X-Men Days of Future Past hit theaters this weekend with the high expectations created by one of the finest ensemble casts ever assembled for a comic book movie, the pressure of living up to the first two great X-Men films, the burden of being saddled by the events of the third, and the complication of being a sequel to both X-Men 3 and X-Men First Class. All of that was enough to place the movie into a pressure cooker this weekend, as audiences came out to theaters to the tune of a $111 four day box office including Memorial Day. This movie earned every one of those dollars. In fact, allow me to begin my review by stating that this is one of the better films I’ve seen.
Movies involving two timelines are usually disjointed, and movies with two different actors playing the same character are often a nightmare. But here it all fits together gracefully. The young and old versions of Professor X and Magneto are each played by two different actors in this movie, and not in a linear sense either. As the trailers have given away, Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy come face to face at one point to discuss their past and future, and the acting is so compelling, you won’t care that they don’t look that much alike despite playing the same character. And the manner in which the movie handles the contrast between young and old Magneto, particularly in some concurrent scenes late in the film, is almost poetic.
The humor is the best of any X-Men movie to date. In addition to the usual sarcastic one-liners inherent in any X-Men film, there are extended scenes that are outright hilarious. And yet the emotions run the gamut throughout the movie. It’s uplifting, it’s tragic, it’s poignant, it has big moments and small moments, and plenty of redemption all around – not just for the characters, but for the franchise’s past mistakes as well. By the end of it you may even be able to let go of some of your disappointment toward the worst movies of this franchise.
X-Men Days of Future Past also manages to get back to the core of what the first two films were based on: the long and winding journey of two old friends with radically incompatible ideas about how to fix the same problem, and who spend their entire lives weaving in and out of alignment with each other. The manner in which the aged Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen worry aloud as to whether their younger selves will be able to get over their stubbornness to work together in the past is a scene which rings true to every old friendship that’s ever come to pass.
The only thing I can ding Days of Future Past for is the after-credits epilogue, which is brief and irrelevant to the movie and not worth waiting for unless you’re a fan of the comic books, as it’ll be incoherent to everyone else. But skip that, and this is more or less a perfect movie. And seeing how it’s a sequel to two different movies with different casts in different timelines, that’s a remarkable feat. See this one in the theater, even if it means you’ll have to compete with $111 million worth of other audience members just to find a seat.