Review: X-Men – Days of Future Past (Singer, 2014)

Still from the movie X-Men: Days of Future Past

Whew, sorry for the very long delay. Had a baby just before New Year’s, which slowed me down a bit.

* * *

I, like most people, enjoy a good comic book movie now and then. The last X-Men movie (First Class) was probably my favorite superhero flick since The Dark Knight, so I had high hopes for Days of Future Past. Not to mention that there’s time travel in it, and, if you’ve read my previous reviews, you know that I love time travel. I also have a strange fondness for James McAvoy. (I’m embarrassed to admit it’s probably left over from his role as Austen’s love interest in Becoming Jane.)

In fact, I’ll go even further and say that I haven’t yet seen an X-Men movie that I haven’t enjoyed at some level, and this one does not buck that trend. No matter the general quality of the film, it’s fun to see all the different superpowers in action, and especially to watch them interacting in concert or conflict. In this movie there are two powers that particularly tickled me: Quicksilver’s super speed (especially in that playful slow-motion scene in the Pentagon, for those of you who’ve seen it already) and Blink’s purple-edged teleportation holes. And, of course, Mystique’s blue scaly transformations never get old.

Looking beyond these fun effects, though, the plot is rather sloppily put together. The film opens in a dark and sinister version of the distant future. Only a handful of X-Men are left to battle the machine army of Sentinels, created by humans in their long-waged war against the mutants. These Sentinel weapons have the ability to take on the mutants’ powers and use them against them. The surviving X-Men, grossly outnumbered, are hanging on by the most tenuous of tethers–the ability of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) to jump the group a few moments in time. On the verge of annihilation, they make a last desperate attempt to save themselves: using Kitty’s powers, they send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to the past in order to change the course of history. You see, Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) assume that the technological advancement that allowed for the creation of the Sentinels hinges on a single event in the 1970s, when the young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) kills the high-level, anti-mutant scientist Dr. Trask as revenge for his horrific experimentation on mutants. At the scene of the crime, she unwittingly leaves behind a sample of her DNA, which the scientists then use in the creation of their new super weapon. It is this assassination that Wolverine must prevent, with the help of young Magneto, known then as Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). Why their help is needed is not exactly clear, especially that of the rebellious and volatile Erik, but it makes for a good deal of quibbling and nonsensical drama, which, I suppose, pushes the movie along. It also seems quite facile and short-sighted of the X-Men to place all their hopes on the belief that averting Dr. Trask’s killing would prevent Mystique’s DNA from being acquired altogether–after all, DNA can be obtained in countless ways. But–details, details.

The key to enjoying this film then? Don’t look too hard. After all, the special effects and the cast are as entertaining as one might expect. It is a summer blockbuster type of film, so bring all the mindless good spirit of summer when you watch it.