If you are an X-Men comic book fan hoping for a panel by panel reproduction of the classic Days of Future Past storyline, be prepared for disappointment. Except for the title and the basic plot concept, X-Men: Days of Future Past has very little in common with the original comic book storyline. The previous movies simply haven’t laid enough groundwork or introduced the necessary characters to possibly mirror the original arc perfectly. And if this movie tried to lay all that groundwork before telling the actual story, it would have been about six hours long. But don’t despair, comic book fans. X-Men: Days of Future Past may not be a faithful rendition, but it is faithful to the spirit of the original X-Men arc.
Thankfully, you don’t need to be a comic book fan to understand the movie, though you will probably be pretty lost if you haven’t seen most of the previous films. Put simply, X-Men: Days of Future Past bridges the gap between the original trilogy and X-Men: First Class, and even pays a little homage to both Wolverine movies. As you might expect for a movie that is essentially bridging two different franchises, just about every character from every previous movie enjoys at least a little screen time.
This is great for cementing the two timelines, but it also comes at a huge cost. Because the movie uses so many characters that were already introduced previously, it introduces very few new characters. The future timeline has four previously unseen X-Men that, between the four characters, have about ten lines total, and absolutely no character exposition. If you’ve never read the comics, you probably won’t even be able to figure out what all of their powers are. Of course, this isn’t that much of a loss, since the series going forward will be focusing on the earlier timeline, so these characters will also never see screen time again.
As for the early timeline, exactly one new character is introduced, which means that the majority of the movie focuses on five characters that you are already intimately familiar with. In all fairness though, the one new character that does appear, absolutely steals the show for 20 or so minutes that he appears on screen. Over the span of four previous movies the writers have never so perfectly captured the essence of any of the X-Men as they do with this character. The writer obviously understands the source material and understands the movie audience. Hopefully all future characters in the series are introduced as well.
As far as the rest of the characters in the movie are concerned, X-Men: Days of Future Past proves what has always been known about the X-Men. The villains are more interesting than the heroes and Charles Xavier, while critical to the background of any X-Men story, is painfully dull when he is center stage. At the end of the two hours, you essentially realize that the early timeline is simply a story about Mystique and Magneto. This works, particularly because Mystique is written about as well as she possibly could be. She is given smart lines and is portrayed as cunningly effective. Jennifer Lawrence gives an Academy Award winning performance, not that she’ll even get a nod.
Unfortunately, character interactions are the highlight of the movie. The movie is much less impressive in terms of plot. If you have ever read any comic book arc involving time travel or seen any time travel movie or television show other than Back to the Future, you pretty much know exactly how this movie will play out. It follows the exact same tropes found in the Age of Apocalypse arc of Marvel, “Once and Future Thing” episodes of Justice League Unlimited and the “2010” episode of Stargate SG-1. If you don’t know what that entails and don’t mind a spoiler, look it up. Otherwise, just realize that the movie doesn’t stray in any way from one of the most common time travel tropes. In fact, it even uses the trope more than once, seemingly just so you absolutely know what is coming the second time.
A few interesting twists are very promising for the potential direction of future movies and the much of the writing of characters is top-notch. You end the movie actually wanting to know what happens to these characters and you even hate Storm a little less by the end of movie, which is a feat all on its own, given how badly she was written in the original trilogy. It is a shame that Iceman and Kitty Pryde are almost certainly not returning in future sequels, but the movie provides enough characterization for the First Class veterans to make up for the loss of those characters and the new character is one that you will want to see in every future movie.
Overall, it isn’t Avengers, but it is arguably the best of all the X-Men movies released so far. And, much more importantly, it lays the groundwork for movies that you want to watch with characters that are incredibly interesting and seem to have lots of room to grow. That is far superior to three movies where you just wanted to strangle Rogue.