"X-Men: Days of Future Past"
Release Date: May 23, 2014
Running Time: 134 minutes
Did I miss the X-Men sequel that explains how Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier returns from the dead and Ian McKellen’s Magneto regains the powers he lost in X-Men: The Last Stand? Because X-Men: Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer goes straight into the action without bothering to connect the events of The Last Stand to a sequel that unites the X-Men of the original trilogy and the X-Men of the 2011 prequel First Class. Singer, who directed X-Men and X2: X-Men United before abandoning the franchise for Superman Returns, obviously wants to make us forget The Last Stand exists. Director Brett Ratner gets all the blame for The Last Stand even though he was hired during pre-production as a replacement to Singer’s replacement, Matthew Vaughn, and inherited a script that’s credited to Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn. Ratner did a serviceable job with the action, but The Last Stand and Singer’s Superman Return both failed to satisfy. With Days of Future Past, Singer and Kinberg attempt to right the wrongs of The Last Stand, address the continuity issues between the original trilogy and X-Men Origins: Wolverine and First Class, and reboot the franchise in almost the same way that J.J. Abrams did with his Star Trek reboot. For the most part, Singer and Kinberg pull off their ambitious plans with an all-star X-Men sequel that operates on an Avengers-like scale. Singer and Kinberg do not ignore the events of The Last Stand but neither do they attempt to answer the questions that it posed in regards to the fates of both Professor X and Magneto. Instead, it picks up from The Wolverine’s mid-credits scene in which the two frenemies warn Hugh Jackman’s Logan of the impending war against mutants. Based on the classic X-Men storyline by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, Days of Future Past opens a few years from now, with mutants and humans fighting side by side against the Sentinels. These robots aren’t just built to seek and destroy mutants and eradicate humans who could pass on mutant DNA to future generations of children—they can mimic the power of each mutant they encounter. This doesn’t make for much of a fair fight but it does mean that there’s a true sense that the X-Men are putting their lives on the line every time they battle the Sentinels. That’s a feeling that is rare to find in a franchise that relies on building sequel after sequel around its major superheroes. Anyway, it turns out the U.S. Government’s decision to build the Sentinels dates back to the 1970s assassination of their misguided creator, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), at the hands of Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique. And it’s the shapeshifter’s DNA that gives the Sentinels the ability to mimic. So how to stop Mystique? In the comic book, Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde was able to use her phasing ability to travel back in time to bring about the end of this war. But Pryde isn’t the mutant moviegoers want to see. They want to see Wolverine tear into the enemy. Bearing this in mind, Singer and Kinberg instead have Pryde project Wolverine’s consciousness back to the 1970s on the basis that he’s the only one with the physical and mental capacity to survive the trip. So while Professor X, Magneto, Halle Berry’s Storm, and Shawn Ashmore’s Iceman fight the Sentinels in 2023, Wolverine must enlist the help of James McAvoy’s broken Professor X, Nicholas Hoult’s disbelieving Beast, and Michael Fassbender’s untrustworthy Magneto to prevent Trask’s assassination. As much as Wolverine would like everyone to hug it out, so he can change history with time to spare, there are too many unresolved issues to be worked out before Professor X and Magneto can join forces to locate Mystique. The thoughtful examination of the complex relationship between Professor X and Magneto made First Class an essential prequel. It introduced us to a Professor X whose brashness was only matched by the hope that he found in humanity to accept mutants. While there was a long way for the Professor X of First Class—and Days of Future Past, for that matter—to become the Professor X of the original trilogy, the suspicious Magneto of First Class was just a betrayal away from becoming the human-hating Magneto embodied by McKellen. As Professor X, McAvoy spends much of Days of Future Past wrestling with the demons that have haunted the eventual mutant leader since mankind turned against the X-Men at the end of First Class and left him crippled. Professor X’s lost his powers due to the drugs he takes to allow him to walk, and this allows McAvoy to grapple with Professor X’s humanity in a way that Stewart has never been allowed for obvious reasons. Whether he’s played with anger by Fassbender or deep regret by McKellen in Days of Future Past, Magneto remains one of Marvel’s most fascinating villains. His distrust of and hatred for human comes from a very real place, but he’s also deeply respects the man who so often comes between him and his plans to make mutants the dominant species on earth. The dynamic between Professor X and Magneto comes under even greater scrutiny in Days of Future Past, and more so than ever it’s obvious that their opposing views toward human is what binds them together for the greater good. While Days of Future Past often consigns Wolverine as the X-Man caught in the middle between Professor X and Magneto, Lawrence finally has a chance to come into her own as Mystique. No longer caught in Magneto’s shadow, Mystique launches her own vendetta behind the humans that dare to experiment on mutants. Lawrence fuels Mystique with rage, and it’s easy to see the Mystique of the original trilogy in her. While Days of Future Past adds several new mutants to the ranks of the X-Men, none stand out more than Evan Peters’ Quicksilver. Singer has nothing but fun with Quicksilver, and the speed demon’s one opportunity to save the day is executed by Singer in breath-taking fashion. Unfortunately, Quicksilver doesn’t stick around for long. Maybe Singer didn’t want to make Quicksilver a prominent part of Days of Future Past because he’s a character that Fox shares with Marvel and will appear in next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Regardless, Quicksilver makes such a great impression in Days of Future Past that Age of Ultron’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson may have trouble making us forget Peters. Singer shoehorns a few other new X-Men into Days of Future Past, but by the time all is said and done, it’s hard to remember who they are. The old cast doesn’t really have much to do until their final confrontation with the Sentinels, which unfolds concurrent to the attempt by Wolverine et al. to thwart the Sentinel program from getting off the ground. Singer, of course, is very comfortable in the X-Men universe. He has not lost a step when it comes to character development. He also knows you go big or you go home that when you make a sequel that unites the casts of two franchises. And Days of Future Past doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the action. The climax that’s set in 1970s Washington D.C. is just as thrilling as the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Where the future of the X-Men franchise goes after Days of Future Past is anybody’s guess, although we know do know that the next sequel, subtitled Apocalypse after the centuries-old mutant of the same name, is due May 27, 2016. Regardless, Singer and Kinberg achieve what they set out to achieve, and while it’s a bit of a cheat to use time travel as a way to reboot a franchise and holding on to certain cast members, it’s good to finally put The Last Stand behind us.
Aired: May 22, 2014
Web site: http://www.x-menmovies.com/