The following are my initial thoughts on X-Men Days of Future Past. I will try to avoid any big spoilers.
It’s hard to believe that it’s now 11 years since I went to the cinema to see X-Men 2, the last X-Men movie to have been directed by Bryan Singer. Perhaps some time-travelling is involved, which would at least be appropriate as this latest X-Men movie has at its heart a time-traveling conceit.
Days of Future Past is based on a two-part Chris Claremont story from around 1980 which depicted a dark apocalyptic future for the mutants in the far off year of, er, 2013. Mutants are being put in prison camps and exterminated by giant robot Sentinels. Adult Kitty Pryde has her mind sent back in time to her teenaged self to convince Professor X to stop Mystique from killing Senator Kelly, believing that this is the event that results in the doom-laden future.
So with some changes that is the story we get here. It’s a case of having your cake and eating it because it means we finally get our old favourite X-Men back with Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Ian McKellan as Magneto and Halle Berry as Storm in the future sequences, now set in 2023. (I guess 2013 is so last year.) And it means we also get our new First Class cast members James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender appearing in the past, now set in 1973.
Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is the link between the two eras. His mind is sent back and it is his job to convince James McAvoy’s Professor X to stop Jennifer Lawerence’s Mystique. Only in this version of the story she is going after Bolivar Trask, creator of the Sentinels, not knowing that her actions will result in her capture and the creation of even more dangerous future Sentinels.
James McAvoy returns as an out of sorts Professor X. He can now walk again thanks to a serum Hank McCoy invented, but at the price of robbing him of his mental powers. In fact he and Beast are the only members of the team left in the mansion. The others apparently were drafted or killed and the school closed.
Bryan Singer does a tremendous job of juggling the future and past action. By the nature of the story most of the action takes place in 1973 but I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of 2023 scenes that were intercut. Indeed the final battle sequence cuts back and forth between the two eras with two different generations of Sentinals causing mayhem.
In the future sequences we get to see a few new members on the team. I think my favourite there must be Blink who has the ability to open portals, thus deflecting Sentinel attacks in ingenious ways.
And in 1973 we get to meet “Peter” who turns out to be a young Quicksilver. Wolverine recruits him to help break Magneto out of a.concrete prison. This leads to one of the best sequences in any X-Men movie where Peter uses his super speed to single-handedly stop the guards preventing their escape. We experience the slowed-down world from his point of view and see his amusing ways of deflecting the guards. It was certainly a crowd-pleasing scene for the audience I saw the movie with.
As mentioned before Jennifer Lawrence returns as Mystique. In many ways her character is at the heart of the movie. The future depends on her actions as she is now a lone operator working independently of either Professor X or Magneto. As before both her former mentors try to get her to follow their ideals with Professor X convinced that she need not turn into the heartless killer that we have seen in the previous movies.
Before I forget, Singer employs a nice little gimmick in the 1973 sequences where we see the action as caught on period 16mm film recordings. So Mystique jumping out of a window in Paris is caught on film in all her over-saturated blue glory.
It actually feels like we got three movies for the price of one. Certainly we get an X-Men 4 with our old favourite cast members back. And it certainly has a flavour of First Class 2. But it also feels a little bit like an X-Men 0 in a way that First Class didn’t, perhaps because of the inclusion of the old cast, but also because of the inclusion of things like the Cerebro room under the mansion.
I have a lot more to say about the movie and how it will affect future installments in the series, but that comes under the heading of spoiler, so I think I will leave that for another post.
But certainly I enjoyed the movie very much. I don’t go into ranking movies in detail but out of the seven X-Men and Wolverine movies to date I would say my favourite three are the ones directed by Bryan Singer.
And the end of the review is the appropriate place to mention the post-credits sequence. It was interesting to see so many audience members staying right to the end of the credits. But speaking personally the scene we got didn’t enhance my life. File it under “Tacked On”.