Bryan Singer returns to the franchise he started to give us a new movie combining the slightly future cast and past cast of the X-Men movies to blow us away with the sheer amount of people in this movie. (Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil, X-Men, X-Men 2, House, Superman Returns, Valkyrie, Jack the Giant Slayer, X-Men DOFP, X-Men: Apocalypse).
The X-Men were created in 1963 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics. The comic introduces the idea of ‘Mutants’, and that those who have mutations are subject to anti-mutant feelings and actions by society. Professor Charles Xavier creates a school at his Westchester mansion to train young mutants how to control powers, and how to help mankind. His first group of students become the X-men, a group of heroes dedicated to saving people and proving that humans and mutants could peacefully coexist. The first group of X-men included Cyclops, Iceman, Angel, Beast, and Marvel Girl (Jean Grey). This first round also included the team’s enemy, Magneto both on his own and with his Brotherhood of Mutants, who believed that mutants were superior to humans, and peaceful coexistence was impossible. Because the ‘mutation’ angle could include almost anything as a power, the X-Men comics could go on and on with a unique universe filled with hundreds of interesting characters.
Perhaps the best translation of the comic was the 90s animated series. It started in 1992 and ran through 1997, and brought many of the most popular storylines from the comics to TV, and also introduced some of the most popular characters.
It was inevitable that the X-Men would eventually have their own movie, and in 2000 (after New Line found success with the first Marvel superhero movie, Blade, in 1998), released X-Men, and introduced the world to Australian actor Hugh Jackman. The world would never completely recover – in a good way.
X2, which is widely regarded not just as one of the best sequels of all time, but as one of the best superhero movies of all time, followed in 2003 - the first scene, where Nighcrawler infiltrates the White house, is absolutely incredible.
Both those were directed by fanboy Bryan Singer who is well known for the Usual Suspects (a fantastic movie), Apt Pupil, the House TV show, Valkyrie, Jack the Giant Slayer, and Superman Returns (a terrible movie). In 2006, Brett Ratner stepped in to direct X-Men: The Last Stand, (because Singer was busy with Superman Returns) which had some cool moments, but killed way too many key characters and butchered the beloved Phoenix Saga from the comics.
Jackman was the star of the first three X-Men movies – which is tough to do in a movie so filled with characters, but his charisma was undeniable. Since Wolverine has such a rich comic history, it made sense that he would be the first X-Man to get his own movies. X-Men Origins: Wolverine came out in 2009, and was followed by last year’s better The Wolverine. In between those two, Matthew Vaughn gave us X-Men: First Class, which rebooted the series in the swinging sixties (and didn't really use the 'first class' from the comics) as Professor X and Magneto started Xavier's School for the Gifted and got involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
That brings us up to date, and to X-Men: Days of Future Past. The DOFP storyline first was published in the comics in 1981. In the distant future of 2013, the Sentinels created by Bolivar Trask are terrorizing mutants, capturing and killing them. Fearing an upcoming nuclear holocaust, the few remaining X-Men send Kitty Pryde’s mind back in time to her younger self in 1981 to prevent a pivotal event in history: the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly by Mystique and her Brotherhood. Working with the present-day X-Men, Kitty succeeds in her mission, and is pulled back to her own time.
That’s a great storyline, but the First Class movie cast is set in the 70s, and Ellen Page plays Kitty Pryde, and she hadn’t been born yet. So, according to the execs, they had to use Wolverine – the reality is that Jackman is the star, so yes, let’s use Wolverine. Also his powers allow him to survive the trauma of the blah, blah, blah. You get the idea. Also – Senator Kelly was killed in the first X-Men movie (he sort of turned into an exploding jelly creature thing), so we need a new target. Since Bolivar Trask created the Sentinels, we can use him. So – In this movie, future X-Men, in about 2023, are being hunted and wiped out by Sentinels that are advanced enough to have the power to adapt to whatever mutant they are fighting against. The X-Men are losing this fight over and over again. Essentially, Warpath sees the Sentinels coming. He, Sunspot, Iceman, and Blink fight them off while Kitty sends Bishop back to his past self (about a day ago) to warn the X-Men that the Sentinels are coming, so that they can vacate the area, and never have been there - complicated, but effective.
