Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Opening Release Date: May 23rd 2014
Reviewed by Joshua Andre
X-Men: Days Of Future Past– Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Holt, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellan, Patrick Stewart
Hands up who likes superhero films? Is that everyone, or virtually everyone? Yes? I thought so! Since the dawn of time, people have been longing for something to give them meaning and purpose. For the caveman, that purpose was simple- to hunt and provide for the family, and always stay inside the cave at night, away from predators. For humans in the modern age, the word ‘purpose’ means so many different things to different people depending on their morals, ethics and values they believe in.
As a Christian, I know my identity and purpose, which is in Jesus, and is to live a live that pleases and glorifies God, as I draw people into His presence through my actions. But everyone has different belief systems, and these days a universal longing for something more is etched into the heart of everyone. So who do we as people generally turn to for guidance and direction? That’s right; we turn to our fictitious superheroes, either in comics, on TV, or in movie franchises. Though I don’t turn to superheroes myself, I do appreciate how some superhero films employ biblical themes and highlight universal characteristics about ourselves that we all can learn from!
The basis of superheroes is that they are born as ordinary people, and then a situation or circumstances in their life makes them extraordinary, as they then try to save the world from harm and evil forces at work. Though we as the general public are realistic, the irrational part of our brain mostly wins out when movies thematically similar to superhero films release. We know it in our head and heart that superheroes do not exist like in the movies, yet something draws us into these films, as we long for a hero like Bruce Wayne (Batman), Clark Kent (Superman), Oliver Queen (The Arrow), Tony Stark (Iron Man) or Steve Rogers (Captain America). And that is why the superhero genre in movies will never go stale or die, and why more and more superhero films release every year.
One of the most popular superhero movie franchises is X-Men. Starting in 2000 with X-Men there have been 6 more films made over the span of 14 years, with the latest film X-Men: Days Of Future Pastreleasing last month. Never seeing the first two films in the cinemas, and instead catching them on free-to-air TV in the weeks before the third film released in the cinemas in 2006; from that point, I was hooked. These larger than life characters all display characteristics that were relevant in today’s society, and traits that I could admire. The most important was that they worked as a team, and in all movies, each mutant had a place in the school, and had a place in the race of mutants, no matter how insignificant they thought they were.
Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), the head of the mutant school, could read people’s thoughts and move things with his mind; Logan Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is a mutant with metal claws genetically infused to his bone; Storm (Halle Berry) could control the weather, and could summon the elements whenever she wanted; Cyclops (James Marsden) had lasers for his eyes and could emit a high energy beam to his assailants; and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) had telekinetic and telepathic gifts like Xavier. There also were plenty more ‘good mutants’, and in the first three films, they all battled Magneto (Ian McKellan), as he wanted to wipe out humans while Xavier wanted to find a peaceful way for humans and mutants to live together.
In this latest film, what I found interesting and exciting, and what ultimately makes me declare that this is the best X-Men film ever, and probably the most cohesive and emotional, was the fact that it utilised characters from both the older and newer films, and also tried to fix the mistakes of what viewers perceived to be negative points of the third film. After the first trilogy, an origins movie about Wolverine was made, as was a film about Xavier and Magneto as younger men, and friends, and Days Of Future Past, distributed by 20th Century Fox and directed by Bryan Singer, delved into both the prequel film as well as its sequels, which I thought was clever and neat. The fact that the upcoming X Men film derives itself from Marvel, where most of my favourite superheroes reside, is not the most important reason why I rate the latest X-Men film highly. It is instead because of mostly the fact that the film also speaks about the concepts of good defeating evil, friendship, strength, determination, camaraderie, loyalty, unconditional love and sacrifice. All of these qualities and characteristics are universal traits across every belief system, and these are great qualities to have in any situation.
In the film, set in a dystopian future where evil machines called Sentinels, have wiped out quite a massive proportion of mutants, after erasing humans as well, Logan Wolverine undergoes memory transference (sort of how Xavier could be alive after seemingly being killed in the third film, with a theory being that his mind was transferred into his comatose and brain dead twin brother!)- his consciousness travelling back to 1973; trying to find Xavier and Magneto so that they can both help him prevent the events that cause the production of the Sentinels. Along the way Logan meets a young Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and together with Magneto and Xavier, try to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in killing Trask (Peter Dinklage), the creator of the Sentinels, as that event was the catalyst for Sentinel production in the first timeline. I’m not going to tell you how the film ended, and I’m sure many of you have seen the film already, as it’s been out for at least a month. But let me tell you that the sight of seeing Xavier and Magneto, two sworn enemies but also childhood friends, reluctantly yet purposefully working together for the sake of mankind, highlights the characteristics and qualities of unwavering love, forgiveness, redemption, and being given a second chance.
