One year after The Wolverine, the movie adaptation of Days of Future Past released. By this point, the continuity in the movies was a complete mess. Elements from X-Men: First Class clashed with lines from X2: X-Men United. The timeline was completely out of whack, like how apparently deceased characters showed up again. That’s not even mentioning the atrocity known as X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which among other things, doesn’t even match up with characters’ ages or Wolverine’s experience with Weapon X. There really were only two ways to fix all of this. The first would be to completely reboot the movies. The second one, perhaps the preferable choice in a movie franchise that was improving at the time, would be to adapt a story that could actually make sense of everything.
Directed by Brian Singer of the first two X-Men movies, Days of Future Past served multiple purposes. It brought the cast from the original X-Men trilogy and X-Men First Class together. It helped solve a lot of the massive continuity problems. It set the X-Men movies back on track after years of problems. It completely removed X-Men Origins: Wolverine from continuity, and effectively cancelled out what happened in X-Men: The Last Stand. And best of all, it became what most people would agree is the best X-Men team movie yet. I’m not saying it isn’t without problems, but it’s a much stronger whole than anything we’d seen before.
The movie ended up earning over $747 million, the first movie in the franchise to earn more than The Last Stand’s profit of $459 million, and remains the second highest grossing movie in the franchise. And that was on a $200 million budget, $10 million cheaper to make than The Last Stand. It was also nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards, becoming the first movie in the franchise to earn an Oscar Nomination. It eventually lost to Interstellar, and sure, I would agree with that. I’m not a fan of the movie Interstellar, but it does have brilliant visual effects.
I’ve talked about the basic story of Days of Future Past before in a couple different ways. I reviewed the novel adaptation of the original comic storyline. I reviewed three of the four Years of Future Past issues in the Secret Wars storyline. But to sum it up, Days of Future Past is considered among the best X-Men stories of all-time. It’s split between the present (then the 80’s) and the distant future – a future where sentinels have basically taken over the world, mutants are almost wiped out, and even humans are struggling in the aftermath of a decades long extermination war. In a last ditch attempt to save mutantkind, Kitty Pryde’s mind is sent back into her teenaged body in hopes to alter the course of history, by stopping an assassination from taking place.
The movie is a very faithful adaptation of the original story for a continuity completely different than the comics, even if it makes some drastic changes out of necessity. The time they need to send someone back into, Kitty Pryde isn’t even born yet. Either way, the entire plot revolves around stopping Mystique from killing someone. Instead of removing Kitty from the story completely, they add to her powers the ability to help someone’s mind “phase” through time. As much as I tend to find the changes made in the X-Men movies annoying more often than not, this is one I’m completely ok with. Instead, they sent Wolverine back, because in story, he’s the only one whose mind can survive the trip.
Again, I’m ok with this. Wolverine did have a part to play in the original story as well, in both the present and future. Also unlike X-Men: The Last Stand, Wolverine isn’t really the main focus character here. He’s in the movie a lot, but the main focus remains on a broken Charles Xavier, a wanted Magneto and the lost Mystique. They serve as the movie’s emotional core, with Charles’s journey to hope again, Magneto’s misguided attempts to solve the problem only making things worse, and Mystique coming to terms with the ramifications of her plans.
Despite this movie’s massive cast, it does a great job at remaining focused on these core characters. James McAvoy does an excellent job portraying Charles Xavier as a broken man who’s lost all faith in his abilities, struggling to come to terms with his lot in life. Michael Fassbender continues to prove that he might just be the best possible choice for a young Magneto. He’s charismatic, he’s intimidating when he needs to be, and he often looks like he’s deep in thought, carefully observing all of his surroundings and planning his every move in advance. And it’s always nice to see Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen reprising their respective roles as well.
Among the new cast members, you’ve got Peter Dinklage as Boliver Trask, the man who developed the Sentinels that would one day threaten mutants with extinction. As usual, Dinklage is great in his role. You can feel his excitement when he’s conducting studies to improve on his designs, and he’s a compelling advertiser for his “defensive” weapons. And of course there’s Evan Peters as Quicksilver. Joss Whedon (director of Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron) even admitted that Quicksilver is much more entertaining in this movie than in Age of Ultron. In case you haven’t seen the awesomeness of Quicksilver’s greatest scene in this movie, here’s the clip.
Of the X-Men movies so far, including the solo movies, Days of Future Past also has my favourite soundtrack of the bunch. John Ottman’s score captures the more emotional aspects of the movies quite well, while also giving us some exciting action beats.
Like The Wolverine before it, there are two cuts of Days of Future Past. Unlike The Wolverine, the theatrical cut doesn’t feel like wasted potential. It feels like a complete movie with the general tone, level of violence and the themes that the director intended. The only real difference is that The Rogue Cut adds Rogue into the future scenes, expanding on that side of the story by a couple minutes. I’d say the Rogue Cut is about the same level of quality as the theatrical cut. It’s worth checking out if you like Rogue’s portrayal in the movies, but it’s completely skippable if you don’t really care. But let me repeat – you should track down the Unleashed Extended Cut of The Wolverine – it’s by far the better version.
As good as Days of Future Past is, it’s not completely without problems. For one, it kind of pointlessly changes Beast into The Hulk. Instead of being permanently blue like in the comics, he’s on some sort of medication to keep him human, and if he gets angry, he turns blue and … beasts up? Why was this necessary? And while Halle Berry is a good actress, she’s still nowhere nearly charismatic enough for Storm. Even if the movie does focus on the main characters well, there are a lot of very talented actors who feel like they’re wasted. Even if the movie solves a lot of the franchises continuity problems, it does cause a couple new ones.
The movie never explains how Magneto and Rogue got their powers back after taking a permanent cure in X3. And if the Sentinels were operational as early as the 70’s as shown in this movie, how come they never appear until the far future? But the worst part is, the movie introduces a bunch of new mutants like Blink, Warpath, Bishop and Sunfire in the future scenes, and there’s no indication we’ll ever see them again in the movies. They seem to be sticking with the past at this point.
There’s not too much else to say about this one that hasn’t already been said. It touches on the themes of peace better than any of the other X-Men movies. It’s a surprisingly well focused time travel epic with an ensemble cast, which in the superhero world is only rivalled by the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. At its core, it’s the story of a former leader of a civil rights movement who’s completely lost faith in himself, and yet his people need him more than ever. It’s a story about how our actions can have drastic consequences completely contrary to our intentions. For Wolverine, it’s finding a way to help the man who helped him regain a sense of self. And most importantly, it’s a movie that sets the X-Men movies back on course, fixes a lot of the problems in the franchise, and allowing the movies to move forward without a complete reboot.
How did that turn out? Well … X-Men: Apocalypse didn’t completely ruin it. I’ll give it that much.
Next up is Deadpool, the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time and the movie that has the least to do with the rest of the franchise. That’s followed by X-Men Apocalypse, and finally, Logan.