Professor X and Magneto have teamed up to get Wolverine, he volunteers to go back to his younger self to stop the assassination of Trask by Mystique. He ends up in 1973, finds Charles, who (taking a note from Bale Batman) has been moping around his house, after losing Mystique’s friendship, Erik’s friendship, his legs, and the majority of the students to the Vietnam War draft. He’s been taking a serum that dulls his powers, but allows him to use his legs, and Hank McCoy (Beast) is keeping an eye on him, but also fretting about his sanity. Wolverine doesn’t really stand for all this nonsense, and fairly quickly talks Charles and Hank into helping him with his mission. They set out to get Magneto, who is being kept in a prison under the Pentagon - for a very interesting reason. They get Quicksilver (this just brings up more questions, we can deal with that later), who helps them break Magneto out in one of the coolest sequences in the movie.
Together they go after Mystique, who is pretty determined to kill Trask. Trask meanwhile has just convinced Nixon (yes, Nixon) to put the Sentinel program into place. There’s a bunch more action that cuts back and forth to the future as the Sentinels close in and they try to reason with Mystique. Magneto betrays Wolverine and Charles (spoiler! No – wait, not really a spoiler, he’s a bad guy, why do they continue to trust him?), drops a baseball stadium around the White House and attempts to kill Nixon and Trask when Mystique stops him, demonstrating to everyone that there are good mutants out there, which causes Nixon to stop the Sentinel program, and arrest Trask. Success! Wolverine gets popped back to his future body, which wakes up in the school, which is filled with students on a bright sunny day. He has no memory of the last 50 years, but Charles is ready to fill him in.
It’s slightly confusing, and a bit mixed up, but it makes sense, and it has some great sequences, pulled off by the stellar cast:
- Hugh Jackman is the star of this movie, and he has earned that. Wolverine is a great character that is loved by the audience. He does a great job in this of being alternately confused and angry (really the only two levels Wolverine has – and maybe pining for Jean). Also – he’s naked – hooray for Wolverine butt!
- James McAvoy plays young Charles, and he gets really annoying while he’s moping around his house. He’s basically given up on everything, and while that makes sense in this movie – it’s really frustrating. Suck it up Charles! The world needs you! Stop whining! And get a haircut!
- Michael Fassbender plays young Erik, and a really badass Magneto. He is villainous and perfect, and really pulls off that crazy outfit and helmet.
- As a result of her continued success, and the storyline, a lot of this movie centers around Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique. I really enjoyed her, she’s way more action-packed in this one than the previous First Class. Her anger at the injustice combined with the vengeance she’s sworn make her really interesting, and Lawrence does a great job at making her a sympathetic villain. Also – the blue is a suit this time around, cutting the time in the makeup chair way down, and it looks pretty good. Personally, I still want to see the white dress - but that's because Mystique was one of my favorites on the cartoon.
- Nicholas Hoult (yes, he and Lawrence are still dating in real life), plays young Beast, and doesn’t have a whole lot to do in this movie but look at Charles with concern. He is taking a serum that allows him to go back and forth to his blue form. Also – there’s an awesome cameo from Kelsey Grammer as older Beast (X3 got a lot wrong, but Grammer as Beast was one thing it got right).
- Evan Peters plays Quicksilver. In the comics, he and his twin sister Wanda (Scarlet Witch) are Magneto’s children. In this movie, he is just some random fast guy who points out to Magneto that his mother once knew a guy who could control metal. The two scenes he has are fantastic. He’s great, and those two scenes felt like scenes from a Marvel movie with a great sense of fun while still moving the story forward. It just doesn’t make sense to use that character. You have hundreds of mutants with super-speed as their power, use one of them.
