X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) Review
Written by: Simon Kinberg
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult & Peter Dinklage
In 1981, the comic book landscape changed forever with the release of The Uncanny X-Men issues #141-142. These issues told a story centered around mutant Kitty Pryde, now a grown woman when she was just 13 years old the issue prior, who must send her consciousness back into the past in order to prevent the current dystopian future, in which mutants are hunted down and killed by the monstrous, robotic Sentinels, from ever happening. These two issues were bought to life by the team of writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne under the iconic title “Days of Future Past”.
Now it’s 2014, which just so happens to be one year removed from the “Days of Future Past” future year of 2013, and one of the most anticipated films of the summer is Bryan Singer’s adaptation of that very same classic story in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The film stars Hugh Jackman as, you guessed it, Wolverine, who has his consciousness sent back in time to the 1970s by one Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) in order to prevent the disastrous, apocalyptic future run by Sentinels from ever happening. Basically, he has to team up with the younger versions of Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating the creator of the Sentinels, Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). This assassination sets events into motion that lead to the destruction of both humans and mutants alike in the future and without its prevention, could very well lead to the absolute extinction of mutant life as we know it.
- Quicksilver – When the first image of Evan Peters as Quicksilver hit the internet, the fanboys were baffled by what they believed to be his truly absurd duds. Highlighted by a gaudy silver jacket and goofy goggles, it’s safe to say many thought Quicksilver would end up being one of the worst parts of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Well, they couldn’t have been more wrong, because Quicksilver is, believe it or not, the BEST part of Bryan’s Singer new superhero entry. He’s not only charming and funny, his action sequence is the absolute best of the entire film. We get to see his powers on full display in slow-motion, and the sequence is only improved by the addition of Jim Croce’s dulcet tones. Good luck Avengers: Age of Ultron, because your version of Quicksilver has a whole lot to live up to.
- Perfect Combination of the Two X-Men Franchises – Perhaps the most anticipated aspect of Days of Future Past was the combination of the original trilogy’s cast with their younger counterparts from X-Men: First Class. While they don’t share much in the way of screen time, there is one fantastic scene when Patrick Stewart’s Professor X comes face to face with his younger self played by James McAvoy. One of the great successes of the films however, is Bryan Singer’s ability as director to combine what worked in his first two X-Men films with what Matthew Vaughn was able to accomplish in First Class. Basically, we get the great fun and fantastic younger actors of First Class combined with the gravitas and character moments of the original films. Sometimes ambition can get in the way of what could be a great superhero film, but thankfully Singer is able to use the best of both worlds to create a really fun, thrilling blockbuster.
- McAvoy & Fassbender – Without question the highlight of Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class was the fantastic chemistry between James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s Erik Lehnsherr. Fassbender may very well be the best actor on the planet currently and when I first heard that he was being cast as Magneto, I couldn’t contain my excitement. McAvoy has always been a fine actor himself and seemed like the perfect choice to play a younger version of Patrick Stewart. With Stewart and McKellen being so iconic in the roles of Charles & Erik, I don’t think many fans expected their performances to be topped. Well, and I’m sure there will some backlash for this comment, I honestly think Fassbender and McAvoy have given the characters more emotion and depth in two films than Stewart and McKellen ever did. While First Class was really a showcase for Fassbender’s brilliance, Days of Future Past turns out to be the very same for McAvoy. When the film begins, his Professor X is in a very dark place and his journey throughout the course of the film is arguably the most emotional storyline Xavier has been given on the big-screen to date. It’s a success on the strength of McAvoy’s performance. While Fassbender doesn’t have as much material here as he had in First Class, he’s still as good as ever. The few scenes the two actors share together are electric and I can’t wait to see more of them come X-Men: Apocalypse.
- The Ending – Back in 2006, X-Men: The Last Stand was one of my most anticipated films as the follow-up to my favorite X-Men movie, X2. I was incredibly excited for the first big-screen adaptation of the infamous “Dark Phoenix” comic book storyline and, despite the fact that Brett Ratner was taking over the helm from Singer, I had confidence that the cast would end up making it a worthy film-going experience. Boy, was I ever wrong. The Last Stand is definitely the worst of the original X-Men trilogy, mostly due to its failure to execute some of the best material from the comic books as well as its over-reliance on uninteresting, supporting mutant characters. It’s definitely an X-Men experience best forgotten, which is why the ending to Days of Future Past is such a stroke of genius. While I won’t spoil it completely here, it’s safe to say that Wolverine’s consciousness traveling into the past has some effect on future events that he has already experienced. While some may question the decisions made by Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg, I couldn’t be more happy in regards to where Days of Future Past ends up. It’s the kind of fan service that actually adds to the story the film is trying to tell. Although it hasn’t been confirmed, this may end up being the last X-Men film for many of the original cast, and if that ends up being the case, Singer couldn’t have ended things on a better note.
- There isn’t really a central villain – One of the most common complaints about the X-Men films to date is their inability to really provide capable villains, outside of Magneto (who I’m not entirely sure qualifies in most of the films anyway). Bryan Cox’s iteration of William Stryker in X2 is definitely one of the series’ highlights, although he poses no real physical threat to the mutants and is forced to have his lesser minions do his bidding. Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw in First Class has his share of good qualities, but was one again flanked by uninteresting co-horts (most notably in the form of January Jones’ terrible iteration of Emma Frost). With Days of Future Past, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) is set-up as the main antagonist for the X-Men. He’s a doctor who has experimented on various mutants in order to use their powers as a way to defeat them in tandem with his larger-than-life creations, the robotic Sentinels. While Dinklage is quite good in the role, the crux of the story is the X-Men’s journey to prevent Mystique from killing him, so his villainous side at times takes a back-seat. Both Mystique and Magneto serve as antagonists at different points in the film, but neither could really be argued as the film’s primary villain. While Days of Future Past overcomes its inability to decide on a villain in grand fashion, many fans greatly anticipate a day when an X-Men film finally delivers a villain of epic proportions. Fortunately for them, one is coming in the form of Apocalypse, who is teased in Days of Future Past’s post-credits scene.
- The Future Climax – While I stated above that Singer does a nice job of combining the two different X-Men franchises into one exceptionally fun package, some of the future scenes late in the film are an exception. When we get to the climax, we are meant to feel for the falling mutants who are being overcome by the future Sentinels. The problem is that we haven’t spent much time with most of these new additions, so we don’t really have a stake in any of their fates. While the climax that takes place in the past succeeds because we care for its characters, the future has its fair share of problems for the exact opposite reason. Had they chosen to use more of the mutants we knew and loved, the sequence would have certainly been that much more effective.
X-Men: Days of Future Past succeeds on its ability to infuse its superhero movie trappings with emotion and character moments that are among the best the X-Men franchise has to offer. McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is the heart and soul of the film and its in his journey that this rag-tag group of mutants finds its purpose. It’s safe to say the future is bright for the X-Men franchise. Bring on X-Men: Apocalypse!