When the first X- Men movie was released back in 2000 it heralded the start of the movie age for Marvel. Yes Blade had come first but it was X-Men that really got audiences wanting to see Marvel’s best and brightest on screen. Now 14 years later the series has come full circle with Days of Future Past, a movie that seeks to unite the best aspects of First Class (Xavier, Magneto and Mystique) with the most bankable aspect of the rest of the series (Wolverine). While the result is a lot of fun, and easily the best X-Men film since the second entry in the series, it unfortunately shows just how little progress the franchise has made as a whole.
The film begins in the future. You can tell it’s the future because daylight has gone on permanent vacation and the people that were kids in the original X men franchise have grown beards. If you’re a mutant then things look bad, because the Sentinels (a bunch of giant mutant hunting robots that look like a cross between the T-1000 and the Destroyer from Thor) are wiping out mutant kind and putting any survivors in containment camps that looks like a branch of Cyberdog. Thankfully the X-Men of the future, from the first franchise, convince Kitty Pryde to use her time travel powers to send Logan back to 1973 to recruit the X-Men of the past, from the second franchise, and stop the Future War from happening by preventing Katniss Everdeen from shooting Tyrion Lannister, or something like that anyway.
Sounds like it could get confusing doesnt it? Well no actually. There was every possibility that dealing with two different versions of the same franchise in one movie could have led to the plot becoming incredibly convoluted. Instead DOFP uses the 1970′s setting as an excuse to let its hair down and have a groovy old time. Granted the film has a lot of plates to spin and while a number of characters from both franchises get reduced to nothing more than background appearances, the movie still has a lot of fun with the characters that are there. For example Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart as future Magneto and Xavier don’t really get a lot to do except talk wistfully about how different they were back in the day. Michael Fassbender and James Mcavoy as 1970′s Magneto and Xavier however form the emotional core of this film and it is when both characters share the screen that this movie really plays to its strengths. A particularly turbulent argument on a plane provides one of the films key emotional points while Xavier’s on the nose greeting, upon meeting Magneto for the first time in 10 years, got a well deserved laugh from the audience.
Mystique also gets a much bigger role this time around, with Jennifer Lawrence having more on screen time out of make up than she did before because Lawrence is now a truly bankable star and also because, as one sequence in Paris proves, humans in the 1970′s were utterly terrified of blue people. Peter Dinklage also turns up to play Bolivar Trask, much shorter and much whiter than the last time we saw him in X3, but also much better as well. It is a credit to Dinklage that while his character isn’t ever really explored his performance is still one of the more memorable ones. The absolute star of this movie though is Quicksilver. Evan Peter’s performance as the Silver Speedster is fantastic and no doubt will inspire a thousand cosplays between now and this time next year. What’s more the character’s one major setpiece is easily the highlight in a movie that has a number of outstanding setpieces. It is a shame then that Quicksilver’s appearance, like many others, is all too fleeting.
Fair warning now; it is impossible to discuss some of the more problematic aspects of this film without going into spoiler territory. If you haven’t seen it then go see it, you’ll enjoy it and come back here after. It’s a great movie really, but from this point I need to talk about the plot to make my point so consider yourself warned…
While DOFP is a lot of fun, the fun only lasts long enough to distract you through the post credit sting and out the door before you start to question certain aspects of the plot. Like, for example, the fact that Wolverine is sent back into the past by a psychic link with himself. The film goes to great lengths to explain why Wolverine is the only person that can go back but it never explains how Kitty Pryde, the character that sends him back, can actually do so. For one Kitty has never displayed having such an ability in either the movie’s or comics and the film doesn’t bother to explain why she can do it now. This might not seem like much but when your entire film rests on the premise of sending someone back through time offering up “just because” as a reason only emphasises that this is a plot hole large enough and black enough to suck in the RFK Memorial stadium and most of the Sentinels.
What’s more, this is yet another X-Men film about Wolverine. Look, I really like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and I cannot imagine another actor playing the role but the title here is X-Men, as in plural. The novelty of Logan playing the mentor to Xavier’s unruly drunkard makes for an an interesting switch this time around but please please PLEASE can we have someone else be the central focus for the next movie? It can be Jubilee, Leech, Dazzler, or any old random Mutant… Like Random for example. Christ I’d even watch two hours of Cyclops at this point, just somebody, anybody, that isn’t Wolverine. This is the 7th X-Movie and he’s been the main character in 6 of them now. I’m bored to the back teeth of every film revolving around Logan, and it’s this that leads to my biggest gripe with the movie overall. When all is said and done DOFP resets the franchise to pretty much where the first film ended, literally bringing it full circle. I wouldn’t mind so much, I mean I’ve always wanted to pretend X-3 never happened and now it technically hasn’t. The problem is it makes it all to evident that in the 14 years they’ve been making X films the series hasn’t actually progressed anywhere in terms of plot or character development. So DOFP, instead of being the franchise’s giant step forwards ends up feeling more like a step back. Don’t get me wrong this film is a great start to 2014′s summer Blockbuster slate, but it also highlights how much the X movies have stagnated as a whole. While I’m looking as forward to X-Men: Apocalypse as the next person I just hope that it actually does something with the X-Men the way we thought the first movie would all those years ago.