When I was a kid, the X-Men were kind of this unattainable awesomeness. My father was extremely strict when it came to entertainment, and he found superheroes as a whole to be far too violent for a young boy to entertain himself with, and so for years I was only allowed to actively enjoy Spider-Man and Superman, two heroes that my father deemed tame enough for his son. So, whenever I’d go to the grocery store with my mother, I’d spend the hour or so in the magazine isle reading comic after comic of X-Men adventures, praying that she wouldn’t catch me. I didn’t own any X-Men action figures until I was around twelve, when my father started getting soft and pretty much just didn’t care anymore. So, for all time now, I will carry with me this eventual victory over, what I deemed childhood oppression, and so because of that I will always love the X-Men.
When Bryan Singer brought the X-Men to the big screen back in 2000, I was thrilled. I was fifteen and it was like the culmination of all things awesome about my childhood was being realized. I was crossing over from boy to man, and the X-Men were coming with me.
I’m not like this huge Singer advocate, but his presence was absolutely missed in that third messy installment.
Now Singer is back (well, he came back for ‘First Class’) and his passion for the X-Men, their stories, their characters and their development is felt so strongly in every fiber of these films. He makes my childhood soul smile and my adult soul smirk because he just gets it, he understands how to merge the boy and the man and make it all feel right.
And this has nothing to do with his extracurricular activities/indiscretions.
Conceptually, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ felt like a mistake. I got these awful flashbacks to all the reasons that ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ didn’t work, and I was worried, especially because, while it wasn’t perfect, I really liked the direction that ‘X-Men: First Class’ was taking with the franchise. Still, this whole ‘merge of the two worlds’, ‘old and young’ character stuff just felt very…stuffy. Too many characters, too many ideas, not enough attention to detail and I was sure that this was going to be one of those superhero mistakes that gets slaughtered by critics and fans.
How Singer makes this work is beyond me, but it works so well…I mean SO well.
Singer did a lot of things here that made me happy. He established a Sentinel world that didn’t feel cheesy or unauthenticated, and he did so with a few short scenes that didn’t feel like they were missing the details they didn’t have. We were in it, and we felt it, and we were ok with moving on. He gave us a believable tension between old friends turned enemies, and he did so while maintaining the obvious chemistry the two shared. He also didn’t shy away from making taking the superheroes out of the comic book, steering away from any stigmas associated with the universe and giving us some bold and very human moments, especially considering Charles Xavier. But, the one thing that he did best here is orchestrate a uniformly dynamic ensemble who all felt one with their characters and completely in this film. Even Oscar winners like Berry and Lawrence or nominees like Fassbender and Jackman didn’t once phone in these performances. They obviously love these characters, and it shows.
There is a lot going on here, but it all comes together in a way that feels fluid and understandable. For a film that I was truly scared was going to fail miserably, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ exceeded my expectations by a very large margin and remains one of the most exciting times I had watching a film this year.
This gets an A from me. It's just superbly done, and honestly, I can't think of anything I would have done differently.