Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past


Professor X, or rejected member of Creedence Clearwater Revival? Image via Total Film

“Must be some kind of…hot tub time machine.”

Most prequels are not necessary, because a lot of stories are a lot better if you know a lot less about the characters and the world. As Patton Oswalt said, “I don’t want to know where the stuff I love comes from. I want to love the stuff that I love.”

Enter X-Men: Days of Future Past, a cross between a sequel and a prequel that justifies its existence by being the most consistently entertaining blockbuster released so far this summer. It succeeds in bringing back the feel of the original X-Men movies while expanding the universe greatly. I have always been a big fan of X-Men, partly because its built-in allegory works so well. It is one of the darkest of all superhero stories yet as a movie franchise, it does not try too hard to be gritty.

Days of Future Past is a prequel and a sequel that’s also a sequel to the prequel called First Class. That sums up just how wildly confusing franchise storytelling has become. Days of Future Past does right where First Class went wrong. By not truly introducing the most interesting conflict and character developments until the very end, First Class suffered from the same problems that plague most prequels. However, the whole of Days of Future Past, not just the last ten minutes, are interesting.

As the title might suggest, Days of Future Past is set in both the past and the future. In the future, mutants have been nearly completely wiped out thanks to Sentinels, which are robots that can compete with mutant powers. In the future, mutants don’t fight each other anymore, because everyone is just fighting to stay alive. Like humans, mutants will also put aside their differences in the face of a bigger problem. In the future, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back into the past to stop the war from happening. Wolverine is sent back to the 1970s, where he has his past body, but his future consciousness. Basically, Wolverine has to follow the same rules that John Cusack has to follow in Hot Tub Time Machine.

Nobody gives the X-Men movies enough credit for gathering some incredibly solid ensembles. A movie that gives us both Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen playing the same character should be celebrated. Days of Future Past sees the return of some great X-Men from past movies, but also introduces some great new characters. Peter Dinklage steps out of Tyrion Lannister’s armor for long enough to portray Dr. Bolivar Trask, the scientist who designed the Sentinels.

Days of Future Past seems to have a really strong understanding of each mutant’s place in this universe. For instance, Days of Future Past pulls an Iron Man 3 by taking away one of its heroes’ powers. Here, it is Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) who is suddenly left without his ability to control people’s minds. Without this power, we see the terrible weight one must carry when they can read and control everybody’s thoughts. Meanwhile, we get more of a glimpse of Mystique’s (Jennifer Lawrence) backstory as well as her importance in the world of the X-Men. Days of Future Past proves its worth as a sort-of-prequel by giving backstory to characters we probably didn’t know could be so interesting.

The latest X-Men installment sees Bryan Singer reclaim the director’s chair from the likes of Matthew Vaughn and Brett Ratner. Some parts of Days of Future Past are so good that they made me feel like a kid again, wide-eyed and ready to become obsessed with X-Men and X2. The best scene in the movie shows the world through the eyes of Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who is known for his super speed. It is funny and even a little bit awe-inspiring. I will not spoil it much more, but I will say that it literally looks like a comic book come to life. More comic book movies should aspire to look exactly like this one scene.

Sure, Days of Future Past is not without its problems. While it does not take too much time explaining the rules of the world, the time travel becomes a little bit too convoluted in just a few instances. Sometimes, it relies a little too heavily on action movie cliches. If you don’t believe me, just look at the tracking shot of a bunch of guys sitting at a table and looking at a map in order to plan a heist. Sometimes, some cliches are needed though, and they just look kind of quaint just as long as the whole plot isn’t centered around them. Days of Future Past is the film I didn’t realize would cure my cynicism, because it gave me back at least some faith in big budget filmmaking. It might not be as smart as it thinks it is, but there’s no harm in encouraging more movies that at least have a single thought about topics as big as Civil Rights and the implications of time travel.

Brain Farts From The Edge (SPOILERS)

  • If we are on the topic of Hot Tub Time Machine, I could just hear “Once in a Lifetime” by The Talking Heads playing as Wolverine walked back into Xavier Academy in the present day.
  • Speaking of which, Hot Tub Time Machine is a great movie that deserves more respect than it gets.
  • This movie made the 70s look cool.
  • Some people don’t like it, but I enjoy alternate looks at well known historical events. I like how they fit Magneto into the JFK assassination.
  • I loved the Zapruder-type footage they showed as onlookers filmed the events happening in Paris.
  • Days of Future Past explores a lot of the same themes as First Class, yet somehow manages to explore them in a much more complicated and interesting way. It also carries a much bigger emotional impact. I will attribute that once again to character development that doesn’t just occur in the last ten minutes.
  • Now, I think it’s time to go dust off those old X-Men comics hiding in my attic.