Time-travel plots are always something to be weary about, especially when placed in summer blockbuster movies. Aside from being trite and overused, time-travel is also hard to account for, leading to many plot lines where things just don’t make sense if you think about them for a minute.
Instead of focusing on time-travel itself, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” travels back in time to situate itself as both a sequel to 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand” and 2011’s “X-Men: First Class.” Directed by Bryan Singer (who directed the first two “X-Men” films), the film stars both the original “X-Men” trilogy cast and the “First Class” cast. “Days of Future Past” unites the two timelines to form a exciting super-hero movie that falters only in its ability to be anything more than a summer blockbuster action film.
Taken from the storyline in the “Uncanny X-Men” comic series of the same name, the latest film is set in a post-apocalyptic world around 15 years after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand.” The earth has been ravaged by a group of machines called Sentinels, programmed to kill mutants and subdue any human who has a mutant gene. After losing the war, the remaining X-Men make a last-ditch effort to prevent the destruction of their world by sending Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into the past to prevent the murder of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), which causes the war that kills nearly all mutants.
In the past, Wolverine enlists the help of the younger versions of Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to stop Trask, creator of the Sentinels, and the mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Meanwhile, in the future, the remaining “X-Men,” including older versions of Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) defend Wolverine as he works to change the future.
While some of the best action scenes in the movie take place in the future, most of “Days of Future Past” occurs in the 1970s as Wolverine works to reunite his old mentors. As a result, the film feels more like a sequel to “First Class,” as most of the early-2000s “X-Men” cast have much less screen-time. Jackman, McAvoy and Fassbender overall are strong leads for the film, and Lawrence delivers a near-perfect performance as Mystique. But the script is stiff and stilted, relying on tropes and cliches such that the end is extremely predictable.
Unfortunately, the time-travel logic of “Days of Future Past” is somewhat flimsy. The event which the X-Men of the past have to stop is never exactly clear and seems to be arbitrarily chosen, especially as the plot progresses. While it is easy to suspend disbelief in favor of high-density action, the explanation for their version of time travel makes the movie seem cheap.
However, many of the film’s mistakes are alleviated by its pacing. The plot flows alongs perfectly, combining action, exposition and character development to make the 2 hour runtime seem relatively short. Even though the final quarter of the movie drags on a bit, the use of cameo appearances from the original “X-Men” trilogy make the final couple of scenes worth it, especially to those who were invested in the original “X-Men” movies.
With all the falters in its plot, “Days of Future Past” is enough of a spectacle to enjoy purely from the action itself. The fights in the future between the Sentinels and Mutants are incredibly entertaining, as the Sentinels are some of the best designed villains in any superhero movie. Even the past setting has some great action set pieces as well: the final showdown that takes places at the White House is the perfect culmination of everything that has made the “X-Men” series enjoyable.
Overall “X-Men: Days of Future Past” plays it safe. For supposedly one of the best X-Men storylines ever written, Singer has translated this comic into a predictable yet fun summer blockbuster. Combining past and present “X-Men” films, it is a great revitalization of the “X-Men” franchise, even if the film isn’t as smart as it hopes to be.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” opens May 23 at AMC Bay Street in Emeryville.