Skip to content

X-Men: Days of Future Past

There’s always an ongoing moral struggle at the center of the X-Men. When I wrote about the first film 14 years ago, I wrote that the point of the whole thing was that, in the face of oppression and suffering, you can choose to respond with forgiveness and hope for reconciliation, which is frustrating and leaves you vulnerable to even more suffering.  Or you can choose to respond with anger, violence and hatred, which is simpler and safer, but ultimately leads to a cold, dark hole.

It took seven movies to finally expand on that bit of moral philosophizing, but “Days of Future Past” adds a nice wrinkle: in the pursuit of your goals, no matter how noble they might be, you absolutely must resist the urge to manipulate people along the way. Whether you are equipped with psychic powers or are just a master of oratory skills, if people are not allowed to make up their own minds about joining you or opposing you, you’re asking for trouble.

Jennifer Lawrence, who seems to be at the very center of the Hollywood universe right now, is at the center of “Days of Future Past,” playing blue-skinned Mystique/Raven (depends on who you ask.)  Raven grew up with Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) but switched sides at the climax of the last movie, joining Eric Lenssher, aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and the League of Pissed Off Mutants.  In” Days of Future Past,” she’s pretty much a free agent, travelling around kicking the asses of anyone she doesn’t like, without an agenda beyond venting her own anger. So now Xavier and Lenssher must work together to calm her fury, before she sets off a chain of events that will eventually need to the extinction of all mutants (and, from the looks of it, most humans) in a Matrix-y looking future. They know they have to stop her because Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has arrived from the future to tell them just how terrible everything is going to get. To my relief, the time travel plot is handled simply and elegantly – too many movies either hurt your brain with the puzzle of time travel or ignore major plot holes altogether. This one avoids either of those pits. On the flip side, it would be an exaggeration to call this a team-up of past and future X-Men. Anyone who’s excited to see the “old” X-Men (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry) united with their younger selves (McAvoy and co.) is going to be disappointed; the old crew is there, but they’re given very little to do, and even less to say. It’s astounding to ponder how much money Marvel spent on what amounts to cameo roles for so many brand-name actors and actresses.


It’s fun how “Days of Future Past,” like its predecessor, incorporates historic events and writes the mutants into the story; one of the primary action sequences takes place at the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, and Magneto is involved in the assassination of JFK — though not in the way you might expect (if Marvel wanted to make another one-off, like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” I’d love to see a movie about Magneto and JFK.  That would be cool.) Also, I love that director Bryan Singer actually cast an actor to do a Richard Nixon impersonation, instead of just going with the “back of his head and voice are about right” method movies have been using for far too long.  So what if he doesn’t look exactly like Nixon? We get the point.

The film is also very casual about introducing secondary mutants, ones we’ve met before as well as ones we’re likely to meet again, without laboring over their origins or introductions. I guess this means that the uninitiated might feel lost and bewildered, but really, who are the uninitiated?  This is the seventh X-Men film in 14 years. Is anyone really wandering into the theater saying, “this looks interesting, I wonder what an X-Man is?” Do you need to know that Quicksilver is Magneto’s illegitimate son in order to enjoy the best, funniest, most visually stunning sequence of the movie?  No.  But there’s a joke for you in there if you are in the know.

Speaking of that Quicksilver action sequence: it’s so good.  And it stands as a stark contrast to “Days of Future Past’s climactic action sequence, which is not so good.  Here, in one movie we have a microcosm of good and bad action at the movies.  The Quicksilver sequence is clever, visually inventive, and tells us a bit about the character– Quicksilver can move so fast that the rest of the world slows down to snail-speed, which gives him plenty of time to play pranks on his enemies, as well as his friends, while “Time in a Bottle” plays on the soundtrack. In the final big action sequence, Magneto rips up Yankee stadium by its roots and deposits it on the White House lawn. For no apparent reason.  There’s a lot of breaking glass and crumbling concrete. The ground shakes. And we yawn, because while watching recognizable buildings get destroyed was exciting when “Independence Day” came out in 1996, it’s just boring now.

“Days of Future Past” has plenty of odd little head-scratchers, but they’re all pretty minor. I don’t understand how a drug can temporarily fix Charles Xavier’s spinal cord injury, or why it’s necessary to stop Mystique from killing and not just make sure she doesn’t get caught (or bleed.) I wonder what in the world, in 1973, Quicksilver’s headphones are attached to. I don’t see how stopping Mystique has any effect at all on Jean Grey’s storyline. And, most of all, if you’re going to go to all the trouble of travelling back in time, why not just go back and kill Bolivar Trask before he invents the mutant detector thingy he carries in his pocket? But all of this is completely forgivable.  The movie is both fun, exciting, and substantial in a way the majority of action flicks, especially comic book action flicks, aren’t.


Be Sociable, Share!

Posted in All Reviews.

One Response

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Top 10 Movies of 2014 - linked to this post on July 10, 2015

    […] X-Men: Days of Future Past – That Quicksilver scene was one of the best of the year. […]

Some HTML is OK

(never shared)

or, reply to this post via trackback.