X-Men: Days of Future Past

Hank: "In the future, do I make it?"
Logan: "No."

There's a lot of baggage associated with this franchise. For a while it seemed like it was dead, with a less than good third installment (X-Men: The Last Stand), and a horrible first spin off (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Then we got two installments that seemed to redeem things (X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine). And now we have X-Men: Days of Future Past, which has capitalized on the world created by First Class in the best way possible.

It's a strange beast, though (pun intended), with a complicated plot involving time travel. But for those that are fans of this particular movie version of the X-Men, it feels like a return to form. We still have the slightly silly leather outfits, not quite source material characters, and some narrative flaws and logical holes that have plagued the series for fifteen years. But for the most part this was a very solid, well crafted, well written, and decently acted film.

The biggest narrative issues arise from the fact that we never really get some fundamental answers to character questions. The other big flaw is that many of the new characters that were introduced had almost no actual dialogue, as if they were there simply because they were supposed to be there. That being said, their presence was definitely felt.

Of the new players I think Blink stood out for me the most. Her power was interpreted on screen in such a cool way that I wish more time had been devoted to her. However seeing Warpath, Sunspot, Colossus, Shadowcat, Iceman, Storm, and Bishop in action scenes made my inner comic book geek smile from ear to ear because the power effects were some of the best realized interpretations of those powers I've ever seen.

The other two big supporting roles went to Beast and Quicksilver. There's been a bunch of controversy around Quicksilver because the same character is going to be in the next Avengers movie played by a different actor, and will have no connection to this version of the character. Honestly, I think the same character can exist in two different movie series' without audience confusion. But I can see why it's a frustrating and obnoxious thing, since it's a big character right's fight between Marvel Studios and 20th Century Fox.

As for how much they contributed to the story? Well Beast was fun, but his make-up continues to be a glaring issue for me. Also, I didn't really see much of a reason for him to be involved, beyond being someone for Wolverine to interact with. The same could be said for Quicksilver, but he had perhaps the best scene in the entire movie, so I'm perfectly fine with his inclusion. I'll just say if the upcoming Flash series does anything like this scene, a lot of people are going to fall in love with that series.

Yet the story was really centered around four major players: Wolverine, Magneto, Mystique, and Professor X. It feels like most of these movies have centered around these characters, but that's probably for the best. Wolverine had some really fun moments, and got to show a bit more emotion than usual. Mystique was central to the plot, and I think Jennifer Lawrence did a good job, but she wasn't quite as much fun as she's been in other entries of the series.

But the story was focused on Erik and Xavier. We actually got a chance to see two sides to each character, portrayed by the original actors (Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart) and the younger versions of themselves (Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy). It was neat to see this drastically different take on the same characters, but it was also a chance to grow those characters in important ways. Having the fundamental aspect of the story revolve around changing the future meant that each character had to undergo a bit of growth.

Although Michael Fassbender (Magneto) was a dominant and impressive presence like he was in X-Men: First Class, it was really James McAvoy's show. He had the best arc, and had to do most of the emotional heavy lifting in this one. It was nice to see him explore Xavier's humanity, since he's always been such a stalwart force for good in the series -- it was great to see a bit of why. I would like to know more though, so I hope the younger versions of the characters come back for the next installment.

Most of the plotting and story was built on the six movies that came before this one (well, not so much X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and fixing a lot of the issues that were caused by the lesser entries in the series (mostly X-Men: The Last Stand). Again I won't go into spoilers, but I think they accomplished that and then some. The final moments of the movie were some of the most satisfying I've seen in a while (for a fan of the series as a whole).

The villain wasn't exactly the most intimidating, but I'm not sure he was meant to be. I really did like Peter Dinklage's performance, and I think his role was an important inclusion (the Sentinels have been noticeably missing since the original X-Men). Those Sentinels were both impressive and imposing, but I think the 1970's versions were a bit of a stretch technology wise. Of course the X-Men universe has always been a bit more technologically advanced than the real world, so I'll also let this one slide.

