Saturday, May 24, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) - Recap and Review

Michael Fassbender as Magneto Erik Lehnsherr in X Men Days of Future Past

This post discusses the movie in detail. Readers who wish to avoid plot spoilers are recommended to skip the rest of the post.

The movie opens in a futuristic world, where mutants and the humans who support them are systemically eliminated by mutant hunting robots called Sentinels. Most of the mutants have been captured/killed.

We get a measure of the Sentinel's effectiveness when they attack a bunch of mutants. Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Blink (Bingbing Fan), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Bishop (Omar Sy) are no match for their nemeses. The sentinels adapt quickly to their opponent's powers and easily subdue them.

As Kitty explains to Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry), her ability to transport a fellow mutant's consciousness back in time helps avoid these attacks.

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Professor Xavier decides that the only way to prevent this grim future is to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Dr Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage), the scientist who developed Sentinels. This 1973 incident sparked the outrage against mutants. Mystique is captured shortly thereafter and her unique shapeshifting abilities are used to make the Sentinels a highly adaptable and undefeatable mutant killers.

Wolverine volunteers to be the time traveler due to his healing abilities. Wolverine enlists the help of the younger versions of Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectively.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto play Chess in X Men Days of Future Past

The younger Charles has since lost his way after the incidents in X-Men: First Class. Hank McAvoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) has devised a solution that helps Charles walk, but in return suppresses his mutant powers.

Magneto is being held in a prison stronghold under the Pentagon, after being implicated in JFK's assassination. Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff (Evan Peters) helps release Magneto in a dazzling rescue mission.

The rest of the movie deals with the group's attempts to stop Mystique from her single-minded mission to kill Trask. The climax alternates between the aforementioned event in 1973 and the future, where the Sentinels have tracked down the mutants.

X Men Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer with Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier

Bryan Singer returns to the comic book franchise, he started way back in 2000. He has always focussed on the analogy between X-Men and the persecuted sections of human society. This time, he also highlights the fact that we are what we make of ourselves. Our lives are dictated by the choices we make.

As finely executed the action scenes are and the humor is enjoyable, this crucial message is the best aspect of X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Another enjoyable aspect is the number of nods to the previous movies (X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class). It is quite understandable that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was completely ignored.

Sentinels are the mutant hunting robots designed and developed by Boliver Trask Industries in X Men Days of Future Past

The movie has a large ensemble cast (even by the usual Bryan Singer's X-Men movie standards).

To Singer's credit, he does an excellent job. Each character and actor gets their fair share of the limelight. Obviously, not all of them get the same amount of screentime. Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore as well as the newly introduced set of mutants are more like extended cameos.

I liked the teamwork between Storm and Ian McKellen's Magneto in the climax. It was a rare collaboration and an epic one at that.

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine Logan in X Men Days of Future Past

Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence get a lion's share of the screen time. Hugh Jackman provides most of the humor through his one-liners. His work as Logan in this movie is a return to form, as seen in the first two X-Men movies (also directed by Singer, no coincidence I am sure).

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique Raven Darkholme in X Men Days of Future Past

Jennifer Lawrence is adequate as Mystique. I personally prefer the Rebecca Romijn version. Rebecca made Mystique the classic femme fatale and a genuine menace. Jennifer does not have the same impact in her performance.

James McAvoy gives a poignant turn as the mentally tortured Charles Xavier. Like the previous movie, he has the more underplayed role (compared to Fassbender's Magneto) and he continues to make a great Prof X.

Equally good but criminally underused is Evan Peters as Quicksilver. As noted in other reviews, his rescue of Magneto is quite possibly the best scene in the movie - superbly conceptualized and executed. Evan's performance is amusing and hilarious. It is a shame that he is written off so quickly. Hope we will see more of him in the upcoming sequel: X-Men: Apocalypse.

Michael Fassbender as Magneto Erik Lehnsherr in X Men Days of Future Past

All said and done, the movie belongs to Michael Fassbender (at least in my humble opinion). He is magnificent as Magneto and takes the movie to a whole different class (no pun intended) by his sheer presence.

