X-Men: Days of Future Past movie review: time for hope

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X-Men Days of Future Past green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
With its time-twisting plot, sci-fi soapiness, powerful humanism, and to-die-for cast, this is the summer blockbuster done with elegance and heart.
I’m “biast” (pro): love most of the previous films in the series
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

It is a nasty future we open on, in this I’ve-lost-count-how-many-th X-Men flick: dark postapocalyptic skies and ruined cities left in the wake of the ongoing genocide of mutants and humans by robot Sentinels. The sci-fi Judgment Day has come and the Terminators aren’t even bothering to imprison survivors in the Matrix (they’re not leaving survivors, it seems). And I have to wonder, Was Days of Future Past inspired and informed by the machine apocalypses of 80s and 90s flicks? Or were those flicks inspired and informed by old 70s X-Men comics? Is it both realities simultaneously?

Whoa.

Anyway: There will be time travel. It’s gonna get fixed.

I don’t know how Professor Charles Xavier is alive again, in his older Patrick Stewart (Ted, Ice Age: Continental Drift) guise. Because the last time he fit into the narrative at this point, he was dead, killed in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Maybe Xavier’s death got erased in some other time-travel shenanigans. There’s no attempt to explain it here, and it doesn’t really matter. He has a plan to stop the Sentinel war decades in the past, before it even begins.

The idea is to use the powers of mutant Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page: The East, Touchy Feely) — who can send people’s consciousnesses back in time by a few days, into their own past bodies — to send Charles’ mind back to 1973, when/where he will work to stop his old friend, the shapeshifter Raven (Jennifer Lawrence: American Hustle, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), from killing Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage [Game of Thrones, Knights of Badassdom], in a refreshingly size-blind role), who was developing the Sentinels; ironically, he could get no support from the U.S. government for his work, but his death at the hand of a mutant convinced them his project was essential. But Kitty says nuh-uh, a mind trip into that distant a past will kill the body it arrives in. Ah, but what about someone who can heal from any injury…? So the job gets turned over to Logan (Hugh Jackman: Prisoners, The Wolverine), as the only one who could survive the “journey.”

This is where the fun really starts. And I don’t mean just because Wolverine gets to experience his own little Life on Mars retro fest back in the land of lava lamps and waterbeds. Nope: there’s a delicious beauty in the prickly Logan having to suddenly become a people person and actively work to be ingratiating while also telling an outrageous story about traveling back in time to those whose help he needs. Better still: we get an exquisite reversal of the master-and-pupil dynamic Logan and Xavier once had — way back in the first film, 2000’s X-Men — when Logan was a huge personal mess and the grounded, patient Xavier tamed him (a little bit, anyway). Now, in 1973, younger Xavier (James McAvoy: Muppets Most Wanted, Trance) is the one-man disaster, his work to help mutants forgotten, his grief over losing Raven still stinging; even his mutant power to read minds has overwhelmed him to the point where he is taking a drug to suppress it (though that’s an unintentional side effect of how it lets him walk again, after having been paralyzed by a gunshot in X-Men: First Class).

And then — because they need his help, too — they have to spring Magneto (Michael Fassbender: Frank, The Counsellor) from the most secure prison on the planet. Yes, this is a lot of fun.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing is that this movie is as elegant as it is. The plot is almost ridiculously convoluted, it crams in an absurd number of familiar characters — though some, like Halle Berry’s (The Call, Movie 43) Storm, barely get more than a line or two of dialogue, if that — and traipses all over the planet, from China to New York to Vietnam to Paris to Washington DC. But even when it’s looping back on itself — and back into previous films! — it works. (The script is by Simon Kinberg [This Means War, Sherlock Holmes], with story assists from Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, who’d previously collaborated on First Class.) In retrospect, there’s surprisingly little “action,” at least on the scales we’re used to in comic-book flicks, though what there is doesn’t feel like stuff we’ve seen a hundred times before. Being able to set mutants with unusual powers against one another helps, but director Bryan Singer (Jack the Giant Slayer, Valkyrie) — returning to the franchise he launched for the first time since 2003’s X-Men 2 — also knows that a little goes a long way, and that holding off showing us something spectacular is more effective that being pornographic about it.

