Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Ellen Page, Halle Berry and Peter Dinklage
The verdict is in, and surprisingly enough, X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best X-Men movie to date, and that's saying something, given that First Class was a very impressive return for the series.
I didn't think they could top superheroes meet Cuban missile crisis, but I was wrong: what topped it was genocidal AI super-robots that can adapt to any mutant power (thanks to genetic engineering and Mystique's DNA). Why is that good? Well, it borrows perhaps from Terminator, (okay, yeah, maybe a lot), which means a dark dystopian theme and Matrix-esque end of the world visuals, plus it's a fitting return to what X-Men is really all about — humanity's rejection of its own evolution: the mutants.
Days of Future Past opens on a future where the world has essentially been destroyed by a war between humanity and mutants, one where humanity's weapon is the Sentinel, a contracted military weaponized robot with AI, mutant-exclusive targeting and an ability to adapt to counter any mutant's ability. To establish the strength of the Sentinel, a small band of mutants faces off against one, and all of them, no matter how cool and badass their power, get killed. Since we care about some of those characters, like Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), luckily it turns out that Kitty's band of mutants have been evading the Sentinels when she sends someone back in time to deliver warnings of the attacks. None of them are actually dead, and the group rendezvouses with more important named characters: Xavier, Magneto, Storm and Wolverine.
Time travel is overdone in general and I winced every time Wolverine had to repeat that he was from the future or assures Xavier and then Magneto that "you sent me," but what was done nicely was the overlap of past and future, where scenes cut back and forth between the 70s and an apocalyptic world some decades (as in less than a century) later. Our 70s gang spend valuable screen time simply grouping together and then trying to track down Mystique and stop her from murdering Bolivar Trask, played by Peter Dinklage, who invented the Sentinels (and it was his murder that allowed Mystique to be captured and her DNA replicated to allow the Sentinels to transform and adapt like she can). After many attempts, which admittedly gets kind of old fast, Xavier isn't getting through to her, and time is running out in the future due to some nonsensical mechanic where the course of events won't be changed until Wolverine wakes up from his dual-consciousness nap in the past, and the future gang are getting picked off and killed by Sentinels, unable to run while Kitty's doing her voodoo thing with Wolverine's body (note: if that makes no sense, I apologize. It's confusing. Maybe go see the movie instead of reading a spoiler-full review).
Where the strength of First Class was the character development and complexity drawn out from Xavier, Erik and Raven, Days of Future Past actually has its strong point in its plot, which is refreshing, and said plot just relies heavily on the dynamic established in the first film. Except that in the ten year gap Xavier's feelings toward Raven have become surprisingly love-triangley, and while he continues to act as a surrogate older brother or guardian to her, he also resents Erik for taking her away from him, getting inside her head and making a killer out of her to fight his, Magneto's, war. That said, if you don't remember First Class or haven't seen it, that whole dynamic might come across as more of a hot mess.
That doesn't mean there's no good character drama, though. From the trailer you may have been wondering, like I was, why James McAvoy seemed to be up walking 'round again as if he's not a paraplegic. Not telling. Suffice to say, young Xavier has more development where that came from, not to mention more struggles with his relationship with Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. It's all very tragic and puts X2 and X3 in perspective to see these men with their utter bro-mance continually at odds with one another on what should be a theoretical matter but in practice is very bloody (whether to fight a war, humans versus mutants, or to try to live peacefully). Even in the future, you'll get a lamentation from Ian McKellen that their friendship was strained by foolish young passions, but never an actual admission that he was wrong. It's subtle, but it's there. The man ain't changing.
The best moment of the entire thing was hands down Quicksilver's superspeed mischief set to Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce. Evan Peters was silly and hilarious. A deserving addition to the ever-growing cast of mutants.
I'm okay with the ending. There's probably room for debate there but as someone who is very familiar with but not a comic book nerd addict of the X-Men canon, I was quite happy to see Famke Janssen and James Marsden alive and beautiful as ever. Hopefully Cyclops and Jean Grey are alive enough now to make it into the third installment, X-Men: Apocalypse, and hopefully there won't be another apocalypse, because this dystopia was already pretty close to the end of the world as humans know it.
I seem to have made it through an entire review without ranting about any particular flaw. Did I miss something? No one disagrees with me that this was even better than First Class, right? Well if you do, bring it on. Tell me I'm wrong. Oh and if anyone found any plot holes, particularly time travel related plot holes, do tell!