A scene from the film 'X-Men Days of Future Past'. Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

Relive the good old days before superhero fatigue, when comic book movies dared to have good stories, vibrant characters, and special effects that didn’t suck.

Embrace the nostalgia while you still can. Happy 10th anniversary X-Men: Days of Future Past.

These beloved mutants are experiencing a renaissance this year. X-Men ’97 has been a widely successful animated series for Disney+. Deadpool & Wolverine should be one of the biggest summer blockbusters when it debuts in July.

Before seeing the Ryan Reynolds-Hugh Jackman bromance, let’s revisit arguably the greatest X-Men movie. Released May 23, 2014, Days of Future Past united the cast of the original trilogy of the 2000s with the cast of the prequels, which began with X-Men: First Class (2011). What made Days of Future Past awesome was that it never seemed like a gimmick because the plot was based on a Marvel Comics story.

It felt like more than a film. It was a living, breathing graphic novel.

Days of Future Past borrowed heavily from the time travel concept perfected by the Terminator franchise. Both start in a dystopian future. However, instead of a bad guy going back to try to alter history for the worse, a good guy goes back to try to alter history for the better.

Days of Future Past appeared to be an apology for X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). The third film with the original cast made money but was mediocre. Also, fans of the previous movies were on the fence regarding First Class. Marvel sought to recapture the mojo with this prequel/sequel by tweaking an existing storyline and bringing back the director of the franchise’s first two movies, Bryan Singer (more on him later).

Singer stuck the landing. Even the most cynical observer applauded this perfect blending of the two X-Men casts. Days of Future Past doesn’t waste time. It’s a briskly paced watch that seems shorter than 132 minutes. The action starts quickly, and the exposition is out of the way early. Everything you need to know is explained in the first 20 minutes. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

One could argue that Days of Future Past was more about Wolverine, one of Marvel’s most popular characters, teaming with the younger X-Men cast. That’s not an unfair assumption, but also one that served the movie well. Singer kept this one simple. Jackman’s Wolverine has always been at the heart of this franchise. There’s a reason why Jackman has played this character for so long. No one brings his unique charisma. Many of the best scenes involved Wolverine interacting with young Professor X (James McAvoy), young Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and young Beast (Nicholas Hoult).

Days of Future Past also gave Jennifer Lawrence plenty to do since Mystique played a pivotal role in the plot. This probably represents the best performance by the Oscar-winning actor in the X-Men franchise. Lawrence was tough, vulnerable, and conflicted as she hunted evil genius Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). 

But the biggest revelation of Days of Future Past was scene-stealing Quicksilver (Evan Peters). He’s fast. He’s funny. And he will be forever remembered for appearing in the most amazing special effects scene in Marvel history. Quicksilver using his mutant speed to help Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto escape from the Pentagon kitchen was jaw-dropping to see in the theatres. He races to save the day, neutralizing security officers, altering the tragedy of bullets, and flipping pots and pans— all while listening to Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle. Days of Future Past was nominated for an Academy Award for visual effects. 

The images remain beautiful a decade later. Amazingly, this scene was not originally supposed to be in the movie. The character of Quicksilver was a late addition, and the slow-motion scenes were filmed on the final days of the shoot. The lone complaint? Quicksilver could have used more screen time. 

Ultimately, Days of Future Past was successful because the final 40 minutes are riveting as the original X-Men and the new X-Men fight the Sentinels, mutant killing robots, in two different timelines. Battles in the past and future with consequences for both in their respective presents.

Days of Future Past was mostly a hit with critics. Justin Chang of Variety called it: “strikingly ambitious yet intimately scaled entertainment distinguishes itself from so much of its comicbook-movie kind.” Days of Future Past remains the second-highest-rated X-Men movie on Rotten Tomatoes, trailing only Logan (2017).

Much changed in 10 years. Ellen Page, who played Kitty Pryde, is now Elliot Page. Singer, once a go-to hitmaker, hasn’t directed a film since he was fired from the set of Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). There were accusations of unprofessional behavior, and Singer has faced other claims of bad behavior and misconduct. He has become persona non grata in Hollywood.

What has also changed is that the superhero bubble has burst. Fans no longer immediately flood the theatres when the latest Marvel or DC Comics movie comes out. The Marvels, Shazam! Fury of the Gods, Blue Beetle, and Madame Web all underperformed. 

Deadpool & Wolverine may reverse that trend. If so, maybe it can do what Days of Future Past accomplished. Bring fun and energy back to the genre.

Days of Future Past is available to stream now on Max. 

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.