Countdown to Apocalypse: Is ‘Days of Future Past’ The Best X-Men Film?

We come to the last film of our countdown to X-Men: Apocalypse with X-Men: Days of Future Past or as fans of the franchise would like to call it, “the reset button.”

The film, based on the Chris Claremont and John Byrne story, bridges the two casts of the original X-Men trilogy and First Class in a race against a dystopian future where humanity and mutant kind suffer from enslavement and genocide caused by the robotic sentinel threat. The surviving X-Men of the future mobilize to a monastery in China as a hiding spot from patrolling units. The existing band attempt to find a way to effectively time travel with Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) with limited results. When Professor X’s (Patrick Stewart) jet arrives, the solution comes in the form of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who is the only mutant who can survive the intense rigors of time travel into the 1970s to stop the Sentinel program from ever starting.

Protecting Kitty, Wolverine and Professor X are Magneto (Ian McKellen), Storm (Hallie Berry), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Bishop (Omar Sy), Blink (Fan Bingbing), Sunspot (Adan Canto), and Warpath (Booboo Stewart).

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) - Daniel Cudmore, Fan Bingbing, Shawn Ashmore
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Daniel Cudmore, Fan Bingbing, Shawn Ashmore

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The abilities of the newer mutants provide wide diversity from Bishop’s ability to re-channel energy blasts to his gun, Blink’s ability to create teleportation portals, Sunspot’s ability to shape fire and fly similar to Iceman’s ability to shape ice, and Warpath’s enhanced scouting and agility. They also complement Magneto’s ability to manipulate metal and Storm’s ability to manipulate the weather.

With the new front for their last stand against the Sentinels, Kitty uses her phasing ability to teleport Wolverine mentally to his younger self in 1973 to unite Professor X’s younger self (James McAvoy) and Magneto’s younger self (Michael Fassbender) to stop scientist Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) from ever fully implementing the Sentinel program. At the heart of Wolverine’s mission is Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who the government captures and harnesses her shapeshifting abilities to allow the sentinels to have their adaptive abilities against mutants following her assassination of Trask.

While we’re supposed to believe how time passes in the future, Wolverine approaches a depressed Xavier, who disbanded his school due to his students being drafted for the Vietnam War. He’s able to walk thanks to the mutant-suppressing serum developed by Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Xavier develops the behavior of an addict being dismissive of Wolverine’s attempts to convince him of the mission Xavier’s future self, sends him on.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) - Evan Peters
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Evan Peters

Sure, because in a world of mutants, why would a mission concerning time travel be far-fetched? So after wallowing a bit in self-pity with the waiting Beast and Wolverine, Xavier reluctantly agrees to help with the mission and freeing his former friend, Magneto, who was captured for his part in assassinating JFK. He’s located deep below in the Pentagon held in his plastic prison. They enlist the help of Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who has supersonic speed. In one of the more amusing sequences to the tune of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” Quicksilver disarms guards in an enclosed kitchen running against walls and altering the trajectory of bullets while sampling spilled soup.

In one of the most perplexing sequences of the film, Quicksilver doesn’t join them in their quest to stop Mystique from trying to assassinate Trask.

As we go further into the story, we end up finding out what happened to the mutants not present for this film from First Class since there’s only so many mutants I guess you can put in an X-Men film much to Mystique’s horror. So what changed for Mystique in this story is the Brotherhood of Mutants formed by Magneto and shortly disbanded following his capture leaving her to fight for mutant kind herself.

While the old love triangle for the original X-Men trilogy was Jean, Cyclops, and Wolverine, the First Class triangle has Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique. Like Wolverine for Jean, Xavier shares much angst over Mystique on how she chose Magneto over him.

Save for the continuity errors; the film does a fantastic job putting their best foot forward with Jackman and Lawrence up front. Everyone has an equal part of being involved and nothing of the movie seems wasted as far as action and pacing as dark as the beginning of the film is like Groundhog Day from hell for mutants, the film never really slows down building up to a satisfying resolution and closure for the original X-Men cast.

One major complaint I have for the film is how Dinklage played Trask more as an idealist than the sinister character he actually is. The character’s actions has been documented throughout the movie and the mutants who have suffered for his research and yet, he’s just a regular Dr. Frankenstein ignorant to what everything he’s doing is leading up to. You can empathize at least with Mystique’s pain when she discovers his research. At least Stryker is often portrayed as sinister as he as cunning. He was far more an intimidating character in X2: X-Men United. Josh Helman plays the character in the film as Trask’s understudy in a largely diminished role since it’s his younger years. Dinklage deserved better.

Another major complaint is the plot device seeing Wolverine acting in a race against time for his mission spanning hours into days given how Wolverine, Xavier, and Magneto have to travel across the Atlantic Ocean for a conference. Meanwhile, in the future can go south at any moment against the sentinels, but guess time is not relative in that universe?

The film brings back X-Men director Bryan Singer to the chair in a role reversal from First Class, which this time brings Matthew Vaughn to contribute to the story. Joining them are Simon Kinberg, who also wrote X-Men: The Last Stand, and Jane Goldman, a holdover from First Class. Kinberg rejoins Singer along with X2 writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris for X-Men: Apocalypse.

This marks the last time Jackman is featured in a starring role for an X-Men film before his final solo film, even though the details of his cameo in Apocalypse remains a secret. Lawrence has taken over front and center as one who can carry the franchise alongside with McAvoy and Fassbender.

Is it the best X-Men film? Well until Apocalypse comes out, I say it is.

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Tom Chang
Sci-fi and technology geek since the NES days, Tom loves everything from the cult classics, the contemporary hits to the beast with two backs that is Disney and Marvel. His life's mission is to be the ultimate nerd savant sitting on the iron throne as CEO of Skynet while masquerading as a vigilante at night wearing hockey pads.