It's not easy being a mutant. This message has been drilled into the X-Men movies ever since the opening of the very first one, which showed Rogue accidentally kissing her boyfriend into a coma and subsequently being forced to flee her former life. At the end of X-Men: First Class, hatred and fear of mutants led to the US and the USSR being temporarily united against the common enemy.
Mutants aren't very popular, and in the alternate future of Bryan Singer's upcoming "inbetweequel" X-Men: Days of Future Past, this anti-mutant hysteria has been taken to near-genocidal extremes. Desperate to prevent mass tragedy before it can even begin, Kitty Pryde sends Wolverine's mind back in time to his younger body, so that he can convince young Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr to work together and save mankind.
X-Men fans were able to breathe a little easier after the early Twitter reactions to X-Men: Days of Future Past proved to be overwhelmingly positive, even praising Quicksilver (who had caused complaints due to his somewhat dodgy hair and costume) as a highlight of the movie. 140 characters don't leave a lot of room for detail, but now the first batch of reviews for X-Men: Days of Future Past are in and, though they're somewhat more critical, on the whole they seem to reflect the earlier responses.
Steve Rose, The Guardian:
"If you've consulted your ring-binder of data from the previous six X-Men movies, you'll probably enjoy this. If you come to it fresh, it can be like trying to follow two games of chess at once.
"For all its ambitious plotting, this X-Men is really an effective merger of the franchise's two separate incarnations, resolving one and continuing the other on its way towards the next summer blockbuster in 2016."
Justin Chang, Variety:
"Working from Simon Kinberg’s screenplay... Singer unspools these intricate developments in a smooth, carefully controlled style that, while hardly skimping on expertly choreographed action and lavish f/x spectacle, puts a gratifying premium on psychological depth and delineation of character: The story effectively becomes a platonic triangle, with Professor X and Magneto (who, as always, has his own surprising agenda) waging war for Mystique’s soul."
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:
"While it's more dramatically diffuse than the reboot and lacks a definitive villain, the new film is shot through with a stirring reverence for the Marvel Comics characters and their universe.
"Logan/Wolverine has possibly never been more compelling. In his seventh turn in the role, Jackman brings powerful physicality, laconic humor and depths of sorrow beneath his gruffness that make him an unusually nuanced figure for a sci-fi action movie."
Matt Looker, The Shiznit:
"Right from the start, Days Of Future Past moves at a breakneck speed assuming that you already know the situation and can deal with it instantly changing. It's a film for comic-book fans; those who regularly put up with with various, sometimes contradictory storylines of their favourite characters and who are used to parallel universes, alternate timelines and sudden history rewrites. It's a film that serves as a prequel, a sequel and a bridge between the two. And, most of all, it serves as a giant "f*** you" to X-Men: The Last Stand.
"As such, much of the film feels like little more than fan service, and it's hard to imagine that Average Joe isn't going to leave scratching his head about some lampshaded in-joke, or under-explained development."
William Bibbiani, Crave Online:
"X-Men: Days of Future Past proves itself to be one of the best films in this admittedly slapdash series. Even the best of the X-Men movies tend to be good in spite of themselves: so many plot holes throughout the series and so many characters reintroduced in different timelines and at different ages only lends credence to the theory that nobody at the studio has been paying attention to the story of these films as a whole... But one doesn’t get that sense from X-Men: Days of Future Past. This latest film may ignore the past (pretty ironic for a time travel movie) but it does seem to be laying groundwork for future films that may work better than ever before and finally right this ship."
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily:
"Days Of Future Past has certain logic issues inherent in time-travel narratives, which often make simplistic assumptions that stopping one event in the past will automatically prevent a larger catastrophe in the future... But if one’s willing to accept this sequel’s premise, Days Of Future Past creates plenty of suspense and intrigue as the younger Magneto and Professor X must learn to work together while grappling with the events that drove them apart at the end of First Class."
Simon Reynolds, Digital Spy:
"Much like its predecessor First Class, this sequel carves straight through world history, taking in the killing of JFK, the Vietnam war and Richard Nixon's tenure in the White House. It's broad in scope, too, clocking up air miles to rival even the most exotic Bond picture. All this globe (and time) travelling provides the backdrop for some action set pieces that out-do anything that's come before in the series.
"Where Days of Future Past ends up may not be entirely to everyone's tastes, but judged on its own terms this is a movie that delivers excellent performance and brains to compliment its bang-for-your-buck spectacle."
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap:
"As Cole Porter never advised, “Brush up your X-Men,” especially if you want to stay afloat in the tricky, time-tripping storytelling of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Do some light streaming, dig out the DVD box sets, browse the Wikipedia pages or consult the cashier at your neighborhood comic store.. Since the screenplay by Simon Kinberg assumes you already know mutant chapter and verse.
"While there are fun moments and a continuation of the franchise's main idea — Professor X's peace, love and understanding vs. Magneto's fight the power — “Days of Future Past” ends up feeling more exhausting than exuberant."
Sean O'Connell, Cinema Blend:
"It’s an X-Men story that’s nearly 14 years in the making. It’s the X-Men movie dedicated fans never thought they’d see. And now that it’s here, it’s the greatest X-Men movie we’ve seen to date, and a new standard-bearer for the massive potential of comic-book franchises far and wide.
"The movie rarely slows down, which is exhilarating for X-Men enthusiasts, but might be too much for casual fans seeking the next eye-popping thrills of the summer blockbuster season... The series also has yet to conjure a credibly complicated human villain, and Trask – despite some sinister flair by Dinklage – doesn’t reverse the trend."
Amon Warmann, HeyUGuys:
"With both new and old characters to introduce and re-introduce, as well as the tricky mechanism of time-travel, there was tremendous potential for it to go horribly wrong. Which makes it all the more impressive that Singer gets it mostly right.
"While there is still a satisfying amount of action, the emphasis is always on its characters, and the organic manner in which the story unfolds mean that action sequences are not missed even in long stretches of character interaction. It helps that every single piece of action is in service to the narrative. "
As a counterweight to all this praise, The Telegraph's Robbie Collin gave the film just two stars. His exact complaints are a little difficult to pin down, but the review compares it to other recent movies like The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers and says that X-Men: Days of Future Past, "feels like an attempt to reassure us that, 14 years on, the mutants can still match their younger rivals." Summarizing the movie as a "curate's egg, thoroughly scrambled," the review criticizes the large cast and the questionable decisions made by some of the characters.
"We open in a dark, Matrix-style future-wasteland, in which mutants slip from shadow to shadow, evading giant predatory robots while scratching for supplies in the dirt. Singer borrows stylishly here from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis... one of few hopeful signs that Days of Future Past’s makers are aware of the existence of a non-superhero cinema.
"The film squanders both of its casts, reeling from one fumbled set-piece to the next. It seems to have been constructed in a stupor, and you watch in a daze of future past."
Other criticisms were common even among the positive reviews. Although critics praised Quicksilver, they also lamented how quickly he is taken out of the movie after helping to spring Magneto from prison. Several reviews also noted that the period fashion is a little more understated than it was in X-Men: First Class, though the characters still get to sport a bit of 70s style.
A final important piece of advice that regular comic book moviegoers probably don't need to be told: just because the credits have started rolling, it doesn't mean you should leave your seats just yet.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is out in theaters on May 23, 2014.