Sometimes We All Need A Little Help – X-Men: Days Of Future Past

25 10 2015

X-Men: Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox - 2014)

The subject of time travel in the movies is a difficult one to work around. Due to the level of Sci-fi fans out there, if you get it wrong, you’re doomed. The issue with time travel though for the most part is changing the future, a subject that has been used time and again. But what if changing the future for the better was possible; what if you could change the lives of many by one quick trip into the past; would you do it?

Released in 2014 by 20th Century Fox, produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Directed by a returning Bryan Singer; X-Men: Days of Future Past (or DoFP if you want) is the seventh and most recent film in the X-Men film series. Based on the Days of Future Past storyline from the early 80’s; the film sees the return of both the main cast from X-Men: First Class as well as the cast from the original trilogy, as both have to work together in separate timelines in an effort to change the world from its current grim reality.

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In the future, the world the X-Men inhabit is a broken world. Giant robots called Sentinels patrol seeking, capturing and eliminating mutants and anyone else who dares help them. A band of mutants including Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Bishop (Omar Sy), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Blink (Bingbing Fan) and Sunspot (Adan Canto) continually evade capture from the Sentinels thanks to Kitty’s ability to send someone’s mind back in time a few days and warn them about the upcoming attack. The group eventually gets in contact with Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Storm (Halle Berry) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) at a monastery in China. Xavier tells them how the world came to be this way; that it was through Mystique who tried to bring mutant rights forward by killing Sentinel creator Bolivar Trask. She is however captured, and Trask’s death causes public outcry for a response to the mutant threat. Xavier and Magneto have a plan to send someone back in time, and try to warn the past about what is to come in the hope of changing it. The only one able though to make the trip is Logan, who has his mind sent back to his younger self in 1973. During this period, Trask (Peter Dinklage) has already started to try and get support for his Sentinel Program, but is constantly refused. In Vietnam; Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) helps some mutants escape from being tested on.

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Logan heads for the X-Mansion where he meets young Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) who tries to make Logan go away. Eventually, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) appears. The school has been closed for a number of years after the students and teachers were drafted into the Vietnam War. Charles, having lost his legs, his pupils and Raven in the previous film is a broken man. He is able to walk thanks to a serum provided by hank, but his powers are sacrificed. Xavier just wants to be left alone, but Logan tells Xavier and Hank about the future and persuades them to help him change it. He also says they need Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), who is being kept in The Pentagon basement. With the help of mutant Pietro Maximoff, aka Quicksilver (Evan Peters), are able to break Magneto out of his Plastic Prison. The atmosphere between Erik and Charles though is less than happy. In Paris, at the Vietnam War peace talks, Trask tries to get the support he needs for his Sentinel Program only to discover Mystique is masquerading as a Vietnamese General. The group of Logan, Hank, Charles and Erik arrive just in time, but things go awry as Logan sees the younger self of Stryker (Josh Helman), Magneto tries to kill Mystique and in the process both along with Hank are revealed to the world on TV. With the world now horrified as to their existence, Trask manages to get President Richard Nixon’s (Mark Camacho) approval for his Sentinel Program for a public demonstration. Erik meanwhile regains his helmet and manages to lace the plastic sentinels with metal. Back at the mansion, Xavier is persuaded by Logan to try using his powers to find Mystique. Initially he is unsuccessful, but then he reads Logan’s mind. He sees and meets himself in the future who tells his younger self, that what they need him to do; is to hope again.

Charles manages to locate Mystique who is on her way to Washington to kill Trask. He tries to convince her not to assassinate Trask, but she refuses. In the future meanwhile, the Sentinels finally find the remainder of the X-Men and go on the attack. In the past at the White House, Nixon unveils the Sentinels while Logan, Charles and Hank try to find Mystique. Erik however has taken control of the Sentinels, uses them to attack the event goers and using a whole stadium he has lifted off the ground, sets up a perimeter to make sure he is not disturbed. In the future, one by one the X-Men begin to fall to the superiority of the Sentinels abilities. In the past, Hank and Logan try to attack Erik, but he uses a sentinel to attack Hank, and manages to throw Logan into the river. After lifting the secure safe room the President and Trask are in, Erik puts on a show trying to announce a future where Mutants are no longer hiding in shame. Mystique however manages to subdue him, and prepares to kill just Trask. Charles makes himself appear in her mind and tries to convince her of a better path; saying “everything that happens now is in your hands. I have faith in you, Raven.” This works on Mystique, and she drops her weapon. In the future, things change instantly. Logan returns to the future, unknowing what has happened other than the future he came from. He wakes up to find himself in Xavier’s School, where everyone who had died from the future he experienced, are alive and well. He walks around seeing a grown up Hank (Kelsey Grammer), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman, Colossus, Storm and Kitty. Not just them though, others who were dead, are now alive too. He meets up with Xavier, who realizes that Logan is finally back helps Logan fill in the pieces of where things left off after he drowned in the river.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past is a very powerful film. It has of course lots of action, fights and what we have come to expect from Superhero films in general, however, it’s also a very emotionally driven film. Many times have I watched this and during specific scenes have felt something deep down and emotionally driven than I have felt in any other super hero film. The film returns to the state of what the first X-Men film was like, but shows: A dystopian vision of the future and how mutants were first revealed to the public light. But on top of that though, this film sort of concludes the story line that started from X-Men 1 too. In that film, Mutants are oppressed by humanity and are fighting for their rights of existence, and then here a future is created that for now better supports mutants in a way they were hoping for. Days of Future Past also deals with themes such as independence not just in the global form, but inside the personal one too, as well as the subject of Hope. The degree of passion in this film from its characters as to what they feel plus see is remarkably strong, and more detail is added with the references to previous mutants, and what has become of them. It’s a nice little story that just keeps plodding along at a nice pace but is not intermixed with minor points. In my opinion, it’s not really a sequel to First Class, but a sequel to both that and Last Stand also. The characters from the original trilogy are a nice addition and means that there is plenty for fans of both trilogies’ to get involved with. Much like recent films in the series, DoFP tries really hard to include more from the comics and expand its own little universe. The way it does this more than most in this film is through setting the story in the Days of Future Past storyline showing the gravity of the situation in the future, from enslavement to suppression of both Humans and Mutants, to of course introducing the Sentinels.

