The original X-Men in 2000 was a daring gambit that paid off beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, mixing superhero pulp with a strong undercurrent of socio-political themes it was one of the early pioneers (along with Blade) of the modern superhero movie template. Without this financially and critically acclaimed grounded and gritty adaptation, we may not have had such a diverse comic book superhero cinematic universe at our fingertips today. While the first two movies were masterpieces, the third one derailed the proceedings and the first Wolverine spin-off drove a stake through the franchise’s heart. Matthew Vaughn’s stylish ‘First Class’ took great strides in the right direction and the last Wolverine movie too was an improvement. Now with Bryan Singer back at the helm of things, Fox may have found its Joss Whedon. Much like the movie’s protagonists, Singer’s movie is on a mission to correct mistakes of the past so the slate can be wiped clean for a fresh start.
Much like how the Star Trek reboot utilised time travel as a device to present continuity and maintain familiarity within the established franchise universe and characters; so does Days of the Future Past (DOFP – for future reference). Some fifty years into the future, the world as we know it has been more or less annihilated. The culprits being large robots called, Sentinels, built by humans to hunt mutants, who eventually also turn on most humans. Survival in such a desolate future is bleak at best, until the older yet familiar duo of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) use Kitty Pride’s (Ellen Page) superpowers to send Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness in the 1970s into his younger body. His mission is to stop a high profile assassination by a younger Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) which would have far reaching effects for not just mutants but all of humanity. Logan now has to convince a younger broken Charles (James McAvoy), who’s given up hope and forsaken his powers to not just save the future but also team up with friend turned foe, Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Standing in their way, are a young Colonel William Stryker (Josh Helman) and scientist extraordinaire Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) who are not just cooking up the first versions of the Sentinels but also looking to harness the abilities of the mutants for their own use.
This is one ambitious gamble, balancing the old cast and new with multiple subplots and themes ranging across fifty years, bringing elements from every past X-Men movies ever made, even the bad ones. What makes it work despite the heavy plot and countless mutants, is revisiting themes and character equations that made the successful movies of the franchise work. Hope, revenge, fear and forgiveness are prevalent themes which make it stand apart from the crowd friendly surge of recent superhero movies. Some of the characters are forced to confront their choices and it harkens back to the original two movies (especially the second one) which gives it the necessary emotional heft required. If you’re worried the movie’s all emotional and brawn then don’t worry, it has plenty of light moments and great quips, mostly by Wolverine of course.
With some heavy nods to The Terminator franchise, the movie knows it’s roots well and borrowing much of the framework and plot elements from the "Days of Future Past" storyline in the Marvel Comics comic book The Uncanny X-Men issues #141-142, published in 1981, it creates a vividly engaging cinematic experience. The splicing of real historical events such as the Vietnam war, JFK’s assassination and even a bumbling Richard Nixon, gives it a true alternate timeline that’s familiar yet new.
What Singer manages to do with the action sequences is even more astounding and that’s where his choice of the new mutants is utterly justified even if their character development had to be sacrificed towards keeping the storyline tighter. Most notable of the lot is Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who can achieve incredible speeds and is used for the movie’s most ingenious action sequence involving a prison break. There’s even a nice little
The acting is good all round, though some more screen time with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart would have been a treat. There are cameos by some familiar faces from the original trilogy and two of them had me literally gasping in awe. Hugh Jackman of course anchors much of the movie but Singer gives the younger Mystique, Charles and Eric enough screen time too. The only weak link in the whole deal to an extent is Dinklage’s Trask, who makes a less than formidable villain, despite some fine acting. I guess the movie’s lesson is that the real villains are not people but the choices that people make.
This is the X-Men movie which we deserved after the second one and the worthy alternate to the Avengers universe. It has heart-pounding action sequences, brilliant performances, amazing effects, heavy themes, great one-liners and some truly heart warming moments; don’t miss it. Also don’t forget to stick around till after the credits, where the upcoming sequel is cryptically foreshadowed.view less