There is a moment in Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past where Wolverine, back in 1973, walks through a metal detector without setting off the alarm. He stops, looks puzzled, and then remembers that his body still has calcium instead of Adamantium, the indestructible Marvel metal. He has grown so accustomed to his own skin that to be out of it is like an abomination against himself.
This X-Men franchise would also stop to question itself, I suspect, because it has grown so comfortable in its own skin. The X-Men are a product of Marvel, and while Marvel is off playing favourites with The Avengers, they have slowly and carefully constructed a universe of their own. Days Of Future Past is the seventh X-Men movie, and it has somehow found an incredulous way of zapping in footage from five of its six predecessors to help tell a story that is at the same time profound and confusing.
I will try to be brief with the plot, if my mind can bestow upon me the luxury of remembering the finer details. The world as we know it is destroyed. There is no light, no foliage, no people. Mankind has been torn apart by giant robots called Sentinels, who come from the ’70s and have dedicated their existence to hunting Mutants down and destroying them. Now the only Mutants left are, not so surprisingly, the very same Mutants we have come to know from the first X-Men trilogy.
They are Storm (Halle Berry), the platinum-haired beauty who can change the weather faster than the weather can change itself; Bobby the Iceman (Shawn Ashmore); Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), who looks like Neo from The Matrix covered in that mirror slime; Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), the little firecracker who can run through walls; Magneto (Ian McKellen), master of all that is metal; and of course Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who no longer has to push a lever to turn the wheels of his chair (did he not die in The Last Stand?). Joining them in this dystopian future are a few new additions, some you will know from the comics, others you will only know if you are a diehard fan. The best of these newcomers is a girl called Blink (Fan Bing Bing), who has the extraordinary gift of creating portals as and when she likes. It’s a cool power, sure, but it’s also a clever tool for awesome action sequences. She wouldn’t have a problem running circles around Wolverine, the long-lasting hero of this franchise.
Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), meanwhile, has been sent back in time to 1973, 11 years after the events of X-Men: First Class — perhaps the greatest movie about Mutants — to reunite Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) as their younger selves in order to stop a short and stout scientist by the name of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) from green-lighting his Sentinel programme. Trask is a real pragmatist. He wants to eliminate the Mutant threat before it is even a threat, and ensure the safety of Mankind for generations to come. Mutants and humans share a common bond, he says, and that is the fight against extinction.
The screenplay by Simon Kinberg has a rockin’ good time playing around with time travel. The movie makes frequent cuts to and from the past and the future (present?), and presents series of events as little pockets of happenings that effect each other. There are nice touches, like Wolverine telling the young Beast (Nicholas Hoult) after punching him: “We’re going to be good friends. You just don’t know it yet”, or when the young Charles travels through Wolverine’s mind and has a telepathic conversation with old Charles. The entire plot has the same feeling of greatness that older time-travelling movies like Back To The Future, Groundhog Day, or even the 2009 reboot of Star Trek had, but it falls a bit short because the universe it expands on is a fractured one.
When, for example, does the dystopian portion of this film take place? How many years have passed since the end of The Last Stand? Enough for Charles’ wheelchair to become a chair that hovers? Why are Storm and Bobby and Kitty still so youthful if enough time has elapsed to replace television screens with holograms? It might take an X-Men scholar to answer these questions, and I look forward to hearing the explanations, because apart from space/time continuum loopholes, Days Of Future Past is a solid movie.
What First Class did, which none of the previous X-Men movies even thought to do, was write a story about Charles and Magneto that we’d actually care about. Too often we were bogged down by too many Mutants and too many powers. We were more busy trying to recall names and matching them to their respective mutations than getting invested in the human side of the battle. Charles and Magneto are not so much enemies as they are friends with opposing ideologies. Charles absolutely believes that Mutants can use their powers for good. Magneto believes, absolutely, that humans will want to kill all Mutants no matter how good they are. There is real tragedy in their friendship, and the tragedy is what fuels the story. Who knew, going into the very first X-Men movie, that Charles and Magneto would be the ones pulling the strings?
Bryan Singer’s career has seen many movies come in and go out without so much as a whimper. He is most well known for his caper drama, The Usual Suspects (loved by many, overrated by me), which dealt with a group of social outcasts coping with internal betrayal. In his essence, Magneto is also dealing with betrayal; betrayal of his own kind. I’d have to thank First Class for introducing him and Charles as two young men caught up in a whirlwind of their respective ambitions. We saw them before in different movies, but never so three-dimensional. It’s almost an injustice, then, that Wolverine is the hero. Next to Charles and Magneto, he is as charismatic as a plank.
Best Moment | I’m torn. There are many awesome moments in this film, like Pietro Maximoff’s one-man army against a kitchen full of armed security guards, and Blink’s powers, which really do deliver some mind-blowing action conundrums.
Worst Moment | The last scene (not the post-credits one). It takes an already confusing plot and confuses it further.