After many battles, mutants and humans alike are almost extinct. The remaining X-Men take one last desperate measure trying to fix it all in this movie version of the classic storyline Days of Future Past.
When it was announced that Bryan Singer et al would be tackling the classic X-Men storyline Days of Future Past from way back in 1981, fans were worried. The story is not an easy one to adapt. It’s got two timelines, one in the present and one in the future. The one in the future needs to be explained in great detail, because nothing about it is familiar. This was followed by the announcement that the movie would unite the storylines set by X-Men First class and the first X-Men trilogy. Similarly, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Shawn Ashmore and Hugh Jackman would return to reprise their parts from the older movies. In addition to that, there are going to be new characters. Bolivar Trask played by Peter Dinklage, Blink played by Bingbing Fan, Josh Helman as Major William Stryker, Evan Peters as Quicksilver, Bishop played by Omar Sy and many more. With all those elements, there were so many things that they could have buggered up. So did they do it? Did they manage to ruin one of the most iconic X-Men storylines in less than three hours? With those big questions looming, we’ll get into the story a bit further down this article. Because, compared to the characterizations and interactions, the story is just not that remarkable. Not that it’s bad, but there’s very little to say.
The short answer: No. They did not. But that’s where it gets a bit complicated. Because while the movie manages to perfectly balance characters new and old, the past, the future and tell a compelling story, the one thing that made The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier so awesome went overboard. There is very little to no spectacle. You know those shots where you sit in the audience and think «Whoa! That’s my hero!» Those moments are missing.
But the characterization in general is excellent. For the characters that get characterization. Charles Xavier, the young one played by James McAvoy, is fantastic as a tortured and disillusioned man whose dream has unravelled in front of him due to some war that nobody wanted and nobody really won. That war is the Vietnam War, by the way. Magneto played by Michael Fassbender is as cold and calculating as well as incorrigible as ever. He’s as fiercely determined as he is clueless. Mystique has matured a lot as a character and she’s desperate as well as fighting a fight she can’t win. And she knows it. The only other character that got some sort of character arc was Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters. He’s really the showstealing character of the movie.
Peters’ performance is fantastic. He plays a mutant who embraces his powers and still manages to be a normal teenager. Well, a bit of an unruly one. But he uses his powers naturally, with little regard to what anyone thinks of him or how scared they are. Of course, he looks silly with his goggles and everything, but he doesn’t care much, because he’s too fast for anyone to see anyway.
Generally, when looking at the angles that the movie takes, this movie – more so than X-Men First Class – introduces us to a new-seeming kind of superhero-film: the more character-driven one. Instead of grand heroics, we get quiet moments and times where heroes are being introspective. It’s not like Avengers or Captain America: The Winter Soldier had none of those moments, but in X-Men: Days of Future Past, they’re far more prominent.
And then there’s the supporting cast. They don’t have much in terms of characterization. Most of them are just there to look good in fights, but the bits of them we do see are incredible. The costumes, the powers, the acting… it just fits. Warpath played by Booboo Stewart is fearless, daring and very intense. Blink (Bingbing Fan) is quiet, reserved and fast-acting. When she uses her powers, she considers momentum of the things that go into her teleportation gateway, their direction. She plays with gravity and direction. And to complete the three of the most impressive characters that don’t play major parts, there’s Bishop. Omar Sy does an excellent job at playing the man from the future. Stoic, determined, awesome.
I would have loved to watch those characters do more than just fight. In fact, it’s very obvious that each group of characters in this movie could carry their own movie. And they don’t need to be big hitters like Wolverine. Blink and Warpath make a really awesome duo and their contrasting ways of doing things would make for a great, almost buddy-cop-like dynamic in a solo movie. And it would be an amazingly mindbending and gravity-defying movie.
Even though Blink and Warpath and some of the minor characters don’t even have speaking roles, it’s obvious that great care went into their design, conception and the way they’re portrayed in the movie, down to the costumes.
But even though Singer and all the actors as well as the people involved in the making of the movie didn’t do anything wrong, they didn’t do everything right. And don’t get me wrong. It’s a good movie. Seriously. It’s a really good film and you’ll be entertained. And ten years ago, I would have said that this is the best comic book movie possible. Let’s have a look back at 2004, specifically at what comic book movies came out. There were Hellboy, Thomas Jane’s The Punisher, Spider-Man 2, Catwoman and Blade Trinity. Regardless of their box office success, they all have one thing in common. They had most of the fantastical elements either toned down to make them seem as realistic as it can get without completely altering the source material.
X-Men: Days of Future Past sticks to that formula. There’s nothing too outlandish like a Norse God wielding a hammer or a dude who got frozen in the second World War and thawed today. They do kind of push it with the giant killer robots in the 1970s, but they don’t really have any impact on the story at large. And that’s the only grief I really have with that movie: It doesn’t dare to be bold. It doesn’t push the limits or anything. The movie is happy with being good and doesn’t even attempt to achieve excellence. And again, don’t get me wrong, I still think the movie is very good.
Let’s get to the story, then, shall we? We know the story. It’s been done before and will be done again. A character – in this case Wolverine – gets sent back in time to stop a cataclysmic event from happening that will cause the future that is the futurepeople’s today. And while this is the plot, think about how much there is to that story. You have a walking, talking anachronism in form of Wolverine who knows what will happen. Do the pastpeople believe him? If not, how does he convince them? And if you’re looking at the mechanics of timetravel alone: Doesn’t the fact that Wolverine has lived in the dystopian future imply that he failed in the past, seeing as everything he’s about to do in the past technically has already happened? What if you take into account the possibility of alternate timelines? So the subject matter alone is rather complex. Couple that up with the general setting of there being mutants who are hated and feared in a world that is fighting a pointless war in Vietnam and you have a movie that isn’t just a great character-piece but also got enough subject matter to it to not be boring at any given time.
The only axe I have to grind with the story is the ending. In the comic book, the future or rather the fate of the future was left ambiguous. Kitty Pryde – the character who got sent back in time in the comics – left the mind of her past self and that was the last we ever heard of the future. Because, as we all know, the future’s unwritten.
All in all, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a good movie. It’s an enjoyable and interesting film that manages to craft both an awesome alternate past as well as an alternate future. It has great characters, but doesn’t dare enough. You should definitely go see it. It opened this week in Swiss cinemas.
As usual, I’ll leave you with this: A trailer.
PS: Do stay until after the credits have rolled. There is another scene there.