The Geek is fashionably late to the party but what did she think of X-Men: Days of Future Past? Outstanding *claps hands*
To be honest I didn’t expect much from this film despite a lot of positive signs with Bryan Singer coming back as one of my main reasons. I think some of the X-Men films have missed his guidance and influence, in particular X-Men 3 (let’s not talk about that film). The resurgence of my love of X-Men started with the impressive X-Men: First Class. With a lot riding on this with so many elements involved, not only did this film surprise me but I also enjoyed it, to the point where I feel this is probably one of best superhero films of the year.
“The future: a bleak desolate, place. Mutants and the humans who helped them, united in defeat by an enemy we could not stop. Is this the fate we have set for ourselves? Could we have done nothing to stop it?” – Professor X
The best way to describe X-Men: Days of Future Past is that it has a parallel storyline. In the distant future (2023 to be exact), the Sentinel programme has outlived its original objective of targeting mutants. It’s now hunting humans. The Sentinels are not just any robots – they adapt, able to resist and fend off any mutant attack, making them difficult to destroy. Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) and the remaining mutants lead the last resistance of hope to change history. With the assistance of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and his consciousness is sent back to 1973 to convince the younger versions of Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to join forces and to stop the upcoming and destructive future before it is too late.
I know what I just wrote sounds complicated! Yet it effortlessly pulls off this complication to the point where you can feel absolutely proud of this film. This film is up there with X-Men 2 (I would say better than X2). What this film does is embrace past X-Men films and re-write X-Men history where it can start again with a new freshness and objective.
Key to that revival is director Bryan Singer. With X-Men: Days of Future Past, he once again reminds the audience why the X-Men franchise is such a beloved property. Thematically it returns X-Men back to its strengths, exploring issues such as prejudice, segregation and the human reality of fearing the unknown. These were themes that were introduced way back in the first X-Men film. Another key – he also re-establishes the central core of the X-Men universe. I know we have our favourites – Storm, Gambit, Jean Grey, Beast and Wolverine to name a few. But what brings them together are the guiding forces by the two people who lead them – Charles Xavier and Eric Lehnsherr.
Charles Xavier: “You took the things that meant the most to me.”
Erik Lehnsherr: “Maybe you should have fought harder for them.”
There’s an element of “passing the baton” with Stewart / McKellen and McAvoy / Fassbender. Both McAvoy and Fassbender have grown into the role and excelled themselves. There are not just playing Professor X and Magneto, they own them and the transition between those four actors are seamless.
It’s not afraid to showcase them in different ways. In their youth, both characters are struggling with their ideals in a world that is struggling to understand them.
In X-Men: First Class, Charles Xavier was young, hopeful, and maybe a little bit arrogant. He was self-consumed with his abilities and the new X-Men project that he neglected his friend, Raven / Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and failed to recognise her power, her insecurities and her inner beauty. Fast forward to 1973 and that 60s optimism has dwindled into nothing. He is a broken man, unable to cope with the loss of his friend, his inability to walk and that his students were drafted for the Vietnam war. The hope and dream of building and educating a fearful world about mutants in a peaceful co-existence is beyond his control. He’s like a drug addict, taking a serum that can make him walk again yet at the same time, drown out the noise from his telepathic abilities.
Contrast that to Eric Lehnsherr where his abilities are driven from a personal and emotional experience and his desire for mutants to become the superior race. In 1973, his driven desire does not wither but fuels and enhances it. His mutant friends that he assembled at the end of First Class are dead, their remains experimented on by the government which helps develop Trask’s (Peter Dinklage) Sentinel programme. He’s locked up in the lower levels of The Pentagon because he assassinated the President (which Eric claimed he was a mutant and tried to save him!) It’s easy to understand where Eric is coming from given his history in the concentration camps, losing his mother and experimented on because of his gifts. He reacts in anger and fear of history repeating and is not afraid in making tough decisions if he feels it will benefit the entire mutant race. The last half hour of the film he makes the most spectacular point of his struggles by lifting an entire stadium off the ground!
It’s impressive but once again it highlights the contrast in beliefs in Eric and Charles’s friendship and why it will always continue to be a fascinating watch. Don’t get me wrong, films about Wolverine are fine and he is obviously a big attraction, but what Eric and Charles have is the glue that cements each and every character in the X-Men universe. Fact.
“I know what I have to do. It’s us, or them…” – Raven / Mystique
Telling the rest of this review becomes easy because character motivations are already in place!
Wolverine plays crucial role in uniting both Eric and Charles together despite their differences. Each piece in this complicated time jigsaw doesn’t always go to plan but once again Hugh Jackman delivers. It seems the more he plays Logan / Wolverine, the better he looks. Again X-Men: Days of Future Past re-writes and cleans up Wolverine’s past and gives it a fresh and unique impetus, something I’m sure will come into play in X-Men: Apocalypse.
While it did feel a little bit of a cliché that everyone was after Mystique to reign her in and shut her down (because the timeline establishes that she is responsible for the acceleration of the Sentinel programme), I do like that she had the power to choose what kind of person she wanted to be. Again, you sympathise with Raven / Mystique because she wanted to be considered as “normal” and not a chameleon freak who can change their appearance. She wanted acceptance from Charles but didn’t get that. Only Eric recognised her beauty and her talents and once again it motivates her to do what she does in this film. After discovering what Trask was doing, she attempts to kill him. I think it was another great performance from Jennifer Lawrence who (just like Fassbender and McAvoy) seems to grow into her role and show Raven’s strengths and her struggles. Judging by the end credits, she will be crucial to the new Wolverine storyline.
Trask technically is a “good guy” but he’s miscalculating and blinded by ambition. He sees the Sentinel programme as a way to unite the human race against a common goal in order to find peace, especially after the difficulties of the Vietnam War but ultimately what he does is set in motion a machine that would destroy the human race.
And of course…how can I write this review without mentioning Quicksilver! I’m just going to come out and call it – Quicksilver had the best introduction in the entire film and his intro was better than Nightcrawler in X2. Funny, cocky and quick (naturally), his screen time was brief but definitely memorable. I look forward to seeing more of Quicksilver (Evan Peters), especially after making his comment about his mother knowing a guy who was good with metal!
X-Men: Days of Future Past is a rollercoaster of an epic film and towards the end (without realising it), I started becoming emotional. The past and the future run simultaneously like a domino effect. Characters die trying to make a last stand with McKellen and Stewart delivering their all in emotional weight. Then the amazing cameos at the end (won’t spoil who) made me realise how much I love these characters and how much I missed them. My Cheshire cat grin was on display.
And the post end credits…damn! I can’t wait for X-Men: Apocalypse.
Seriously if you have not seen X-Men: Days of Future Past – go and see this film. I think you will be satisfied that the X-Men franchise is once again back on track and heading in the right direction.
I suddenly realise my top ten films of the year so far is looking a little crowded…