X-Men: Days of Future Past (US, 2014)

“Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, doesn't mean they're lost forever.”
Director Bryan Singer returns for the 7th X-Men movie, this time with a time-travel twist. Wolverine, Professor Xavier, Magneto et al are back for another instalment in the 3rd highest-grossing superhero franchise of all time.


Overall, a highly enjoyable film with great special effects and excellent acting. Pros: great special effects, great acting, a juicy time travel premise and Quicksilver! Cons: massive continuity issues, characters’ motivations are not clear and no real villain to anchor the film. But who cares – as with most time travel films, it’s a thrilling ride as long as you don’t think too hard about it!

Genre: Action/Fantasy/Superhero | Director: Bryan Singer | WritersJane Goldman, Simon Kinberg & Matthew Vaughn ActorsHugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage AND Ian McKellen + Patrick Stewart | Cinematographer: Newton Thomas Sigel | Studio20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry Productions, The Donners' Company & TSG Entertainment ProducersLauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg & Hutch Parker.

One sentence description: The X-Men race to prevent a war between machines and mutants.
One (long) sentence review: A solid superhero film with good acting and special effects, but suffering from a weak script and odd characterisation
Watch it if…You like your Marvel franchises!
Don’t watch it if…You prefer the Chris Nolan-type superhero films. 
Best thing about the film…Quicksilver.


So, here’s the plot: in a dystopian future, machines have nearly destroyed all humans and mutants. However, a small group of dedicated mutants continues to fight back – Xavier, Magneto and a few others, including Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), who can project consciousness back in time. The downside is that the projectee’s body and Pryde need to be in good shape in the present (i.e. alive and healthy). So Xavier and Magneto use her to project Wolverine (because only he can sustain the brain damage caused by projecting so far back) into 1973 to prevent an event from occurring that would spark the machine/mutant war that decimated their numbers.

The event is Mystique killing the industrialist (yes, this was a thing in the 1970s) and military scientist Bolivar Trask, which would lead to her capture and extraction of her DNA. The military would then use her DNA to build a Terminator-style machine that can track and kill mutants with ease. So Wolverine’s consciousness goes back in time to track down Xavier and Magneto. Together, they must stop Mystique killing Trask. Simple, right?


In X-Men films past, Wolverine epitomised the American ideal of ‘rugged individualism’ in the most rugged and individualistic way possible. However, his wings are truly clipped in this one, as the young Xavier and Lenscher/Magneto take over. Wolverine still gets the odd withering putdown (“so you were always an asshole”) but otherwise he’s basically a plot device. Pity – his “go fuck yourself” in ‘The Last Stand’ was probably the greatest quality-to-screen-time ratio in superhero films. No, instead we follow two rising stars of English-language cinema: Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. The latter gives a very moving performance as a broken man who, well, just has a lot of feelings for a grown man.

This film does everything it can to avoid the present: we jump to the future, and from there we flashback to the 1970s, so the film can take advantage of Cold War paranoia. That war's us v them mentality pervades the whole film. However, it's more complex than that: Magneto is a bad guy in the past but good in the present and while Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) is a villain of sorts, our heroes spend the whole film trying to save him, not kill him. 

For Trask played by Dinklage, in another film, there would perhaps be the irony that the man looking to attack a group of humans for being different happens to be a dwarf. However, XMDOFP is an irony-free zone: there is absolutely no reference to Dinklage’s size and the film is all the better for it.

Given the meagre screentime given to Trask, the film doesn’t really have a villain, which is a boon or a curse depending on your viewpoint: do the bad guys need to defeat a bad guy, or are the good guys their own villains? In an art film, the lack of a villain is natural. However, in a film where Magneto floats a stadium around the White House and the US incarcerates its most dangerous criminal directly under the Pentagon, it’s clear that this is not the Andre Rublev of superhero franchises. This film lacked a real villain, but instead it gave us a civilisational conflict.

