Review - X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), PG-13, 131 minutes - X-Men: Days of Future Past represents the fifth film in the comic book franchise about mutants and their struggle for equality (seventh if you include the two solo Wolverine films).  It also marks the return of Bryan Singer as director on the franchise after having directed both X-Men (2000), X2 (2003), and contributing to the story of X-Men: First Class (2011).  Generally speaking, the first two X-Men films were fairly highly regarded as comic book films go, but after Singer's departure to direct Superman Returns (2006), X-Men: The Last Stand (again, generally) didn't live up to expectations.  This time around, Singer vowed to take an adaptation of a classic X-Men story line and use it to effectively 'fix' the issues that had been introduced by the earlier films.  After my initial viewing last night, I'd say that he was fairly successful in doing just that.

Days of Future Past begins, wait for the future.  We're not given a time frame at first, but we later learn that the year is 2023.  It is a post-apocalyptic looking future, a time when mutants have been targeted, segregated and even killed, having been hunted down by Sentinels (giant humanoid weapons developed to specifically eradicate mutants).  A small group of X-Men including Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Bingbing Fan), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), and Magneto (Ian McKellen) develop a plan to send the consciousness of one of them back fifty years to their younger self in 1973 in an attempt to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the inventor of the Sentinel program.  The thought process being that if Trask isn't a casualty of mutant violence, his program wouldn't be green lit due to the world's resulting mutant paranoia.  The first choice to make this mental trip is Xavier, but they fear that he is too old and would not survive the strain put on his consciousness by traveling back that far.  The task falls to Logan (Wolverine) as his regenerative abilities would counteract the damage done by the journey.  So Kitty Pryde (with a new power that, to my knowledge, she's never had in the comics) sends Logan's consciousness back to 1973 so that he can warn the X-Men of the past and try to change their horrendous future.  Of course it sounds more simple than it really is.  After the events of X-Men: First Class (which took place in 1962), the assassination of President Kennedy, and the end of the Vietnam War, Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters has fallen to ruin, the X-Men have disbanded, Xavier himself (James McAvoy) is without his powers, and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is incarcerated below the Pentagon.  It takes some convincing, but with the help of Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters), Logan is able to round up the group and go about trying to stop Mystique.

This film shares a name and basic premise with its source material (a two issue story by Chris Claremont and John Byrne that appeared in Uncanny X-Men #141 and 142 in 1981), and that is about it.  Many of these characters either didn't appear or hadn't even been created at the time Days of Future Past saw print.  The amazing thing is just how true to the story Singer was able to stay considering the changes that needed to be made in order to fit this adaptation into the cinematic continuity (or lack thereof) that already existed.  We get to see a giant cast of characters, but they are utilized fairly well, especially considering the limited screen time a number of them see (Quicksilver in particular comes to mind).  Fans of the previous films will get a kick out of seeing how some of the previous characters are also worked in, another nice little continuity touch by Singer.  

A common complaint about the previous X-Men films has been that they are too Wolverine-centric.  That certainly doesn't change here, but his use to tie the future to the past makes sense and leads to good character development, not only of Logan, but of Xavier, Magneto and Mystique as well.  There's also big action and great effects making it a cool, fun, summer blockbuster.  And I shouldn't forget, there is one scene at the very end of the credits that teases the next film in the franchise, 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse.   

All in all, Days of Future Past does just what Bryan Singer said it would do: it takes a classic X-Men story line and corrals both the good and the bad aspects of the previous films and course-corrects the franchise moving forward.  If you're a fan of comic book movies, I'd definitely recommend X-Men: Days of Future Past.  The one glaring downfall that I can think of is that it is heavily steeped in the continuity of the films that came before (great for us comic book nerds, but difficult for those new to the franchise).  If you haven't seen X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and X-Men: First Class you will more than likely be completely lost.   


- To my knowledge, Kitty Pryde has never had any psi-abilities in the comics so her being the one to send Wolverine back in time was a little odd.  But since she was the one who was sent back in the original story I can see why they wanted her to have a direct tie to it.  Apparently, the primary reason for the change in which character they sent back in the movie was that Ellen Page's Kitty Pryde was too young to have been alive in 1973 and wouldn't have had a younger self to travel back to.

