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X-Men: Days of Future Past

What She said:

She

The whole crew is back…and I mean the WHOLE crew.  We’re talking the cast of the original X-Men films from the early 2000s and the new group from X-Men: First Class.  How is this possible you may ask?  Well, X-Men: Days of Future Past employs a very classic comic book element—time travel.  As such, we’re privileged to know young Charles Xavier and old Charles Xavier, young Erik Lensherr and old Erik Lensherr, and ladies’ man Wolverine and older, wiser Wolverine all in the same movie.  It’s somewhat complex to follow, and a can be a bit of the stretch of the imagination, but director Bryan Singer does all he can to make X-Men: DOFP work, and the film manages to be compelling and satisfying.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

The film opens in the future, although it’s unclear exactly when.  The world does not look too much like we would imagine, as it is in a war.  These killer robots called the Sentinels are hovering around, searching for mutants and exterminating them with disturbing precision.  A small band of mutants, including Kitty Pryde, have managed to evade the Sentinels, but everyone knows this won’t last much longer.  The only reason they’re able to get away with it is because Kitty has the ability to send people’s consciousness back in time, and so the group is using that to deliver warnings to their past selves of where the Sentinels will appear next. 

The group meets up with Storm, Wolverine, Professor Xavier, and Magneto.  Yes, Magneto is now hanging with the good guys; you’ll have to get over that.  They’ve hatched a plan to use Kitty’s skills to send Wolverine back in time to 1973 and stop the chain of events that led to the creation of the Sentinels in the first place.  It involves Mystique’s first kill, the murder of Sentinel designer Bolivar Trask.  The belief is that, if they can stop her from murdering him, the government will not feel threatened enough to move the Sentinel initiative into action.  Plus, it’s Mystique’s chameleon DNA that ends up being harvested to make the Sentinels so deadly.  So, basically, she’s the key. 

And so Wolverine’s consciousness is sent back to the 70s to try to head off Mystique.  To do so, he has to meet up with past Professor X and past Magneto to get them on board.  The problem is that the past versions of both are not exactly easy to work with, although, they do, surprisingly, believe Wolverine when he approaches them with his story.  It’s a race against time to track down Mystique before it’s too late, and a lot is at stake.  They only have one shot at the plan, as time in the future is not standing still, and so the Sentinels are breathing down the future group’s necks.  If they do not succeed, they will be wiped out.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

There are many sublevels to this plot, but that is the basic premise of DOFP.  I’m impressed that the moviemakers managed to successfully weave all of the characters from the past movies into one flick.  In fact, I’m wondering if it was a personal goal that they set out for themselves, and if they built the entire storyline around achieving that goal.  Some may hate the fact that they mixed old and new, but to me it very much has a “comic book feel” to it.  At least the concept does.  The movie does not scream comic book in any way, other than the fact that it’s about superheroes.  It actually plays out much more like an intense thriller, and I think that will add to its broader audience appeal. 

I think that you can definitely feel that DOFP was directed by Bryan Singer and not Matthew Vaughn, like First Class, although I know that Matthew Vaughn was closely involved with this movie as well.  DOFP feels much more like the first or second X-Men movie.  Despite its complex and interwoven storyline, it’s shockingly straightforward in on-screen presentation.  While the film could have struggled with the space and time element, it somewhat glossed over the topic and tried to keep things fairly basic.  In general, there isn’t too much going back and forth between time periods, which is good. 

That said, the film winds up with everything tied up and packaged with a neat bow, and that seems to happen way too easily.  The idea of manipulating time and the future is quite deep, but the X-Men do this successfully and with little fallout.  I would have expected more negative consequences.  I guess if it were a Christopher Nolen film, things may have turned out quite differently, eh? 

So anyway, a not too shocking strength of DOFP is the performances of its all-star cast.  I kind of expected this, and would not have settled for anything less for two reasons—1.) The actors they have employed for these films are some of the finest out there right now and 2.) They’ve all played these characters before, and should be used to what makes them tick.  Am I impressed with the acting in this film?  Yes, of course, but I also expected it to be good. 

I’m somewhat disappointed in myself for coming away from this movie really liking evil Magneto (Michael Fassbender).  I don’t know why I have this tendency to gravitate toward the sinister folks.  I’m not a bad person, I swear.  But I thoroughly enjoyed the way that the character reverted to his typical bad self, and The Fass’s evil portrayal of him.  He was cold, calculating, and shockingly logical.  In this film, he sort of served as the Spock of the crew. 

