I need to watch X-Men: Days of Future Past again. I enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as, oh, pretty much everyone else I’ve talked to whose seen it. I think part of the problem is that I really should have spent the week prior rewatching X-Men 1-3, First Class, and maybe even the abomination that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Mainly because I couldn’t figure out where exactly in the Wolverine timeline that we know did the “past” part of this movie take place, and I probably spent more time thinking about that than just enjoying the ride. And it was quite the ride.
The seventh film in the 21st century X-Men film universe, Days of Future Past tries to bridge the gap between First Class and the earlier X-Men trilogy, but for me, it’s really at it’s best when I ignored that it was trying to do that. The film sends Wolverine’s consciousness back to his 1973 body so he can reunite First Class-era Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to stop events that set into motion the Sentinel project, giant robots out to destroy all mutants and then all non-mutants who might someday have mutant offspring. As you might imagine, Sentinels create a pretty dystopic future.
Days of Future Past is at it’s best in the past. Watching Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) re-acclimate himself to the 70s and a body not pumped full of metal is an interesting endeavor, even if events of the future have sanded away most of the hard edges, making him more mentor-like than we’ve ever seen before. What remains of the First Class cast mostly oozes charisma — particularly Fassbender’s younger Magneto — and the introduction of Quicksilver adds some levity to story that is largely political and personal and less “must stop black-hat villain.”
And that’s all great.
It’s when you start to add the context of six previous films that Days of Future Past begins to fail, but only as part of a larger universe, not as a fun way to kill some time.
The remainder of this post will contain spoilers.
So stop reading if you don’t want to be spoiled.
I suppose my biggest complaint is that it felt like there should have been another First Class-era movie before this. I have a friend who calls this film a giant FU to Brett Ratner and X-Men: Last Stand, but I’d say it gives the bigger finger to First Class. Because sure, Last Stand is essentially undone by events in Days of Future Past, but First Class? It gets one line that lets us know everybody except Magneto, Xavier, Beast and Mystique are dead.
And not only that, while we were gone, 10 years passed, Magneto ended up buried in a hole in the Pentagon and Beast developed a serum that let him turn his beastliness on and off and shut down Xavier’s power which…somehow made him able to walk. Days of Future Past does a good job of showing us that these characters have grown and changed since, but it’s a very jarring transition that kind of does a disservice to the other characters of that movie.
I also have a really hard time reconciling this Beast with the man we know Beast became in X3, but I think that really brings me to my next point: By changing the past, Wolverine changes the future and everything seems to be, more or less, puppies and sunshine when he wakes back up in it.
How? What went different over the next 30 years that negated the end of X2 and the Dark Phoenix story in X3? How does Wolverine’s life go if we see him in 1973 fished out of the water by Mystique disguised as Stryker? For all the talk of bridging gaps, this movie, if you think about it too long, created *so many questions* for that very gap. Unless I really do need to do that whole six-movie watch (as I confess to never seeing The Wolverine)/rewatch thing
And maybe it’s all fodder for the next movie. All I really know about the Age of Apocalypse story line is that it exists, and I’m not going to hold this review for another week while I research it and incorporate it into my worldview. But given the end-credits scene, it would seem to me like there will be bigger fish to fry. (I guess Wolverine 3 is in development, but given the wealth of stories available and Hugh Jackman’s continuing trend of aging like the rest of mortals, it seems unlikely that it would be about his new “future” between 1973 and 1999.)
And now, my final point, which lives somewhere between a non-issue and a minor annoyance: Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier. I adore him, and I adore him in that role, but someone needs to tell me if there was an end-credits scene for The Wolverine that explained his presence. Because treating the hypothetical situation presented in X3 and the two-word end-scene that followed it was not, in my opinion, justification enough for Xavier to be roaming around (with Magneto, no less) and everyone treating it like it’s no big deal here. I need some explanation, otherwise it’s just weak story-telling.
Having said that, these are all just first impressions that I spent a week and a half stewing over. I definitely want to see it again, and I’m pretty sure once I’m no longer seeing it for the first time, a lot of my issues here will be either things that resolve themselves as I catch on to things I may have missed or things that I just accept and get over. I guess it’s a bit of a backhanded compliment to say “there are so many things I have issues with here, but it’s great anyway!” but that’s kind of how I feel about it.
One more thing:
There are a lot (okay a ton) of things that Jennifer Lawrence does right as Mystique. I think she does an amazing job both in stillness and in action as far as taking on the role from Rebecca Romijn, but then she goes and opens her mouth. I don’t really remember Mystique having a lot of dialogue in the first set of movies, but the line that’s always stuck out to me was in X-Men 2 when Nightcrawler asks why she doesn’t wear a disguise all the time to look normal. Her five-word answer, “Because we shouldn’t have to,” carried a sense of weight and elegance (and OK, a little post-production work) that was completely lacking in stand-out way in Days of Future Past, especially in the line that hit a lot of the previews, “What’s the matter, baby? You don’t think I look sexy like this?” Again, I’m really hoping that was just a matter of oversaturation from previews beforehand and it’ll feel differently to me on second viewing.