It's funny how the landscape of superhero movies have changes since the release of the first Bryan Singer X-Men movie in 2000. Back then it was pretty much accepted that if you wanted to make a movie about superheroes, you had to strip all of the comic booky elements out of it. So we got the X-Men in Matrix-style leather uniforms with a sneer about the absurdity of colorful spandex. They all still have their powers, but they feel very restrained.
Since then, we're had a string of successful comic book movies (mostly from Marvel) that embrace their comic book roots with (mostly) comic accurate costumes and bigger than life action. X-Men First Class started moving back in that direction through little things like using the uniforms of the original comic book X-Men and going a lot crazier on the powers, especially with Magneto.
That movie wasn't directed by Bryan Singer though. He left the franchise to make Superman Returns leaving Fox to replace him with Brett Ratner for X3, which resulted in us getting two really crappy superhero movies. Now he's back and with X-Men: Days of Future Past he attempts the herculean task of:
a) Creating a sequel to X-Men First Class that
b) Ties into the earlier X-Men movies while
c) Erasing the damage caused by X3 and
d) Adapting one of the more famous X-Men story arcs
The idea that someone could make a watchable movie while accomplishing all of that is laughable. Certainly none of the prerelease information gave me confidence that it was going to be good. So it was to my surprise that X-Men: Days of Future Past was actually pretty good.
(Mild spoilers after the break, just so you know)
I think a large part of it was the strength of the cast. The chemistry between of James McAvoy's young Xavier and Michael Fassbender's young Magneto is still as compelling as it was in First Class. As tired as I am of Wolverine being increasingly central to Fox's X-Men universe, I had forgotten just how well Hugh Jackman plays the character, and he bounces off the other characters without stealing the spotlight as much as you'd expect. Jennifer Lawrence continues to own the Mystique role and give her character far beyond they ever did in any of the original movie (not that would be hard though).
It's a shame that with all of those strong performances that Nicholas Hoult's Beast is kinda fades into the background. He gets a lot of scenes in the movie and is important to the plot, but he doesn't really get any character development. Which is weird considering one thing he's done is developed a serum they suppresses his mutant powers. It would not surprise me if there's a subplot there that got cut, since the movie is pretty packed at it is.
The dark future scenes also worked a lot better than I thought they would. I was under the impression that all of the future mutants were going to be cannon fodder, which they basically were. What I didn't expect was them to be cannon fodder with a lot of cool action scenes. This is the first X-Men movie I've seen where they not only cut loose with their powers, but also show them combining their powers in interesting ways. Like one of the new mutants, Blink, can create portals. So you get a lot of scenes where she opens a portal to protect one of her teammates and redirect it back at a sentinel. I'd watch a full movie of that team working together to take down sentinel. It's just highly unfortunate that the future team contained all of the diversity in the cast. Would it have killed them to have one black character in the past?
On a related note, one of my biggest pet peeves with the movie is they never call Storm by her real name, Ororo. I know that sounds like a minor complaint, but there's one scene in the movie where Wolverine lists all the names Xavier should remember, and he lists "Scott, Jean, and Storm." He does know that she has a real name, right? Obviously the film writers were worried that the average movie goer wouldn't make the connection since I don't think they ever used it in the original movies. But then why not have someone in the Future say it? All it would take is Bobby saying, "Ororo, it's so good to see you again," and people would get it. I mean, I'm glad the movie realized she was important enough to have Logan mention her in that line, but they shouldn't have half-assed it.
For all their ballyhooing about this being the bridge between First Class and the original "trilogy", it actually did more to burn the bridge down and just go a different way. There are a couple scenes from the original movies, but they're largely to foreshadow Wolverine's involvement in the Weapon X program. You could have removed them (and the young William Striker character, for that matter) and the movie wouldn't change much. It doesn't even address some of the major continuity issues between the two film series, like if Havok is 26 or something now in the 70s, how old does that make Cyclops, whose theoretically his older brother? More importantly, it doesn't really attempt to address how Mystique was so important to Xavier growing up and yet that never came up in the present.
Honestly, I think that's for the best though. Trying to address how everything happened in a point-by-point fashion only makes less interesting at best, and more complicated at worst (see the Star Wars Prequels for example). It doesn't really matter if all of those older movies happened. They've changed that future, and I really love the finally scenes in Xavier's that portrays it as the Hogwarts for Mutants they've been going for in the comics recently. It's almost a shame that the next X-Men movie won't take place during that era so we won't get to see more of that.
There's a lot more I could talk about this movie, both high and low points, but I think I'm going to leave it at there for now. If you are a fan of the X-Men, and the Fox's X-Men movies in specific, then you should see this movie. It's not a perfect movie, but it's good points outshine the flaws. Just make sure you turn off your brain, since there's a lot of sciency stuff that doesn't really make sense if you think about it.
Since I didn't really cover everything here are some links to other reviews that are way more articulate than mine: