Here it is. The movie that finally says “screw you” to the questionable continuity of the X-Men film franchise and heads straight into time travel territory. Tying together one trilogy with one prequel, it simultaneously gives the X-Men series a chance at a new start and a much deserved one at that. And I can assure you right now that X-Men: Days of Future Past might just be the best film I’ve seen all year. This movie was, in so many wonderful ways, worth the wait.
Even if it weren’t for getting to see great Marvel Comics characters return to the big screen, some after a longer absence than others, this would still be one hell of an all-star cast. Back from the original trilogy are Patrick Stewart as the elder Charles Xavier, Ian McKellen as the original Magneto, Halle Berry as Storm, Ellen Page as Kitty Pride, and Shawn Ashmore as Bobby “Iceman” Drake, including certain cameos I will not reveal. From the First Class era we have James McAvoy‘s younger version of Xavier, Michael Fassbender as young Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and Nicholas Hoult as a young Hank “Beast” McCoy. Tying it all together is Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine, because what is an X-Men film without him, right?
Days of Future Past starts us off in the kinda-sorta distant future. A weapon created by humanity to purge the world of mutants once and for all has turned upon the world – giant, mutant-tracking killer robots known as The Sentinels. Charles Xavier and Magneto, enemies forced to become allies again at last, lead what few X-Men are left in their battle against The Sentinels but things seem utterly hopeless. Thus, Kitty Pride uses some of her new powers to send the consciousness of Wolverine (who else?) back in time, to enter his younger body and end the war before it ever begins. How Kitty got those powers in addition to the ability of walking through walls I don’t recall is explained.
In 1973, The Sentinel Program is being developed by an inventor named Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), and the war itself is triggered after Mystique attempts to assassinate him. Wolverine arrives in the 70’s and meets with McAvoy’s young Xavier, finding that he is a sad wreck of a man who now uses Beast’s anti-mutation serum to be able to walk, but as a result doesn’t have his telepathic powers left. Wolverine nevertheless informs him that he needs to pull himself together, unite the X-Men, stop Mystique, and make amends with the mutant who has at this point become his arch nemesis: Magneto. This doesn’t work out quite as well as they had hoped.
There are side characters a plenty, including the incredibly speedy Quicksilver (Evan Peters), the steel-skinned Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), fan favourite Bishop (Omar Sy), the solar-powered Sunspot (Adan Canto), energy-absorber Havoc (Lucas Till), an overall badass named Warpath (Boobo Stewart), portal-maker Blink (Fan Bingbing) and Josh Helman as an even younger William Stryker than in X-Men Origins, which I’d now assume is set after these events if continuity even mattered anymore.
The director is Bryan Singer, who brought us the original X-Men 14 years ago and started off that which has finally led to this. The movie even opens with the familiar score from X2, perfectly signifying the triumphant return of the true master. So did he succeed? Has he once more made the kind of X-Men movie that I’ve always wanted? Honestly, the answer there is one gigantic YES.
This movie is, without any exaggeration on my part, absolutely goddamn wonderful, giving me everything I was hoping for and more. I went to see it with Louise, with whom I’ve marathon-ed all previous chapters, and when the screening was over my mouth hung open and I clapped my hands slowly as the end credits rolled.
On top of being exhilarating and extraordinarily creative with its action scenes and how the various abilities of the mutants are utilized within said scenes, particularly those with Blink the portal-creator, the film also succeeds in being tremendously touching, both as a story and as a retrospective of everything we’ve seen in the past 14 years. When the smoke settles and the explosions grow silent, a surprisingly powerful story of moral dilemma and hope™ emerges, where the significant choices that need to be made by Mystique and Magneto and the hope that a sad and broken Charles Xavier must find in order to transform himself into the wise old man we’ve known him as is what fuels the drama and makes the story as moving as it is. Cutting between this and scenes in the future where Xavier and Magneto have finally learned that they need one another is what makes the film especially emotional and I can proudly admit that I was getting teary-eyed at a few scenes.
Some fans might suspect that this will be another film where Wolverine steals the spotlight and the movie becomes too much about him, which is unfair towards mutants like Bishop who was the original time-traveller, but it isn’t so this time. This film is, at its core, about Charles Xavier, Erik “Magneto” Lensherr and Raven “Mystique” Darkholme. Wolverine’s role is to do for Xavier what Xavier once did for him – to guide him and make him wiser. It also helps that, even though he’s almost over-shadowed by all the other first-rate performances in the movie, Hugh Jackman simply sells it as a main character, especially when that character is The Wolverine.
On that note, I do admire how this movie proves, through the casting of Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask (who wasn’t a dwarf in the comics), that acting doesn’t need to be about looking exactly like the character of the original source material. What matters is how well you play it and you can’t deny as you watch Days of Future Past that Dinklage ends up a pretty damn good Bolivar Trask. Also spot-on are Jennifer Lawrence, whose interpretation of Mystique has gotten better; Evan Peters as Quicksilver is absolutely hilarious whenever he’s onscreen; Ellen Page is great; Stewart and McKellen are great; I could go on but I trust that you get the general idea.
Sure there will be questions that have viewers scratching their hairlines as usual. Why does future Wolverine have the adamantium claws if Silver Samurai sucked the metal out of him in The Wolverine? How does old Xavier still look like Patrick Stewart if he got a new body at the end of X-Men 3? Where did Kitty Pryde get those time travel powers? I don’t know, but not only do I assume that some weird, off-screen explanations exist, but this is also a movie that is so enthralling, emotional, intense and heartwarming that it really doesn’t weigh anything down.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is a miraculously good film that, just like Singer, visibly loves the fans. It gives us a powerful story, wickedly creative action scenes, top-notch acting all-around, interesting parallels/contrasts between past and future plotlines, lovely camera work, tons of fan service, brilliant effects, great music, and a runtime that’s taken advantage of and never feels overly long or boring. And to top it all off, it provides beautiful closure for the era of X-Men films that I basically grew up with whilst also serving as the start of something new. I am most definitely ready.
As of the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse, which gets foreshadowed wonderfully in a great post-credit scene, it seems that most of the original cast is alas gone, but that the franchise itself has gotten the chance to start over with the First Class cast. I eagerly look forward to where this will be heading. Will you there be with me, bub?