X Men: Days Of Future Past (dir. Bryan Singer, 2014) – Humanity’s last chance sees Kitty Pryde send Wolverine back to the past, to prevent a dystopian future that spells the end for both mutants and mankind.
While ambitious and entertaining in extravagant fashion, Days of Future Past neglects essential themes that underlie the X-Men narrative.
Mutation is evolution. Scientist Bolivar Trask sees it as a threat. Defending against the human race’s successor, his misguided efforts lead to the sanctioned assembly of mutant-targeting robots, the Sentinels. Soon, nature’s order has humans and mutants warring for the survival of the fittest. With the aid of evolution and technology, the fight is a long draw.
Stretching far into the future, X Men: Days of Future Past proposes an apocalyptic end that sees both sides on losing ground. In a no man’s land, it would seem the selfish hatred of men had driven themselves to extinction. The decimated mutant population too, barely clings onto their eroding end.
Would one altered decision have resulted in a better future? Mutant powers conveniently made this wishful thought a possible reality. Kitty Pryde sends Wolverine (Not Another Wolverine Movie, ugh) back in time to end a war before it begins, hoping that a ripple in the river could change its course.
Like every time travel premise, it operates on several shaky presumptions that pedantry would seek to reject. The most glaring of which is perhaps how over twenty years of consequences boils down to a single snap decision. But of course, time travel is a hard one to decipher. Fiction certainly deserves a free pass, even more so when the film has done exceptionally well in this respect.
The writing team achieves an incredible feat and maintains storytelling coherence, all while bringing together two time periods and two huge ensemble casts. Its scale is in itself massively entertaining, and the action set pieces are explosive.
If The Winter Soldier exemplifies masterclass choreography in hand-to-hand combat, the latest X-Men instalment does the same for superhuman battle royal. Mutants band together and use their powers in successive, smooth motions. The combat sequences feel cleverly strung.
This synergy fails to extend to the past, when the focus returns to the deviating paths of Magneto and Professor X in their early years. The younger X-Men were often isolated, without truly coming together as a team.
Main cast performances however remain thoroughly compelling to watch. Michael Fassbender slips into his darker realm with disconcerting ease and comfort. James McAvoy shows equal starring power, wrenching torment from his past and making every bit palpable in the present.
Others make do with brief cameos, given the huge cast. It is sadly the new guys – Blink, Warpath and Bishop – who get the bit parts. With most non-white characters given meaningless one-liners? It should be a concern when a team that is known for joining forces regardless of differences, suffer from true diversity.
Whom we do get to see much of is Evan Peters, whose speed junkie Quicksilver zips around one of the coolest and aptly hilarious introduction (of all-time). Then again, much is not quite enough. Establishing such a powerful character who is fast enough to escape watch, only to leave him out of a world-saving mission, seems a little contrived.
While the convoluted plot demands a concise script, it isn’t just the one-liners that are bothering. Lines are often expository, or plain, leaving much to be desired. This is especially nagging in the film’s predictably redemptive set-up, which relies on dissuasion to change the course of history.
Jennifer Lawrence delivers strength in her thrillingly choreographed fighter Mystique. But a weightless script cheapened that establishment, lacking credence in its ability to avert a war.
Still, Days of Future Past is great fun and an intrinsically fascinating watch, its concepts aligning with abiding real-world parallels. The battle between humans and mutants finds its historical equivalent in past master-race ideologies, and racial divides that persist today. Rarely does a blockbuster that truly deserves the affix ‘epic’ get to delve into themes like these, if only barely scratching the surface.
Read my review of First Class here.