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The Sentinels themselves have been a mainstay of the X-Men franchise through both the comics and cartoons. Their introduction in here is brilliantly done and whose design matches both the sentinels of the past, to their design of the future. Their unstoppable nature is also well presented through how merciless they are plus how cold their killing nature is.

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DoFP has a great cast of characters. While in some places the number of new and old goes near over the top, everyone has a part to play and produces some really memorable characters. From the characters in the future we have old favourites like Iceman, Kitty, Colossus, Storm, Xavier and Magneto; all played as well as they were in the original series. For me though, I think it’s a real shame Rogue doesn’t have much of a part. A central character throughout the original series whose appearances in Last Stand were a bit dwindling, I would have preferred it if she had more a role. While there is the recent Rogue Cut, I probably won’t be buying it. Despite this though, it is just splendid to see these characters played by these actors once again. It’s been a long time coming and I hope they get to return again soon, possibly for a much bigger film.

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As the rest of the future cast go, I like how Bishop is in it. I have been a fan of Bishop for a while now; and even though his Hand Guns aren’t on show, it’s just nice to have him featured. Other characters like Warpath and Blink are a nice little addition too, although I think Sunspot isn’t given as much appearance time. Quicksilver meanwhile is a fun little extra providing some moments of hilarity but also allowing the film to create one amazing set piece. Much like First Class, DoFP features a stellar cast of extras playing significant minor roles. The one standing out for me most though is Mark Camacho as Richard Nixon. I love this portrayal of Nixon. While he does look and sound more like the Futurama head in a jar Nixon than a real picture of Nixon, I like how well he is portrayed. This is all set before Watergate and shows Nixon at a time when he was in power. While he does appear to be dodgy in talking with Trask, he comes to be a good guy in the end closing down the sentinel program after Mystique lowers her weapon. Whatever you think of Richard Nixon, in this film he is brilliant. Alongside Nixon of course is Peter Dinklage as Trask. In what I see as an interesting cast choice for the role of Trask, Dinklage delivers a superbly sinister, villainous role while trying to maintain a level of professionalism too. His short stature also enables him to have some moments of quick scorning wit from other characters too but for the most part is thanks to his style of talking, persuasion and manipulation, coupled with his experimentation on mutants that makes him the central villain of this film. He is not necessarily a dastardly villain with a maniacal laugh, no; he is just a more intelligent one.

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I feel like Magneto is not as good as he was in First Class. In First Class (to me) he was the most important and best character. He had a great build up and some terrific moments, but in this he feels like a much more minor role in comparison. He does have his moments, but I just don’t feel as drawn to him as I did in First Class. In that he was a growing villain, in this he tries to play something of a prophet, particularly during that speech, but it just does not work for me. Other moments like his Pentagon scene with the silver balls, to nearly crashing the plane are really good moments, but they’re just let a bit down. Hank meanwhile has a much larger role I think, but like Magneto doesn’t really stand out for me. It feels like a disappointment. His moments as a tech wizard are cool, but he is missing something, possibly connected with his relationship with Mystique. Hugh Jackman on the other hand is rather good. Now his seventh appearance in the series that made him a star, this time though his role is much, much bigger as he has to change history. He like the series has changed a lot and is now having to be what Xavier was to him in the first 3 films, to a younger Xavier. He is a focal narrative point throughout this film and is constantly having to remain patient instead of lashing out, like he used to.

