I have a confession. I’ve never read the comics. I loved the 90’s cartoon series (at the time), but before the films, that was all I had in terms of previous experience of the X-Men. But the films have varied in terms of quality.
A brief history of the X-Men films
Before I go on to say more about Days of Future Past , I should really talk about the days of the present (well, at least of the film series – i.e. X-Men 1-3 ). The first one started something good, began with two mutant factions fighting. It squared off Xavier and Magneto in a way that you understood – they were friends as well as enemies. The second one expanded and made the two sides realise that they couldn’t sit back and do nothing, the humans would eventually come into the fray and do serious damage. The third film made them realise that sometimes, mutants are too powerful to control. Then we saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine which explained Wolverine’s origins and his character quite well (the explanation, not necessarily the film). Afterwards we had X-Men: First Class which had the beginning friendship of Xavier and Erik, which set everything up for the X-Men universe. Heck, it was probably the success story that actually allowed this one to happen. Then there was The Wolverine – which while good, doesn’t feel essential to the story at large.
And so here we are
There’s a lot of variation in these films, and a lot of lore. It’s understandable that Days of Future Past would both have a lot to live up to and a lot to explain. But what I don’t quite get is why it seems to focus on so few things. From the start we witness Kitty Pryde, Icemen, Colossus along with Bishop and a few other interesting characters going through the motions of being hunted down and slain one by one, only to have history rewind and them use the knowledge of the near future to avoid the sentinels. My question is how? What had led up to this point? Why does Kitty have the power to send people back in time, even if it is in their own bodies? I understand that shit has hit the fan with the future, but surely it was an emotional dramatic point to have had Charles and Erik join forces. When did Wolverine get his adamantium claws back? I felt with the opening, they favoured action over drama. Wasn’t there enough time for both?
Quantum leap yourself
Despite a somewhat underutilised apocalyptic future *ahem* for the X-Men team, that wasn’t quite what frustrated me the most. Okay, so you’ve got Wolverine going back into his old body. But the problem is, is that there are a lot of dramatic points we’ve missed from the past too. Such as a walking Xavier and unhairy Beast. Yeah, I know, this gets explained, but it had me wondering WTF… But that wasn’t the problem really. I didn’t understand the directions characters were going in. When we’d seen them last, the mutants separated into two groups – Xavier’s band of merry men and Magneto’s. And once again, I know it is explained why several of the previous characters don’t come back. It just seems like it was a dead end with the original timeline. Magneto stuck in prison under the Pentagon. Xavier taking the drug that eliminates his powers. Mystique being shot and studied. How does this relate to the original X-Men film? Surely that would be the future if Wolverine hadn’t have come back…
And then there’s the principle. Wolverine comes back, tells his story to Xavier, breaks out Erik and then meets up with Mystique. They all know what causes the destruction in the future, and they know just by that one event that it would wreak havoc on the world. So why does Erik deviate from the plan in such a bad way, as to virtually do a 360? Why does Mystique still go after Trask? Why are there so many damn spoilers in this review?!
The film is long enough, but what you don’t realise until the credits are rolling is how few events there are in the film. It also didn’t reflect the pace of the story: serious, big things are going down and we’re given very little of the overall picture to understand why. Yes, humans are scared of mutants, those who have stuck with the films get that, but until the end of the film few have seen enough to really understand why they should be afraid.
There are some beautiful moments of cinematography in this film and that helps to make it worth watching. The fight scenes are fantastic, moving from well choreographed moments of art in motion to hearty brawls. And then there’s the scenes involving Quicksilver and he’s shown to be in possession of an amazing power and a delightfully funny character. Look closely and you’ll realise that the story deserved to be fleshed out more than it was. This film’s definitely better than the third film, but doesn’t hit the notes that First Class did.
All is not lost
Despite the amount of annoyances that I have personally with the film, I don’t think its bad. It’s not really a great successor to First Class , but it does do some things right. For a start, it allows X-Men film franchise to do a soft reboot – and one where it can go anywhere. Second, it retcons the third film – which is a plus. Third, it deals with probably some of the better characters. In the end, it feels like Days of Future Past is a little lost to time – but in of itself is a good stepping stone to the next film – which is both a plus and a negative. The plus being that it has a new direction and powerful character motivations to go in, the negative because it’s not a good idea to have too many stepping stone films. You want the one you’re watching to be good, not just setting up the next one – because what will happen is the expectation of the best stories perpetually being on the “next” film.
On the scale of X-Men: First Class to X-Men: The Last Stand , where does this one sit? I’d probably say between X-Men and X-Men 2 .
I can’t give this a complete thumbs up, mostly because of all the stuff I’ve had to put in redacted black, but I can’t give it a thumbs down because it’s still taken probably the best parts of the rest of the franchises and put them all into one space. So, I’ll have to give it a “WTF”. I’m sure you’ll understand, and it’s definitely worth watching – it’s just it’s going to annoy me every time I do.
Oh, and Quicksilver was awesome.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is out now. Our reviewer got paid by Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters to see this film and will probably be hired by the government for his document redaction skills.*
* Editor’s note: they did buy their own tickets. We’re still waiting to hear back about whether MI5 want Paul for his redaction skills.