I also liked that Professor X was not the man that he ultimately would become.  It would have been too easy to send Wolverine to the past and have him quickly and without challenge meet up with the 70s X-Men to save the future.  No, no, James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier is moody, lost, and demoralized.  And that really p’s off Magneto, who is not too understanding of what is ailing Xavier. 

So, I really need to wind things up on this review.  But here are my basic thoughts.  I liked the general premise of the film.  I definitely like the acting and the characters.  I was not in love with some of the execution, as it felt like a few of the finer points were glossed over.  And, I was amused by the ending of the film, and the fact that everyone who has ever been in an X-Men movie is brought back, BUT, I’m not sure it was the best route to go.  I also know that others will certainly not like this approach.

Overall, I’m not sure I liked this one quite as much as First Class or the first or second X-Men movies, BUT I do think it’s a solid addition to the series.  I’m looking forward to seeing what direction they move in next.

Thumbs up.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

What he said:

He

It’s hard to believe, but the first X-Men movie came out almost fifteen years ago. It was one of the first comic book movies ever made. Sure there was the Superman film in the 70s and 80s, and a few direct-to-video bombs in the 90s (some of them were never technically released, but bootlegs made the rounds), but this was the movie that is responsible for the state of the modern superhero/comic book movie. If it wasn’t a success, all these other movies wouldn’t exist. It was followed by X-2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine: Origins (don’t bother with this one), and The Wolverine; the last two being spinoffs.

In 2011 another X-Men movie came out. It was called X-Men: First Class. It was originally billed as something completely separate, but after a lot of success, it became a prequel to the first three X-Men movies. This movie serves as both a sequel to First Class as well as a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

It is sometime in the future and a very bleak future at that. The decades long war between man and mutant has finally come to a head. Some radical humans have created machines called Sentinels, which were designed to hunt down any and everything mutant; regardless of whether they’ve actually done anything wrong or not.

For those of you not totally familiar with the X-Men universe, mutants are not all bad people. Like humans, there are some good, some bad. Hell, some of the mutants even fight one another, like Professor Xavier (good guy) and Magneto (bad guy). Xavier and Magneto are old friends on opposite sides of the issue. Xavier thinks mutants and humans can and should coexist. Magneto views mutants as superior and will not stop until he either removes humans from power or eradicates them completely (he’d be happy with either one).

So anyway, it’s sometime in the future and these Sentinels have done their job and done it a little too well. They have turned the entire world into a wasteland. They are programmed to eliminate all things mutant. Most of the humans that are left realize this is insane and have joined the mutants and end up becoming enemies of the Sentinels as well. This dire situation has forced old friends, but longtime enemies, Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) to join forces. The two of them, along with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), and a slew of other X-Men to  join forces to fight the Sentinels.

The problem is they are losing the war. In fact, they’ve lost it a few times, but have managed to survive because of Kitty Pryde’s abilities to send the consciousness of her friends back in time a few days – her powers have evolved a bit since we saw her last – to warn the others of upcoming attacks. This is just a band aid though and they all know it.

So they come up with a plan to send one of them back in time to eliminate this threat before it even comes to fruition.  Because of his healing abilities, Wolverine is nominated. His mind is the only one who can handle the trip. Plus, he’s one of the only X-Men who were alive in the 70s. You see, she’s not sending their body back in time, but their minds, so the mind needs somewhere to “live” when it’s sent back. A younger version of yourself will do just fine. His mission is to stop one of Magneto’s old henchmen – a mutant named Mystique – from murdering the creator of the Sentinels (a guy named Bolivar Trask). Trask’s death make him a martyr and others continue his work, which leads to the creation of the terrible killing machines they are all facing in the future.