Fassbender's Magneto goes berserk in the climax and this will be a feast for any fan of the Master of Magnetism.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Peter Dinklage's portrayal of the movie's main antagonist, Dr. Boliver Trask. The movie does not present a clear explanation for Trask's drive to develop the Sentinels to get rid of mutants.

Peter Dinklage and Josh Helman as Dr Boliver Trask and William Stryker in X Men Days of Future Past

In X2: X-Men United, William Stryker had similar ambitions, but at least Brian Cox managed to leave an impression in the role. Interestingly, a younger version of William Stryker is played by Josh Helman in this movie. He is kind of a right hand man to Dinklage's Trask and is equally lifeless in the role, just maintaining a smug/angry expression throughout.

There are also cameos by James Marsden (Cyclops), Famke Janssen (Jean Grey), Kelsey Grammer (Beast) and Anna Paquin (Rogue) in the closing scene, as Wolverine wakes up in the X-Mansion.

The latest X-Men movie shares its name with the 1981 storyline, written by Chris Claremont and John Bryne. There are significant differences between the two. In the original story, Kitty Pryde travels back in time to stop the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly (played by Bruce Davison in the 2000 movie X-Men) by Mystique and her Brotherhood of Mutants. In the movie, Wolverine is sent back by Kitty to stop Mystique from killing Dr Boliver Trask.

Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen as younger and older Magneto Erik Lehnsherr in X Men Days of Future Past

Though the movie gets chatty and slows down considerably at some points, the climax and Fassbender's performance make up for these lapses.

Highly recommended for fans of Michael Fassbender/Magneto.

PS: Do not miss the post credits teaser for the sequel: X-Men: Apocalypse. The scene shows a group of people chanting “En Sabah Nur” and worshipping a hooded figure as he assembles a huge pyramid using the powers of telekinesis. The mysterious figure is revealed to be a grey skinned young man. Also seen in the background are the four Horsemen of Apocalypse.

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Image Sources: Bad Hat Harry Productions, Marvel Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Dune Entertainment


  1. I saw it today and enjoyed it a lot but found it a bit too crammed (not just with mutants but with plots). I love Fassbender but felt the movie would have worked without Magneto. Loved Jackman doing a convincing Clint Eastwood 1970s turn and McAvoy was brilliant as the heart of the film. As for Quicksilver, Den of Geek has a funny article which looks at the film and asks why they didn't the guy who can stop bullets to Paris to stop someone shooting someone!! My review is in the usual place!

    1. Just read your review and the Den of Geek article.

      Yes, it would have been a good idea NOT to free Magneto from his prison. Wolverine and Quicksilver could have easily stopped the assassination, with some help from Prof X.

      My main motivation to see this movie was to see Fassbender's Magneto. So I have no complaints :)


  2. I liked the movie, I just didn't like how it rewrote the timeline/continuity at the end. I know the continuity was already a bit dodgy after Origins and First Class, but I could sort of overlook them/had found interesting theories/just assumed they were just quietly forgetting X-Men Origins: Wolverine ever happened much to the joy of the general audience (though personally I find it to be a guilty pleasure). Anyway, the whole mass retcon kinda confuses me, honestly. In a "wait, what has/hasn't happened? What's canon?" way. Plus, Xaiver suddenly being alive in the bad future (unless that was explained somewhere and I just missed it...)

    Though, yes, I agree that Quicksilver was the best thing in the movie (and the line about "Hey, my mom knew a guy who could [control metal]!" made my inner fangirl squee at the reference.) I wish he'd shown up more, too. Even just a blur at the end in the school. The "other" Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron has a tough act to follow.

    It's still an enjoyable movie, just the part of me that obsesses about continuity has sort of thrown its hands up in the air and stopped making sense of the timeline anymore.

    1. I too loved that Magneto reference by Quicksilver. I am not sure about Aaron Johnson's version. He is quite a bland actor. But I am sure Whedon knows what he is doing...

      I am not that bothered about the continuity lapses. I am more of a DC Comics guy :)