Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past is X-traordinary – an absolute blast of a film, full of characters that we’ve come to love from over a decade’s worth of sequels and spin-offs.   It’s a film for fans of the franchise – the audience will benefit from having seen the series of films leading up to X-Men: Days of Future Past.

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The new film is based on the 1981 Uncanny X-Men storyline “Days of Future Past” by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. The film strays from its source material (a fact that bothers quite a few fans of the original comic), but, barring a few plot details, the film is fantastic in its own right.

I would have preferred further exploration of motives and relationships between the characters – but with the complicated story and intense special effects-laden sequences, the plot allows little room for much else.A LOT happens. Across different timeframes. Amongst several different characters.

The X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of their species across two time periods in X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s a prequel, a sequel and a mash-up. The characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class with the goal of changing their past – to save their future.

There are stark differences between the past and future timelines. The future is grim and devastating – where fear and hatred has led to the creation of mutant-seeking robots called “Sentinels”. The Sentinels have led to near-extinction of mutants by targeting not only mutants, but also humans who carry the X-gene. The bleak vision of the future shows a ruined world, in which mutants and humans alike are herded and held in areas resembling concentration camps.

This film is much more mature when compared to other Marvel films – with violent and often graphic depictions of death, profanity, drug use, and even a little bit of nudity (cue Hugh Jackman’s naked rear end). The X-Men series has always been serious in tone, with allusions to the Holocaust, segregation, hate crimes, and terrorism. The history of each character is ingrained with some sort of tragedy or fear of self – the stories of outcasts with the need to be “normal”.

The film is a little chaotic, with some flaws in the story and a whirlwind timeline – but I loved it anyways.

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The cast is absolutely spectacular. While the “future” cast receives relatively little screen time, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen bring their usual gravitas and kinship to their characters Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto). For the short time we see them, Shawn Ashmore (Bobby Drake/Ice Man), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat) and Halle Berry (Ororo Monroe/Storm) are in great form. We also get glimpses of Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Blink (BingBing Fan), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Sunspot (Adan Canto) and Bishop (Omar Sy). The opening action scenes are spectacularly constructed and entertaining.

Hugh Jackman is back for the seventh time (including a cameo in X-Men: First Class) to play Wolverine – who is charged with traveling back in time to convince a young Charles Xavier and young Erik Lehnsherr to work together in hopes of preventing the future war on mutants. He wears the character like a second skin.

Peter Dinklage wasn’t given enough screen time to give us a truly villainous Bolivar Trask (inventor of the Sentinel robots).

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The real stars of the film are the gifted youngsters from the “past”. Nicholas Hoult is underappreciated and very underutilized as Hank McCoy/Beast – serving mostly as a caretaker for young Charles Xavier, but he does share some excellent scenes with McAvoy and Jackman. Jennifer Lawrence is deadly and charismatic as Mystique. This Mystique is much more reassured in her purpose – and refuses to be a pawn amongst the men.

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Professor Xavier has always been a beacon of steady calm and goodness. In X-Men: First Class, Charles Xavier was all enthusiasm and hope. In DOFP we see that Magneto and Mystique’s actions from X-Men: First Class have left Charles Xavier a damaged man. It’s thrilling to see that one of the most powerful mutants in the X-Men universe is rather human. McAvoy is able to balance the arrogance, despair and fear of a young Charles Xavier. He carries much of the emotional weight of this film – he is absolutely the standout amongst a very talented cast. Michael Fassbender’s young Magneto is focused, angry and incredibly cavalier in his use of violent means to raise mutant-kind to supremacy. Michael Fassbender is magnetic on screen (PUN INTENDED!) – there’s a lethal edge to this character, but he manages to invoke empathy for his cause. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are two of my favourite actors working in film today – it’s a thrill to see them work together. Professor X and Magneto serve as perfect foils to each other’s causes – mutant equality vs. mutant superiority.

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We’re also treated to the introduction of Quicksilver. Evan Peters stole the show playing a kleptomaniac speed demon known as Quicksilver. In quite possibly the most entertaining and jaw droppingly fun action sequence in recent memory, Quicksilver helps the X-Men stage a prison break. The audience in my theatre was blown away, applauding an incredible and exciting spectacle of special effects and comedic timing.

After an extensive marketing campaign, countless hours of waiting and much fanfare, X-Men: Days of Future Past  has arrived  – it is an X-cellent  and X-plosive summer blockbuster – with enough action, heart and humor to make it a great time at the movies. Go See It!

Also, there’s already a sequel in the works – X-Men: Apocalypse.

 

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