Though Mystique was truly rebellious towards Xavier, and even eventual friend and ally Magneto, as she ruthlessly tried to violently show the world the existence of mutants all throughout the film; Xavier never gave up on believing in her good nature and instincts, and that is what I believe to be the best aspect of the film. X-Men: Days Of Future Pasthighlights that you can change who you thik you are and that one person believing in you makes all the difference. With the relationship between Xavier and Mystique being so complex, and one that is pivotal to the movie series, I think that it’s a breath of fresh air to have a movie remind us that we can change who we are, and what we do doesn’t define us. It’s freeing, isn’t it? I’m sure that viewers of the film series will agree with me as well.
While many of us may be sick of seeing the same actors of the old franchise back on our screens playing the same characters, I for one welcome the amalgamation of time universes, and I think the movie was cleverly done. With Hugh Jackman at his best, and also delivering one of the best Wolverine performances of the film series history, and Jennifer Lawrence perfecting the scared young woman who just wants to prove herself to the world in Mystique; it is James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, who deserve the most praise and acclaim here. Both acted like friends and enemies at the same time, and both showed true emotion and conflict within themselves when portraying their complex characters.
While Magneto was an ally for most of the film, his ‘betrayal’ near the end was expected, and Michael handled the acting range of defeated and desperate near the beginning, and proud, cunning and manipulative near the end, exquisitely. Yet it was James’ stirring and emotional monologue to Jennifer (as Mystique) in the climactic scene, which set the bar in terms of acting. I’m not going to say what the speech was about, but I do think that James deserves an award of some sort for that speech- it’s that touching, moving, profound and relevant. Though the rest of the cast didn’t really have much to do instead of support the main four; it was still nice and nostalgic to see many fan favourite characters back in one movie. Previously thought to be dead Jean Grey and Cyclops are alive in the altered timeline, and thanks to the acting abilities of the core group, the possibilities are endless moving forward, as now the first few films are pulled apart and reimagined as some events have occurred differently (but we don’t know which events yet!).
Set a production budget of $200 million (and exceeding that budget by over 3 times!), and filmed in 2013 in Canada, personally I thought that the visuals were quite stunning, with the fact that perhaps the film was shot in 3D (the first X-Men film to do so!), for me the 131 minute film flew by (definitely a good thing!)- and let me tell you, that I will most likely watch the film again in the near future if a friend wanted to watch with me for the first time. Throughout the film, I was also reminded that there are people out there who long to be an active part of change in this world, so that we can live life to the fullest.
Just like Wolverine and the gang tirelessly and relentlessly pursue the bad guys to try to stop taking over the world, I love how the series is a metaphor for life, as I am confronted with and am comforted by the reality that bad things keep happening if good people don’t do anything to retaliate. I’m not sure who said this, however this quote shows us that we need to take a stand. Though we mustn’t solve violence and suffering with more of the same, what the latest X-Men film has shown me, and I’m sure everyone reading this and watching the film, is that if something is wrong with the world, we do have the power to change things, bit by bit and step by step.
While X-Men doesn’t delve into what occurred in the missing years of the alternate timeline, it does make us ponder the issue of regrets and changing a part of our past, which isn’t really explained as a good or bad thing in the film. And thus with so many themes and layers, I think that X-Men: Days Of Future Past is the most meaningful movie out of the 7 films. Also most likely to be one of my favourite films once 2014 ends (alongside Chef)- mainly because of the brilliant way the time reset button was executed; it’s clear that this franchise has more life in it, and will keep on going as long as the actors and crew are willing, as well as the public! In fact, I don’t think superhero movies will ever stop being made, as people always need a saviour and a role model to look up to.
Ultimately I think it’s a good thing, as people need hope and faith, even if it is misguided in a fictitious being, as the emotions and resolve potentially gained is real. A film with a many messages (all of them important and meaningful), X-Men: Days Of Future Past is a gem, and a must watch in 2014. Do I think that Hugh Jackman will continue to be reprising his role as Wolverine in the coming years even as the franchise approaches 15 years? Maybe. Do I think this film has given me anticipation and excitement to watch X-Men: Apocalyse in 2016? Most definitely! This film truly is a work of art (at least in the superhero film sense!)