What makes X-Men: Days of Future Past such an enjoyable movie its compelling human drama—the mutants with super-powers must struggle with their very human foibles. Their courage is tempered with fear, their anger with compassion, and their love with jealousy. In other words, the characters are conflicted and their decisions to act – or not act—are fascinating to watch. In addition, the script is one of the best time-traveling stories ever – you’re never confused about where you are – in the present, or in one of two pasts, and all three time periods are fascinating.
Director Bryan Singer had plenty of super hero experience in the first two movies of the franchise, X-Men (2000) and X-Men 2 (2003). Early in his career, he also directed my favorite movie of all time, The Usual Suspects (1995), the complex crime story that brought Kevin Spacey stardom with its brilliant surprise ending.
Don’t be intimidated if you don’t know who the X-men are—the movie stands on it is own. A little pre-viewing homework, however, would help — check out the movie website at www.x-menmovies.com to get a rundown of the different mutants and their powers. In addition, the previous X-Men films are showing all over cable TV right now and seeing even one of them would be good prep for the current movie.
Here’s a bottom-line synopsis. The X-Men mutants have had to band together for their survival because there are humans who want to destroy them and these guys use huge shiny robots, the seemingly unstoppable Sentinels, to do their dirty work. The wise elder of the mutants is Dr. X, (Patrick Stewart) who, despite being in a wheelchair, is still is the most powerful telepath in the world. He sums up the heroes’ dilemma pretty well: “The future: a bleak desolate, place. Mutants and the humans who helped them, united in defeat by an enemy we could not stop. Is this the fate we have set for ourselves? Could we have done nothing to stop it?” Even his old pal, the once powerful Magneto (Ian McKellan) has no help to offer.
A nasty anti-mutant scientist Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) has designed the robot Sentinels, who are programmed to hunt down the mutants and kill them. They are made without metal, so another powerful mutant, the young Magneto (Michael Fassbinder) who can control anything made with metal, has no power over them.
To stop the Sentinels on their mutant-killing rampage, Dr. Xavier realizes that Dr. Trask has to be stopped before he creates the Sentinels – in other words, the past has to be changed.
Nothing like heroes wanting to go back in time to make sure bad things don’t happen, eh? You always know something will screw up the best laid travel plans. That’s where the fun is.
In the past, Dr. X was young Dr. Charles Xavier (a very sympathetic James McAvoy). He was afflicted with a disease that took away his ability to walk, so he got himself addicted to drugs—and depression. He wasn’t a great leader back then. In fact, he needed a savior himself. He needed a lot of provocation to act and that’s where the young Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) comes in –he’s the only mutant today who is strong enough to withstand the rigors of time travel.
Petite mutant Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) uses her powers to send Wolverine back in time. He arrives just before Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes the mutant Mystique, whose superpower is the ability to disguise herself as any human she wants. Her plan in the past was to kill Dr. Trask before he can do any harm to the mutants. Wolverine’s task is to stop Mystique—because in the past the humans captured her and used her DNA to help power the Sentinels.
And that’s the barebones of the back story. The meat of the story is how the mutants try to correct the mistakes they made as young rebels. I love those stories where stupid young people try fix the messes they made – we all know it never works and that’s the fun of watching it.
The script is helped a great deal by having good actors – the combo makes you really care for each of the mutants. In addition there’s tons of action, and special effects which are wonderful to behold. Unfortunately Storm played by Halle Berry didn’t have as big a part as I wished.
You should definitely see this one on the big screen. But you don’t have to hurry too much… X-Men Days of Future Past made about $110 million in the U.S. its first weekened, so it will be around for a while.