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Why X-Men: Days of Future Past Restored Faith in the Movie Franchise

Bryan Singer's latest film has us feeling pretty optimistic about the X-Men's future.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a surprisingly good movie. When you have movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy also opening in 2014, the next X-Men movie definitely felt overshadowed and a good amount of us weren't very hyped for it -- you know, in comparison to the other appealing comic book movies that were coming out this year. Still, Bryan Singer's latest X-Men movie held its own thanks to some compelling performances, a strong script, and, of course, solid visuals. In a year with so many memorable movies, X-Men: Days of Future Past managed to leave an impression, and that's a huge accomplishment for this franchise.

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With Marvel Studios continuing to expand its universe and DC just beginning to start its own, the X-Men franchise has been feeling like it's under the shadow of those two cinematic universes. And Sony, well... who knows what they're really going to do next? Singer may have started the X-Men movies, but when he left, the following projects weren't the most amazing experiences around. Many fans would prefer to forget that X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine ever happened. The Wolverine wasn't shabby (the finale really hurt it) and, as good as Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class may be, that felt like a whole new approach to the franchise. It wasn't incorporating the original cast (aside from a very brief cameo) and it focused on going several years before Singer's story began. Now, it was a great movie -- it's okay to admit the satellite scene makes you tear up -- but it wasn't a huge success at the box office and, instead of feeling like a "return" to the franchise, it felt like a whole new approach to that universe. Days of Future Past is the first movie since X-Men: The Last Stand to not only look back at these characters while also moving the overall story forward. It reminded us there's so much more potential within this world.

Singer returning to the franchise brought about two major concerns. The first is this would feel like yet another movie that's all about Wolverine, and the second is it would be too crowded and the variety of characters wouldn't be used properly. While Wolverine technically is the lead character and is often the one taking us from scene to scene, this doesn't come off feeling like his story. Yes, he's the one who goes back in time and the only one in the future who knows about the alternate future, but he didn't soak up all of the dialogue and screen time. I mean, he's literally tossed aside during the final conflict! Here's there for the dynamic he has with several characters (e.g. pushing Xavier, tension with Magneto) and, let's be honest here, a few laughs thanks to his blunt personality. The guy has been the center of attention for quite some time, so it's terrific Singer put a strong emphasis on Magneto, Professor X and Mystique's arcs instead of making this feel like it's just the latest Wolverine storyline.

Poster by Richard Davies
Poster by Richard Davies

The new future characters (Blink, Warpath, Sunspot, Bishop) may have not received the most insightful scenes around, but it was just enough to show off who they are. Not only did it offer a look at what their powers are, but it also revealed how they act when the odds are stacked against them and, in turn, that gave us a small dose of their personalities. Let's be brutally honest, though. The material in the past was there for the truly gripping conversations. The future material? That's mostly about visuals and action. While these scenes weren't nearly as thought-provoking and are primarily there for spectacle, they did tease audiences about just how much potential this world has to offer. Knowing FOX wants to move forward with an X-Force movie, it wouldn't be surprising if this was their way of giving audiences a swift introduction of these characters; offering just enough so we recall who they are and what they can do before we eventually see them play a role in a different team. We didn't receive a brilliant look at these characters, but it did a fine job showing them off and building our interest in them.

Not only does casually introducing several new mutants show how many other characters can eventually earn the spotlight, but this time traveling story feels like it's putting the franchise back on track. Again, Vaughn's First Class was great, but this brought about some major change within its universe. The ending is loaded with fan service and the movie's developments generated so much potential. We have Apocalypse right around the corner, it continues to present a stellar dynamic between Xavier, Magneto and Mystique, and it shows the story can give characters aside from Wolverine important roles. This no longer feels like "Wolverine... oh yeah, there's some X-Men in this one as well!" It now feels like Wolverine's along for the ride. He still gets plenty of love, but it's great to see Singer can make a film where Logan isn't hogging the spotlight and other characters play a pivotal role.

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Do you remember your reaction the first time you saw Evan Peters dressed as Quicksilver? Some of you will say, "I called it! I knew he would be awesome!" Congratulations, you were right. However, for many others, it was a pretty negative response. Well, Days of Future Past certainly managed to make a lot of us eat our words, didn't it? It took a ridiculous looking character that was frequently mocked (at first, at least) and then delivered one of 2014's most unforgettable scenes. In a movie that's full of powerful emotion and darkness, Quicksilver's big scene was a real crowd-pleaser and offered such a huge dose of fun. It really goes to show we should wait and see how something is handled before jumping to conclusions, especially if we're basing our opinion off of just one image.

Sure, the movie has some problems, but is there really such a thing as a perfect movie? Things like Colossus still getting no love, Peter Dinklage feeling underused andthe script not taking any time whatsoever to explain Kitty Pryde's evolution are noticeable, but the focus on character and emotion really paid off. With the comic book movie genre getting bigger and bigger, Days of Future Past managed to stand out because of a smart script, some excellent performances, and just the right amount of big action. With so many characters and time traveling narrative, this movie could have been a total mess and felt like another story that only gives Wolverine a substantial arc. Thankfully, it wasn't and we're hoping these strengths will still be present in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse and any possible X-Men movies that'll follow it. Movies like Deadpool and Gambit will likely go for different tones, but if they aim to deliver a movie that's on par with Days of Future Past (at least when it comes to the quality of the script and performances), you can bet we'll be excited for them.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is currently available on Blu-ray/DVD and X-Men: Apocalypse is scheduled to open May 27, 2016.