X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – People who know me know this about me: I love comic books. That being said I am far from an expert in Marvel. My preferences tend to run more towards DC (my reasoning, which my fellow geeks could debate for ages, is that Marvel focuses on human drama where DC goes for the mythic scale). From about 200 to 2008 I read Ultimate Marvel comics (before Jeph Loeb and Ultimatum came along and just pissed me off…) but my primary exposure to the X-Men was the magnificent animated series from the 90s and the films. What’s not to love about the X-Men? They started back in 1963 at the height of the Civil Rights movement and since then have gone to stand in for any discriminated-against minority group. (X2 in particular seemed to push the “mutants as homosexuals” metaphor in a few scene, probably owing to openly gay director Bryan Singer… who’s other issues I will leave for another article…) The X-Men film series has had its highs (X2, X-Men: First Class) and its lows (X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) but now the films are adapted one of the most celebrated stories of the comics’ run. Chris Claremont’s “Days of Future Past.” Plus they’re using the time travel gimmick to both utilize the hip new cast of First Class, while bringing back the heavy hitters of the previous X-Men films. Many a comic book adaptation has lost a lot in translation, so how does Days of Future Past fare?

It is a shitty dystopian future (math tells me it’s approximately 2023) and mutants have been hunted to the edge of extinction by the Sentinels, big bad-ass robots that can adapt and mimic mutant powers in their goal of exterminating those with the X gene. Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Kitty Pryde (Oscar-nominee Ellen Page), Bishop (Omar Sy), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), and Sunspot (Adan Canto) do their best to avoid the Sentinels but are running out of time. Buying them slightly more time is the fact that Kitty, whose power has always been the ability to phase through solid objects, can now for some reason send people back in time in their own bodies. Their consciousness travels through time and can warn of a Sentinel attack. When this teams reunited with Professor X (Emmy-nominee Patrick Stewart), Wolverine (Oscar-nominee Hugh Jackman), Storm (Oscar-winner Halle Berry), and former archenemy-turned-ally Magneto (Oscar-nominee Ian McKellen), an idea is hatched. All this awful Sentinel shit can be traced back to one man: Bolivar Trask (Emmy-winner Peter Dinklage). He designed the Sentinel program in the 1970s. What really solidified the need for the Sentinels though was Trask’s assassination at the hands of the mutant Mystique (Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence).

Kitty is only used to sending people back at most a few days because the strain of sending someone back decades would tear their mind apart. Therefore the only real candidate to go back is Wolverine, whose healing factor can “pull his mind back together.” Our old friend Logan wakes up in 1973 but with all his shitty-future memories intact and goes about trying to find the younger versions of Professor Charles Xavier (BAFTA-winner James McAvoy) and Magneto (Oscar-nominee Michael Fassbender). Unfortunately Xavier is holed up in his mansion with Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), hooked on a drug that heals his spine but mutes his telepathic ability. Even more problematic, Magneto is locked is a super-maximum security prison beneath the Pentagon after being accused of the JFK assassination. Wolverine needs both of them to save Trask and the future, so with the help of a hyperactive speedster named Peter Maximoff (a scene-stealing Evan Peters) they need to get the very antagonistic duo together again. But the thing with time travel is, everything you do has an effect. With Wolverine, Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, and Trask all pursuing their own agendas saving the future might be harder than it seems.

First and foremost, let me get this out of the way: familiarity with the comics is not essential for understanding this movie (except for the post-credits scene… En Sabah Nur!). Familiarity with the previous movies most definitely is (yes, even The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine). Which isn’t to say that there aren’t some continuity problems. Josh Helman plays a younger version of William Stryker (Brian Cox’s character from X2) even though the movie is set only two years before the time when he was played by Danny Huston in Origins: Wolverine. But who really cares? The movie is ridiculously entertaining, picking some of the best elements of the previous films. The time travel aspects of the plot effectively resent the continuity in the same manner as the recent Star Trek films have done so the series going forward can act as both sequel and reboot. All the main gripes I can think of with this movie involve expectations. On one hand, yes it does bother me that (sort-of-spoilers) Emma Frost, Azazel, Angel Salvadore, and Banshee were all apparently killed off between movies (Riptide is never mentioned). On the other hand, this movie doesn’t really need them and their deaths are used as the main motivating factor in Mystique’s quest for vengeance.

My far-fetched dream is still for Fox to let the rights of the X-Men films to lapse so mutants and their various heroes and villains may take their rightful place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know that will never happen. (As it is, the character of Quicksilver is in a sort of weird legal limbo. The X-Men films can continue to use him as long as his stint as part of the Avengers is never mentioned. The Avengers sequel will also use him, played by Evan Peters’ Kick-Ass co-star Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as long as they never mention he is a mutant. Taylor-Johnson’s mid-credits cameo in Captain America: The Winter Soldier looked cool but it’s hard to imagine him coming anywhere near the amount of charisma that Peters displays in this film.) The pseudo-rebooting of the franchise means Fox will likely hold on to it for the foreseeable future, replacing actors as they get older or move on. (Hugh Jackman has hinted that a third solo Wolverine movie will be his last turn as the character. As it is, his ageless character looks older than he did fourteen years ago.) While the idea of a Marvel cinematic universe with mutants in it is nice, I am more than content to watch McAvoy, Fassbender, Lawrence, Hoult, and Peters (all of whom are signed on to the next sequel) for several movies to come.

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