31 Days of Action: Day 27 - X-Men: Days of Future Past

It seems appropriate to follow a comic book movie from an era when they were generally shunned, with a comic book movie from an era where they make all the money on the planet.

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret – I turned thirty yesterday. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad but it was a full 24 hours of “Oooooo shit you’re so old now” from everybody around me. I figured I would head out to see X-men and get my mind off things but even that was quickly tainted by someone pointing out “Wow, can you believe you were only 15 when the first X-Men movie came out?” That hit me not just because holy shit I really am getting old, but because it’s kind of remarkable that the X-men movie franchise has existed for 14 years and they are still continuing the same story with many of the same characters and all of the same actors. There hasn’t been a reboot or a reimagining, just a constant continuation. Even more remarkable is that 14 years in, I believe they released the best one yet.

I should perhaps also throw out there that if you don’t want anything from this movie spoiled for you, perhaps wait and read this review once you’ve seen the movie.

I’m with the majority of people who believe that X2: X-Men United was the best film in the franchise to date and rewatching all of the movies a couple months ago only solidified that. From there I suppose it would go: First Class, Original X-men, The Wolverine, The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, though those two might come in a tie for last. I am not too familiar with the Days of Future Past storyline from the comics but I know a lot of people had been clamouring for a cinematic retelling for a long time now. It’s cool that they did and it really is a great story, but what’s also awesome is that Days of Future Past feels like someone spent 200 million dollars to undo the shittier X-men movies.

Days of Future Past takes place in the distant (not so distant?) future where mutants have been almost completely wiped out by Sentinels, a group of machines designed specifically to hunt down those with mutant genes. The few that are left are in hiding and are constantly on the run as these Sentinels have the ability to mimic any mutant power and are virtually unstoppable. The remaining X-Men decide to use Kitty Pryde’s power to send Wolverine’s consciousness back into his younger self in the 70’s so that he can stop the sequence of events that leads to the creation of these Sentinels. Of course that shit is going to be complicated as he has to recruit young Professor X and young Magneto who were in very different places at the time. Things get complicated, action scenes are had and lessons are learned.

Time travel movies are already tricky to pull off without getting convoluted and confusing but it’s especially impressive that they pull it off well here as they not only have to contend with time travel, but a very large group of characters who each require a decent amount of set-up and screen time. I have to hand it to them though, they pull it off admirably. The plot feels very straight-forward and easy to follow and the movie manages to have a huge character roster without feeling bloated, recently something The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was not able to pull off and it had even less going on than here.

The majority of the characters are returning from First Class and the original X-Men movies but we do get a few new ones here. The stand-out of course is Evan Peters as Quicksilver, who I spent the whole movie trying to figure out where I recently saw him and it turns out he was the dude who ran the Beatdown in Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown. That is quite the upwards career trajectory for Mr. Peters. It’s a little strange that Quicksilver is here as a different actor/character than what will be in the upcoming Avengers movie, but they definitely set the precedent here for how awesome the character can be. He is only involved with one scene but it’s probably the most memorable sequence of the movie, which is damn impressive considering some of the things that happen afterward.

The other new character with a prominent role is Peter Dinklage as the villain Dr. Bolivar Trask. Dinklage is good in the role but the character feels a little underdeveloped and one note. He hates mutants and wants to see them all destroyed because he feels they are a threat and that’s about all there is to it. He’s evil because he’s evil, that’s really all there seems to be to this character. Out of everyone in the ensemble, Trask definitely feels the most short-changed (just went back and re-read this, pun absolutely not intended!).

I don’t think I even need to say that the performances are good across the board. Jackman could play Wolverine in his sleep at this point, and of course Stewart and McKellan make an impression in their limited screen time. The cast playing the younger characters continue to impress me the most. McAvoy is probably the stand-out here, playing the younger, dickish Charles. Fassbender is of course good as well but similar to Trask, Magneto is more of a one-note evil character here for the most part. Jennifer Lawrence as young Mystique (no Rebecca Romijn to be found anywhere actually) is given a lot of screen time since of course Lawrence has become a mega star since the last version. I’m always going to like her and my attraction to her is no less prominent even with scaly blue skin, which concerns me a little.

The action is great with a major set piece at the end and the earlier mentioned Quicksilver prison break being the two stand-outs. It’s great because the action is here to serve the characters and not the other way around. The action sequences are highly entertaining but they are also there to feed you character and story information. Mutant powers are shown, not explained, and it’s done perfectly. The movie never slows down to give you a roll call or something silly, they have enough confidence in you to know that if they show you a mutant using portals to teleport around, you’ll know that mutant has the power to make portals that help her teleport around. It’s strange to sing a movie’s praise purely because it doesn’t talk down to the audience, but it’s becoming rarer and rarer so when it happens I feel it should be commended.

Do I really need to write more to convince you to watch this movie? Excellent, because I really don’t want to. It’s fantastic. There. Don’t even need to write a further wrap-up. Just see this thing. Now. Go!