X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Post  BoG on Sat Nov 08, 2014 1:06 pm

This film, to my eyes, was intended as the end-all and be-all of X-Men movies, combining the casts of all the previous films (there had already been six "X" movies before this, including the 2 Wolverine films).  The problem, as expected, is that when you have such a huge ensemble all-star cast as we have here, many of the characters will get  short shrift, unless you produce a 3+ hour film. The clearest example of  this is Rogue (Anna Paquin); the actress is credited rather high but almost all her scenes were cut by the final version, reducing her appearance to a non-speaking cameo.  The main characters here are Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), young Xavier (James McAvoy), young Magneto (Michael Fassbinder) and young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).  Newcomer Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/The Beast also has a sizable role. The rest are all relegated to small supporting roles, though the old versions of Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) are actually in bigger parts than I expected.
The film has a decidedly strong sci-fi flavor, based on a famous 2-issue story from the X-Men comic book series in 1981 which dealt with time travel and very dystopian futurism. In the future of year 2023, we find out that Earth has become a desolate, wrecked place, with survivors both human and mutant hunted down by very advanced robots known as Sentinels (famous X-Men adversaries in the comics).  Sentinels, evolved from their creation 50 years prior, can take on the abilities of mutants and are pretty much unstoppable. A small group of mutants have managed to evade capture by employing a short term time travel trick - each time they are tracked down by Sentinels, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) sends the mind of Bishop (Omar Sy) a few days into the past, so he can warn them and they move to a different hiding spot. This is still as grim as it gets - each attack by Sentinels usually kills most of the group but they are then 'returned' as living as if it never happened.  

This group of mutants are contacted by older survivors - Xavier, Magneto, Storm (Halle Berry, who was pregnant at the time and in a reduced role) & Wolverine. These older mutants have developed their own plan - send the mind of one of their own way back to 1973 and prevent the creation of the Sentinels. This essentially  involves preventing the assassination of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, the developer of the Sentinels) by Mystique.  It's Mystique who is the problem because her shape-changing power had been analyzed and used to imbue the Sentinels with their unbeatable power. The only one who can survive such a long trip into the past is Wolverine, whose mind can heal instantly from the ravages of such a trip.  His mind would inhabit the body of his younger '73 version; he is also instructed to contact the younger versions of Xavier & Magneto to insure the success of the mission. A couple of stumbling blocks to this: Xavier at this time has lost most of his students to the Vietnam War and is taking a serum that enables him to walk but removes his powers; he's consumed with self-pity and cynicism. Magneto, meanwhile, has been imprisoned in a special cell under the Pentagon for assassinating President Kennedy.  

All these events in 1973 function as a sequel to X-Men: First Class (2011), which took place a decade earlier.  Wolverine's task is difficult, but his unexpected recruitment of yet another '73 mutant, a young speedster based on Marvel's Quicksilver (Evan Peters), makes the job of freeing Magneto relatively easy. Even averting Trask's killing (in Paris) is not very difficult, but things still get messy - the general public becomes aware of these frightening mutants, so it's a pivotal moment in history. And that may be a weakness to the overall film: moments which should have tremendous impact have an arbitrary tone. Trask, for example, had experimented on mutants to attain scientific knowledge about them, but such a horrible reveal comes across as an afterthought, brushed over quickly, almost negligible. Trask also decides to try selling his Sentinel plans to America's enemies, the Communists, but again this is so rushed and just indicates poor character development. The final act has spectacular elements - the old-style (1st Mark) Sentinels are unveiled and Magneto brings the house down, in more ways than we can figure. There's an intriguing epilogue, with several surprise cameos that fans can appreciate.
The plot obviously follows the epic elements of other 'machines-rule-men' film properties such as the Terminator and Matrix series, though the original comic book storyline preceded those. It's also a version of time travel in which there are no parallel realities - only the single one.  All the actors do well in this one and it's all big in scope. There's even an alternate version of Nixon in this one, dealing with problems very different from the Presidency we've all become well acquainted with. All that said, the most memorable scene in the film and the one most fans favor is Quicksilver's full on display of his powers, to the tune of the Jim Croce song, Time in a Bottle. At once the most  potent suggestion of godlike powers among us mere humans and a playful depiction of same, there is also at the same time - due to the song - a melancholy flavor to the amazing display; it might also have a sense of... foreboding..?  BoG's Score: 8.5 out of 10

X-Trivia: cameos also by the writers who restarted the X-Men comics in 1975, Chris Claremont & Len Wein, as members of a DC committee; in a late scene, in Hank McCoy's video set-up, an old Star Trek episode is playing - The Naked Time, an episode which concluded with a short time travel trip back only several days...

WHAT IF The Film Had Been Done in the Seventies..?
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