Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

(Source: 20th Century Fox / Marvel Entertainment)

(Source: 20th Century Fox / Marvel Entertainment)

Spoiler content ahead. This is not a recap though.

The last time we saw the X-Men ensemble cast was on Bryan Singer’s own X-Men: The Last Stand. The future that resulted from that storyline is dark indeed. We get the cookie cutter Blade Runner introduction to explain it all, but we’ve become so familiar with “dystopian futures” that it’s really not necessary.

Technically, Charles Xavier died on The Last Stand. If you were hoping to see this movie address that, it doesn’t. We did knew him to be alive during the end credits for The Wolverine. What X-Men: Days of Future Past does in a most typical Marvel comic fashion is reboot the franchise.

It’s actually a completely legal reboot, based on the comic of the same name but taking a few liberties along the line. It’s Wolverine doing the time travel, but Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) will be instrumental in getting him to the past – and keeping him there. Still leading the X-Men in the future are Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen).

Wolverine’s consciousness travels back to the 1970’s. His goal is to stop an event that will literally cause the Sentinel program to be fast-forwarded, an event unwittingly triggered by Raven Darkholme, a.k.a. Mystique, played again by Jennifer Lawrence. She becomes one of the central characters in the movie. Is it a play on her current star power? Even if it is, the character itself lies at the center of the plot. It’s also a welcomed one, because Hugh Jackman in the leading role of Logan has been done and overdone a lot lately.

To help him, Wolverine will have to recruit the likes of the young versions of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Hank McCoy aka Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Magneto is actually a prisoner at the time and to break him out, we’re introduced to Pietro Maximoff aka Quicksilver (Evan Peters). What Magneto is held prisoner for is a nice little piece of historic fiction and I won’t ruin it for you.

Along the storyline, we’ll get appearances from X-Men from both The Last Stand and First Class. It’s a nice touch to see a lot of people revisiting their roles, including Bobby Drake aka Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Alexander Summer aka Havok (Lucas Till). There’s also newcomers like Bishop (Omar Sy), a mutant capable of redirecting energy back at his enemies. There’s a lot more both new and old including some big names but like I said, not giving everything away here.

On the official bah-humbug side, we have Bolivar Trask leading the Sentinel initiative played by Peter Dinklage and an amazing moustache. He’s having a hard time convincing congress but will get his day in the sun when meeting President Nixon as played by Mark Camacho with an amazing, and a bit satirized, likeness. Josh Helman plays Trask’s right hand man, Major Stryker – a man who will later be the cause of a lot of pain and suffering to Wolverine. Of course we also get the Sentinels, both the ominous future ones (talk about overkill) and their shiny-plastic-looking 70’s counterparts (non-threatening and reminding me too much of a Dyson vacuum cleaner).

Kudos to Bryan Singer to somehow maneuver this huge cast into something resembling a storyline. As it happens, I’d have to say it kinda works. Yes, some appearances are so brief that it seems that half the cast is in cameo mode but you can’t have full character development at this stage. This illustrates something that comic books with a large cast already adolesce from – you can’t have everyone on the screen at the same time.

I think a movie this size in both cast and scope met most if not all of its challenges. One very responsible thing that we get is that finally we understand why brash and short-tempered decisions do not make for enduring futures. Magneto’s original vision might have seemed seductive when we first met him back in the first X-Men movie, but it amounts to self-destruction in the long run. Charles’ utopian concept of humans and mutants living together might seem a little too Disneyland given all the pain and suffering that lies ahead. Both views have been explored to death in the comics but I always feel they take a backdrop to the special effects. In this case, they seem to be closer to the foreground, if not completely in focus.

Highly recommended. It has flaws. It has to have flaws it’s an X-Men movie. It’s not the comic, and there will be things that will make you shake your head but you’ll appreciate the effort in which the director, cast and crew have made this product a sound one. That may seem too weak of an endorsement, but it’s not. Keeping the storyline grounded without you needing to know every bit of a backstory the characters have is a result rarely achieved in the X-Men’s comic book universe. I’d say it’s a respectable win to be able to do that in mainstream movie.

Highs: The 70s look for Charles, Erik, Raven and the rest of the cast. Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy was an intriguing character and a bit of a hidden gem in the movie. Jennifer Lawrence does portray a no-nonsense Mystique very well. Magneto is still one impressive son of a bitch. Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask. Kitty Pryde. Bobby Drake. A lot of the classic X-Men played by the original cast. The movie being filmed in Montreal 😉

Lows: It’s Wolverine in the lead role again. I get why it has to be Hugh Jackman, but I’d really would have loved Kitty Pryde as the lead. I know the logistics, but it still feels like an opportunity wasted. Charles losing his powers when he’s able to walk. I highly doubt DNA changes just like that, or makes people walk. The Sentinels from the 70’s look a little too much like toys (or I repeat, Dyson vacuum cleaners). Mystique morphing into Trask. Raven can mimic almost anybody else to a point, but there’s something to be said about body mass.

(Sources: 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment)

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