The scattered and even feeble attempts to build a storyline for Marvel’s beloved mutants have led bewildered audiences down dead-end streets that have refused to resolve. These movies have seemed relatively pointless events in a universe too full of heroes and villains to be personal. But, somehow, Bryan Singer’s masterpiece in X-Men: Days of Future Past has managed to join the disjointed and finish the unfinished.
Playing with modernity’s fetish for dystopian films, the movie starts with our desperate heroes in a war-torn world destroyed by the conflict of mutants and the advanced robots designed to hunt them. Not content with just surviving in this stygian world, they strive to restore a pre-war world of peace. The violent deaths and piled corpses echo back to the opening of the original X-Men movie (2000) where young Erik Lehnsherr, Magneto, is separated from his parents by Nazis.
Continuous and natural references to the other X-Men films are astoundingly thorough. With mentions going from the “Cuba crisis” to General Stryker and beyond, this movie will be a cool drink on a summer’s day to any fan of the X-Men movies and makes for a remarkable completion of the overall storyline circle. This makes it a real pleasure for those who have been keeping up with the six other movies made thus far, but it is still enjoyable for a novice.
In many movies computer-generated fireworks all too often distract from plot or try to compensate for the lack of one. Pure action films are common fodder nowadays but the creative CGI in this movie shows special powers unusually used to fight unbeatable hordes. The action here successfully enthralls and does not suffocate.
With actors from the original series and actors from the prequel, X-Men: First Class, this movie makes for the most successful case of “getting the band back together” since The Blues Brothers. Wolverine may not be on a mission from God, but thank goodness he is still Hugh Jackman (when Jackman goes, wolverine will go with him). The decision to send Wolverine back in time instead of Kitty Pryde, as in the comic books, was a stroke of genius. Kitty is great for sure (one of my favorites) but Wolverine is far better known and beloved.
Being “preachy” is an unpardonable crime in cinema. On the other extreme, being unwilling or unable say anything substantive makes for a “popcorn” flick of the worst kind. That golden mean in movie making, nearly never attained and rarely approached, is to organically create the context and deliver a virtuous punch that strikes home on the issues raised. Days of Future Past did this nigh flawlessly within the course of several different character arcs. Screenwriter Simon Kinberg did not shy away from, but boldly charged profound subjects ranging from everlasting hope and loving those who hate you to trust and even free-will.
The “based-on comic books” medium does not allow for the final closure and depth needed to make a true-ringing and all-satisfying conclusion, but that does not make me want that closure any less. The producers, writers, directors, actors, and whoever else might possibly have a say in the decision to kill off a character are at fault for not being willing to risk the billions of dollars that they want from future films. This movie really is the ultimate comedy and head-fake, but at least it does not try to hide it. Essentially, everyone dies and then NO-ONE does. Modern storytelling does not offer catharsis and this latest X-Men does not swim against that current. While this makes for good enjoyment, it utterly fails to satisfy that basic human need for an end.
Finality may suffer in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but you will not. This Golden Gate Bridge of all mutant movie making is well worth that unruly financial weight of a theatre ticket. See it and enjoy it and be inspired by it.