X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)


Days of Future Past




Director Bryan Singer, who with the original two films in the X-Men series, established this team as at the forefront of intelligent super-hero comics adaptations, returns to the big chair with this, the seventh– X-Men:  Days of Future Past.

This film, more than any other genre movie that I can think of, takes it for granted from the very first moments that its audience will be familiar with even obscure aspects of its emerging mythos.  As soon as this became obvious in the opening prolonged action sequence—set in a devastated future New York—and featuring a splinter mutant group I just sat back and enjoyed the show.

I would be somewhere in between two groups:  for a man my age I probably know far more than I should about superhero comics and movies, yet not as much as the hardcore fan.  I would say that if you are one of the latter you will have your enjoyment enhanced by following references to the deeper and expanding universe that Marvel are so conscientiously giving to their audience; but if you just like a good, exciting film with some terrific set-pieces and interesting and well-fleshed-out characters, then there’s a lot here for you as well.  I think that it works because Singer walks his tightrope effortlessly and screenwriter Simon Kinberg doesn’t talk down to you, he just expects you to keep up.  And in a world where so many films treat us like idiots, that is just fine with me.

When this young splinter group (most of whom I couldn’t even name—well, Colossus and Iceman of course) meet up in China with the older mutants, the film proper gets going; and here, of course, we know who we  are dealing with:  Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan), Storm (Halle Berry), and of course Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).  But wait, wasn’t Professor X killed off in the third movie, along with Cyclops and Phoenix, to name but two?

Well, I’m hardly the only one to feel that continuity consistency was ever one of the strong points of this series, so this is where the creators get the chance to tidy things up into a cohesive whole.

Political Subtexts and Short-Arses

In this nightmarish future world, mutants have been hunted almost to extinction by giant robot-like machines known as Sentinels. Maverick weapons manufacturer Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage) has created them, using the DNA of the captured Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who has been waging a one-woman war of assassination against those who wish to wipe out the mutants. Since her capture in 1973 is identified as the crucial nexus in history which has led to the current (ie future!) state of affairs, Wolverine’s consciousness is sent back into the pre-adamantium body of his younger self.

Ah, they make it sound so easy, don’t they?  Well, not really.  In this 1973, young Professor X (James McAvoy) is a junkie, addicted to a drug which lets him walk whilst draining him of his powers and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is imprisoned in the Pentagon.  So all that Wolverine has to do is have X kick his drug habit, spring Magneto from the most impregnable jail on earth and make the two best pals again.  Oh yes, and he has to think calm thoughts all the time or else he’ll be pulled back to the future.  And it’s not as if he’s a naturally happy guy to begin with, even when he doesn’t have all this stress on him.

The break-out from the Pentagon where they are aided by Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is sure to become one of the most-loved action sequences in film history.  No point in trying to describe it, let’s just say that if you had to have one power, when you see this you will probably want it to be that of Quicksilver.  I was reminded of a line that Alan Moore used years ago to describe The Flash:  “A man who moves so fast that his life is an endless gallery of statues”.

It is now no surprise to find that Jennifer Lawrence is terrific as Mystique, giving us an idea of how she grew into the character of X: 2. (That end credits teaser for the second Spider-Man film is also explained, by the way.)  And for a while there I saw her as the key to the whole film; but that of course is the stalwart of the series and the only one to have appeared in all seven:  the Wolverine.  Or is it?  These, after all, are superb character ensembles.  And does it matter?

The X-Men films, as well as the comic-books—especially during Chris Claremont’s run—have always prided themselves on having a clearly political sub-text.  With the comics it always seemed to me to be a thinly-veiled metaphor for the persecution of the Jews; and with Singer that may have been expanded to include gays.  Here it is even more blatant, with the inclusion of Richard Nixon (“Perhaps we shouldn’t be taping this”), Henry Kissinger and constant references to the war in Vietnam.  Yet it doesn’t become intrusive and never reaches a point where you feel that you’re being lectured.  I always just feel that simply because of the baggage that these movies carry by way of a very successful comic book, then it rather deepens your enjoyment.

This applies also to the casting of Peter Dinklage, the vertically-challenged actor—ah, what am I talking about, he’s a dwarf—from Game of Thrones.  Without our previous knowledge of him as Tyrion he would possibly be just another little Napoleon who wants to rule the world in revenge for being a short-arse.

In Days of Future Past, however, because of the casting there is pathos to Dinklage’s portrayal of Trask as a man who has been undoubtedly discriminated against himself, hating so much a species that are different! I doubt that the fact that he is committed to building bloody great big robots is meant to be coincidental, either.

Days of Future Past is a great film.  Does it tidy up the chronology and the continuity?  I’m not sure.  It certainly improves it in essentially getting rid of the events of X-Men 3:  The Last Stand and I doubt that anyone will have a problem with that.

I don’t want to spoil the ending…but as portrayed, does this mean that Wolverine would be without his adamantium skeleton and claws in the altered time frame?  Oh, and whilst I’m on this, I was intrigued by the idea (furiously rejected by Professor X, I’m glad to say) that Time is like a river into which a stone has been thrown.  That the water will automatically correct its briefly disturbed passage and that therefore Time itself is unchangeable.

Another thing that had me puzzled was the inclusion of Quicksilver.  If that is him flying around the cell at the end of Captain America:  The Winter Soldier…then who is this bloke?  However, at this point I have enough faith in most of the guys behind these films to suppose that all will be made known in the fullness of…eh, Time.

Days of Future Past should properly be watched as a sequel to X:  First Class; and is almost as good as that one.

For me, however, The Winter Soldier will continue to stand for quite a while as the super-hero film to measure others against.

Author: Charley Brady

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