By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
14 years feels like a long time for this Uncanny X-men fan to see a wickedly fun comic book film that satisfies in every frame projected to a screen. Not since Sam Rami’s Spider-Man 2 has there been a movie that manages to expand past its original premise developed in the comics. For once the themes explored in Days of Future Past are very telling for its time. Director Bryan Singer succeeds in recreating the pathos needed to drive this film forward and his momentum never slows in this movie that features all my favourite mutants slugging it out Terminator: Judgement Day style, knowing every move they make will have ramifications for how the future is shaped.
Set against the backdrop of a world that’s in transition, this film perfectly makes use of its characters to reflect the vices and hopes from two different eras. The 60’s represented a time of counterculture and anti-war sentiment, especially in the United States. The American involvement in the war in Vietnam had plenty of resistance, and the Paris Peace Accords in ’73 is the time that features mutants — humans with supernatural ability — looking to change their destiny, which the 70’s represented. Much like the flower-power movement that spanned the two decades, the hope is to prove to the world that a stronger message can be delivered by non-violent means of inciting social change.
In a far-flung future, which is this movie’s present world, mutant kind is facing extinction. The Sentinels are a biomorphic mechanized intelligence created by Bolivar Trast (nicely played by Peter Dinklage) who have subverted their original programming and decided to subject all of humanity to totalitarian rule. The last remaining survivors from Xavier’s School of Gifted Youngsters flee from them. Because of Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) ability to send a person’s psyche back in time, the group realizes that one person can be sent far enough to prevent the creation of these robots and alter the many days to come. Unlike the comics, where the ability to time travel requires a powerful telepath like Charles Xavier or Jean Grey to project a person’s essence back and forth. Just how Kitty has learned to use her phase shifting power (to move through objects) to do the same might require a leap of faith, or understanding how quantum physics works to accept her as the medium to take Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to the 1973 to kick the story off.
I did not expect this movie to copy Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s original two issue comic book tale in verbatim. In the original tale, Rachel Summers sent Kitty back to prevent the assassination of Senator Kelly, who would approve of the creation of the Sentinels.
Instead, what writers Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn crafted is an homage to everything I enjoyed from Claremont’s authorship of the Uncanny X-men series that lasted from 1975 to 1991. His stories have an operatic style and deep character expositions that I throughly enjoyed. I was able to relate to the many characters he wrote about since those were the years that I grew up in. Some of his best tales told of sacrifices being made to bring hope to a larger universe. All readers have to do is to read his excellent Dark Phoenix saga, and to a lesser extent Return of the Phoenix (featuring Rachel aka The Hound / Phoenix).
With Kinberg fine-tuning the screenplay, the characterizations are beautifully scored to show just how deep the resentment has become between Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) when they are still building their respective schools of thought. X-Men: First Class only initiated their long feud. Although never explained, their future, older, selves mended fences. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen show how they feel for each other much like the real-life old friends that they are. The best emotional moment is when the time-lines “intersect” and one telepath sees the future that can change if he can get past his demons.
With most of the meat set in developing the early years of Xavier’s and Magneto’s lives, this movie works better if audiences watch First Class again before coming into Days of Future Past. The X-men franchise started with a good bang that only lasted until the third movie. The third film is best ignored and if a new Phoenix (Rachel Summers is the daughter of Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Jean Grey (Marvel Girl/Phoenix)) can get added to this tale, perhaps there’s a storyline to develop after the next movie (Age of Apocalypse) is made.
Do audiences really want another Wolverine movie?
4 Stars out of 5