X-Men - Days of Future Past
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Shawn Ashmore, Omar Sy, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Daniel Cudmore, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart
With a glimpse into a grim future filled with holocaust-esque imagery, Days of Future Past can be said to open in a similar fashion to the first X-Men film. Following that grim opening though, is the best film in the series since X2 - X-Men United.
In the year 2023, the last surviving mutants of a war to eliminate their species find hatch a desperate plan to avert that war. They decide to send back on of their own, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to alter the past. This means inserting his future conscience into his past body. Once Wolverine goes back, his job becomes reuniting Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, Patrick Stewart) with Magneto (Michael Fassbender, Ian McKellen) in order to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from setting in motion the events that could potentially lead to the extinction of all mutant kind.
The opening of Days of Future Past is the rockiest part of the film, particularly in an exposition heavy scene where Charles Xavier lays out the backstory and explains key details primarily for the benefit of the audience. Fortunately the film improves dramatically after that. While a story featuring centered around a post-apocalyptic future might seem rather entirely grim, there is plenty of fun to be had in the 70's timeline. The best parts include a brilliant sequence set to Jim Croces' Time in a Bottle and a clever reference to John F. Kennedy being a mutant whom Magneto tried to save (which is why the "magic" bullet curved).
X-Men - First Class ended with the break up of Professor Xavier and Magneto. While Professor Xavier believed that peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants was possible, Magneto instead held to a hard line anti-assimilationist stance. Mutants like Mystique whose blue skinned appearance fail to endear her to mainstream society are drawn to Magneto because he advocates being able to live as a mutant openly without persecution. On the flip side, mutants like Beast and Xavier live in the closet, covering up their appearance in order to avoid being detected. Xavier even went so far as to sacrifice his powers in order to be able to walk. These differences of opinion leads to their relationships' inevitable split. This means that in addition to bringing out the mutant abilities of Beast and Xavier, Wolverine spends the middle section of the movie acting like a couples counselor in order to get Magneto and Xavier to reconcile their irreconcilable differences.
On the queer subtext front, this may have the strongest LGBTQ political subtext of any of the movies. The sentinels that lead to the future war, are robots that are designed to hunt down, detect, and kill mutants. The scene where the Sentinels designer Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage) demonstrates their abilities evokes the U.S. government programs of the 50's and 60's to eradicate gays and lesbians from civil service jobs. This parallel is made particularly clear in the scene reveals that there is already a mutant in the room where Dr. Trask is making his presentation.
Many people were disappointed back when X-Men III - The Last Stand and it was viewed as a less than desirable send off for characters. Here Bryan Singer takes full advantage of the opportunity to give many of the characters from that trilogy a better wrap. However, many of them, such as Storm (Halle Barry), are given little more than extended cameos. For the most part however, the action is more epic than anything we've seen before in this series and many of the primary characters are given a bigger chance to shine.
In particular the characters of Magneto, Professor X, and Mystique are all given much better development here than in past efforts. I found the development of Xavier to be the most interesting. In the original movies, Professor Xavier is pretty much the all knowing, wise old mentor without a flaw. There's nothing wrong with such character but it's one we've seen in many other movies. First Class showed Xavier as an immature frat boy, who was willing to play around in the minds of others without a thought to the consequences or ethics of such behavior. Not to mention his inability to acknowledge his privilege as a mutant who could easily pass in public as a non-mutant. This time around he is shown to be a broken man who has given up his telepathic abilities along with all hope for the human race. While 1973 Magneto is still pretty much the angry mutant leader we were shown in past efforts, the one who was willing to kill anyone (including his fellow mutants) in order to protect all of mutant kind, future Magneto is shown to be more reflective and introspective.
As for Mystique, here she is shown to be a women driven by the murder and torture of her fellow mutants into taking extreme actions. What makes her interesting is that she believes absolutely in the righteousness of her actions, which are shown to be entirely justified, even if the consequences will be devastating. However, the queer/trans subtext regarding Mystiques' character is downplayed here compared to First Class (there is no utterance of "Mutant and Proud"), although it is still possible to see it given a broad enough reading.
This is one superhero film that would be worth skipping a few days into the future in order to see.
3 and 1/2 out of 4 stars.
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