It is not astonishing, given the track record of this franchise, that this latest tale of the X-Men is powerfully humanist. But this time out, it’s not only in its ongoing metaphor of “mutation” standing in for any sort of bigotry and irrational fear of people who are a little different. It’s also in its sideways scrutiny of capital-H Hope as a dialogue between the past and the future that we shape right now. The things we do now matter, and can have an impact far beyond this particular moment. Hindsight that could be acted on via time travel might be cool. But foresight works, too.


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of X-Men: Days of Future Past for its representation of girls and women.


see also:
X-Men: First Class (review)
X-Men: Apocalypse movie review: everyone knows the third movie is always the worst
X-Men: Dark Phoenix movie review: dark matter, done way too light

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Aquartertoseven
Aquartertoseven
Mon, May 19, 2014 6:04pm

“Biast” isn’t a word.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  Aquartertoseven
Mon, May 19, 2014 6:27pm

Wow. Really?!

Aquartertoseven
Aquartertoseven
reply to  LaSargenta
Mon, May 19, 2014 6:35pm

Google it, it’s not a word.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Aquartertoseven
Mon, May 19, 2014 6:43pm

It’s in ironic quotes, and it’s explained in her “critic’s minifesto” link. (And don’t start on “minifesto.” It’s a portmanteau. Google it.)

Got any thoughts on the movie?

Aquartertoseven
Aquartertoseven
reply to  Bluejay
Mon, May 19, 2014 6:46pm

I thought it must be.

I’ve enjoyed every X-Men film so far, so I have absolutely no doubt that I’ll like this one.

bronxbee
bronxbee
reply to  LaSargenta
Mon, May 19, 2014 9:07pm

it is weird how this comes up every few months — obviously no one is reading the “extras”.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  bronxbee
Mon, May 19, 2014 9:14pm

I suspect there’s a large number who don’t know how to read thoroughly.

Bluejay
Bluejay
Mon, May 19, 2014 6:54pm

Peter Dinklage… in a refreshingly size-blind role

Excellent!

I’m pleasantly surprised that you repeatedly describe this as fun. The trailers seemed awfully grim and not-fun to me. Fun is better!

Do I need to see X-Men 3 or the standalone Wolverines to fully get the connections in this one? (I’ve actually seen X-Men 3, but I’d rather not remember it.)

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Bluejay
Mon, May 19, 2014 10:32pm

Probably the only one you really need to see is *First Class.* But it wouldn’t hurt to see the first two, either.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, May 19, 2014 11:01pm

Seen all those, so I’m good! Thanks.

Paul Wartenberg
reply to  Bluejay
Tue, May 20, 2014 12:58am

You need to see:
1) X-Men
2) X2
3) X-Men First Class
4) Excalibur, with Patrick Stewart as one of the knights competing to draw the titular sword from the stone. …what? It’s a legit movie to watch…

You can watch X-Men 3 if you’re a completionist, just remember the plotting gets too questionable – too many “wait what” moments – and the action scenes just not staged well. DO NOT WATCH WOLVERINE ORIGINS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Wolverine vs. Ninjas is okay if you like ninjas.

bronxbee
bronxbee
Mon, May 19, 2014 9:06pm

hooray all the way round. i must see this… i need something with a capital H these days. and bonus points for Peter Dinklage.

MICHAEL
MICHAEL
reply to  bronxbee
Wed, May 21, 2014 5:31pm

Its really good. I just saw it.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
Mon, May 19, 2014 9:45pm

FWIW, the “Days of Future Past” story arc was published in The Uncanny X-Men in 1981.

MICHAEL
MICHAEL
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Wed, May 21, 2014 5:31pm

My compliments Doctor.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Dr. Rocketscience
Thu, May 29, 2014 11:24pm

So, before *Terminator,* then…

Paul Wartenberg
Tue, May 20, 2014 12:55am

Kitty’s not a teleporter/mind reader type… she’s the phase-shift who can walk through walls. You might have mixed her up with another similar-looking mutant…

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Paul Wartenberg
Tue, May 20, 2014 1:01am

Then they gave her another mutant’s powers. Cuz it is most definitely Kitty Pryde in the movie who is sending people’s minds into the past.

