Bryan Singer has been credited by many as re-invigorating the franchise with Days of Future Past. While that’s certainly true purely from a box office standpoint (second-highest domestic gross in the series with $233 million; $746 million worldwide), it shouldn’t be forgotten that Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class (2011) was an artistic triumph. Singer’s new film makes the brilliant, bold move of bringing back the “classic” X-Men cast, led by Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier and Ian McKellen as Magneto. Only Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine factors into the main story, with Xavier and Magneto (along with appearances by the likes of Halle Berry as Storm and Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde) serving primarily as a framing device. We catch up with them in a dystopian future ruled by robotic Sentinels that can infinitely adapt and acquire individual mutant abilities.
Jackman’s presence tips the balance once we’re sent back in time to the early ‘70s, where Wolverine must reunite Xavier and Magneto (once friends, now adversaries) to combat Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), who has just proposed constructing an army of mutant-destroying Sentinels. First Class, the only X-Men theatrical outing thus far to omit Wolverine, was dominated by incisive portrayals by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the younger Xavier and Magneto. They’re no less excellent here, but Jackman’s star power and burning charisma shifts the balance.
That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a complicated way of pointing out that Days of Future Past inevitably comes with more baggage attached than First Class, which was ostensibly a series reboot. Days is much more a sequel to First Class than to X-Men: The Last Stand (though it functions as both, Days shouldn’t be seen without first seeing First Class). Vaughn brought a graceful lightness to the 2011 reboot, while Singer weighs the new one down with a heavier sense of gravitas. As usual, comic book purists have plenty to nitpick, but fans of the movie series should be generally satisfied with the blending of the old and new casts.
Extra features with the Digital HD iTunes edition include, via an easily navigated menu, a six-minute “Kitchen Sequence” behind-the-scenes featurette that involves an unused scene with Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. There’s a “Gag Reel” that runs about five and a half minutes. The five deleted scenes are short (totally just over five minutes), but fans will be happy to see the extra footage. Optional audio commentary by director Bryan Singer is available for each scene. Lastly, “Gallery: Trask Industries” offers three still galleries of images glimpsed in the film, detailing mutant experiments, Sentinel construction, and various blueprints.
Another reason fans might want to consider the Digital HD option: Days of Future Past is being reissued next year in an extended “Rogue Cut” that will restore a missing subplot involving Anna Paquin. Seen only in the briefest of walk-on cameos, Paquin’s Rogue was chopped right out of the movie in order to help streamline the plot. The Digital HD version can function as a stopgap until the eventual Blu-ray/DVD release of the extended version.