X-Men: Days of Future Past may be Brett Ratner’s greatest gift to us all.
Sure, Bryan Singer is the director of the film, but if it wasn’t for Ratner, it never would have happened. If he hadn’t damaged things so irreparably with the 2006 film X-Men: The Last Stand, leaving the franchise with nowhere to go, we never would have gotten the successful X-Men: First Class prequel or Days of Future Past, which seeks to bridge First Class with the original trilogy of X-Men films.
In Days of Future Past, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) goes back in time to try to prevent the dystopian future that he and his fellow mutants find themselves in. There’s a moment where he talks to Beast (Nicholas Hoult), who asks Wolverine pointedly: “In the future, do I make it?”
To which Wolverine replies: “No … but we have a chance to change that!”
He might as well look directly into the camera and say, “When we’re finished here, it will be like X-Men: The Last Stand never happened.”
However, course correcting Ratner is just one of the film’s goals. It also has to, first and foremost, tell an entertaining story and secondly, find a compelling way to crossover these two worlds.
It certainly succeeds in telling a compelling story. What was so refreshing about the plot is that it felt different from your standard comic book movie fare. It’s very clear that Hollywood has settled into a formula with comic book movies and anyone paying attention at home can easily track the very specific dots most of these films hit. (Just take an outline for Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and add explosions, large-scale devastation and a tease for the next film in the franchise and you’ve got it.)
But because this film deals with time travel, a dystopian future and the merging of two worlds, it at least feels new and exciting, even if it does settle in to a fairly standard story about Wolverine uniting a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), a moment that sets in motion a series of events that leads to the creation of the sentinels, an army of unstoppable robots that hunt and kill all mutants, leading to the aforementioned dystopian future.
McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence are all great in their roles and having Jackman there to interact with them is very satisfying. Ignoring the time travel stuff for a moment, it’s actually a logical and entertaining sequel to First Class that leads Xavier and Lehnsherr further down their inevitable adversaries paths.
The film also introduces Quicksilver (Evan Peters), a character with superspeed who the gang must recruit to help with their mission. Much has been made about the fact that Quicksilver will also be appearing in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, though played by a different actor and with no connection to this film, since the rights to the two franchises are owned by different studios. Director Joss Whedon will have his work cut out for him topping Singer’s use of the character in this film. The moment when Quicksilver uses his superspeed to take on a room full of security guards, which we see from his perspective (meaning everyone else is practically frozen in time while he casually moves about the room) is one of the best scenes in any comic book movie I’ve ever seen. It was creatively staged, perfectly executed and absolutely delightful to watch unfold.
As for how well the film does crossing over the original X-Men and First Class franchises, that is a bit of a mixed bag. They clearly chose to tell an entertaining story first instead of simply going for cheap fan service, which as a result means that most of the characters in the future storyline aren’t given much to do. The film finds a way to have the past and present Charles Xaviers talk to each other, but other than that, there isn’t much interaction between the two worlds. And, most disappointing of all, Ian McKellen, who plays the older version of Lehnsherr, is barely given anything to do besides standing around looking concerned.
The film is clearly setting up for 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, which will undoubtedly have more for McKellen and the other cast members from the original franchise to do. And choosing a good story that puts the franchise back on track is obviously more important than shoehorning in a bad ass Magneto scene just to get your money’s worth out of McKellen.
Considering all that they had to accomplish in this film, I think Singer and Company did a masterful job with Days of Future Past. The action scenes are fun an inventive, the plot feels different from your standard comic book fare and the acting is top notch. So thank you Brett Ratner for screwing things up so bad that they had no choice but to knock this film out of the park.