Tonio Kruger
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, May 20, 2014 2:23am

In other words, they changed things again. Big surprise! :(

Phiphthvyoo
Phiphthvyoo
reply to  Tonio Kruger
Tue, May 20, 2014 3:16am

Not exactly. Kitty actually does travel into the past in the comic book version of this story. I suppose that shifting through matter somehow does something to the space-time continuum. However, being able to do that to another person IS an invention of the movie. But she’s always been able to cause others to shift through matter, so…

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Tonio Kruger
Sun, Jun 01, 2014 8:41am

It’s like this:
– Rachel Summers doesn’t exist in the Fox X-Movie continuity
– it doesn’t actually matter who does the sending of another character to the past
– Kitty Pride is a hugely popular character among X-Men comics fans, and the original time traveller, but mostly know to fans of the X-Movies for being called a “bitch” and calling that guy a “dickhead”
– Hugh Jackman’s Logan/Wolverine, having appeared in every X-Movie and starred in all but one, is the glue that holds that franchise together

So, yeah, they changed it. Honestly, they should have just had Xavier be the one to send Logan back and been done with it. But Kitty Pride (and Ellen Page) are popular, so they gave Kitty an extra power. But I promise both you and Paul: if you go dig up your copies of “Uncanny X-Men” 141 and 142, you’ll find the history is exactly the way you remember it. ;)

Fredrick Ferruzola
reply to  Paul Wartenberg
Wed, May 21, 2014 3:44am

Kitty Pryde is a mutant with the ability to “phase” through solid matter
by shifting her atoms through the spaces between the atoms of the
object through which she is moving, so she does that with Wolverines MIND.

Ackbar
Ackbar
Tue, May 20, 2014 4:25pm

Good review. During Xmen 3 Charles is giving a lecture on the morality of a telepath taking over a catatonic individual’s mind if it meant his own survival. The extra scene at the end of the credits shows Charles doing just that, taking over a guy in a coma’s body (I assume he did this as Jean was killing him).

I don’t know why Charles doesn’t look like that guy in the coma but that is how he “survived” from X3.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Ackbar
Tue, May 20, 2014 11:00pm

Yeah, that’s not a good explanation, for the reason you note.

Froborr
reply to  Ackbar
Wed, May 21, 2014 3:53pm

Is it possible that the film is just ignoring that X3 ever happened? Because I’m up for that.

Dr. Rocketscience
Dr. Rocketscience
reply to  Froborr
Wed, May 21, 2014 4:38pm

No, I’m not going to pretend X3 never happened. Why? Not because it was a good movie, by any stretch. One simple reason:

Famke Janssen in deep red leather. Your argument is invalid.

Paul Wartenberg
reply to  Froborr
Thu, May 22, 2014 3:22am

X3 had some good bits to it: the scene between Jean, Charles and Erik had some epicness to it. The problem was that compared to X2 the movie was overall flat, somehow emotionally disconnected despite all the effort to make things so.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Froborr
Tue, May 27, 2014 11:40pm

It doesn’t ignore X3, it just deals with it. This is a time-travel movie, and you know what time-travel plots do. ;-)

Froborr
Tue, May 20, 2014 8:33pm

I am SO GLAD that you liked this! I was really hoping it would be good, since I quite liked the Bryan Singer X-Men movies and *loved* First Class. And while you’ve occasionally given me a false negative (given a poor review to a movie I liked), you’ve never so far steered me wrong with a positive review! So I’m going into this one with a lot hopes. (Also, I didn’t realize it had Peter Dinklage in it! He’s the best, and I’m glad he’s finally getting to do something high-profile that isn’t all about his height!)

MICHAEL
MICHAEL
Wed, May 21, 2014 5:30pm

I just saw it in Asia and it is really really really good. A MUST SEE FOR ANY MARVEL FAN!!!

Paul Wartenberg
Thu, May 22, 2014 3:24am

Can’t we just finally get the movie everyone wants: an X-Men/Star Trek/Godzilla/Marvelverse/DCverse/FastFurious/Sisterhood Travelling Pants crossover 5-hour epic that will leave every geek going “wait, why did they throw in the car stuff again?”

