…written by Simon Kinberg, directed by Bryan Singer, starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawerence, Ian McKellan, and Patrick Stewart.
Having enjoyed X-Men – First Class quite a lot, and with this latest X-movie drawing from some of the best X-Men comics runs of the late 80’s and early 90’s, we were really looking forward to X-Men – Days of Future Past. Time travel and the mutant apocalypse – with Bryan Singer back to direct and all the relevant cast reprising their roles. And enjoy this movie we did. In fact, I believe this as my favorite X-movies from the series, which also places it in our top few for all super hero movies.
The premise, as with most time travel movies, deals with traveling backwards to alter history to avert catastrophe. In this case we have a near future in which mutants have been rounded up or hunted to near extinction by the familiar (to comics fans) Sentinel robots. Some of the X-Men continue to hold-out, as we learn, through Kitty Pryde’s mutant power to send a person’s consciousness back to their past self a few minutes. This allows the X-Men to alter the present and avoid the inevitable mass Sentinel assault by a few moments. But more and more Sentinels are coming each time, so when the X-Men rendezvous with Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine, and some others, they decide to try something new.
The Professor and Magneto think they’ve determined a key point in history – in 1971 – when the U.S. Government under Nixon first approved the Sentinel robot program. The tipping point came when Mystique killed the man responsible for designing the Sentinels, Dr. Bolivar Trask. What she didn’t realize is that even though she delayed the Sentinel program by decades, the program continued, and Trask’s understudies managed to collect some of her mutant DNA as a result. They eventually manage to incorporate the DNA and Mystique’s shape-shifting powers into their technology, making the Sentinels so adaptable and lethal in the future.
So someone needs to fine Mystique in 1971 and convince her not to kill Dr. Trask, while also keeping Tricky Dick from approving the Sentinel program. The problem here is Kitty Pryde’s consciousness-into-the-past power scrambles the brains the farther back she sends someone. Who could survive that? Who was around then? Of course it’s Logan.
Into the past goes Logan, to find the younger, brasher versions of Professor Xavier and Magento, to then find Mystique and the means to stop the Sentinel program. The Charles Xavier he finds there is an altogether different man in the aftermath of X-Men – First Class. Disillusioned by the loss of his students and his paralyzed legs, the Professor hardly resembles the man with a dream of teaching mutants to co-exist with humans in harmony. It’s a clever role reversal, as Logan becomes a mentor figure for the young Xavier.
There’s a lot of room for some fine character development here. Professor X, rediscovering his dream. Mystique trying to reconcile the deaths of close friends and her need for revenge with her friendship and respect for the Professor. Magento is still Magneto, and yet we catch fleeting glimpses of his nobility, of the eventual turn he will take to ally himself with the X-Men. Of these main characters, Wolverine actually has the least to do, but he still makes a fine guide in this cross-time narrative.
As the 1971 events progress, in the future, the Sentinels close in on the X-Men once again. We have a dual-timeline showdown coming, with Kitty fighting hard to maintain Logan’s projected consciousness long enough to help change history. There are plenty of cameos, and cool glimpses of X-Men past and future. There are some outstanding scenes, such as the Quicksilver escape scene, the Sentinel future showdown, and Magneto bringing the house down around the White House. Good injections of humor here and there to play against the grim backdrop. Just a whole lot to enjoy with this movie.
If you have a bit of the Comic Book Guy in you, you’ll have to reconcile with Bryan Singer basically ignoring the events of X-Men 3 – The Last Stand. Not that anyone would really blame him. You might also be troubled with just how fast Quicksilver is here (he is Flash-like and basically unbeatable, but the filmmakers just couldn’t resist the lure of the effects). You might question why certain mutants made the future cut, while others (like Nightcrawler for one) did not. And if you are considering bring kids to this film, you should know that most of the X-Men die horribly in combat with the Sentinels (some of them twice), which could be disturbing to young viewers.
But these are minor complaints and quibbles. This is a damn fine movie and a real treat for fans of comics and the X-universe.