The vexed issue at the heart of all X-Men films is how humans and mutants mutually distrust each other, much like the Americans and Soviets. The humans are often impulsive and racist, whilst there are two camps amongst the mutants: Xavier and co want to preach tolerance and patience, whilst Magneto and co will kill anyone who impedes their freedom. This conflicts informs everything: why Wolverine has metal claws, why Xavier and Magneto became estranged and why Mystique wants to kill Trask.

The human side of this equation was quite limp for me, because it’s never clear what exactly is driving Trask - did he have a nasty brush against mutants as a child? Is he some sort of militaristic nationalist? Although previous films have established the tension between the two species, a clip or two of Trask being turned against mutants would’ve made his motivation much clearer. Speaking of the humans, some applause please for Mark Camacho’s portrayal of Nixon - he really nailed the popular image of Nixon, while it was amusing to hear Erik/Magneto imply that JFK was a mutant (presumably his special power was influencing women).

OMG, JFK was a mutant! Somebody call the FBI!
In any case, the mutant side is the real heart of the film, about the relationships formed and broken between Xavier, Magneto and Mystique in particular. I got the feeling throughout that Xavier put all the blame for his own descent into alcoholism and drug abuse (his ‘serum’) on losing Mystique, and not the Vietnam war, which was always lurking in the background. This war is mentioned in the beginning as the reason why the school fell apart, but then the narrative quickly settles on Mystique instead. I suppose yet another film obsessed with Vietnam would’ve been tedious, but “losing the love of my life” felt a bit thin in a film about saving an entire civilisation. Like it or not, that’s one of the film’s key points: Charles had to let go of his personal demons so he could become the Professor Xavier we all know.

Wolverine confused
Amongst the positives, we’re treated to a variety of set-pieces that are worth the admission fee alone: first, the scene where Quicksilver sprints around the room in bullet-time changing bullet trajectories and generally being a cheeky monkey. [Although I don’t understand why Xavier and co left him behind – wouldn’t he have been valuable if the aim is to stop someone shooting Trask?] Then there’s an excellent scene where a stadium gets moved, which is grander than anything we’ve seen in the franchises. There’s simply no way to fault Bryan Singer’s showmanship.


Amongst the negatives, we’ve got the scene where Xavier and co find Mystique in a conference room in Paris, only for Magneto to shoot her immediately: if the aim was to prevent the US government getting hold of her DNA, how was shooting her in a room appropriate? Was this a crude plot device or was Magneto ignoring Wolverine’s story and simply looking to settle scores?

Then we’ve got Mystique – although her motivation to kill Trask is fair enough, her decision to protect the humans seems odd and shrouded in sentimentality. This is particularly odd given what she tried to kill Trask just 10 minutes ago. Was this because she'd just realised what a megalomaniac Magneto was?


It’s worth mentioning that changing Directors mid-stream has led to a disaster in terms of continuity. For a start, a bunch of mutants from “The Last Stand” (TLS) are nowhere to be found, save for some pictures in a folder. The problem here is that Singer is clearly following previous films’ narrative, which is why you don’t see Storm, Jean, Cyclops, etc. However, Bryan Singer then goes on to ignore Xavier’s death (TLS again), the only explanation being that TLS’s post-credits sting (you had to wait for 10mins of credits) implied that Xavier’s consciousness could be transferred. So we’re expected to think that Xavier’s consciousness was transferred to a body that looked exactly like Xavier. In conclusion: I’m probably spending more time writing about it than Singer did thinking about it, so just forget it and enjoy the ride!

All in all, the effects were brilliant, as usual, the acting was generally excellent and if it wasn’t for the missteps outlined above, this film could’ve been the “Dark Knight” of the Marvel universe. A worthy and highly entertaining effort, even if Wolverine only got to insult Magneto once.


This film must’ve had a record number of nationalities involved in the main cast: Irish/German (Fassbender), British (Stewart, McKellen & McAvoy), Canadian (Page), Australian (Jackman and Josh Helman), French (Omar Sy, with the red eyes), Chinese (Fan Bingbing, who could open portals) and Mexican (Adan Cant, the fiery one).

Some more detail on X-Men being the 3rd highest-grossing superhero film:


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