The X-Men films have always felt like the redheaded stepchild of the superhero canon. With so many characters and so many plotlines it always felt like someone was upset with every incarnation. The original X-Men was criticized for having too many mutants and not enough character. Only the first sequel, X2, seemed to satisfy hardcore fans and newbies alike. We won't even discuss The Last Stand, agreed? The latest installment, X-Men Days of Future Past, is easily the best of the franchise.
Days opens with a pulse-pounding sequence where Sentinels are hunting down a small group of mutants in a dystopian future. Sentinels, huge, faceless robot-y machines, can adapt to any mutants powers, and now mutants are on the brink of extinction. Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Storm (Halle Berry) meet at a monstary to hide out, and Xavier proposes that Kitty uses her powers to send someone back to the early 1970's to stop the creation of the Sentinels. If they snuff the spark of the war, the battle between mutants and humans will never begin.
Since Wolverine can heal himself (and because Jackman has the most box office clout), he volunteers to go back to try and convince young Xavier (James McAvoy) and young Eric aka Magneto (aka Michael Fassbender) to help him stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Phew! That's a lot of mutants.
Some of the best sequences in Days are when they are trying to recruit another mutant to join their cause. Intense conversations with a disbelieving young Charles are great, but throwing Quicksilver (Evan Peters) into the mix was a great idea. Actually, the movie would have been even better with more of him. As they are trying to break Magneto out of the most maximum security in superhero film history (hundreds of feet below the Pentagon), Quicksilver uses his ability to speed around to his advantage. He would make the Road Runner look like a sloth, and Peters provides an uninhibited, boyish charm to the overall serious tone of the rest of the film.
Lots of time travel with tons of characters is surely a mess, right? I don't think so. It might be the mixture of director Bryan Singer's success with his original core of actors with the younger First Class clan. It might be because Days is based off of a specific arc in the X-Men universe, and it might be also because everyone has a lot to prove since The Avengers made a bazillion dollars a little while back. It somehow balances the seriousness of the history of the X-Men with a quick pace. It's the biggest one of the franchise, yet it feels like it successfully reinvented itself.
Take that Spider-Man.