- After re-reading Claremont and Byrne's Days of Future Past a week ago, it is amazing to me that such a complex and detailed story was told over just two issues.  These days it would be a year long comic event.

- There were so many nice little nods to the previous films and the comics that really solidified how well this film was made considering the fairly drastic retcon it makes on the cinematic X-Men universe. These a few that come to mind immediately, no doubt there are others:
  • Bringing back Jean Gray (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Beast (Kelsey Grammer) in the re-written future scenes.
  • Quicksilver making a comment about his mom having 'known a man like that' when learning that Magneto can control metal. In the comics, Magneto is Quicksilver's father.
  • Angel and Azazel (First Class) being seen in Bolivar Trask's experimentation files when Mystique breaks into his office.
  • Seeing Havok's apparatus that Beast built him and Angel's wing (both from First Class) on display along with Magneto's helmet.
  • 1973 Xavier remembering where he recognizes Wolverine from and greeting him in much the same way by telling him to 'f*** off' (as seen in First Class).
  • 1973 Magneto using a couple of ball bearings as weapons as his older counterpart did in breaking out of his cell in X2.
  • 2023 Iceman turning completely into ice.
  • Xavier's hoverchair seen in the scenes from the future (and the re-written future scene).
  • Referencing the connection between Stryker and Wolverine. Especially Wolverine's reaction to seeing 1973 Stryker.
  • Showing some of the mutants of the future with the 'M' tattoo/brand on their face as seen in the comics.
  • In the re-written future scenes at Xavier's school Rogue and Iceman are together as they were in the first film and Kitty and Colossus are shown teaching together in the same classroom (there has always been a thing between them in the comics).
  • Havok (Lucas Till carrying over from First Class), Toad (Evan Jonigkeit), and Ink (Gregg Lowe) shown in the group of mutants that Mystique sends home from Vietnam. Then those characters being shown reacting to Magneto's speech (Ink was also shown at the beginning of the film in the future).
  • 1973 Magneto commenting on Wolverine's claws: 'imagine if they were metal'.
  • 1973 Magneto skewering Wolverine with re-bar and using it to incapacitate him as the older Magneto did Wolverine's adamantium skeleton in the previous films.
  • 1973 Xavier flashing through Wolverine's experiences (as seen in X-Men through Last Stand) when trying to regain control of his abilities.
  • Bishop being sent back in time just long enough to warn the X-Men of the future that the Sentinels were attacking (alluding to Bishop's time traveling ways in the comics).
  • Wolverine looking at his claws funny the first time he pops them in 1973 and they come out bone instead of adamantium (as he hasn't been experimented on yet).
  • Wolverine does a double take when walking through a metal detector in 1973 expecting to have set it off (like he did entering the Statue of Liberty in X-Men) but doesn't because he doesn't have his adamantium yet).
- When screen shots of Quicksilver first surfaced, I wasn't real impressed.  Given the time and context of the movie, I thought the design fit and that Even Peters was great as Quicksilver.

- Speaking of character designs, I wasn't a big fan of Beast in this film.  Not Nicholas Hoult's portrayal of him, that was fine, but the look itself.  He looked like a blue wolfman out of an old monster movie.

- Just as X-Men: First Class did before it, Days of Future Past does a great job of intertwining events from the X-Men universe with the historical events of the real world.

- The effects of Blink's abilities were really cool and a nice touch.  Bishop looked just as he should, and they alluded to his time hopping a bit which was cool, but the other newer X-Men in the future weren't all that exciting in my opinion.

- The post credits sequence is a teaser for the next X-Men film, 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse.  We get a slow zoom in from behind Apocalypse as he manipulates huge blocks from the pyramids while minions chant 'En Sabah Nur' (his name), then the camera pans around to show his face and his four horsemen lined up in the distance.  It was cool, but I was hoping for a little bit more considering we already knew that Apocalypse was going to be the focus of the next film.  I will be interested to see if they keep him thin and sort of scrawny or if he will be bulked up by/during the film as he is in the comics.  Maybe this is just a young Apocalypse.  And who will they use for his horsemen?

-  It will also be interesting to see where in the X-Men universe timeline the Apocalypse film will take place.  After Trask's assassination is averted or after the scene in the re-written future?  From the list of actors/actresses already attached to X-Men: Apocalypse it appears to center on the younger group that was introduced in First Class.


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