Was it as good as The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, or The Dark Knight? No. But it was excellent, and definitely a worthy follow up to X-Men: First Class. Actually I think it was not only the best entry in the series so far, but it could be one of my favorite comic book movies of all time, or at least in the top ten.

4 out of 4 Comic Book Easter Eggs that only X-Men fans will notice or care about.

Speaking of which, there is a post credits stinger. I have a very strong feeling most people will be left scratching their heads, because it is the introduction of a major villain that's going to be involved in the next movie. You can find more information about this mysterious character here.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.


Freeman said...

This movie totally caught me off guard by how good it was. I enjoyed First Class and The Wolverine but to be honest those movies weren't without their faults. So I went into this with very low expectations. I thought it was great. It was actually just a tight movie altogether, and it didn't even get that bogged down with time-travel nonsense. Actually it reminded me of The Terminator quite a bit, sculpted man-cheeks included.

This managed to showcase a lot of characters in impressive ways, even with a pretty giant cast. Blink and Quicksilver were the two standouts in that regard. I didn't think they were gonna do right by Quicksilver but he was definitely a great part of the movie, and the way they did his powers was awesome. Also like the little mention by him about his father. The way they executed Blink's powers, especially in tandem with everyone else was fantastic. I hope we see more of her in future movies.

The ending part had me smiling. It was great that they actually went there.

memz_ said...

I loved the movie. And I actually think this film is better than The Avengers. It was less fun, but watching The Avengers you never felt that you have to worry about them, you know they're going to be okay. While watching this film I felt that any of them could perish. It was darker and the action sequences were amazing.

It's not better that The Winter Soldier or Spider-Man 2, but for me it tops both The Avengers and The Dark Knight.

Scott Riggan said...

I'm not really a comics nerd, but I have a special place in my heart for the X-men. I read that book all through the Clarimont/Byrne era and the two storylines that left an imprint on me were Dark Phoenix (which was terribly mangled in the Last Stand) and Days of Future Past.

I really loved this movie, even though much of the original story wasn't intact. My chief complaint? A story with this level of complexity and with a cast of such fascinating characters needs much more time to unfold properly. Can you imagine a 10-episode HBO version of this same material? There would've been time to explore characters and flesh out subtleties...

I guess you could say that I've been spoiled by the increased excellence of episodic TV. Who would've thought?

Iago said...

For me, this felt like the true sequel to X-Men 2, the sequel us fans deserved. X-Men 2 is one of my favourite films of all time, so that's a pretty huge compliment.

I really enjoyed the film: they pulled off a monstrously complicated brief and did it with style. The future scenes didn't just feel like gimmicky add-ons to the new cast, they carried a weight and depth all of their own (plus, arguably, some of the best actions scenes ever seen). There's something wonderful about Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan playing Xavier and Magneto: they really sell the depth and importance of their relationship and there was a lovely feeling of it coming full circle from the McAvoy/Fassbender relationship in First Class.

I'll admit I'm a bit of a Hugh Jackman fanboy but it makes sense to have him as pivotal to the story: he just has great charisma with everyone and it was cool to see him mentoring Xavier in the way Xavier helped him in X2.

The new cast is a lot of fun too: Fassbender and McAvoy are both brilliant at selling their different visions of humanity and mutantkind. I think Magneto is one of the best characters comic book lore has created and Fassbender does him justice. I have one teeny-tiny issue with how Lawrence plays Mystique because it's too angsty: I've never read Mystique as being angsty, she normally has such a clarity of purpose and identity. Still Lawrence takes on a substantially bigger role here and does it with ease.

As everyone else has said, I'd have loved it if Blink, Bishop, Warpath and Sunspot would have gotten more time and development but the nature of the film meant they weren't going to. Scott, I agree a TV series would be amazing but could you imagine the cost?!

I've been looking forward to this film for years. I'm surprised and delighted it managed to meet my unreasonably high expectations :-D