X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST Movie Review
X-Men: Days of Future Past ends by wiping away the events of X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and both Wolverine movies. They didn’t happen. What happened in their place we don’t yet know. This officially makes X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past the only X-Men movies that matter. It’s lucky then that they are also the best two movies in the series.
DoFP opens with a look at where the original, increasingly dark trilogy was leading: The end. Mutants and the humans that sided with them have been hunted and killed or rounded up and forced into concentration camps by an army of killing machines known as Sentinels. A small band of mutants, some we recognise like Ellen Page’s Kitty Pride, and some we don’t, have managed to hold out against the ever increasing odds by making use of Kitty’s ability to send people back in time. “Strange” you may think, “she never mentioned she could do that before”. Well, she does it now okay, move on. But this is a just a band aid. It’s keeping them alive for the time being, but it isn’t stopping anything. Then Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian Mckellan), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) turn up with a plan. Storm (Halle Berry) is also with them but she doesn’t really do much. Or speak.
The plan is to send Wolverine back in time to 1973 to prevent any of this from ever happening (this wasn’t possible until Wolverine shows up because it would kill a normal person but Wolverine’s mind can heal itself as fast as blah blah blah). All of this opening sequence is clunky and awkward, with characters vomiting exposition and staring at each other grimly. I was ready to write DoFP off already by this point. But then something happens. Wolverine wakes up in the seventies and everything is instantly better. The tone is lighter, there are jokes, the dialogue isn’t as convoluted, and the film actually gets going. The qualities of First Class seeping into its sequel.
Wolverine sets about finding the younger counterparts of the modern day (future day?) X-Men. He heads to the school and finds Beast (Nicholas Hoult) acting as a carer for Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) who has lost his powers as a side effect from the drug he is taking for his spine. What becomes instantly apparent is that the reason for First Class’s surprising success after the dismal Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, is down to how much more interesting the characters are in the hands of new actors. Sir Patrick Stewart may give Charles a soothing gravitas but that is nowhere near as interesting, nor as fun, as the wry spark McAvoy injects into the character. The same can be said for Michael Fassbender (an actor who can seemingly do no wrong… Oh no, wait, Jonah Hex) and his version of Magneto. To be fair to Mckellan, he was the most valuable player of the series, especially during the first two, but the character is richer in the past of First Class and DoFP. Fassbender’s Magneto has a steely determination, an iron will, and a (insert another adjective that’s also a metal) drive to change the world to what he believes will be better for his people. He imbues the character with an allure, as well as menace. It’s clear why mutants flock to him.
Wolverine will need both characters, Charles and Magneto, who at this point couldn’t be further apart, in order to complete his mission. He is there to reach someone both Charles and Magneto had a large influence over: Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). In First Class it was revealed that Charles and Raven grew up together, forming a bond as brother and sister, but throughout that film their view of the world and mutants place within it came to drastically differ. Raven found herself agreeing more with Magneto’s more militant view, than with Charles hope for kinship and peace with the humans. In DoFP we find out that Mystique kills the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), which is the catalyst for the war that wipes out most of muntantkind in the future. Wolverine and Charles pull her one way, and Magneto pulls her the other, essentially making the film a fight for Mystique’s soul.
All of this is rich material. The stakes are clear, the characters are at interesting crossroads in their lives, on the verge of becoming who they are meant to be, and the tone is well balanced between fun and serious without ever falling into the overly grim. The action is as good as anything in the series. Quicksilver is brought in to break Magneto out of prison (100 floors beneath the Pentagon!) and his entire set piece is one of the highlights of the film. The character is only used to allow Bryan Singer the chance to play with slow motion, and once Singer has had his fun he tosses Quicksilver out of the film never to be heard from again, but it works none the less. The final battle is the other highlight, which involves Magneto dropping an entire stadium on top of the White House as well taking control of the Sentinels and turning them against their masters. This is a great Magneto moment. It’s big, bold, and comic booky whilst also being completely in character. Fassbender really sells the character’s anger here, as well as his disappointment when Mystique inevitably stands up to him.
As much as the film has going for it, there are parts that still don’t completely click. The cast is huge and many of the characters are short changed. Even Mystique, who as previously mentioned has much of the plot revolve around her, doesn’t get the weight she deserves. If the film is a fight to save her soul, to lead her away from revenge and violence, then shouldn’t we get a sense of how she feels about things? We know she’s pissed because, well, she keeps kicking people in the face. But we don’t really get to follow her as her feelings change. Charles literally gets in her head, but she shrugs him off and when her eureka moment does come her epiphany isn’t witnessed, understood, or truly felt. This is mainly down to the fact that Wolverine is the central character, and so takes centre stage every scene, even though he has no real need to be there once he’s got Charles and Magneto back out into the world. But he’s the draw for most fans, so you can’t really blame them for putting him up front.
Those quibbles aside, the film works overall. It may not be quite the success First Class was, but it’s an enjoyable sequel and easily the second best X-Men film. And where it leaves things is most exciting. The X-men universe is now practically a clean slate that presents the opportunity to tell stories in two different time periods with two different casts without having to worry about getting bogged down in convoluted continuity. For the first time in a long time, the future (and the past) is looking bright for the mutants.
- Fun and light
- The First Class cast steal the show
- Suitably epic final battle
- Some characters don't get the attention they deserve
- Some get too much attention