The opening shot imagines an apocalyptic future. New York is devastated and hopeless, and the first people we see are lifeless ones being dumped from a truck. A miserable crowd of humans and mutants slowly march with blank faces, possibly towards their execution. A pile of bones cover the earth, where more rot is surely buried underneath.
Meanwhile, a desperate group of survivors retreat in a ruined monastery. Knowing that they will soon be caught, the group sends one of their friends in a last-ditch effort to fix what’s become of the world. The odds that the plan will succeed? Slim, but what other choice do they have? That they sit and wait behind tainted windows suggests that what they are in is less of a mission than it is a prayer.
If you’ve ever wondered how comic book superheroes would fit in a painting of The Holocaust, well here it is.
I walk in most Superhero Movies with an almost jaded attitude – thanks to “Green Lantern”, “Man of Steel”, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, “Thor: The Dark World”, and so on – but the dark, unconventional prologue of Bryan Singer’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” automatically elevates it from its comic book counterparts. It’s starts with a statement and ends with a bang. Even the scenes of exposition have a pulse. The hype, ladies and gentlemen, is legit.
Time travel is the group’s final measure to amend history, and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is the only candidate that could survive the trip. So back in time he goes. He wakes up fresh from a one night stand; if he was sent back a few hours later, the movie would have an R Rating. Just an example of how time can really change things, but back to the story we go.
Similar to the previous installments, we spend about a fourth of the film being introduced to the mutants, their superpowers, how they can help with the mission, and so on and so forth. In my review of 2011’s “X-Men: First Class”, I observed that the movie’s fatal flaw was drawing itself away from the interesting, important relationship between Charles (Professor X) and Eric (Magneto) to develop irrelevant, annoying supporting mutants like Banshee (the one who can cause ear cancer) and Angel (the one with throat cancer).
In “Days of Future Past”, the primary characters get the screen time they deserve while the secondary mutants are limited to being cool special effects machines. Amongst the newcomers, runner-up goes to Blink, a sneaky lady with teleport portals while the crowd favorite will undoubtedly be Quicksilver, the gray-haired teenage rebel with an appetite for speed. (I refuse to name the unfortunate Aaron Paul movie). This chill kid played by Evan Peter provides the single most entertaining, inventive, memorable sequence in the entire film when… but why spoil it for you? Rather, I’ll just pause and wonder why Marvel is busy financing a dozen other sequels instead of getting Quicksilver a film of his own.
Viewers who know their science-fiction will link the film’s use of time travel and robots with that of the “Terminator” trilogy. Comic Books Amateurs like myself thought that “Days of Future Past” got its idea from “Terminator”, but Fanboys were diligent in clarifying that it’s the other way around, since the comic book from which this film is based on was released way back in 1981. I highlight this because of my admiration of the Sentinels, whose unstoppable force reminded me of the T-1000. Both are sadistic shape-shifters that can take a lot of beating first then win later.
The number and strength of the Sentinels are great set pieces yes, but they also pose a real, genuine threat to our heroes. We see a lot of mutants die brutal deaths, and as generic as it looks on the surface, I found myself unusually involved in the climax of the “future” side of the story.
Our desperate group of survivors is on the brink of their last stand. Will their prayer be answered or will they, like their fallen friends, also end up being dumped on the dirt? Bryan Singer began his film so brilliantly that it would be a shame to let it end with a salute to Michael Bay. He does not disappoint. What has characterized the “X-Men” franchise is the opposing ideologies between Professor X and Magneto on how they think mutants should live in a world that is not ready for them. This is what decides the film’s outcome. Not by who punched harder or pulled the trigger faster. Here is an approach unheard of in the Marvel Universe. After more than a decade of remakes, re-imaginings, reboots, sequels and spin-offs, I think they’re finally starting to get the idea.