Dominic G.
Dominic G.
Thu, May 22, 2014 6:25am

Hello, just wanna mention that at the end of X-Men Last Stand, there is a cut scene (after all the credits), where they showed Moira McTaggert (already a doctor) with her patient that has been in a coma for some time (Professor X showed this patient to his class earlier in this movie). At the final cut scene, the patient spoke with the voice of Professor X and said, “Moira?” And, Dr. McTaggert dropped her instruments and said, “Charles?!” Then the cut scene ends.

I think, through his powers, Charles Xavier transferred his consciousness to that man in a coma. I don’t know how he ends up looking like his original self, though.:)

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Dominic G.
Thu, May 22, 2014 12:31pm

As I replied to the other commenter who said the same thing, this is not a good explanation, for the very reason you note.

MisterAntrobus
MisterAntrobus
Fri, May 23, 2014 10:56pm

Only one way to find out.

Tonio Kruger
reply to  MisterAntrobus
Fri, May 30, 2014 4:15am

Telepathy?

Paul Wartenberg
Sat, May 24, 2014 2:06pm

saw the movie last night.
needed more Godzilla.
(gets pummeled by MaryAnn for being a smartass)
Fine, fine! Great movie. The prison break sequence was hilarious (even the part – where’d he get that duct tape? – I wasn’t expecting). Quicksilver being such an annoying little pr, uh, juvenile delinquent.
Had to explain to one of my friends that Quicksilver is the Marvel speedster, not the alien surfing dude.
Still a little miffed they changed Kitty’s powers from phasing (walking) through walls into a time teleporter. They could have had Kitty Pryde still be fighting using her phasing during the future stuff while a newly-introduced mutant – like Bishop and Blink – helped with the mind-sync. But I guess they wanted to have a recognized actress/character get the speaking parts (Storm barely says one line the whole movie).

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Paul Wartenberg
Tue, May 27, 2014 11:37pm

Still a little miffed they changed Kitty’s powers from phasing (walking) through walls into a time teleporter.

She can still phase through matter, though. She kept doing it during the opening battle.

Murtaza Ali
Mon, May 26, 2014 8:06pm

X-Men: Days of Future Past serves as a heavy dose of entertainment that may not necessarily be devoid of substance. As a matter of fact, it’s the perfect summer blockbuster that the audiences all around the globe crave for. One of the greatest compliments that can be made about the film is that despite an ensemble cast that’s loaded with stars, it’s the plot and the characters that actually drive it. In the end, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a film that will thrill and excite the viewers of all ages and groups.

My review can be read at:

http://www.apotpourriofvestiges.com/2014/05/x-men-days-of-future-past-2014-bryan.html

Bluejay
Bluejay
Wed, May 28, 2014 12:59am

SPOILERS

Good movie! I enjoyed it. Best use ever of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle.” And Quicksilver steals all the scenes he’s in. Hope the version that shows up in Avengers 2 is just as good.

So, when the 1973 mutants alter the Darkest Timeline and Wolverine wakes up 50 years later in the new Happy Timeline, he clearly — as forewarned — is the only being left on the planet who remembers the dark alternative. But as he walks around amazed at his Happy, Peaceful Surroundings and all the People Formerly Dead But Now Alive Yay, are we meant to think that this is now all NEW to him, and that he effectively has no memory of experiencing his years of life in THIS timeline? That he now needs Xavier to catch him up on things secondhand? What a terribly sad, lonely situation.

…And I’ve just spent the last few minutes trying to work out what this movie means for the events in all the previous ones. Can’t do it; head hurts. I found this to be helpful (sort of) instead.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Bluejay
Thu, May 29, 2014 11:26pm

Wolverine is the Hamlet of our time.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Fri, May 30, 2014 4:33am

Interestingly, both Edward Norton and Mark Ruffalo have said that they think Bruce Banner/Hulk is the Hamlet of our time.

Tonio Kruger
reply to  Bluejay
Fri, May 30, 2014 4:14am

I guess it’s a good thing Wolverine doesn’t play Yahtzee…

Oracle Mun
Oracle Mun
reply to  Tonio Kruger
Fri, May 30, 2014 3:27pm

Would he sing along to “Roxanne”?

Nadia Santos
Nadia Santos
Sat, Jul 25, 2015 4:56am

Shows Singer exercising some much-needed control over the franchise he
built 14 years ago and wrangling a lot of loose ends — a welcome return, and although the material itself is a little unwieldy, it successfully brings together characterizations.

Nadia
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