X-Men: Days of Future Past

Posted on May 28, 2014 by

3


Too many films are burdened with poor titles. Even typing X-Men: Days of Future Past contracts my authorial stomach, bringing bile to my pen’s tip. I am not going to pretend that my prose is always polished, or that my phrases are framed with poetic elegance, but I try to respect punctuation and syntax. I beseech you, Hollywood–will you hire someone to name your movies? If idiotic names were crimes, and in a particular way they are, surely the Star Wars films are the genocides of the genre. Star Wars: Episode III–The Revenge of the Sith. Yes, my case is rested.

This film’s title, we can all agree, is an affront to good taste. The film? Well, that is a different matter altogether.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is stellar, and not just as a comic book film. The X-Men features are about how the different exist in a world that vacillates between misunderstanding them and desiring to kill them. The franchise is an ode to the misfit and, in this way, it is universally appealing.

Several things stand out about this film. There is a plot and it does not involve merely explosions, lasers, and computer generated imagery. We first meet our mutants as they are hunted by an unyielding enemy, one that counters every move, and adapts flawlessly, even to the mutants’ unique skills. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) are leading a resistance that is running out of options. The Sentinels, their faceless enemies, were originally designed to protect the world from the rising mutant threat. In the process, the Sentinels have reconstructed the planet to mimic their own robotic and soulless images. The remaining mutants decide to use Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) power to manipulate time to send one of their own back to untangle a particularly fateful set of circumstances that made the Sentinels possible.

Wolverine’s consciousness (Hugh Jackman) is sent packing to the 70s where the sideburns are long and the tempers short. He finds Xavier (James McAvoy)  and Magneto’s (Michael Fassbender) younger, feuding selves. He must convince them of what has happened in the future and of what they must do now to alleviate the threat. To say more would, I fear, spoil the experience. The generalities are as fun as the particulars, but suffice it to say the plot is intricate for a popcorn film.

The crucial elements of entertainment are present and well-executed. There are moments of levity blended with scenes of dramatic tension and unflagging action. In spite of these transitions, the tone remains balanced. Some scenes are remarkable for a variety of reasons, but the most memorable involves Quicksilver’s (Evan Peters) speed as shown from his perspective. It is funny, seamless, and impressive. In fact, I want to see the film again, mostly for that scene.

The film’s theme, just like Captain America’s most recent entry, is about the tradeoff between freedom and security. Unlike the Winter Soldier, X-Men is about refraining from government power to suppress those who are different enough to be perceived as a threat. It is about the impropriety of force to alleviate our discomfort unless there is evidence to suggest harm. The political themes are obvious, but not necessarily specific. Depending on the context, the film could be a retrospective about civil rights for African Americans, the evils of criminal profiling, or even an argument for homosexual rights. Regardless of the political subtext, the text is about how we all, at times, feel different. What makes us different, whatever that might be, is what both separates us and strengthens us, just like the mutations that define the X-Men.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a fine, entertaining film. It is never profound, though it never pretends to reach such heights. I recommend it heartily.

Final Grade: 3/3 eggheads

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Posted in: Movie Review