X-Men: Days of Future Past
Old meets new in this clever time travel take on the popular series.
By Max Weiss. Posted on May 22, 2014, 3:58 pm
-Twentieth Century Fox
Once you get past the fact that the title reads like some sort of word jumble clue, X-Men: Days of Future Past is actually a pretty ingenious film.
The producers solved their problem—what to do when your prequel is actually more interesting than the original that spawned it?—with a nifty time travel angle.
Here’s the sitch: As the film starts, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), The Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Storm (Halle Berry, in a glorified cameo), and various other characters from the first iteration of the series—Shawn Ashmore’s Iceman and Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde are there, too—are in danger of extinction at the hands of these mutant-resistant fighting machines that were developed back in the 70s. They were created, partly, from the DNA of shapeshifter Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, kicking ass yet again), who was captured after she assassinated the scientist (Peter Dinklage) who built the machine’s earliest prototypes. You know things are totally dire in the future, because Magento and Professor X are working side by side.
Now it is up to Wolverine to time travel back to the 70s, and recruit the younger versions of Professor Xavier (James McAvoy, so good, his complete lack of resemblance to Patrick Stewart doesn’t even irk) and Magento (Michael Fassbender, whose last name already sounds like an X-Men character) to stop Mystique from her doomed plan.
Lots of this is great: When Wolverine wakes up in the 70s, blurry shapes and colors appear before him. As it snaps into focus, we see that it’s a lava lamp. There's a naked woman beside him. He immediately proceeds to puncture the water bed with his claws. Groovy, man.
When he finds Xavier, the professor is holed up at the X-Men Academy under the wary eye of Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and has become a shut-in and borderline junkie (he found a potion that zaps him of his mutant powers but gives him the use of his legs.) Making contact with Magento proves even more problematic: He’s locked in a special prison in The Pentagon, where he’s serving a life sentence for—wait for it—assassinating Kennedy. (“The bullet bent!” we’re reminded.)
To penetrate the Pentagon, they enlist the services of the lightening-fast Quicksilver, who's played by Evan Peters as a droll punk, as if Alex from A Clockwork Orange were a mutant superhero. With Quicksilver, director Bryan Singer has given us yet another character who’s way more interesting than any of the originals. Singer knows he’s onto something. He provides Quicksilver with a showcase scene, scored to “Time in a Bottle” that is absolutely brilliant. When he leaves the film shortly thereafter, we feel his loss (and also wonder why they jettisoned him; all that speed comes in handy.)
Again and again, I felt that the first generation X-Men characters were showed up by their counterparts (poor Rebeccca Romjin, who played Mystique in the first series only, never even had a chance). It doesn’t help that Hugh Jackman has become a bit of a jacked up bore as Wolverine. We get it, you’re invincible and perpetually angsty. Get over yourself.
The emotional stuff, inevitably, resonated more in X-Men: First Class, too, which was an origin story. Here, we’re just supposed to take on faith that Magento and Xavier are fighting for Mystique’s soul and that Beast is secretly pining away for her.
But I had fun. The stakes were high (what with the imminent mutant apocalypse and all), the blending of characters surprisingly seamless, the nods to the 70s hilarious (is that Richard Nixon being all heroic in one scene? I’ll never tell). Plus . . .Dinklage! I mean seriously, what’s not to like?
Max Weiss is the managing editor of Baltimore and a film and pop culture critic.