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It’s Mystique and Charles though whom this film is really about. Both characters complement each other through this film and it’s only through their moments that things change and improve for everyone else. Charles has lost everything, a broken down, depressed man who is finding it hard to simply move on. He is able to pick himself up enough to help, but he needs curing. Mystique meanwhile has become someone pursuing a vendetta, going out to try and save all the mutants who have been persecuted and experimented on by Trask; basically going along similar lines to what Erik did in First Class. Charles though becomes the instigator of both their pain. Reading Logan’s mind, talking to himself in the future, a student asking a guide – my favourite moment of this film. The struggle, passion and pain from Charles to his older self, and what the older, much wiser Xavier has to say. However, Charles is not yet fully healed, he now just needs to move on. He still holds on to the possibility of Mystique coming home, but then discovers what he really needs to do. He gives Mystique her freedom, and this changes her. Mystique supposedly still trying to move on from Charles herself, his control of her, now realising she is free of that, she listens to him. Both the above mentioned Hope scene and the scene between the two at the White House are the two most powerful moments in Days of Future Past and make these two Amazing characters stand out more than everyone else. I love both these scenes and the actors/characters that make them so.

Days of Future Past is in no way toned down in the amount of Special Effects it has. From the mutant powers of its characters, to bold set pieces to some of the biggest uses of Special Effects seen to date. The Sentinels are of course the main use of Special Effects in this film and good detailed care has been taken to make them look outstanding but also rather realistic. From the Jet fans inside their bodies to the weapons. Then to their future stream lined look where they look less robotic, to a more alien lifeform appearance. Then there is their control of superpowers used by the X-Men and how they use this to their advantage. All of them amazing effects. Set pieces are in form too with Quicksilver’s kitchen scene standing out more than most, but also little additional ones like Magneto and his tour of the Pentagon, and Prison cell. One effect for me though stands out more than most. To say that the other films are toned down in large uses of Special Effects would an understatement. I mean, who can remember the Golden Gate Bridge being repositioned, or the sub lifted out of the ocean, or even the Silver Samurai. In this though, they produce one incredible piece of movement, that in the lifting of an entire Stadium. A little destruction and crumbling can be spotted, but it’s not until the Stadium is seen flying through the air, like one of the Spaceships from Independence Day or Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.. It’s an amazing shot, terrifying and awe-inspiring. It may only be brief, but just seeing that is something else. Just this large thing approaching before it drops around the Whitehouse.

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DoFP’s soundtrack is Fantastic. It is a well composed (by John Ottman), brilliantly arranged soundtrack consisting of different styles, sounds and themes. The future is a dark, inconceivable place that has an end in sight. But a fight still rages on. The future is therefore a scene of many battlegrounds, and as fights rage on, the soundtrack compliments the situation. Scenes like the opening fight, the final fight and the moments ticking by as the mutants fate nearly comes. The arrival of the Sentinels is a piece I rather like. One that has this nice smooth drumbeat that starts off rather calm, but sadly I feel like should continue a little bit more. But as the severity of the situation rises, so does the tension in the soundtrack. And then as the first X-Man dies, a more sorrow note comes in, showing what that death means plus how easy it has come in the future. Many of these tunes are shared in the past timeline too and include the White House Attack at the end.

In the past though, everything is not so bleak, and so several pieces come to light including music from the time (such as The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack and Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce), plus much more cheery tunes. Although many of these change to the serious notes again and music is brought back to compliment them, as well as scenes of high levels of emotion, including the scene between Charles and Charles, and Charles and Mystique. Some of the music from the past though is rather memorable; including a French Song (Stop au nom de l’amour by Claude François) played the night before the peace talks. It strikes out as the scene changes and just grabs the audience’s attention and the scene. Plus it’s rather catchy as a tune and chorus go. The best bit of the theme though, is something I have been wanting and hoping for a return of since X-Men 2. That is the main theme (see top of the post for opening credits……….I put it there thinking it would be a great way to start the post). While it’s a little altered in sound, the tune is exact. I have always thought that the theme from X2 should be used throughout the series as the series theme. Possibly being for the return of John Ottman and Bryan Singer is why this tune has returned. When I went to the cinema to see it, and I heard that track, the tingles drove up my back as I couldn’t believe it. It is a fantastic piece of music and by far my favourite bit of the soundtrack (and top moments of the entire film).

Altogether, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a Fantastic Film. While I do not rate it as highly as others in the series, I absolutely adore it. I love it for its story, characters, themes, soundtrack, effects, all those things, but also for the power it gives off. It provides some highly charged emotional scenes that show more character than most other superhero films do and create such amazing moments between characters that your heart-strings will be plucked and tugged. While it does have its side issues, these are all pretty minor and together create not just one of the strongest films in the series, but one of the absolute best comic book/super hero films to date.

GENEPOOL

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2 responses

5 11 2015
The Colclough

Well, if that wasn’t an epic week of blog posts then I don’t know what is! Great to see it finally come to fruition.

6 11 2015
numb3r5s

Thank you. It was hard work, but I quite enjoyed it. I hope everyone else did too. Now, onto my next week of film reviews (whatever that will be).

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