The build-up to “X-Men: Days of Future Past” has been gigantic. For the first time, the mutant characters we’ve come to care about over the past 14 years, and their younger selves we were introduced to in 2011’s “X-Men: First Class”, come together. It was promoted as an “Avengers” in the “X-Men” universe. But after so much hype and promise, sadly, the result is fairly underwhelming.
“Days of Future Past” isn’t the worst of the recent editions of the “X-Men” series. It offers more intrigue than “The Wolverine” and stronger visuals than “First Class”. But comparing it to other Marvel superhero blockbusters already released this year: it isn’t nearly as much fun as “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” or as gripping as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.
Maybe that’s because only one character (well, for a brief time two – but that would give too much away) actually goes back in time and also into the future. Since Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is immune to death, he volunteers to be the test monkey for the mission to try to save the mutant species from annihilation.
Once put under a temporary sleep, Wolverine is sent from present “X-Men” time (which seems to be about ten years from our present) back to 1973. The Vietnam War is ending and President Richard Nixon is in the White House. Wolverine’s first job is to find and reunite the younger versions of Professor Charles Xavier (played by James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).
A mad scientist named Trask (“Game of Thrones” star Peter Dinklage) has developed giant robotic machines called Sentinels, that are programmed to identify and destroy all mutants. Mystique (reprised by Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence), we learn, had earlier killed Trask, but that act only forced the government to create even more deadly anti-mutant creatures – the ones that are (back in present day) wiping-out the mutants. So Wolverine, Charles, Magneto and a younger Beast (“Jack the Giant Slayer”‘s Nicholas Hoult) have to re-write history by stopping Mystique from killing Trask. Not exactly an edge-of your-seat plot.
That’s a ton of set-up, but it’s explained efficiently early on by multiple characters. Beyond that, “Days of Future Past” doesn’t have much strength in the story department. It’s challenging to make a great back-in-time-travel movie, especially one that deals with established characters. We know all the mutants survive – we’ve seen their later movies! So the suspense level in “Days of Future Past” is pretty low.
And, for someone who’s not a “X-Men” maniac, the film lacks X-citement. There isn’t nearly as much action as I was expecting, especially from Bryan Singer, who directed the original two in the series. Only a few dramatic scenes stand-out, mostly towards the end when things finally start to blend together – though this element doesn’t go far enough.
Lawrence shines, Dinklage and Ellen Page (as mutant Kitty Pryde) are nice additions, and the rest of the cast is passable – but no one, not even the iconic Jackman, hits a home run.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is rated PG-13 for the action/violence and some language. It’s appropriate for kids 11 and up. I’m sure “X-perts” will be able to understand every plot swerve, time change and character cameo and find it all to be amazing and groundbreaking for the franchise. But, as a stand-alone, this film is less than X-traordinary.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” gets a C+.