Should I Watch..? X-Men: Days Of Future Past
What's the big deal?
X-Men: Days Of Future Past is an action superhero movie released in 2014 and is the seventh instalment of the X-Men franchise. Loosely based around the Uncanny X-Men story of the same name, the film features Wolverine journeying back in time to prevent a devastating future war by altering history. The film brings together the cast of both the original X-Men films as well as a number of cast members from the film First Class - the ensemble includes Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Halle Berry and Ellen Page. The film was a critical and commercial success, earning more than $747 million worldwide and even picking up an Academy Award nomination - the first in the series to do so. It was followed by the film X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016.
What's it about?
In the near-future, the world has been violently changed by robots known as Sentinels. Designed to locate and destroy all mutants and mutant-sympathisers, their ruthless efficiency and ability to instantly adapt to any mutant power have made the world a dark place. A small band of mutants including Professor X, Magneto and Kitty Pryde have managed to evade capture so far and launch an ambitious scheme for one individual to travel back in time to prevent the Sentinels from ever being developed. The individual chosen - Wolverine - will have their consciousness sent back to his younger self in 1973 and must prevent Mystique from assassinating Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinels.
Sure enough, Wolverine is sent back to 1973 and quickly locates the younger Charles Xavier, who has hit the skids since he had his heart broken by Mystique siding with Magneto. But Wolverine faces an uphill task to prevent the future - Charles is extremely reluctant to work with Erik Lehnsherr while Trask acquires Mystique's unique DNA to make his Sentinels even more powerful...
Logan / Wolverine
Charles Xavier / Professor X
Professor X (future)
Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto
Raven / Mystique
Ororo Munroe / Storm
Hank McCoy / Beast
Kitty Pryde / Shadowcat
Simon Kinberg *
Release Date (UK)
22nd May, 2014
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Superhero
Academy Award Nomination
Best Visual Effects
What's to like?
It should be apparent that every effort was made to create what is essentially a 'greatest hits' movie of the X-Men, much like Marvel themselves did with Avengers Assemble and whatever characters they still own the rights to. And as a Greatest Hits event, Days Of Future Past is an unqualified success. Thrilling from start to finish and with almost no character left out, the film is an unashamed attempt at bringing both casts and continuities together. Amazingly, it also provides a good degree of suspense - even I wasn't sure a good ending was guaranteed. The action might be a bit sparse for some but what is there is fantastic - Evan Peters as Quicksilver is an amazing addition to the cast and frankly, I wanted to see more of him.
The cast all deliver in their roles but with such a complex plot and huge number of characters, some struggle to make themselves seen. Dinklage is also a fine addition to the series as Trask whose misplaced vision for the future threatens both mutant and mankind alike. I also enjoyed McAvoy's Xavier showing us a darker side of what could be seen as a boring character and Mark Camacho's uncanny impersonation of President Richard Nixon. The effects are just as good - the Sentinels have had their design modernised from their clunky Sixties appearance while Quicksilver's lightning-fast reactions and sense of fun combine to create a genuinely appealing character. As a spectacle to rival Marvel's own band of superhero-brothers, Days Of Future Past is virtually unsurpassed.
- When he goes back to 1973 and wakes up in bed, the script called for Logan to wear boxer shorts but Jackman himself vetoed this and went fully naked. He later said of the scene "In Australia, if you're next to a really good-looking girl, you're not getting out with boxer shorts on or briefs or anything!"
- This marks the first X-Men film directed by Singer since X2 in 2003. He served as a producer on X-Men: First Class and even a story credit but this is only the third time Singer sat in the director's chair for a X-Men film.
- Anna Paquin, despite receiving a star billing, only appears for three seconds in the film after most of her scenes were cut. She was due to be rescued by the future heroes originally and these scenes can be seen in the so-called "Rogue cut" of the film on Blu-ray.
What's not to like?
Any movie with time-travel is going to encounter some form of temporal story-telling glitch - wouldn't changing the past mean that the time traveller would never have been sent back in the first place? - so frankly, I'm going to ignore that. What I can't ignore is the film's determined efforts to leave Quicksilver behind. The character is funny, unconventional and his blistering turn-of-pace lets the movie indulge in some brilliant cinematography so why do we move on relatively quickly? It's a strange decision, for me.
Despite Marvel having a hand in the film's production, the film does suffer somewhat from not being part of the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU). Take Page's appearance as Kitty Pryde - she looks so similar to Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch from Avengers: Age Of Ultron that I was initially confused as to who she was (it's been a while since I saw any of the original X-Men films) while Quicksilver is a much more interesting character to the version seen in the aforementioned Avengers sequel. The plot certainly needs a bit more of your attention than the usual sort of superhero blockbuster fare but fans of the comics need not worry - casual viewers might get a little confused. And stay tuned until the very end of the credits for a bonus scene - why didn't they have it at the start of the credits, for Heaven's sake? Nobody reads the credits anyway!
Should I watch it?
It's films like this that keep Marvel Studios looking nervously over their shoulder. Days Of Future Past demonstrates that superhero films need not be origin tales or CG-heavy good-vs-evil clashes (like Thor: The Dark World disappointingly was) but offer viewers an intelligent and well-produced blast of escapist nonsense. Supremely entertaining and polished to the n-th degree, this is one film that deserves to bring the X-Men back in from the cold.
Great For: X-Men fans, people growing bored of Marvel's current output, 20th Century Fox's fortunes
Not So Great For: Marvel Studios (those rights aren't being surrendered any time soon), plot-hole spotters
What else should I watch?
The X-Men series hasn't always been as tasty as Days Of Future Past but without question, the first two (coincidentally also directed by Singer) films are just as good. The first X-Men provided the platform for the entire series by getting crucial casting decisions correct (Jackman, Stewart and McKellen have been series stalwarts ever since) as well as being a thoroughly entertaining superhero film, the likes of which hadn't really been seen before. X-Men 2 expands on the series' racial undertones and political philosophy by pitching the X-Men against a genocidal general looking to wipe out mutantkind.
When Singer left the series after that, the wheels started coming off the series. X-Men: The Last Stand wasn't a bad movie as such but it fell short of the standards set by the first two pictures. Then the engine blew up with the ill-judged X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Jackman's first solo outing as the angriest Canadian in the world. It wouldn't be until the rebooted First Class came along that the X-Men finally began to find their feet again. Sending the characters back to the Sixties led to an inspired and very cool atmosphere and aesthetic as well as introducing McAvoy and Fassbender as Charles and Erik respectively.
© 2016 Benjamin Cox