Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past
By Matthew Huntley
May 27, 2014
X-Men: Days of Future Past does what all superhero movies should do: it adds a new and interesting layer to the hero’s, or in this case, heroes’, universe - one that actually carries weight and dimension. We walk out of it feeling as though the characters have been further developed and their stories have gained a greater sense of depth. Plus, we feel like we’ve experienced this latest adventure right along with them. In a way, then, the consequences of the plot are more personal to us. This latter effect is actually what all movies should strive for, not just superhero ones.
While Days of Future Past is technically another entry in the longstanding X-Men franchise, of which there are now seven (including this one), it’s primarily a sequel to the 2011 reboot, First Class, which chronicled how the modern-day X-Men came to be and why the mutants eventually split into two warring factions, one led by the mind-reading Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the other by the metal-manipulating Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), a.k.a. Professor Xavier and Magneto.
In all other X-Men movies that have featured these two characters, the primary conflict has centered on them and their opposing ideals, and while Days of Future Past doesn’t entirely stray from this theme, the focus this time is on the survival of all mutants, not to mention humans. This put a fresh spin on the X-Men saga.
The story takes place in the present, but the world is a dark and bleak dystopia. Giant robots called Sentinels have taken over the planet, oppressing humans and hunting down mutants. The Sentinels were engineered with mutant DNA, making them especially powerful and adaptive to their enemies.
One group of mutants, made up of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Bishop (Omar Sy), among others, has found a way to stave off the Sentinels for the time being. Kitty uses her phasing abilities to send Bishop’s consciousness back through time so he can warn his past self where the Sentinels will strike next. This buys them a little more survival time, but it’s not enough.
A familiar group of veteran mutants arrives to lend help, including the older Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry). Xavier fills everybody in on the history of the Sentinels and how they were originally conceived from the mind of Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) in the 1970s at the end of the Vietnam War. Bolivar invented them to track down mutants, which he viewed as valuable but also as a threat, the kind that needed to be controlled, even harnessed. He figured mutants could be utilized as weapons so future wars wouldn’t have to sacrifice ordinary human beings.
Trask’s intentions never sat well with the feisty Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who went on to assassinate Trask, but this incident led to her capture and the eventual engineering of her DNA with the Sentinel bodies, making them the indestructible forces that now rule.
Xavier’s proposal: have Kitty send a consciousness back through time to 1973 and prevent Trask’s assassination from ever taking place, which will hopefully hinder the events that followed. Of course, the only mutant who can sustain such a mental warp is also the one who can rapidly heal: Wolverine, who’s become sort of the unofficial star and leader of this series. Once he’s there, it’ll be his job to convince the younger Charles and Eric to work together and help stop Mystique from pulling the trigger and being captured. This will be no easy task, though, especially after the events of First Class. Charles is now living as a self-destructing recluse with Hank (Nicholas Hoult), a.k.a. Beast, while Eric resides in a heavily fortified prison beneath the Pentagon, for reasons I’ll not reveal.
The plot of Days of Future Past gets thicker and more complicated as it speeds along, but Simon Kinberg’s screenplay and director Bryan Singer manage to weave all the threads together rather seamlessly. The movie is sort of remarkable in the way it’s able to gather all the X-Men together and give each of them something meaningful to do, besides just making an appearance. This includes the sure-to-be fan favorite, Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who can move very, very fast. Despite its two-hour plus runtime, the movie has a constant momentum and we always feel like what’s happening on-screen actually matters in the grand scheme of the X-Men mythology. This is something any comic book or movie fan will appreciate.
In as little as two months, Hollywood has delivered three high-profile superhero movies, all from the Marvel universe. I feel like a broken record when I say there are too many of these being made, but X-Men: Days of Future Past reaffirms that when they’re made well and tell a rich, consequential story, they can still serve a purpose, not least that they make for a fun, exciting and entertaining experience.