"So, you always were an asshole!" - Logan
Well, THIS is a turn up for the books. Consider me officially surprised. If you had told me beforehand that I would actually enjoy X-Men: Days of Future Past even more than I enjoyed Godzilla – scornful wouldn’t have covered my attitude.
I like X-Men films. Always have. It’s hard to accept they’ve kept this series going for fourteen years now. Where the hell does the time go? I’ve seen them all at the cinema, I’ve bought them all on DVD, but they’re not films that I build up to, like a Superman movie or a Batman, certainly not a Star Wars. They’re not at THAT level of “must see” event movie. But whenever I see one, I always have a great time and enjoy the film. But, it has to be said that over the last several entries in the X-Men franchise, things have become a little fragmented and disjointed. Since the divisive X-Men: The Last Stand, we’ve had a prequel and two solo Wolverine films. Where do we go from there?
Let’s just back up a little bit – to get the full picture. Days of Future Past was a two part story published in the Marvel title way back in 1981 where, simply put, one of the team comes back to our present day from a grim, dystopian future with the mission of altering the timeline so that bleak tomorrow never happens. That’s a huge simplification of an epic story, and yes – it sounds a bit Terminator-ish, but bear in mind that this was published in ’81. Terminator was released in ’84.
Okay, so we have the original comic as a starting point, we enjoyed X-Men, we truly loved X2 didn’t we? But the series seemed to stub its toe in the third entry, X-Men: Last Stand. Director Bryan Singer had abandoned the franchise in favour of Superman Returns and the film suffered as a consequence. I’ve always felt it wasn’t as bad as it’s harsh critics have made it out to be – but the Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix storyline seemed rushed and Cyclops’ death didn’t have anywhere near the impact it should have. The film needed to be longer, and the plethora of mutants running and scampering across the screen left most audiences (me included) confused as to who was who.
The solo Wolverine entries (both of which I enjoyed immensely) aside, X-Men: First Class took us back to the origins of a much younger team than we’re familiar with, other than a cameo by Wolverine. So, really, to sort the knotted strands out and to keep it going a little longer, something obviously needed to be done – and here it is.
Before we go any further, let’s just get one little thing out of the way. If you haven’t seen any of the X-Men movies before, this is the worst place you could pick to jump on this particular bandwagon. You don’t need to have read the original comic book story (issues 141 & 142 if you’re so inclined) , but if you’re unfamiliar with the world of the X-Men, save your hard earned cash and seek out those preceding films first. You’ll be happier. Trust me on this.
So, it’s a time travel movie – and no, that’s NOT a spoiler, everybody will have picked that plot nuance up from the title – right? In the future, humans will have practically wiped out the mutants in a genocidal exercise that reeks of ethnic cleansing. This war will be fought with Sentinels (giant robots who can adapt and mimic the powers of whichever mutants they are fighting) and the mutants are losing. Humans are now also targets for the Sentinels. Their only hope for survival is to send someone back to a critical point in time – specifically to stop a single event that changed the course of history from ever happening, thus changing the course of the course of history in the hope of a happier ending. So, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) has developed her powers of being able to send a person’s consciousness back into that person’s past as a means of accomplishing this.
Naturally, the older Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) wants to be the one to go. Sadly – the trip may well rip his mind apart, so there’s really only one candidate – the indestructible, self healing Wolverine (Hugh Jackman who steals the show here. If they ever re-cast Logan, damn I’m voting with my feet and boycotting) who is sent to the seventies . Yes, to a time when James McAvoy plays Xavier and he still has use of his legs but in order to do so, the drugs he uses are numbing his powers – and this is how the bridge is created between the films we’ve seen so far, with even a verbal nod to Xavier’s first encounter with Logan in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (And that’s the best line I’ve heard in a film, ANY film, this year so far.)
The mission is to prevent the event that gave industrialist Bolivar Trask martyrdom status and gave rise to the realisation of his insane dream to have the mutants policed by his robotic army of Sentinels. (Though nobody mentions anything about Trask being a dwarf with seventies porn star moustache and hairstyle – I mean that’s freaky enough to qualify as a mutant right there – am I right?) As Xavier is now a belligerent drunk with only Hank (The Beast) McCoy for company – it’s not going to be an easy job. Especially given that Wolverine isn’t exactly a people person and that Magneto, though an ally in the future where he’s played by Ian McKellan, is a super villain kept prisoner in the most secure unit on the planet in the past where Michael Fassbinder takes the role of the younger version. Even if they get him out, they’ve got to convince the most evil man on the planet, jailed for allegedly assassinating Kennedy by altering the trajectory of the bullet, to step up and be a hero.
Essentially, what we have here is a two hour and ten minute epic that’s as equally packed with action and spectacle as it is with humour. I’d go as far as to say that it isn’t merely “good” – this is Avengers Assemble good.
To find out why it’s THAT damned good, if you haven’t seen it, you need to excuse yourself, head for the local multiplex and treat yourself to the best damn time you’ll have this summer so far.
Could this be the film of the summer? Who knows? A couple of weeks ago, I was convinced that little could touch the mighty Godzilla. There’s still three months to go until the end of August and that Transformers: Age of Extinction trailer gives me goosebumps.
Okay – so beware, we’re heading into that zone of spoilerific content. If you’ve seen the movie hang around. If not, go. Go now.
You are in…….The Spoiler Zone!
(Looks furtively around) Just us? Well allrighty.
One thing I still want to see in an X-Men film – Colossus and Wolverine do "the fastball special”. (Basically in the comics, Colossus picks Wolverine up and literally throws him at a Sentinel)
One thing I miss – Rebecca Romijn as the older Mystique. But then, the older Mystique had no part in this film.
One thing that compensated for the above – Evan Peters’ appearance as Quicksilver.
The film did what I really never thought was feasible. The mess that was the X-Men movie universe and all the loose ends have been tied up into a cohesive saga. Even Last Stand is now an integral part of it. I was wondering how they’d get around the plot point where we had left Wolverine minus his Adamantium coated claws. But of course, if they’ve altered history, then those events never have happened. Or…….will Mystique now be the one responsible for the experimentation carried out on Logan to make him Wolverine? That was her disguised as Stryker at the end. Questions, questions.
Having kept away from all pre-movie spoilers, the slaughter of the X-Men in the future was a stunning surprise, when Storm was literally skewered I thought it might be a way of bringing her character’s arc to an end if Halle Berry didn’t want to continue. The sight of Colossus being torn in half was a grim one.
But the biggest surprise of all was in the altered future, seeing Famke Janssen back as Jean Grey, as the whole Dark Phoenix plot of Last Stand hadn’t happened – but, did you notice she was wearing a red dress? Visual cue that her Phoenix persona might not be too far away after all, or am I reading too much into a wardrobe choice? Great to see that James Marsden returned as Scott Summers (Cyclops) again, seeing his underplayed death in Last Stand has been wiped out existence.
Logan has his memory of how things were – but has a massive gap, just as he did when he first came to Xavier’s school. This all bodes well for the already announced X-Men: Apocalypse. However, that sting at the end made no sense at all – other than the sight of four horsemen, I got nothing out of it.
If anybody knows what the hell all that was about – please get in touch.
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