X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Editor’s Notes: X-Men: Days of Future Past opens in wide release today, May 23rd. For an alternate take on the film, see Derek’s review.
In many respects, this is the X-Men film I’ve been waiting 14 years for. I’ve been an X-Men fan for nearly 25 years, read the comics in their 2nd or 3rd renaissance in the early 90s and watched the cartoon that was on at the same time. I will not, however, go on to document the many divergences from the Chris Clairmont original story because that would not be fruitful nor do the changes reflect how good this is compared to the original form masterpiece. And while the screenwriters had to take infinite liberties with the story to make it fit the X-Men cinematic universe, they still created a complex and intelligent action yarn with some flashes of genuine emotion and suspense.
X-Men: Days of Future Past marked director Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise since leaving after the first two films to direct Superman Returns (2006) instead of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), which in my opinion was a good choice considering the script for the X-Men’s third installment was horrible (I still like Superman Returns despite all the negativity it’s suffered) along with two other films that didn’t do very well at the box office. So now he’s back to the wellspring and delivers the best X-Men film since X2 (2003) and possibly the best overall.
This leads to the best new character in the film: Quicksilver (Evan Peters). He’s the best because he introduces a lot of levity to a seriously minded film.
The story starts in the future, around 2023, where mutants and humans alike are being exterminated by Sentinels who were originally designed to only destroy mutants. The Sentinel programming evolved to include deciding who’s genetic makeup would not only produce a mutant in the next generation but several generations hence and started eradicating them as well to ensure that mutants were truly destroyed.
There are a few left who are fighting to survive. Led, in a way, by Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) these mutants put up a resistance to the Sentinels as best they can. Kitty can have someone time jump their conscience back into a previous time’s body and warn of a Sentinel attack so the group never shows up there in the first place. This works for them for a while until Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) join them with Storm (Hallie Berry, again thanklessly taking a role that gives her 4 lines at the most) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to propose a plan. They want to send a person back to 1973 when the Sentinel program was first launched in an effort to stop it from happing and to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from getting into their hands and providing the key to the destruction of the mutants (see, since she can shapeshift her DNA is used to make the Sentinels of the future adaptive and use the mutant’s powers against them, making them nearly indestructible).
Wolverine is the only one strong enough to physically survive the trip so he goes back instead of Xavier, who was originally planning on going but had that happened, in Muppet parlance this would have been a really short movie. So Logan (Wolverine) goes back and finds Xavier (now youthfully played by James McAvoy) and Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Xavier does not have his powers at the moment because he is taking the mutant cure from X-Men: First Class (2011) to heal his spinal injury he sustained at the end of that film. So he can walk but not read minds (again, if he could it would be a really short movie). Logan convinces them to help him and informs them they need Magneto (Michael Fassbinder) as well.
It was refreshing to see everyone onscreen again and the post-credit sequence teasing the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse gives us a glimpse of what is in store for the X-Men…
This leads to the best new character in the film: Quicksilver (Evan Peters). He’s the best because he introduces a lot of levity to a seriously minded film. He’s so fast, you can hardly see him and he uses it to his great advantage. The funniest scene in the film is after they’ve broken Magneto out of the Pentagon holding cell and are being fired upon. Quicksilver simply puts on his headphones (brilliantly playing Jim Croche’s Time in a Bottle) and runs around the room so fast, changing the positions of people and trajectory of bullets so calmly and obviously having a blast doing it.
To keep going would bog this down with the normally dense plot of a comic book movie. Since they usually don’t rely on characterization or emotional growth, they have to pack in a lot of plot. I can’t fault them because lately they work really well. Most films based on comic books won’t be remembered as some of the best films ever (though some should certainly be ushered into that standing) and this falls into category of entertaining but not amazing. Some have stated that the introduction of time travel makes this complicated, but that’s just for people who aren’t paying attention. They explicitly explain the time travel and it is much more basic than most time travel pictures, including Back to the Future (1985). It doesn’t take the H.G. Wells notion that time can’t be changed from the past, but more of a Doctor Who interpretation that time is a fluid, non-linear ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff and Logan’s time line will continue to move forward as he is in the past and will only change when he wakes up in his own time, being the only one to remember the alternate timeline.
Singer’s return isn’t really a big deal in itself, but it is a blessing considering that he is able to manage the multi-character arc much better than Brett Ratner did in the 3rd picture. Singer has characters that we only see fighting and are barely given names, yet we are still able to get a little upset when they die (but then they come back). This is, I think, his best film as a director because it is his clearest vision and his most complex arena. He merges his X-Men films with the prequel/reboot that he produced with Matthew Vaughn helming. And the merger is seamless and really quite wonderful. I liked that we were able to see the original versions of Prof. X and Magneto on screen again, as well as some other favorites. What he also accomplishes is something that is becoming his MO: erasing sequels he doesn’t like from franchise timelines. He eliminated the awful Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) when he set Superman Returns after the events of Superman II (1980) and here he eliminates the events of X-Men: The Last Stand with the final scene of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is fine by me since that means they may try to have parallel franchises, set in the past and contemporary times.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is an exciting film that does a lot to remind us what we liked about the X-Men movies before the dreadful 3rd installment and the first Wolverine spin-off. It’s entertaining and gives us characters we know and love and puts them in a unique position with real stakes and fuses the quest with their younger selves fighting the same battle with different stakes involved. It was refreshing to see everyone onscreen again and the post-credit sequence teasing the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse gives us a glimpse of what is in store for the X-Men, and I hope that there is some way to bring back the original cast for that one too if it’s possible to do so without being gimmicky.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is an exciting film that does a lot to remind us what we liked about the X-Men movies before the dreadful 3rd installment and the first Wolverine spin-off. It’s entertaining and gives us characters we know and love and puts them in a unique position with real stakes and fuses the quest with their younger selves fighting the same battle with different stakes involved.