In 2011, we finally got an X-Men movie worthy of the name after the fairly good X-Men and X2: X-Men United. In the period between the latter movie and X-Men: First Class, we’d had two other X-Men movies, X-Men: Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but both those movies proved to be extremely disappointing, especially the former which was pretty damn stupid all the way through. But Bryan Singer’s X-Men: First Class changed things completely and added some new blood into the franchise, in terms of both actors and characters, which was brilliant. I certainly loved it and eagerly looked forward to the sequel. The unrelated The Wolverine, released last year, only whetted my appetite for more.
And that sequel arrived a couple weeks back with X-Men: Days of Future Past, another comics adaptation, based on a crossover comic of the same name, or rather storyline. There were some significant changes of course, such as the fact that we didn’t have Kitty Pryde aka Shadowcat making the time travel trip, a role given over to Wolverine instead, and the fact that there were several other minor changes. But all in all, this new movie proved to be far superior to any of the other X-Men movies, except perhaps for the first two, which really changed the way superhero movies worked in Hollywood. And the biggest fact is that the movie attempts to close several continuity errors from the previous movies and kind of levels the playing field in the end.
The premise of the movie is thus: In the not so distant future, the world governments have created the Sentinel project, which has resulted in the deployment of autonomous robots called Sentinels who have one purpose only, to kill all those who bear the mutant x-gene. And they’ve been so successful that only a very, very small handful of mutants are alive now. In a desperate gamble, Professor X and Magneto aid Shadowcat in sending Wolverine back in time to the mid-1970s so as to prevent the true genesis of the Sentinel project as envisioned by its creator Bolivar Trask. Once he is sent back, Wolverine’s mission is to bring the young Professor and Magneto together to prevent Mystique from killing Trask and thus preventing the dark future that we see in the first few minutes of the movie.
All in all, it is an excellent premise made better only by the fact that every actor involved delivered a magnificent performance and that Bryan Singer started the movie on a high, continued on a high, and ended on a high. In the very first few minutes we see the ragtag remnants of the X-Men fight off a determined group of Sentinels. Said group includes the likes of Iceman, Colossus, Sunspot, Blink, Bishop, Warpath and Shadowcat. They’ve succeeded in avoiding the worst thanks to the fact that Kitty has developed some psychic abilities that allow her to send someone’s consciousness back in time to their corresponding younger self, thus allowing the group to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, but just barely. And now it is time to to do it all on a big scale and what I mentioned above is put into motion.
The reason I mention so much about the opening scenes is because they are absolutely brilliant. The heroes all fight to the bitter end and Singer uses all of their abilities to the full. We even have Iceman riding around in his traditional ice-wave, which looks pretty damn awesome if I do say myself. And the visualisation of Blink’s abilities is brilliant too. It also helps that Fan Bingbing just looks kickass she throws up one of Blink’s traditional portals. Her costume, her posture, her expressions, everything is perfect.
Additionally, the beginning is unrelentingly grim, for each of the characters dies, until Shadowcat sends Bishop back and they all meet up with the remaining four senior X-Men: Storm, Wolverine, Professor X and Magneto. The chemistry between all the characters is strong and you can see evidence of it in every single scene. That is what really sold me on the beginning and though I don’t know much about all the new characters like Sunspot and Blink and Bishop and Warpath, their deaths really make a big impression.
Thankfully, once we are done with that particular short-ranged time travel, it is time to jump into the meat of the story as Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr of the 19070 try to stop their friend Raven/Mystique from setting in motion a rather dark turn of events. And this is the part where the traditional X-Men movie humour really kicks up a few notches and when we get some really intense acting from James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, playing the Professor and Magneto respectively, or their younger selves that is.
As far as plots go, Days of Future Past is pretty damn good. Though I kind of resent the fact that a strong character like Kitty was kind of relegated to the sidelines, Wolverine fit just as well. The story was adapted to his inclusion, and the overall effect is just as good I think. And in confession, I have yet to read the comics, though I have the ready to go, waiting to be read on my iPad. The way that Singer interweaves past and the future together is really thrilling because often we get to see some great referential scenes, especially towards the end when the climax is building up steam.
The best thing, like I said above, is the chemistry. We all know how Professor X mentored Wolverine when the adamantium-clad mutant first arrived at the Xavier School for Higher Learning, or whatever the name of the school is/has been over the years. Despite all of Wolverine’s experiences over a life much longer than that of the Professor, he was still someone in search of the truth and answers and the Professor helped him unlock some of his past. This was in fact much of the plot of the first two movies of the trilogy, and in Days of Future Past we see how the tables are turned when it is Wolverine who has to mentor the younger Professor and break him out of his self-loathing and self-pity at the way the world and those he once called friends have treated him. And there is this one particular scene set inside the Cerebro room, when the younger Professor comes face-to-face with his older self. Just amazing that scene. Brilliantly written and acted and directed.
Despite the fact that Kitty got a reduced role in the movie, and that Raven/Mystique herself is kind of the villain of the story, both ladies get some real great screen-time and dialogue, the latter being especially true for Kitty since her scenes lack much of the action of Jennifer Lawrence’s blue-skinned shapeshifter. And since so much of the story of this adaptation has to do with Raven/Mystique, we get to see Jennifer Lawrence show off some of the character’s trademark agility and fighting skills. The harmony between them is really good and given how the movie ends for the two of them, everything is much better in the final accounting of things.
Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask was something that I was really anticipating as being excellent, and while we did get to see some great occasional flashes of that, the character and the actor are woefully underused, even though everything hinges on his death in the novel and Mystique has to make some big decisions all by herself. Still, if there is someone who is even more underused is Wanda Maximoff aka the future Scarlet Witch, Magneto’s daughter and Quicksilver’s sister. There was a big brouhaha when she and her brother were announced as a part of the movie, more so since they show up in Avengers 2 as well, though played by different actors of course. As far as Days of Future Past is concerned however, Wanda isn’t even named in passing in dialogue, let alone get some alone time with her brother in any way. Saddening.
In the same vein, we have Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, aka the son of Magneto, although the great anti-hero is unaware of his offspring. There is a great reference to their relationship when Quicksilver, Professor X and Wolverine break Magneto out of a highly secure facility and I couldn’t help chuckling at how it is all put together. Plus the visualisation of Quicksilver’s powers was quite good and certainly added to the overall positive feel of the movie.
Days of Future Past is very much the movie that eliminates the previous continuity, which is very much a most confusing hotch-potch of things. It combines all the movies into a single whole and though there are some moments where none of it seems to fit, or where you get the sense that the story is suffering. And part of this whole redefinition is the fact that the ending is extremely fairy tale and I had issue with that because it was an extreme. The story itself was quite grim and then the ending is very joyous indeed. Once I got past that however, I realised that I’d had an excellent time with Wolverine and that there never was a dull moment.
The new movie isn’t really perfect, but it does come quite close, no matter what you reference or where. In this movie, Singer and Co. deliver some great action, great story and great characters, which is all that I really wanted to see and all that I got to see too.