Is It Cool?: Excellence in Filmmaking
Director Bryan Singer — from X-Men and X-Men 2 — makes a welcome return to the helm for an enjoyable and thought provoking mutant extravaganza. It’s flaws lie in it’s overly serious tone, uneven pacing, and perhaps a hyper-idealized view human nature, but the writing in this series has been mostly excellent and X-Men: Days of Future Past continues in that tradition. The X-Men films have continued to engage in conversations that are much deeper than the average superhero flick, and this one does not shy away from adult socio-political themes.
The crux of this outing relies on a time travel plot in which Wolverine (an excellent turn by Hugh Jackman that reminds us why we loved Wolverine to begin with) travels to 1973 to stop Mystique (a reliable Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating a weapons engineer bent on destroying all mutants—an event which eventually led to all out war and devastation in a bleak future. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy) and Magnito (Ian McKellan/Michael Fassbender) are teamed up this time in a precarious truce that may itself be broken by changing the past.
The impressive cast is mostly in top form here. And the most welcome addition is Evan Peters as the precocious Quicksilver. He is a scene-stealer and the best action sequence in the film revolves around his personality. Unfortunately, this also serves as a reminder of how much fun the rest of the film could have been with a bit more levity (or a bit more Quicksilver). Wolverine is great for an occasional one-liner, but most of the proceedings are treated with utmost seriousness (due in part to the fact that the main characters all have severely tortured pasts).
The cinematography is top notch; as are the visual effects and action sequences. Bryan Singer has the ability to make action set pieces into self-contained pieces of art, and he doesn’t disappoint.
There is much to enjoy about this film for the uninitiated, but those unfamiliar with the series might feel a bit lost with the complex backstories, clouded motivations, and shifting allegiances. The pacing works for those already attached to the characters, but the newbie may find it a bit slow at times. Although much about the climax feels entirely derivative of The Matrix (down to the mindless “Sentinels” sent to stop our heroes), it is exciting and ultimately satisfying.
What’s it Saying?: Message of the Movie
Self-sacrifice for the greater good is a prominent and welcome theme. “The greatest gift we have is to bear their pain without breaking,” says Charles Xavier in a beautiful moment that both illustrates the responsibility of power and the essence of love.
Free will also plays a prominent role. Xavier emphasizes the idea that no one is tied to a predetermined destiny; and nobody should be considered completely lost, but only temporarily off track. His insistence upon the redeemable nature of the human race is rather Christ-like.
The only questionable message deals (intentionally or not) in the realm of just war theory. Charles Xavier, the heart and soul of the whole series, comes across as someone who believes passive resistance can solve every problem. His seemingly blind dedication to diplomacy when others aren’t willing to talk feels like a flaw in his character and a flaw in the film’s grasp on reality.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Morality in the Movie
There is considerable rough language for a PG-13 film. There is brief rear male nudity, shots of a woman in her underwear, and implied premarital sex. Unlike the more discreet treatment of Mystique when she was played by Rebecca Romijn, this film isn’t shy about showing off Jennifer Lawrence in her textured “body paint.”
The violence is intense and graphic at times—featuring shootings, stabbings, burning, and impalements.
There is also a brief scene of drug use tied to Charles Xavier’s character development.
A good deal of these moral notes are well integrated into the story. Others are gratuitous.
This is definitely a film for adults that may be suitable for some mature teens.
That's Right. I Said It: Reviewer Comments
The opening battle with the 8-foot Sentinels is excellent.
I feel like Jennifer Lawrence hasn’t showed much range in the last several films I’ve seen.
The Kitchen scene with Quicksilver is the best thing about the film.
I remember why I love Wolverine so much.
Peter Dinkladge finally in a role that attempts to draw zero attention to his stature. I am immature and still notice that he’s tiny and it’s weird.
This ensemble cast is incredible.
The story is decent enough, but the writing isn’t quite strong enough to making this outing feel “necessary.”