Film Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence. Directed by Bryan Singer.

[Stars: 4.5/5]

It seems 2014 is the year of the superhero film – we’ve been graced with Cap and Spidey adventures in the last month alone. Now 20th Century Fox hit us with the latest instalment in the X-Men franchise.

To me, the X-Men films have been a mixed bag of hits and misses, and have suffered from missing the chronological building that the Marvel Universe films have done so well. X-Men and X2: X-Men United – both directed by Singer – set the standard for ensemble superhero films done well. Third film The Last Stand was underwhelming, and the two Wolverine spin-offs had major problems. X-Men: First Class started something special, sharing the story of how Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr met amidst key historical events of the 1960s. Let it be said that if you haven’t seen any of these films, especially First Class, you’re going to have a rather hard time keeping up with new film Days of Future Past.

This latest film in the canon is truly magnificent. It has an ensemble cast of dizzying size and quality, a massive budget ($225 million!), skilful direction and choreography, and again, centres around important world history – this time in the 1970s. For fans of the series, it’s an absolute joy to see characters of the original ensemble re-appear, some which haven’t been seen since X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006.

The plot is a little complicated. The action begins in the year 2023 and the world is in ruins. Robots called Sentinels are destroying all humans and mutants. The X-Men, led by Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), head to a temple in China to hide out and work to fix the problem of the Sentinels before the world’s population is blown to smithereens.

Charles explains the entire problem – which is rather helpful – and says that the only way this future can be saved is by sending someone back in time to the 1970s to stop Mystique (Lawrence) from killing Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the original creator of the Sentinels. That event caused fallout that led to the rise of the Sentinels in the future and must be stopped. Wolverine (Jackman) volunteers himself to go back in time, and Kitty (Ellen Page) uses her powers to send his mind back into his 1970s self.

Don’t be put off by the plot. It works. The majority of the film is spent in the 1970s as future Wolverine interacts with young Xavier (McAvoy), Magneto (Fassbender) and Mystique. Putting Singer at the helm was a fantastic move. The action is exciting. There are some standout extreme slow motion sequences where mutant Quicksilver uses his powers of speed and in one scene in particular, the execution results in absolute hilarity.

With such an incredible cast at his fingertips, Singer resists the temptation to throw them all together into an Avengers-style battle. As you’d expect, Wolverine is prominent (I love Jackman, but do wish sometimes that other mutants would take the lead), but there are some familiar and loved characters that get literally seconds of screentime. It’s absurd!

My one criticism of this film is that the action in the future is nowhere near as interesting as the past. I found myself yearning to get back to the 70s towards the end of the film. The future is bleak in more ways than one.

Future Past works had to show us that these X-Men need to start working together to save the world. And because we head to the past, we hope that the future can be changed and evil characters like Erik/Magneto or Mystique can be redeemed.

‘Just because someone stumbles, or loses their way, doesn’t mean they’re lost forever.’

First Class introduced us to Charles and Erik and there we saw their original relationship. They were friends, or at least at peace with one another for the most part of the film. In Future Past, they have gone separate ways. They have been hurt by each other, their relationship is fractured, and there’s most certainly bitterness in the air. When Wolverine shows up and asks them to work together, both parties are hesitant. It isn’t only Charles and Erik that need to forgive each other, but reconciliation is required of many other relationships, too. Even future Charles tells past Charles to forgive himself.

Professor Xavier: ‘Charles, you need to hope again…’

This got me thinking about how we relate to each other as followers of Christ. When we have bitter hearts towards each other, it stops us from working together in the God-glorifying way that God wants us to. He calls us to forgive each other. Colossians 3:12-13 –

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

God has shown us incredible grace to save us and forgive us for our rebellion against him. And we’re called to show that same grace to others by forgiving them as we have been forgiven. This is a challenge, and often difficult to do, but God calls us to do it. And he can help us make the change. 

Charles and Erik have such a broken relationship but the future shows that they are willing to work together. We need to ask God to forgive us, change our hearts, and help us to love others as God has loved us.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is without contest the best film in the X-Men series, and promises big things for X-Men: Apocalypse in 2016. And no doubt, more Wolverine films set at different points in time. I’m giving this four-and-a-half out of five stars.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is screening now in cinemas everywhere.

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