Published on May 26th, 2014 | by Craig Silliphant1
X-Men: Days of Future Past
If you can suspend your disbelief, X-Men: Days of Future Past is summer comic book movie that shows blockbusters can have brains and heart too.
Days of Future Past started as a two-part story within the pages of The Uncanny X-Men comic series in 1981, in which Kitty Pryde travels back to her younger self to subvert a dystopian future. In the future timeline, robots called Sentinels have hunted down and killed or captured most of the mutants in North America. The classic comic book story has been mined in a lot of media, from cartoons and video games to shows like NBC’s Heroes. The details have changed a bit, but Days of Future Past is back, on the big screen this time, as the 7th film in the X-Men canon.
X-Men: Days of Future Past sews together the original movie X-Men cast with the prequel cast established in X-Men: First Class. Instead of Kitty Pryde though, it’s Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine that travels back to the 1970s. He’s sent by the elder Professor X and Magneto to unite their younger selves at a time when they “couldn’t be further apart.” The MacGuffin is the need to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating the creator of the Sentinel program, Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Her high profile murder of the scientist/weapons manufacturer is what unites humans against mutants and sets the horrible future in motion.
Sound confusing? It’s not. One of the strengths of this movie, a film that could have been baffling, is a mostly excellent sense of transition between the two timelines. We don’t jump back and forth in time too jarringly, which helps hold the story together (the transitions increase to good effect near the climax to build more tension and action). Having just chastised The Amazing Spider-man 2 for being too complex a few weeks ago, it was interesting to see this movie, which is arguably more complicated, but works so much better. Is that a testament to director Bryan Singer’s talent? There’s a lot going on, but the focus is rarely lost to the audience.
There are solid stories and themes that anchor the action, like the love/power triangle between Charles, Erik, and Raven/Mystique as they fight for her soul. The script is lined with notions of acceptance and genocide, of guilt and revenge, of friendship and morality; operatic themes that resonate with power in the film. Again, in The Amazing Spider-man 2, there were some great themes that got buried in the murk of the confused story, but the important moments in Days of Future Past are able to shine through like rays of light through clouds.
And of course, when you’re mashing two timelines together, there are some fun callbacks to characters from both casts; besties Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are back, offset by their younger counterparts in James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. There are a few new faces as well; weird wig-look aside, Quicksilver is a character that leaves you wanting more. Singer and his team had real fun flexing their imaginations in one of the best action sequences in the film, where the young speedster uses his powers in a scene that’s both action-packed and hilarious.
There is a scene where a character is watching an old Star Trek episode on a television in the 70s timeline, a show that was ultimately cancelled because the powers that be thought it too smart for the audience. And yet, the franchise has endured for decades, inspiring legions of fans and spin-offs. This glimpse of Star Trek struck me as a nod to the type of action-oriented, but cerebral storytelling that Days of Future Past embraces.
Sure, it’s a little talky in places, and the plot would probably shake apart if you stopped to think about some of the contradictions, but it’s wonderful to see a huge summer blockbuster that doesn’t have to dumb itself down to be a force with both critics and audiences. While I liked the first film in J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot series, there’s no denying that he stripped the cerebral nature of the franchise out (which is really the heart of Star Trek) in favour of a go-go action bonanza. X-Men: Days of Future Past shows that you can have your cake and eat it too, or rather, have your brainy themes and your massive explosions and destruction porn.
And I say, more of that kind of thinking with summer blockbusters, please.
Oh, and stay after the credits for a sneak peek at the next installment.