X-Men: Days of Future Past
by Charles Lewis III
Is it just me or does it seem like the proper X-Men films are attempting an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-style memory extraction of its weaker entries? Not that anyone would blame them, I’d gladly strap a metal device to my head if it meant I could forget Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand and both Wolverine solo outings. But if you’re going to try to wipe clean your biggest flaws, you’d better replace them with something worthwhile. The latest film not only pulls that off, it makes that the central premise of its story.
In a post-apocalyptic future, mutants are hunted to the brink of extinction by giant killer robots known as Sentinels. In one last desperate attempt to save themselves, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has his consciousness sent back into his own younger body circa 1973. He has to track down a younger, disenfranchised Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) in order to stop Xavier’s foster sister, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), from carrying out an assassination that leads to the dark future. In order to do this, Wolverine and Xavier will need the assistance of Xavier’s friend-turned-enemy Magneto (Michael Fassbender). With time running out in both the past and the future, the X-Men acknowledge that their greatest fear is that the future can’t be changed, no matter how hard you try.
With sexual assault charges bearing down on him, Bryan Singer might soon find himself in similar company as Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, with his personal life overshadowing whatever great work they’ve done. But while those issue play out, he has at least made a triumphant return to the film franchise he started. Like the Singer-produced X-Men: First Class, this one isn’t afraid to blatantly contradict the previous films for the sake of telling an entertaining story. And this time they can just fall on the excuse of time-travel and alternate timelines without any apology. Hey, it worked for the new Star Trek films, didn’t it?
Comic book fans will, as they often do, nitpick the changes to one of the defining stories of the X-Men’s nearly 50-year history. Nearly all the films have made the mistake of putting Wolverine front-and-center of the story. The only one that didn’t, First Class, still felt the need to throw in a Wolverine cameo just acknowledge it was the same franchise. Still, as a character who is practically ageless (though Hugh Jackman is not), making him the time-traveller makes sense.
What made X-Men: First Class so appealing was that it returned the films to their comic roots: the conflict of the quasi-pacifist Xavier and the extremist Magneto, with Mystique embodying the struggle to choose between them. That struggle is still at the heart of Days of Future Past, coupled with the idea that we can and should always try to improve ourselves for the sake of the future. Add in the funniest use of “Time in a Bottle” since The Muppet Show and you’ve got a fun flick on your hands.
Rating: **** (Four)