- Peter Dinklage plays Dr. Bolivar Trask. He is singularly focused in getting the Sentinel plan passed, and also very evil in wanting to capture Mystique so that he can examine and experiment on her. Creepy. The Sentinels he introduces in the 70s sequences are cool and look like the ones from the cartoon; the ones in the future look a little more like a T-1000, and are practically unbeatable. Also - I couldn't help but think he might demand a trial by combat at the end.
- Josh Helman plays Major Bill Styker, the man who would eventually be Brian Cox and put the adamantium on Wolverine’s skeleton. In this version, he’s basically Trask’s number one man, and his son is mentioned offhandedly.
- In the future sequences, Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellan continue their legendary bromance as Professor X and Magneto. They basically spend their limited time regretting the hotheads they were in the past. According to Jackman, they rehearsed for Waiting for Godot on set, and the other actors would just watch them.
- Halle Berry plays Storm again – with the best hair she’s had yet in the series. She’s barely in this, but I was happy to see her for the short time she was around. I wouldn’t mind an entire Storm movie.
- Ellen Page returns as Kitty Pryde. I have no idea how Kitty got the time travel power, as traditionally, she is able to phase through solid objects, and not send other people’s consciousness through time, but – hey, whatever. In the comics it was Rachel Summers, and due to X3, Rachel doesn’t exist in the movies (yet?). She has a lot of exposition to do, then spends the rest of the movie holding on to Hugh Jackman’s head.
- Shawn Ashmore is back as Iceman, and we finally get to see him riding ice – which is his traditional method of locomotion. He’s pretty fantastic, and again, not much time onscreen. He seems to be ‘with’ Kitty, until Wolverine sets things right and wakes up at the school, when he appears to be ‘with’ Rogue again, as Anna Paquin gets a cameo. We’ll see how that goes once Channing Tatum shows up as Gambit in the next one. Good Luck, Bobby!
- Daniel Cudmore plays Colossus again, and he’s still really big and silver. In one of the sequences where the X-Men are losing, he gets torn in half – literally. Yikes. Also – in the happy ending at the school he finally seems to be ‘with’ Kitty.
- The rest of the new mutants get very little screen time, but they are all pretty nifty. Omar Sy plays Bishop, Fan Bingbing plays Blink, Adan Canto plays Sunspot, and Booboo Stewart plays Warpath. They get some great action sequences, and I loved Blink’s powers.
Overall, the movie was pretty fun, had a lot going on, and if you weren’t paying attention – it could get confusing. However, if you are paying too much attention, you’ll start questioning some of the holes and continuity errors. When did Wolverine lose his memories and get the adamantium? When did Magneto and Professor officially become friends again? Wasn’t Bill Duke playing Bolivar Trask in X3? How did Professor X get killed and jump bodies to the exact same body? If the Silver Samurai cut off Wolverine’s claws – why aren’t they bone in the beginning of this movie? How will Avengers 2 explain the twins without being able to use the word "Mutant" or "Magneto" because Fox owns those? Just let all that go, and enjoy the ride.
8 out of 10 – I liked it, I didn’t love it. It had some moments I loved, but man, I sure would like Fox to let Disney/Marvel have these characters back so that we could see Wolverine meet up with the Avengers. Gained points for Blink’s powers, lost points for forcing Quicksilver in, but gained points for Quicksilver’s scene. Lost points for decapitating and tearing apart and exploding X-Men and getting away with a PG13 rating. Gained points for Fassbender getting angry on the plane, that was cool. Lost points for McAvoy doing an excellent job, but really spending a lot of time whining and being self-pitying. Lost points for not taking advantage of the final sequence and letting Rebecca Romjin show up as Mystique in the white dress at the school. Gained points for the En Sabah Nur cameo post-credits sequence with the four guys on horseback, but lost points for him being so tiny. He’s young there, he’ll probably get bigger.
Bonus Video 1: Still Bryan Singer's best movie: Usual Suspects:
Bonus Video 2: Some Apocalypse so you can get ready for the next one.
Bonus Video 3: The DOFP SDCC 2013 panel.