“They say you can manipulate metal. My mom used to know a guy who could do that…”
With Bryan Singer back in the hot seat and the return of some of the universe’s most loved mutants, as well as the main bulk of the First Class cast, X-Men Days Of Future Past promised to be the greatest and perhaps the most successful movie in the franchise to date. Everyone will have their own opinions on that matter, but for me it knocks X-2 off the top spot.
In the future, giant military robots known as the Sentinels are tracking down and extinguishing the last remnants of the mutant race. It’s up to Professor Xavier and his small band of X’ers to come up with a plan to stop the inevitable annihilation of their own kind. But with the Sentinels having the ability to adapt their weaknesses to match their opponents strengths, any signs of a victory seem years away. Literally. Kitty Pryde sends Wolverine’s mind back through time from the apocalyptic future to the retro 1970’s in an attempt to alter the past and thus recreate the future.
It’s a plot that’s been administered countless times in time travelling flicks before but with the added interest of a clan of battling X-Men, where could it fail right? Well it’s not perfect but we’ll get to that later.
It begins at a frantic pace, throwing us head first into the descent of the surviving mutants. Kitty Pryde is joined by Iceman and new faces Bishop, Blink, Sunspot and Warpath as one by one they all fall at the hands of the Sentinels. But Kitty manages to send Bishop back to warn the group of the attack, in turn saving them and essentially erasing the scene we’ve just watched from history. In the space of ten minutes the movie perfectly sets up the entire story and somewhat explains how the whole time travelling thing works…sort of. There’s a little bit of exposition shortly after when Kitty and company meet up with Xavier, Magneto, Storm, Colossus and Wolverine. It’s necessary and allows us all to get our breath back after the intense and slightly terrifying opening. The rest of the movie takes place in the 70’s after Logan finally persuades young Xavier and young Beast to help him on his quest. On occasion we’re zapped back to the future just to remind us what the elemental goal here is and also to create the tension needed to bring the movie to a climax.
It doesn’t follow the traditional route of a “superhero” movie and it doesn’t have to. In actuality it’s very difficult to pigeonhole this into the typical genre because it highlights so many, and that’s partly what makes it such a gratifying and entertaining watch. The Sci-fi elements are breathtaking, the fight scenes blew me away. But as fundamental to the story, Singer doesn’t overindulge us, he knows when to slow down. Unlike previous X-Men movies the new mutants actually prove to be a force to be reckoned with, especially Blink, whose ability to open worm holes or teleportation vaccums in mid air is used to great effect, both in innovative defence and attack. But the real stand out is Quicksilver. It’s strange to think how negatively his look was being accessed prior to the movie. Yes he looked a bit silly but when it came time to shine, nobody could stop him. Evan Peters’ performance helped alleviate the serious tone up to that point of the movie – while not as dark and dreary as some expected it was without obvious comedic moments – and was probably the most memorable segment, leaving me eager for more. It was a shame that he was used so sparingly but then again too much of a good thing can sometimes work against you. By the end of the movie I did feel like I had been pulled through a hedge backwards numerous times, which is a good thing. Days Of Future Past certainly gives you your money’s worth.
But as mentioned above, there were a few imperfections. It’s only natural to assume that a movie of this scope – dealing with such a delicately perplexing time-line of events and also attempting to both allude to and repair some of it’s cinematic predecessors – would struggle to achieve total and omnipotent continuity. In what seemed like a rather conspicuous plot twist – however necessary – a heap of new mutants introduced in First Class have been wiped out by the Sentinels in their ongoing attempt to adapt. Mystique’s ability to transform her appearance is seen as the key factor in cementing the Sentinels unstoppable. In the future, Xavier explains that Mystique was captured and her DNA extracted – after she murdered the Sentinels creator Bolivar Trask in the early 70’s – which is the entire reason why the future of the mutant race is on the verge of extinction. But for anybody who has seen Last Stand, then you’ll already be aware that that particular part of Mystique’s past – considering it’s importance and relevance to her relationship with Magneto – is never mentioned. Although I can’t complain about seeing Mystique in full on bad-ass mode. Oh and I don’t believe they ever address the fact that Xavier is alive in the future…
I also wasn’t a fan of young Xavier’s decision to “cure” himself by injecting a special medicine created by Hank. In a way it completely detracted from everything Xavier stood for – at least in the future – and again was never ever alluded to in previous films. I sort of understood the need to have him less powerful and all that, otherwise the consequent break out of Erik and the events following would’ve just been too easy. However the fact that it’s Wolverine from the future who at least incites Xavier to change his mind creates somewhat of a paradox. There are a few other minor plot holes regarding the past but rather than dwelling on the unanswered questions it’s just a lot easier to assume we’re dealing with an alternate timeline here.
It’s not really the continuity errors that hinder the movie though, it’s the lack of a definitive villain. Trask isn’t like the generic scientist character from other “superhero” movies who want to take over the world or who want to experiment on themselves to propel them to greatness, he’s simply just a scientist who believes he’s doing something worthwhile. Obviously he’s slightly corrupt in his nature and looking for someone to fund his research etcetera but he’s not a worthy super-villian. There is an argument of course that the Sentinels are the villains but by being devoid of any personality traits or human instincts they never really fill that gap. They’re just robots after all. In young Magneto’s attempt to change the future by killing Mystique, he is propelled into that super-villain spot, which did seem a little random and rushed, not to mention it essentially played out not too dissimilarly to the end of First Class.
Despite some glaringly obvious missteps, Days Of Future Past managed to tick almost every box for me. It lived up to my expectations. It was the movie that I wanted it to be. There’s no doubt that Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg had one eye firmly peering into future projects – the closing scene is evident of that – and there’s definitely a sense that this movie works as a kind of reboot. As fans and critics we could dissect ’til our hearts content but sometimes it’s just better to stand back and say “That was fucking cool!”
Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter