May 31, 2014 by Hope W.
To say that X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of my most highly-anticipated movies of this year is an understatement — it is the one I would have picked if I could only watch one movie this summer. It has the biggest cast of famous names lumped into a summer blockbuster ever, five of whom are my favourite actors; combines both older and newer generation X-Men in one epic blockbuster; and is helmed by Bryan Singer, who directed the first and best two X-Men films. So my expectations for it were sky high, and I mean SKY HIGH.
Naturally, it was bound to be unable to live up to them totally.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie. It’s tempting to compare it to The Avengers, but unlike the joyride of that other huge superhero team-up, Days of Future Past is a very emotional, high-stakes film — and therefore a completely different vehicle altogether; anchored by solid performances all around, even people I wasn’t expecting it from.
Evan Peters’ Quicksilver is undoubtedly the highlight of the movie — I laughed till I teared at the prison breakout scene, and his cheek in speaking to Erik/Magneto like he was dumb. (“Whip. Laaaash.”) I had been prejudiced against him from the start, because 20th Century Fox announced they were casting Quicksilver in Days of Future Past only days after news broke that Joss Whedon was planning to have Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron. They were already in the midst of filming Days of Future Past, so it felt like he was a last-minute addition by the studio to retaliate against Marvel’s move; and I dislike retaliatory gestures in the movie business (or anywhere actually). It didn’t help that Quicksilver has the most horrible hair out of all the X-Men, which has the unsettling effect of making him look both old and young. To have him change my mind in a 180-degree turnabout was a delightful surprise. Now it’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson who will have to step up his game to portray him in Age of Ultron.
The future scenes with all the newer mutants fighting the Sentinels surpassed my expectations too — I actually liked them more than the “past” scenes, when I thought it would be the other way round, considering my all-encompassing love for James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. I expected them to focus more on the First Class cast, since they will be carrying the movies from now onwards, but they actually struck a pretty good balance, though the editing could be improved on — after the establishing scenes in the beginning, they don’t show the future again until the confrontation with Mystique in Paris, nearly an hour later, and by then, I had forgotten that there were still scenes in the “future” to come. (Not sure why people on the Internet are saying that poor Storm barely had any screen time — I thought she had a fair amount, same as all the other new mutants, which gave her enough time to show off her powers before she died. I mean, everybody died in that future. She just did so a little bit earlier.) Blink had the coolest powers, which was another pleasant revelation — I had assumed that she was there as the token Chinese character to boost audiences in China, like Wang Xueqi’s 10-second appearance in Iron Man 3. (Not Marvel’s finest moment.)
Above all, I rediscovered how much I adore Sir Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as older Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr. They were my favourite in the older movies, and they are my favourite in this movie too, because they weren’t just “frenemies” — their friendship ran so deep it took on an almost lovers dynamic, one that was further encapsulated by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in X-Men: First Class. I loved them here for being older and wiser in the face of annihilation, especially when Magneto was dying and he acknowledged to Professor X that their enmity in the past was a waste: “All those years wasted fighting each other, Charles.” And then the both of them clasped their hands in a sign that all is forgiven.
So it hurt every time Erik betrayed Charles, whether it was abandoning him in the underground fake Cerebro and manipulating him into almost killing all the humans in X-Men 2, once they had saved the mutants; or abandoning him on the beach in Cuba after accidentally paralysing him in First Class; or everything that Erik did in this movie, basically.
Which is the crux of why I didn’t flat out LOVE Days of Future Past, the way I thought I would — because I had so many problems with what they did with younger Erik. They made him into a full-on supervillain, and I mean RUTHLESS, STONE-COLD BASTARD in this movie. Erik, Charles, Logan and Hank were supposed to save Raven/Mystique and stop her from killing Bolivar Trask to prevent the events of the future, but when they found her, Erik took one look at her, and the first thing that came to mind was killing her to stop the future. THE FIRST THING. He wasn’t even halfhearted about it, or regretful; he went after her with full intent to kill — I won’t forget Raven’s shock when she realises what he’s doing and begs him not to do it. He seems to have lost his humanity somewhere along the way and forgotten all the feelings he ever had for this young girl who left her adopted brother — his former best friend — to become his loyal follower. Not to mention the hints that they were probably lovers too.
In X-Men: First Class, you understand why he kills the enemy, his childhood tormentor and mother’s murderer, despite Charles telling him to be the better man; and then tries to kill the humans for being ungrateful asses despite the mutants helping to avert the Cuban Missile Crisis. In this movie, he actively turns against the mutants, his own species, and the people he loves (or used to love anyway), in order to prevent an apocalyptic future where mutants are hunted down and rendered almost extinct by the Sentinels. Does not compute. It gave me chills when he set the Sentinels on Hank/Beast and Logan/Wolverine when they tried to stop his insane plan of killing the President and other government officials on live TV, and ordered them: “Do what you were made for.”
I have read opinions from fans who say that Michael Fassbender’s Magneto was so sympathetic that they forgot he was a villain until he mentioned it. I disagree. I feel his pain and loss, living with the knowledge that his followers were experimented on and killed by Trask, but his actions were unforgivable here. The emotional heart of the film is as much about Erik’s betrayal of Charles and Raven as it is of Charles finding hope again and reconnecting with Raven.
Also, their quest felt rather futile, because Wolverine went back to change the past, to stop Mystique from killing Trask and making a spectacle, but in the end she still made a spectacle anyway, and they still got her blood. It’s the stone in the river effect that Beast talked about in the movie, and an effective plot device to draw out tension for as long as possible, but it does also make all their actions, prior to the most important decision Mystique ever makes in her life, feel useless, because only at the *very last second* then did the future change. (It also makes me wonder what would have happened if she took one more minute to decide not to kill Trask.)
After that though, the ending was perfect. When Logan wakes up again in the future, walks through the mansion and sees everyone in the first trilogy alive and well (including CYCLOPS AND JEAN GREY. NOBODY DIED AND EVERYBODY IS HAPPY IN THIS TIMELINE), Hans Zimmer’s gorgeous score from Inception plays in my head, because it reminds me so much of the ending of that movie — possibly my favourite movie ending of all time — with Cobb finding himself back in the real world, seeing all his team members again, and everything is happy and nothing hurts. (I believe he woke up.) And because it was Raven who rescues Logan from the water, Stryker didn’t get his hands on him either, so Logan doesn’t undergo the Weapon X programme.
So all in all, I’m satisfied. Except about Erik. But everything else is just minor quibbles. (Including the fact that the Sentinels’ powers are actually more like Darwin’s than Mystique’s. In X-Men: First Class, there was a mutant named Darwin whose power was adapting to protect himself against all types of attacks. Mystique can change, but she can’t adapt to the other mutants’ powers. But they killed him off, and that actor wasn’t a huge star like Jennifer Lawrence, so they used Mystique as the key to unlocking the Sentinel’s powers. Just saying.)