Loosely based on the fan favourite story from the early 80’s of the same name ,written by Chris Claremont and John Byrne, this is the latest big screen outing for the X-Men. It’s also the follow up to X-Men First Class and the return of Bryan Singer who kickstarted the X-Men franchise and played a major part in the current comic to film boom.
The story has Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian Mckellen) utilising Shadowcat (Ellen Page) to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) ,or rather his consciousness, back in time to 1973 so that he can help their younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) set aside their differences and stop a dystopian, nightmarish Sentinel-run future ever happening by preventing Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).
Unlike other films in the franchise this entry is definitely aimed at fans of the X comics and other X films. There’s no time wasted on origins, establishing the world or introducing characters here, which if you’re familiar with the X comics and films history is great but if you have no idea who Bolivar Trask is or don’t understand the complexity of the relationship between Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr and Raven Darkholme then you might be a bit lost in places.
The dark future is surprisingly grim for the film’s low rating, with ruined a city scape and emaciated mutants being herded in a vast hi tech prison camp whilst futuristic Sentinel craft fly over head. An opening scene has an ensemble of characters including Shadowcat, Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Bingbing Fan), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Sunspot (Adam Canto), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) fighting against the deadly adaptive sentinels that have found their sanctuary. It doesn’t hold back either, this isn’t an everything’s going to work out in the end affair, there’s a really sense of impending doom.
Not only is this a chance for a great action oriented opening which showcases some great FX, Blink’s portals being a highlight, it also really sells the group dynamic and makes it believable that they’ve been together and fought side by side for a long time.
There’s shades of The Terminator both in the nightmarish future but also in the seemingly unstoppable Sentinels as they close in on the X-Men’s hideout.
Back in the past there’s plenty of 70’s hallmarks from lava lamps and some pornotastic guitar music to Pong and the story incorporates several real historical events into the X universe like The Paris peace accords, the JFK assassination, President Nixon and the missing 18 minutes from the Watergate tapes.
A standout scene involves Evan Peters as Quicksilver, it’s an impressive display of portraying what could be seen as a “boring” power really well.
Aside from Halle Berry’s Storm who seems utterly superfluous everyone has a part to play in the narrative. There’s plenty of nods to the X timeline too with Jackman’s Wolverine meeting a young Stryker one at point amongst other touches. The cast on the whole are great and the spiky dynamic between McAvoy and Fassbender contrasts sharply with that of their older selves played by Stewart and McKellen, which and the way the narrative shifts from the past to the future is handled really well.
Also the story avoids becoming “The Wolverine Show” rather well.
One of the best things about X-Men Days of Future Past though is Lawrence’s Raven/Mystique. It’s rare to have a story with a female character that is integral to the plot but not because they need rescuing. The whole story hinges on the dynamic between the shape shifting mutant and both of her surrogate fathers.
Despite the machinations of both Magneto and Raven/Mystique there’s an ambiguity to their actions and neither are “evil” in the standard sense, the real villain of the piece is Dinklage’s Trask, the X films equivalent of notorious Nazi sadist Josef Mengele. The grim future isn’t too subtle in its depiction of how things will go, which is all the more powerful given Eric’s own back story.
There are a few problems due to the convulted and tangled storyline if you line up all the films, especially where Wolverine is concerned but this is to be expected when you have several different writers. That post credits teaser at the end of The Wolverine doesn’t connect with this film at all, there’s no Emma Frost despite what happened in X-Men First Class and Alan Cummings Nightcrawler despite being one of the stand outs of X2 doesn’t feature here either.
This works better than having characters there just for the sake of it though.
There’s a lot of fan service here, most of the characters in the future are little more than extended cameos but well utilised none the less. It might confuse those not familiar with the X comics and films (there’s even some connective tissue with the maligned The Last Stand) but this is by far one of the best X-Men films to date.