At a glance, X-Men: Days of Future Past, is a fast paced and thrilling superhero movie but sitting through the end credits, which goes on for donkey years, waiting for the now mandatory Marvel post credit teaser, I had some time to mull over what I had just seen and I must say depth wise, the film was a little underwhelming. Days of Future Past is a good film but it has nothing on its predecessor or the best film in the series, X2.
The film starts in the dystopian mutant hell of a future which sees Charles “Professor X” Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Erik “Magneto” Lehnsherr (Ian Mckellen) conspire to save mutants and essentially the world from relentless and brutal shape-shifting Sentinels. To prevent this hellish timeline from coming to fruition, the mutants send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 to stop Raven “Mystique” Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence) from murdering the Sentinels’ creator, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) and in the process, Logan is forced to motivate and re-unite younger versions of Raven, Xavier (James Makavoy), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). It is basically Back to the Future: X-Men edition.
The film is primarily plot driven and is moving at top speed, almost like the Star Trek sequel but over there we had a sense of what was at stake and a solid platform for the characters from the previous film. We do not get the same sense here. The story sprints on without giving us that sense of high stakes of the situation. I only really feared for the fate of mutants when being shown the horrors of the desolate future. We don’t see enough of the future and characters like Bishop (Omar Sy) are underused, hell, Stewart and Mckellen and, early on Ellen Page as Kitty Pride only really serve as expository plot devices.
That said the thespian orgy on show pulls its weight. Jackman is pulling his best motivational Obi-Wan impression though that gets old quickly. Mcavoy sells his portrayal of Xavier battling his insecurities with the pressure of reality and purpose. Fassbender brings his charisma and malevolent aura amidst his bizarre involvement in the Kennedy assassination and his splendid costume with the asymmetrical cape and of course I have nothing but love for Peter Dinklage as Trask. He delivers his lines polished precision and doesn’t come off as a caricatured villain but again like the other central characters, there is no sense of their motivations, their pain and their drive.
Trask has it in for mutants but aside a reference to the events in Cuba some years earlier we are never really shown why. The intense triangle between Xavier, Magneto and Mystique is barely dealt with and it tried to dabble in some philosophical questions about the impact of the butterfly effect and some subtle commentary on bigotry and human nature. It always felt like there should have been a film before this one because so much seems to have happened with the characters which are just brushed through Basil Exposition style.
Ultimately for me, the biggest problem was the creative deficit. I have read my fair share of comic books and have seen the animated series with almost the same plot but Singer offers nothing new here. Days of Future Past just follows characters that travel in time to prevent a future apocalypse, nothing more, nothing less. Someone touched on how visually and tonally indistinct most marvel films and thinking about it, its kind spot on.
Still for those watching just the surface, Days of Future Past is great fun popcorn movie. The ensemble cast doesn’t really have enough time in the sun which leaves you desiring more and I for one would not have minded an extra half hour. Singer is still clearly in control and keeps the characters in check which is always a plus for his X-Men movies. He delivers well-paced and dazzling set pieces like Magneto’s prison break where I must say Quicksilver/Peter Markoff steals almost every second like in that brilliant bullet time sequence in the Pentagon Kitchen. The film also offers some cheeky gags around Wolverine who is here without his adamantium esko-skeleton and we can’t help but chuckle as we see him softly pass through a metal detector with sigh of relief.
In the end, storytelling has such thrust that you don’t have time to realize that the story strangely lacks some urgency for the things at stake. The folks at the Silverbird theatre sure enjoyed it and it was the most packed screening I had ever been to, full to the brim. The sight of the a young En Sabur Nur with the Four Horsemen looking on in the post credit indeed has me looking and drooling for the Age of the Apocalypse time line where surely the X-Men will meet the greatest adversary yet.