As always, I’m going to start this with a true confession: I’m a huge X-Men fan (this should surprise possibly one person out there), and I love the “Days of Future Past” storyline. I’ve read it in comics and watched it in animated series, so I have a background in this material. I’m also used to Marvel creating new universes at the drop of a hat, so changes to what I’ve “known” before don’t bother me – I accept them as a part of the way things are. I’m most forgiving of the historical rewrites of canon with the X-Men, because it’s just how they roll and always have.
Our story starts in a grim future, where most of mutant- and human-kind have been wiped out by morphing robots called Sentinels. Our few intrepid top mutants are left, and that’s it – they’re about to make a last stand and if they lose, then all the world loses, too.
In the comics and animated series, the character who flips back and forth in the time stream for this is Bishop. (And Cable, and Rachel, and a zillion others, but for THIS instance, we’re only talking Bishop. Stay with me here.) He’s sent back via a time machine by Forge – both of which are not in this movie, either Forge or a time machine. Which I had no issue with – Forge hasn’t been introduced yet and the way the filmmakers came up with to get a character back into the past was cool, creative, and believable (well, as long as you’ve already suspended the disbelief and, frankly, that should have happened when you bought your ticket). We do get to see Bishop, as well as Blink — a fan favorite from a very brief X-series limited storyline who was so popular Marvel has, happily, found ways to bring her back in different universes -– Warpath, Iceman, Sunspot, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde. They, Storm, Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto are all that’s left to fight the good fight… and they’re not looking to be nearly enough.
However, in the movie-verse, as in the rest of the media alternatives, the most popular character is Wolverine, and since he’s played by Hugh Jackman, the filmmakers intelligently choose to send Wolverine back in time to 1973, to try to stop younger versions of Professor X, Magneto, Beast, and Mystique from allowing one act to destroy the world. But will their efforts create a future even worse than the one Wolverine is trying to prevent?
The movie gets it all right -– the early 1970’s looks, a couple of great not-quite-impersonations of Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, the horror of the future combined with the shaky political situation that America pulling out of Viet Nam created, and more.
The Sentinels benefit the most from being created onscreen in 2014 instead of, say, 1973. The Future Sentinels are awesome and terrifying, even though they owe a bit to the metal monster in Thor and not a little to the second Terminator. And the Original Sentinels look enough like the original comics versions to be pleasing, but better and far more believable.
The supporting actors like Peter Dinklage (Bolivar Trask), Evan Peters (Quicksilver), Josh Helman (William Stryker), and more are all great (though I hated Quicksilver’s wig), as are those returning X-folk. Also, there are a ton of cool cameos throughout the movie, some expected, some not, all worthwhile. And, of course, there are sly and overt references to other events, both historical and X-historical. You don’t have to be an X-junkie to enjoy this, but it’s a treat for those of us who are, and history buffs should get a kick out of this, too.
However this movie belongs to the five who are doing their thing in 1973 – Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), James McAvoy (Young Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Young Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), and Nicholas Hoult (Young Beast). As they did in X-Men: First Class, McAvoy and Fassbender burn up the screen any time they’re on it. Jackman is awesome as always, and it’s great to see Wolverine put into the position of leader, with all the pros and cons that role forces the character to face. Hoult does a lot with the most screen time of all the other supporting characters, and it’s nice to see Beast progressing into an interesting character with depth -– the closest the movies have gotten so far to how the character is in the comics.
Lawrence does a good job as Mystique, but neither she nor Rebecca Romijn have given this character the inner fire, guile, intelligence, and ruthlessness combined with caring that comes through in the comics, though Lawrence comes closest. (And I liked Romijn as the first Mystique, so not dissing her performance as unworthy.) I’m not sure if it’s script, direction, or what, but Mystique remains a pretty, or a pretty blue, butt kicker, but one without the inner turmoil that, say, we actually see with The Avengers’ Black Widow. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but with an actress of Lawrence’s abilities, I’d like to see Mystique be more than just “the girl” between Xavier and Magneto, and also more than just the “crazed, loyal butt kicker” she was in the first two X-Men movies. In the comics she’s one of the most complex characters in the X-Verse, and she deserves to have that come through on the big screen.
The best thing about X-Men: Days of Future Past is that it finishes the vitally important job that X-Men: First Class started – namely, wiping out the stench and memory of X-Men: The Last Stand. At the end of this movie you will honestly be able to say that Last Stand never happened, and you will be happy, oh so happy. And then you will — when you re-watch the movies in order to prep for the next one (assumed or possibly confirmed to be “Age of Apocalypse”… and there was much rejoicing) — merrily skip Last Stand as if it never existed and you will be even happier.
Fox has taken a cue from Marvel and there is definitely something at the end, so sit & wait through all the credits for a very cool teaser. (*cough* I wonder what it could be? *cough*)
So, should you see this movie? Hells to the yeah. The future may depend on it.