If you are looking for someone to blame for the modern glut of superhero movies you should probably blame Bryan Singer.
In the year 2000, the superhero movie was dead, effectively killed three years earlier by the train wreck that was “Batman & Robin.”
Because there was so little at stake, the opportunity was ripe for someone to come along and try something new. Taking a group of superheroes with little pop culture visibility (at least compared to Superman and Batman) Singer delivered “X-Men” and Hollywood would never be the same.
“X-Men” featured spectacle, entertainment, honest-to-goodness subtext, and a cast built around quality actors as opposed to the moment’s “hottest” movie stars.
This became the blueprint not only for more X-Men movies but the avalanche of Spider-Man, Superman and Batman (reboot!), and Avengers movies that followed.
Singer himself only directed two more superhero movies, the superior “X-Men 2” and the superiorly “meh” “Superman Returns.”
Now Singer has returned to the franchise that started it all with “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and takes a cast of thousands, different actors playing the same roles and a convoluted, time-travel plotline and somehow manages to produce a coherent, fun, and thrilling movie out of what could have easily been one big, hot mess.
In his absence, the “X-Men” franchise has seen both good times (“X-Men: First Class,” “The Wolverine”) and bad (“X-Men: The Last Stand,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”), but at any rate, it has been wandering in the desert a bit. With “Days of Future Past” Singer is able to pull it all back into focus and makes it feel like a franchise that has gotten some momentum back by essentially bringing in every actor who has ever appeared in an X-Men movie.
The plot is a little complex, so I’ll try to make it quick. In the not-too-distant future, humans have developed indestructible robots called Sentinels to keep the mutants in check. Unfortunately, as tends to happen, things get out of hand, and not only do the Sentinels kill most of the mutants, they wipe out a good chunk of humanity as well.
In order to save the planet, the few remaining mutants manage to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman in the role that will be mentioned first in his obituary) back to the 1970s to stop the Sentinel project before its inception.
What’s fun about this film, other than Wolverine rocking a leather jacket, is seeing old favorites like Halle Barry, Ellen Page, Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellen in the same movie as the outstanding “First Class” cast where James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult play younger versions of some of our favorite mutants.
If you can believe it, there’s even room for a few new faces, like the great Peter Dinklage as Sentinel inventor Dr. Trask and Evan Peters as the blazing-fast delinquent Quicksilver who just so happens to get the best scene in the movie.
During an armed standoff, we get to see the world through Quicksilver’s eyes as he goes into hyper-speed and saves the day by calmly adjusting a barely-moving reality set to the tune of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle.”
We’ve seen the world slowed to a near-stop in movies before, but Singer pulls it off with wit and elegance, and giving this super-sized movie space to breathe with moments like this is what makes it ultimately work so well.
With superheroes saving us from planetary destruction on almost a monthly basis at the multiplex with what looks to be no end in sight, at least we can have moments like “Days of Future Past” where the crew that started it all can pop in and remind us of how it is supposed to be done.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity, and language.