While back in the 70s, Wolverine seeks out a younger Professor X (played by James McAvoy), a younger version of Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and the assassin herself, Mystique. Xavier grew up with Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Magneto was her most recent friend/mentor/lover, until he was sent to prison. Even though Xavier and Magneto are mortal enemies at this point, the thinking is that since Mystique has close personal ties to both of them, they can help convince her to stop what it is she’s trying to do.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Speaking of what she’s trying to do, Mystique has a two-fold mission. First, she wants to free any and every mutant that is either prisoner or military member. Due to her super awesome spy and espionage skills, she finds out that Trask (Peter Dinklage) is using any mutant he can get his hands on for genetic testing and torture. Even the ones who voluntarily join the military to help the U.S. fight the war in Vietnam are considering nothing more than lab rats as far as Trask is concerned. Once they end up in his hands, they are as good as dead. The other goal she has is to kill Trask for all the mutants she’s harmed. She wants him to pay for what he’s done to her fellow mutants. Little does she realize that will lead to the creation of the Sentinels.

Wolverine does not have an easy task. Xavier and Magneto hate each other at this point in their lives, Magneto is in a high security prison below the Pentagon, and Magneto and Mystique aren’t exactly trust-worthy, so he has to keep one eye open at all times.

I mentioned earlier that First Class was not originally intended to be a prequel to the first three X-Men movies and you can tell. The average view won’t pick up on some of the stuff, but if you are a nerd you can find little details that don’t match up between the two series. Aside from that, I thought this was a fun movie.

I thought the future war scenes with the Sentinels were fantastic. I think back to the comics or the old 90s cartoon and once they started making these movies, the Sentinels were something we all wanted to see on the big screen. This future was bleak, dire, and violent. The fight scenes with the Sentinels and the deaths of some of the mutants were absolutely brutal for a PG-13 movie. The Sentinels are killing machines and boy did they do their job well.

One thing that really stood out to me was Hugh Jackman’s performance. He’s never bad as Wolverine, but he had to bring his acting skills to this one. Some people are sick of the character, complaining he’s used too much. Funny thing is, he didn’t do much in this movie. He was the one sent back in time to complete the mission, but his role was more getting the Professor – he’s a wreck at this point in his life – back on track than being the normal ass-kicking machine he normally is. I thought it was a great approach to the character, especially considering he did his typical thing in The Wolverine (which wasn’t out that long ago). His role in this movie was more pf a mediator between Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique.
Speaking of those three, that’s really who this movie is about. It’s about the complicated relationship between Xavier and Magneto and how Mystique plays a role in that. Xavier believes in coexistence, while Magneto is pretty much a terrorist. Mystique grew up with Xavier, but has adopted Magneto’s more radical and aggressive beliefs (since the end of First Class). She still cares about both of them. Xavier wants to save her from a dark future, but Magneto wants to, well without giving too much away, the relationship between the two of them is perhaps even more complicated than the relationship between him and Xavier. She’s his right-hand gal, but her actions threaten the future existence of mutants, and if there’s one thing Magneto cares about is the future of mutants.

McAvoy’s portrayal of a younger, more broken Xavier is great stuff. Patrick Stewart is great and will always be Professor X to most people, not only because of his looks, but the fatherly presence he brings to the role. He’s guiding presence, an eternal optimist, a teacher, and a surrogate father to all his students. But he wasn’t always this way and McAvoy’s portrayal of the same man in a different point in his life is excellent.

Michael Fassbender is also excellent as a younger version of Magneto. Sir Ian McKellan has always been great as the angry, prejudiced, tyrant that is  Magneto, but there’s some about Fassbender’s portrayal of the younger version of the character that adds such an intimidating presence to the character. It’s not that McKellan’s version of the character is a nice guy. He’s not. But every time I see Fassbender on screen I think to myself, “Man, he’s a bastard.”

Jennifer Lawrence’s fame has skyrocketed since the previous movie and with that her character was given a much larger role than she had ever seen. When the character was played by Rebecca Romijn in the first three movies, she was little more than a silent killer. But these prequels, this movie in particular, gives us a peek into why she is that way. Jennifer Lawrence is simply a fantastic actor and her portrayal of the character at a pivotal point in her life is quite interesting. She’s a cold-hearted bitch in X1, 2, and 3, and is completely unredeemable. And while this version of her is headed in that direction, we get to see if she continues down the dark path, why she is on that path to begin with, and if history is going to repeat itself.

Aside from some of the continuity issues with the older movies, and the somewhat weak ending, I liked this movie. It had good action, really good performance, excellent effects, and all the elements that X-Men is known for: drama, friends and family, and prejudice.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on May 27, 2014.

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