious film that cuts back and forth between two far distant time periods but Singer weaves it together wonderfully and presents an almost surprisingly cohesive whole that gives fanboys like myself an easy out to completely forget about those films that have been the source of discontentment in the past. The fact that the storyline is even remotely understandable given all the time jumping is an achievement on its own but when you take into account that Singer also had a ton of established but often contradictory background to work around, you really have to applaud the guy's efforts and recognize his excellence as a director.
Days of Future Past is highly enjoyable, a summer blockbuster through and through. There is weight to the story but it doesn't feel entirely heavy the way many superhero films have felt of light in the post-Dark Knight world. That is not to say, however, that the performances are somehow less significant. Jackman is always a treat in this role, Lawrence is excellent as usual, and somehow McAvoy continues to be quite good in this role despite the fact that I've never liked him in any other role he's taken on. But as with almost every movie he's been a part of in the last few years, Days of Future Past belongs to Fassbender. You simply cannot look away when he's on screen and the sheer pull of his dynamic-but-frightening charisma is palpable. (I really tried HARD to resist making a "magnetic" pun there. Please pray for me.) There are few actors in the industry who exhibit such force on screen as Fassbender does. I love what he brings to this role.
What I Didn't Like: One of the best things about the X-Men universe is the understanding of scale as it applies to the balance of power. X-Men stories are inherently more interesting than Superman stories because Superman is such an all-encompassing, powerful being that there's never really anything at stake because there's not anything that could ever really beat him. But with the X-Men, there is a limit to the power of even the greatest mutants. I felt like there were moments within Days of Future Past in which Singer didn't hold to that tenant and the universe as a whole suffers a bit because of this. At one point Magneto rips RFK Stadium out of its foundation and flies it to The White House. If you can do that, there's very little anyone can do to you to maintain the balance of power and therefore the stakes. Singer reels it back in a bit toward the end but once the cat is out of the bag it's hard to get it back in. There are also a few very minor plot points (such as the indication that JFK was a mutant) that play a bit heavy-handed and some logic leaps that I felt could have been avoided without any detriment to the plot as a whole. Small issues to be sure but worth noting I think.
Conclusion: This isn't a perfect movie by any means but Days of Future Past is incredibly enjoyable and it puts the franchise as a whole in a far better place than it has been in a long time. The X-Men can go almost anywhere Singer wants from here on out and that leaves me even more excited about the future than I already am for this current film.
Grade: A- (Rated PG-13 for some language and violence)