Movie Review – X-Men: Days of Future Past
The franchise that started the golden era of superhero movies is back with “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” with Bryan Singer (“Superman Returns”) returning to the director’s chair. More a sequel to the phenomenal “X-Men: First Class” than to the original X-Men trilogy, expectations towards the ambitious picture are at a premium.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” unites some of the original X-Men from the trilogy (Professor X, Magneto, Storm, Wolverine) with the younger mutants from ‘First Class.’ The future is here and it’s dire. Sentinel robots are hunting and killing humans and mutants alike. Impossibly powerful, they are relentless in their chase, easily adapt to mutant powers, defeat and destroy them, as witnessed in the massacre, a showdown of fire and ice with mutants Blink, Bishop, Iceman and Sunspot.
Facing an unwinnable war and extinction of their species, Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (IanMcKellen) utilizes Kitty Pryde’s skill (Ellen Page, “Inception”) to send Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, “The Wolverine,” “Les Miserables”) 50 years into the past in order to prevent a certain act that would have a lasting impact into the future. An ageless mutant with self-healing ability, he’s the only one strong enough to withstand the journey of time and space.
The act is the 1973 murder of an anti-mutant geneticist Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), by shape-shifter Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, “The Hunger Games,” “American Hustle”). He’s been working on a program to build Sentinel robots as a line of defense against mutants. Ironically, his death would actually accelerate the program since Mystique is captured, and her DNA is extracted and studied, which leads to a successful experiment that creates those Sentinels with adaptable mutant powers.
Wolverine finds the younger Professor X (James McAvoy, “Wanted”). To his surprise, his future leader is not what he expects. Drunken and dispirited, Charles has lost his way. Hit by a bullet and paralyzed from the Cuban missile battle with Magneto in ‘First Class,’ he’s overdosing on a serum that treats his spine and lets him walk, even though it suppresses his telepathic ability. The mutant school has been closed for years. Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) is his only companion.
Not only Wolverine must convince Charles that everyone needs him, his power and wisdom, and that the future threat is real, he also has to reunite him with his frenemy, metal-manipulator Erik (Michael Fassbender, “Prometheus”), in order to track down and stop the estranged Mystique. After all, against Charles’ idealistic principles of peaceful co-existence in a prejudiced society, Erik’s influence has set Raven on a darker path. She displays her prowess more and more, confidently shifting shape and nimbly taking down those in the way of her goal.
With the help of speedy Peter/Quicksilver (Evan Peters), the duo breaks Erik out of a Pentagon prison, imprisoned for the purported assassination of President Kennedy. The movie mentions an offbeat explanation of the incident. Quicksilver gets themselves out of a bind in a flash, in a playful prison break sequence (shot in slow-motion and a real treat in 3-D). The plan to bring Mystique home doesn’t work as planned. Erik is steadfast in his quest to save the mutant race at all costs and his go-for-broke action makes him at odds with Charles, who does his earnest best to keep him in check. The action set pieces sizzle with special effects.
Time-travel is tricky by nature. It is a paradox that has to make sense to make the story work. On one side, there’s doubt whether there’s anything one can do to change the past. Even if one particular act is altered and it may result in a different sequence of events, the final impact, and thus the future, may be the same. The movie shows past scenes seamlessly intercutting with future ones.
The past concludes wisely, a choice made by free will and not by another’s control. The future starts off fresh. X-Men fans would feel nostalgic seeing cameos of beloved characters from years past. It’s amazing to remember that it was 14 years ago when we first saw these characters.
With compelling complexity and psychological depth, “X-Men: First Class” remains one of the best superhero movies of all-time. Aside from human themes and emotional resonance, the complicated, synergistic and antagonistic relationship between Charles and Erik is the cornerstone of the story. Here it’s shown in bits and pieces. The best part of the movie is their heart-to-heart confrontation on the plane. McAvoy and Fassbender convey each man’s hurt, loss, betrayal and abandonment believably.
While “X-Men: Days of Future Past” may not be in the all-time best league, it’s a sequel that deftly rewrites history and opens up an array of possibilities for the future. And that future, “X-Men: Apocalypse” (stay for a post-credit scene), slated for 2016, holds promise.
Copyright (c) 2014. Nathalia Aryani.
Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven (http://sdmoviemaven.blogspot.com). Twitter: http://twitter.com/the_moviemaven. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.