I’m almost too excited to talk about X-Men – Days of Future Past.
As any moviegoer knows, superhero movies are spilling out of theatres, with three Marvel-based movies currently showing. The competition is fierce, the hype is treacherous and studios are pushing these flicks out as quickly as possible to feed the loyal (and sometimes lethal) geek population… And the pressure to fasttrack some of these films (before they’ve fully formed) has proven to be a kiss of death.
X-Men director Bryan Singer is certainly no stranger to the perils of superhero and fantasy cinema. But I am proud to announce– after seeing Days of Future Past— that Mr. Singer and I are totally cool.
Deciding to adapt this famous X-Men comic book storyline is nothing short of genius. It’s a classic comic book to film conversion, bringing together two generations of X-Men actors while also adding new dimensions to the X-Men cinematic universe. Most importantly, DoFP gives Singer the vital opportunity to fix past celluloid mistakes– most occurring at the hands of other directors guiding FOX’s mutant exploits. So if the director is looking to redeem his beloved characters and the viewers are looking for some resolution after a couple of “iffy” mutant movies, then we’ve all found peace. Singer’s work here is truly a beautiful thing.
Days of Future Past takes place in two timelines– fifty years apart– starting in the 1970s. There’s a devastating war between mutants and the Sentinel soldiers occurring in the future. Unfortunately, this conflagration has now involved Earth’s entire population. All seems lost… Until the heroes that remain– Magneto, Professor Xavier, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine– formulate a plan to send Wolverine’s consciousness back to the Disco Era to stop Mystique from committing one simple act of vigilantism that will set off a devastating chain of events. Their audacious plan tests the question “Is the future truly written?” A scientist named Bolivar Trask (played with excellence by Peter Dinklage, constrained in a rather one-note role), has invented a weapon which will detect and eliminate mutants with little chance of human casualty. The broken and defiant Mystique is on a mission: Kill Trask. Now it’s up to Wolverine to recruit the younger Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr– in hopes they can convince Mystique Trask’s assassination will be a huge mistake.
As it always goes with time travel stories, this one has holes when it comes to cause-and-effect. However the past, present and future relationships are constantly played with and are well-balanced… So much so, you barely notice or care about the physics and implications of Wolverine’s time jaunt. Characters expertly weave in and out of each timeline.
Simply put, Days of Future Past is the perfect X-Men movie for fans. Aside from the insanely exciting merger of new and old cast members, there are constant references to characters and situations from past films that tie everything together beautifully– even opening up exciting future film opportunities. Almost all the X-Men are given appropriate amounts of screen time and attention– allowing the story to be the best it can be. No “fan favorite” gets an unnecessary spotlight to massage fanboy egos. When I first saw Wolverine and Mystique on every poster (and at the forefront of every piece of promotional material), I assumed it was a ploy to entice everyone on the Jennifer Lawrence and Hugh Jackman train to see the movie. I was thankfully mistaken, as these two actors are definitely the film’s most important characters.
Days of Future Past also makes a major improvement over its most recent predecessors, X-Men The Last Stand and X-Men First Class… As it introduces a few new exciting mutants into the mix, while weeding out some others who were always rather unnecessary. The new additions are onscreen long enough to fully appreciate them, and they serve a collective purpose. The future introduces the audience to Blink– who can shoot portals (which is, pardon my regression, SO FREAKING COOL), along with classic X-Man Bishop– plus a young Sunspot and Warpath. These filmic newcomers spend the majority of their time on camera in incredible battle scenes with terrifying Sentinels. No backstory is necessary from any of them– they just work.
The 70s scenes gives us another new character: Quicksilver. There has been some major controversy around this speedster (in part because of his weird costume and because the character will also appear in Marvel/Disney’s Avengers: Age of Ultron). Ironically, Quicksilver is quite possibly the best character in X-Men – DoFP. The visual tricks used to showcase his impressive speed were unbelievably entertaining, and Evan Peters’ wit was downright hilarious. He steals the show in every scene, as Peters makes his brief appearances very, very memorable. [Quick comic fan side note: There’s one line between Quicksilver and Magneto that will seem innocent enough to the average moviegoer– but any true X-Men comic fan will totally geek out when they hear this tiny moment of mind-blowing intrigue.)
All the X-Men movies have been very dark, but this one is the darkest one yet. Wolverine is tasked to bring together two men who “could not be farther apart”. Charles is battling a drug addiction to treat the pain in his legs, while Erik’s locked up for political crimes. It breaks your heart to watch– especially with the brotherly retrospection between Magneto and Professor X in the future– as they openly air out their regrets over their past relationship. Michael Fassbender was arguably the lead in X-Men First Class (and is almost underutilized this time around), but like Charles Xavier, Magneto’s mind is in the blackest place the movie audience has ever witnessed. (It is almost too hard to watch– so maybe it’s better it took a backseat.)
Another really pleasant surprise: The quality of the dialogue and acting by the entire cast and characters. The first trailer chopped this dialogue into tiny bits, so it sounded as if the movie was littered with cheesy clichés and quips. Fortunately, the trailers were over-edited for effect. There are still scenes with dramatic proclamations and speeches, but the words or sentiments never come off as showy or “comic-booky”. And despite the heavy tone, there are also moments of genuine humor, expertly used to break the tension and leave you laughing amongst the mayhem. Hugh Jackman clearly loves his character, and he keeps getting better with every film. My ongoing skepticism about James McAvoy was hushed after seeing him play a tortured Xavier so well. (Heck, even the actor who played Richard Nixon looked and sounded fantastic!)
I seriously cannot begin to communicate how much I loved X-Men – Days of Future Past. I have been a massive X-Men fan since the dawn of my first comic book memories, and I feel a personal attachment and intimacy to their universe. Like many others, I have had a tumultuous relationship with the X-Men movies: Loved the first two, felt extremely unsettled by the last two. But this film is a fresh start… A very welcomed new beginning.
Pssst! Stay for the post credits scene!