Not sure who did that fan art up there but for a fan of the original comic arc that this film shares its title with, that art is geek city. Hats off to the unknown sir. Anyway, X-Men Days of Future Past was released today here in the UK and I got back from seeing it a couple of hours ago. Is it a good film? I reckon so. Click the link below for an actual review.
So I’ll start by saying I may spill a few spoilers here and there. Nothing major. I will say that before you go to see this it may be worth brushing up on your memories of the X-Men films that have come before. The film tries it’s best to give you all the information as and when you need it but, really, there’s only so much of the 14 year history of this film series that you can get across in a few seconds at a time. If you have kept track of the films though, specifically characters like William Stryker, the events of X-Men 3 and First Class, you should be all up to speed. Shall we begin?
The film opens in 2023 where there’s been somewhat of an apocalyptic war had. Massive robots known as Sentinels have been hunting down and killing any mutants and they’re winning. The Sentinels have even been hunting any humans that had the genes within them to potentially have mutant children. This has caused a large amount of civilisation to be killed. A plan is put in place to use Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) ability to phase people’s minds back in time… she can do that now… to send the conscience of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to a key moment in history. The plan is to travel to 1973 to enlist the help of the currently powerless young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Because of reasons this also requires freeing Magneto (Michael Fassbender) from a prison deep below the Pentagon with the help of his illegitimate son Quicksilver (Even Peters). Erm, it’s only hinted at that he’s Magneto’s son but we all know so that’s not spoilers.
So, we’re stepping into time travel are we. Well there’s a plot device that’s never been a problem for science fiction films. Hell, I had no troubles whatsoever with the time travel element in Godzilla vs King Ghidorah. But just say there could be a problem, in that unlikely event, how could you side step it? Returning director Bryan Singer has a rough idea. His idea is “fuck it, who cares?”. I believe he said that. Essentially, in the future Wolverine is in a sort of induced coma with Kitty sat there channelling his conscience back to his body in the past. The timelines of 1973 and 2023 happen at the same time until Wolverine’s task in 1993 is complete at which point he wakes and the entire history up to that point is erased and an entirely new timeline is established for everyone expect the person that went back in time. They’ve been using this method to avoid being wiped out by Sentinels by sending Bishop’s mind back to before a mission has taken place so they know not to raid a certain base. So entire histories will be rewritten. I think you can tell where this is going.
Yes, Bryan Singer has finally done it. He’s finally done what has taken 8 years and the last 3 films (including this one) to achieve. X-Men 3 has finally been written out of canon! YES! Something had to be done about that film. First Class made a few swipes at the established timeline by having Xavier crippled at the end, although that has been semi reversed here. The Wolverine didn’t even bother explaining why Xavier and Magneto were wandering about at the end. Now they’ve just gone the whole hog and basically erased everything except for the events of First Class and Days of Future Past. Well, the other films happen in an alternate timeline, but what matters is all of the mistakes X-Men 3 made have been erased. Every single one. I’ll break out the champers.
But how is the actual film I could not possibly hear any of you ask? It’s pretty damn good actually. Anyone who was worried that this would be another Adventures of Wolverine & Friends should be happy to know that, other than delivering news and shouting some sense into the young Charles, he really doesn’t play the central role you may expect. He’s there, but only as back up for the main Xavier/Magneto/Mystique story. Hell, at least twice he’s taken out of the action through circumstance leaving it up to the newer mutants to shine. The central story really revolves Xavier and Magneto wrestling for the soul of Mystique as she’s in a place in her life where she could easily become a full blown villain. It’s said that the act of killing Bolivar Trask is what set her on the path to full villainy, and as I’m sure Jennifer Lawrence’s agent would rather she was the good guy, they’ve gotta give her some chance at redemption.
If there’s one character that really stands out, and believe me I didn’t think I’d write this a few weeks back, it’s Quicksilver. Jesus Christ was he brilliant. It’s not exactly the Quicksilver of the comics, but he’s younger and more brash so that’s all OK. He only has a handful of scenes, possibly because he is presented as so over powered compared to the rest of the characters that they’d need a whole series of convoluted reasons to explain why he hasn’t just saved the entire world whilst preparing an all you can eat salad and cake buffet for his friends and drawing a humorous cartoon of Richard Nixon with his trousers pulled down. He’s essentially a little mischief maker and enjoys nothing more than showing off his skills. He gets one key action scene where he takes out an entire room of guards in a kitchen who have already fired their guns just as Magneto has launched every metallic object into the air. In the process he takes the time to make one guard punch himself, redirects all the plastic bullets and even samples the chef’s soup of the day. Joss Whedon has his work cut out for him if he’s going to make his version of Quicksilver even come close in Avengers 2.
Bryan Singer has always been pretty smart director. He learned on X-Men that he needs the spectacle of the action and adventure to match the scope of the story and the stakes. He achieved that to a high standard with X-Men 2. Here he’s showing what he’s learned from watching others tackle the action and has stepped it all up a notch in terms of pace and inventiveness. I’ve talked about the Quicksilver scene but that’s just one sequence. Each action beat has a different feel, a different tempo. The scenes in the future are, frankly, quite brutal in their violence. The mutants, including newcomers Blink (Fan Bingbing) and Bishop (Omar Sy), all have very visual powers. Blink can play with bright purple portals to a level of skill that would make GlaDOS’ robotic jaw drop, whilst Bishop can absorb any energy and fire it back. The Future Sentinels are even capable of adapting and copying these powers. This means the future based action scenes are pure fireworks displays.
This is juxtaposed with the 1973 set sequences largely being melee based or featuring Magneto using his powers to do some extraordinary feats. Remember when he moved the Golden gate bridge in X-Men 3? You should because it was about the only memorable moment. Well he out does that scene here and performs a number of cool smaller feats of magnetic strength. Now you can forget everything about X-Men 3. Effects wise this is the best looking of all the X-Men films. That might not be saying much because they’ve always looked a little behind the curve. The film’s budget is reportedly $225 million, and I don’t doubt it. The money is all there up on the screen. Well, mostly. I’m sure Halle Berry and a few other members of the cast cost a pretty penny to re-employ now a few have made names for themselves since First Class. Regardless of Halle Berry’s cost, the film looks fantastic.
The score, provided by John Ottman, who also scored X-Men 2, makes a lot of call backs to his previous film in the series. There’s variations on themes established in other films and also a number of period centric music moments. Use of songs, which is unusual for the X-Men films, is handled quite well. In that Quicksilver scene I won’t shut up about Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle is used to incredible effect as one of the most unlikely but also entirely perfect song choices in film history. Go have a listen to the song now and imagine it in an X-Men film. You can’t. When you see that scene you will get it. By the way, the film is set right after the US withdrew from Vietnam in August 1973, just around the time Jim Croce died in September of that year. Suddenly that song became an even more careful choice than I expected.
If you can’t tell X-Men Days of Future Past is a pretty damn successful film. I’m not sure it can replace X-Men 2 as being the best in the series, but it is certainly a close second place. Wait… give me a mo to think that through before committing. I don’t want to make the same mistake I did with Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel by putting too much praise on an undeserving film. Just gotta think everything through. Did anything annoy me? Nope. Was anything ropey? Nope, solid production all around. Strong characters? Stronger than most similar films. Enough of Quicksilver? Nope, not enough but the right amount for what would work within this film’s plot. Remember, tis better to remove a character early than make them be a liability to the story later. Yup, that’s it, I’m sticking to my decision. X-men Days of Future Past is very nearly as good as X-Men 2. There, I said it. It is that good.