Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past – Xemplary
It would be easy to go full-geek and rip into the new X-movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past, for straying so significantly from its source material; but this “Xemplary” film is so much fun that I’m forced to forgive its many offenses. This movie is a first-rate super-drama and an optic blast of eye-candy (not to mention it is also fantastically funny.)
It might be easy to get lost in the multitude of characters crammed into this one movie, but I think most fans will delight in the efforts that director Bryan Singer has made to plug as many X-Icons into his new film as possible. Normally this type of over-population is the kiss-of-death for a super-flick, but with the X-Men it is almost a requirement. Non-fans should just sit back and enjoy the ride, as it’s not necessary to be fully aware of the X-multiverses to have a great time with this film. (To be honest, there are several characters that I never knew existed.)
I love time-travel movies and for this one the Marvel heroes are just super-gravy on already awesome sci-fi story. Days of Future Past is based (pretty loosely) on the 1981 storyline by writer Chris Claremont and illustrator John Byrne (see Uncanny X-Men #141 – 142) and involves Wolverine’s consciousness being sent back to 1973 to prevent the mutant shape-shifter, Mystique, from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage); whose death would be used as an excuse to launch a full-on assault on mutant-kind and start a war that would eventually decimate most of the human and mutant races.
Hugh Jackman embodies Wolverine for the seventh time in this movie, and although I’ve loved Jackman in all the other films, I think this is my favorite rendition of the character. The hero was created in the seventies (by Len Wein and Herb Trimpe) and he seems perfectly within his element during that time period – wacky hair and all – in a sort of American Hustle with superheroes.
X-Men: Days of Future Past pulls off the ultimate hat-trick by using its time-travel theme to tie the convoluted plotlines of the former X-Men movie universes together (not that the comics aren’t severely convoluted as well.) We’ve got an ensemble that includes young and old Professor X (James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Jackman), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), and a slew of minor characters that don’t get a whole lot of screen time. (There are also a few quick cameos that fans of the series will love – although I’m disappointed there is no Nightcrawler.)
This X-film also has the deadly robotic Sentinels (created by Trask) in their first major movie appearance (they were seen briefly in X-Men: The Last Stand.) There are as many models of the Sentinels as there are versions of Iron Man’s armor and it’s hard to keep track, but I think fans will be pleased overall with the mutant-hunting menaces.
As often happens (and as was the case with Wolverine in the first X-Men movie), going in I thought I would absolutely hate Quicksilver (Evan Peters) in this film; but the arrogant speedster absolutely steals the movie and I plan to see it a second time for no other reason than to see the Quicksilver parts again. Singer has perfectly captured the essence of the hero and his powers, and his time on screen is nothing short of amazing. (Quick fans will catch a subtle reference to the fact that Quicksilver is the son of Magneto.)
On a side note: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Godzilla) will be playing Pietro Maximoff (AKA Quicksilver) in the 2015 Avengers: Age of Ultron film, and I’m not sure why Twentieth Century Fox and Marvel Studios are dead set on having the same character played by different actors in their respective movies (I’m certain it’s a money/copyright thing), but I do know that Avengers’ director, Joss Whedon, is going to be hard pressed to top the Evan Peters’ Quicksilver in Days of Future Past.
Some of the other performances worth mentioning are Nicholas Hoult (Warm Bodies), who does a great job as Hank McCoy/Beast (but I could have lived without the over-the-top lion growls), Halle Berry returns as Storm, although it’s barely a speaking part, and Ellen Page is Kitty Pryde (or Shadowcat), who uses her phasing ability to transmit Wolverine’s consciousness through time and space and into the past. All she really does for most of the movie is hold her hands to Wolverine’s head – but she does it really well.
(Fans will note that in the comic book story it is actually Kitty Pryde who is transported back in time – instead of Wolverine – by Cyclops and Jean Grey’s daughter, Rachel. Also ignored is Kitty’s romantic relationship with Colossus, but nevertheless, these changes all make good sense in the context of the film.)
Another part of this movie that I thoroughly enjoyed was the 70s-era 8mm film “found-Footage” segments that were intermingled with a couple of the fight sequences. It was like seeing the Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination, or the Patterson film of Bigfoot, but with the X-Men. In fact, the Simon Kinberg Days of Future Past script even includes the mutant’s involvement with the death of JFK (a very cool alternative history twist.)
There are a myriad of winks and nods for comic book folks to enjoy in this movie, and fans will appreciate Singer’s efforts on their behalf; but, as mentioned, for non-comic-fan moviegoers, don’t let the inside gags deter you. In keeping with the movie’s message of inclusion, this one has something for everyone.
In a summer that is rife with superhero and science-fiction films, X-Men: Days of Future Past has set the bar, with the Quicksilver sequences alone being worth the price of admission. Grade: 8.5/10
Photos © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox