What’s in a name? When it comes to X-Men: Days of Future Past, not very much – it’s a semi-confusing, semi-comprehensible, semi-relevant title that should’ve been panned while the screenplay was still in its incubation. It’s testament to the rest of the film, then, that the latest X-Men‘s abominable title is the only significant criticism I can level at it – any remaining issues were long ago swept away in a wave of breakneck plotting and and glorious, marvelous blockbuster excess. After a week where I had to sit through the horrific Angriest Man in Brooklyn and was near wholly disappointed by Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, Days of Future Past proved to be the most pleasant of surprises.
With Bryan Singer back in the director’s chair, Days of Future Past‘s plot throws everything at you, then the kitchen sink, then buys the porcelain factory. There’s barrels of exposition, time travel, love triangles, double crosses galore and more A-list actors than you could count on two pairs of hands, all crammed into a bearable runtime with a surprising amount of coherence. That’s not to say that it makes any sense – the prospect of people travelling from a dystopian future to change the past in order to stop aforementioned dystopian future from ever happening, never has and never will amount to anything more than piles of paradoxes, but DoFP makes these massive holes particularly easy to ignore.
The film never lets up, moving at a rollicking pace, hurling countless plot points and references in an all-out barrage so effective that its lack of internal logic is buried under a great, big mound of awesome and occasionally hilarious stuff. Barring an exposition-heavy opening, Days of Future Past makes for surprisingly absorbing viewing, with a handful of genuinely interesting characters and some unexpectedly competent writing making even the bits where stuff isn’t exploding pretty compelling. Of course, it helps that the cast features some of the most photogenic and talented actors on the planet, but credit should be given where credit is due. By comic book movie standards, Days of Future Past‘s script is a damn impressive example of making the silly and ridiculous grounded and engaging.
Even when people aren’t talking, there’s a hell of a lot going on. The film’s climactic battle is spectacularly over the top, and the various action set pieces benefit from the vast array of superpowers offered by the equally vast array of cast members. You’re not going to get much more bang for your buck anywhere else, with each of the numerous fight scenes given their own unique tone, ranging from the chuckle-worthy to the brutal.
That’s what Singer brings to the table. He’s always taken these characters seriously enough to keep it interesting, but he pulls that off without sapping his X-Men films of their much-needed humour. It’s a tough balancing act, as evidenced by the campy drudge of Brett Ratner’s X-Men: Last Stand and the Deadpool-destroying X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Whilst Singer’s personal life has lately been brought into very serious contention, there’s no denying that he knows how to make good and proper mainstream cinema, replacing the crumby FX of First Class with gargantuan production values and a story so massive in scope you can see it from space. It’s a perfect balance of the serious and the silly, and the movie-going public is going to love it.
Of course, it’s not the greatest film ever made. There are occasional flaws – namely awkward logical jumps (all of a sudden Ellen Page can instigate time travel?) and necessary but very clunky plot exposition occasionally slowing the film to a crawl. But hell, it’s the best mainstream summer blockbuster I’ve seen in a long, long time, providing fun and bombastic entertainment without patronizing or belittling its audience. DoFP is the near polar opposite of “by the numbers.” While so many modern box office hits feels like they were put together by committee, this is a movie that just wants you to have a really great time – balance sheets be damned.
And that’s what X-Men: Days of Future Past – in spite of its ludicrous title – is first and foremost: a really great time provided by a group of people more than willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. As the Avengers half of Marvel’s cinematic universe grows more and more tired, this is the kind of superhero movie that really deserves your money.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t “get” comic book films – it’s not them, it’s me. That predetermined bias and memories of the frothy but throwaway fun of First Class didn’t exactly have me foaming at the mouth for yet another movie about spandex-coated heroism – but boy did I have a blast. It’s stuff like this that made me want to be a film critic in the first place: unexpected surprises that defy preconceptions and make the world a more enjoyable place. The newest X-Men film is not perfect, but when this much zany fun is on offer, perfection isn’t a necessary requirement. Brett Ratner, McG et al can take their committee-written productions and shove ’em – X-Men: Days of Future Past is the bomb.
Dancing between the fun and the all-out ridiculous with surprisingly nimble feet, X-Men: Days of Future Past is an absolute blast.