Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman
Director: Bryan Singer
Screenplay: Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman
Action/Adventure/Fantasy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 131 minutes
Release Date: May 23, 2014
Professor X/Magneto: Duo, P-N Moral, Pro (Divergent Buddy Heroes)
X-Men: Ensemble, P-P Moral, Pro (Untransformed Episodic Heroes)
Trask: Single, N-N Moral, Ant (Mastermind Untransformed Villain)
Well, the days are past when we can see X-Men: Days of Future Past.
I predict that in the immediate future, we’ll review this movie. Let’s begin.
Our story begins in the not-too-distant future where robots with amazing morphing capabilities (Sentinels) are hunting the X-Men to extinction. Young Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) is able to send messages into the past by mind-melding with another X-Man. She is visited by Professor X, Magneto, and Wolverine (Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman) who want her to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to 1973 where he must convince young Charles Xavier and Max Eisenhardt (Professor X and Magneto) to team up and change the dystopian future that awaits them if they cannot prevent mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the inventor of the Sentinels, Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).
Wolverine goes back to 1973 and convinces a young, broken Xavier to stop Mystique from killing Trask. Wolverine enlists the aid of Quicksilver (Evan Peters), whose super-speed enables them to free Magneto from a prison cell beneath the Pentagon in Washington. In Paris, where American and Vietnamese representatives are negotiating the end of the war, Mystique attempts to assassinate Trask but her plan is thwarted. Magneto decides that killing Mystique is the only way to foil her plan, complicating Wolverine and Xavier’s mission. When President Nixon approves the Sentinel program, all hell breaks loose as the X-Men try to stop Mystique while battling Trask, the Sentinels, and Magneto himself.
Scott, Marvel does it again. This is a story full of action, suspense, and thrills. Nobody creates a complete story the way Marvel studios does. There are at least a dozen stars, although the story centers around Wolverine and the young Charles and Magneto. There isn’t a wasted moment both in terms of the plot or in the on-screen action. This is a complete win in terms of both story and special effects.
There are plenty of heroes to choose from here. In the future, all of the remaining X-Men are battling to save their world. In the past, Charles is the one with the most transforming to undergo. And undergo it he does. We see him start out as a beaten man, taking drugs to make his legs work, which also dulls his mental powers. Wolverine is all action and no growth (which is the mold he filled in last year’s The Wolverine). And we look for growth in Max/Magneto but he falls into his old patterns and devolves into a villain again.
You nailed it, Greg. Marvel is on a roll this summer with yet another rich, dense, and ambitious story of super-heroism and super-villainy. Like Spider-Man 2, which we reviewed recently, X-Men: Days of Future Past has many characters, but not too many; it has a complicated plot, but not too complicated; and it conveys messages about life and virtue that resonate with us all. Almost without exception, the characters in this movie attract and maintain our interest. They show depth and nuance, and they behave in surprising ways. They also delight us with their quirky, memorable inner qualities and behavior.
We have an ensemble hero cast, with Wolverine and Professor Xavier serving as the main hero duo within the ensemble. In any good story, the hero undergoes a transformation, and as you note, Greg, Wolverine doesn’t change much in this movie. But Xavier is radically transformed. During the flashback to 1973, Xavier is a lost soul, bitter about the toll that the Vietnam War has taken on his school and also resentful about having to choose between the loss of his legs or the loss of his mental powers. With help from Wolverine, Xavier grows to see beyond his disability, deciding to sacrifice the use of his legs so that he can access his superior mental abilities which will help defeat Trask and the Sentinels.
There are villains a-plenty here as well. Mystique walks the line as she stalks Trask with murder on her mind. But she’s stopped at the last minute. We get to the end of the story and she appears to turn to the side of good, but it is a bit ambiguous where she goes from there.
We see the familiar “brother” pattern that we saw in Spider-Man 2 – two close friends start out with a common cause but are separated by ideology by the end of the story. Xavier and Magneto work together at first, but Magneto ultimately returns to his diabolical ways. He’s certain that the only way forward is a war between mutants and humans, and as a result, he becomes the opposition force in the end. Then there’s the overlord villain in the form of Trask. This villain is bent on the destruction of anyone who doesn’t fit his idea of “pure” and will do whatever it takes to kill off every mutant. His lack of selflessness and caring make him the typical evil villain.
For me, the primary villain here is Trask. He’s an interesting villain in that his motives aren’t entirely evil. Trast genuinely wants to protect the world but he overestimates the threat that the mutants pose and cannot entertain the possibility of living in a world where mutants and non-mutants can co-exist. This is a common shortcoming of villains. They see divisions between people, and often exaggerate those divisions, whereas heroes seek cooperative unity between people.
One other note about Trask – he is a dwarf, which in a way is an unfortunate choice as it suggests that villainy and physical deviance are somehow connected. But it’s also not uncommon in fables and mythic tales for villains to be physically different from the norm. If nothing else, Marvel makes movies that resonate with ancient storytelling. The Sentinels are a formidable foe, showing an invincibility against the X-Men’s powers. Again, this movie invokes a common pattern in storytelling by showing us a main villain, Trask, who enlists the aid of a monolithic herd of henchmen, and in this case they are diabolical, technologically sophisticated instruments of evil.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself at X-Men: Days of Future Past. The story was well-told (although a bit thin in places) and there weren’t too many plot holes. The special effects were seamless and abundant, but always in support of the story. The characters were rich and colorful – literally. I really can’t find fault with any aspect of the presentation and so I award the film 5 out of 5 Reels.
The heroes were many and varied. There were the war-weary heroes of the future and the innocent verging on naive heroes of the past. While Wolverine doesn’t grow much, it is Charles Xavier who overcomes his inner demons and shows us a transformation worth the price of admission. I give them all 4 out of 5 Heroes.
In classic Marvel fashion, the villains were as potent as the heroes. This gives our heroes something to work against. The powerful Trask and his high-tech Sentinels were an oppressive force to be reckoned with. And Magneto started out as an ally kept true to his wicked self and turned into the villain he needs to be for the X-Men universe to maintain some sense of conflict and tension. I give them 4 out of 5 Villains.
Once again, Marvel constructs a movie that is deliciously meaty and doesn’t insult its audience’s intelligence at all. Anyone who enjoys superhero movies should thoroughly enjoy X-Men: Days of Future Past. Besides delighting us with great characters and a juicy plot, the movie gives us several thoughtful take-home messages, the main one focusing on the role of adversity in shaping our destiny and character. This wisdom is far from original but it is used effectively to help young Xavier transform himself. This film is a terrific two-hours spent in the theater, and I award it 4 Reels out of 5.
As I’ve noted, the hero duo of Wolverine and Xavier truly shines, as we not only witness the transformation of Xavier but also the transformation of their friendship. All of these characters are complex, including those of a couple of the X-Men (Magneto and Mystique) who defy simple categorization of good or evil. This ensemble is impressive and the duo within it shines. I’m happy to award them all 4 out of 5 Heroes.
You’re right on target about the villains, Greg. Trask, the Sentinels, Magneto, and Mystique are all either fully villainous or show streaks of villainy. Another oppositional force that Xavier must contend with is his own inner demons. The Marvel universe works so well on so many levels, including the interpersonal and intrapersonal levels. The villains here are all great fun and make us think, too, which is great praise for any movie. I give them 4 out of 5 Villains.