Time travelling stories rarely work, and this one isn't one of them. There. I've got that out of my system for now. With that said, I'll first comment about the film in general for those who have yet to see it before I delve into rantasia.
*puts on movie critic hat*
X-Men Days of Future Past is a very well executed production; a worthy sequel to X-Men First Class, and a competent film in terms of connecting itself with the rest of its franchise. In fact the story even paves way for integration with the rest of the Marvel's cinematic universe and the renewed Spider-man series, which is in my opinion an even bigger step up from how they built up The Avengers. It is an accomplishment equivalent to convincingly merging the Pokemon and Digimon universes.
The best about the X-Men mythology is in this film, with very juicy performances from the main First Class cast (James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and more) and respectable cameos of actors from the original trilogy (Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewert, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, and more). The fight scenes are fun and intricate, and there are some genuinely surprising turns as the story develops. It is an engaging, immersive and thoughtful chapter of the X-Men mythology, with no shortage of social and political commentary, as well as some period (1970s) appreciation.
The only downside is that the film has so much to get through in two hours. So much that it spends next to no time explaining past events that drove each character to their starting points of this film. It is the purest of comic book publications as it assumes you are already an avid fan and have watched every other film in the franchise multiple times in order to recognise and appreciate every subtle reference and character closure littered across the story. So I would say before seeing this film you need to see its predecessors first, which I think is the best way to enjoy most of the superhero movies these days, especially the ones by Marvel.
Overall Rating 8.0 / 10.0
My Personal Rating: 5.0 / 10.0
Now, for those who have already watched the film and are wondering why I personally rated it so much lower, read on.
*taking off movie critic hat*
X-Men: Days of Future Past has been receiving rave reviews from many premiere-day critics. I can see why this was so hyped. Besides featuring a sizable cast of big Hollywood names, the likes not seen since Lord of the Rings, this film's marketing screamed a desire to please, preaching that this is the X-Men film both fans and critics have been waiting for. But for me I entered the film with a mix of hype and reservation, the hype because it was such an ambitious film to merge essentially two franchises into one, and the reservation because its premise involved time travel.
Let me reiterate this statement again: Time travelling stories rarely work, and I think this film didn't work for me because of its time travelling aspect. In this film the way time travelling works is actually quite hard to digest. I can swallow the idea that Shadowcat's phasing ability can evolve into transporting a person's consciousness back in time. I can also accept the idea that Wolverine's healing factor is what allows such a large leap back in time. But what I can't comprehend is the logic of having to maintain that connection: the past and present co-existing from wolverine's perspective and Shadowcat having to sustain the connection.
It's called the Butterfly Effect. If Wolverine does even one small thing different, the future should already be drastically different, meaning he should have lost connection with the future, and be stuck in the 70's having to relive it. There is a bit of an angle by the resolution of the film that there is no such thing as destiny; fate is what we make. But if that's the case then every small change should change the outcome of the future and the moment Mystique didn't kill Trask on schedule should have altered the time schedule of when The Sentinels begin taking over or who made it in the future, thus the mind-channel back to the future should have been severed.
The idea that big decisions leading to big ripples in the space-time continuum, while small decisions leads to no change as the future will correct itself, is not my understanding of cause and effect, and because of this it breaks my suspense of disbelief in movies a lot.
Apart from my own dislike for their use of time travelling as a plot device, it was also an ingenious move by the studio because now the entire X-Men universe has been reset. The original trilogy basically never happened. And the franchise has unlimited options in how they can go forward, which also equals more money for studio. Well played!
Note: there are lots of plot holes because of this time travelling element as well, but they are not enjoyment-destroying so I'll leave it for the nitpicks discussion
Of the character that the story focuses on, the relationship triangle between Magneto, Xavier and Mystique/Raven is very pronounced. You feel like they have love for each other, but an equal amount of anger and rage because of what they each have done to the other two, and their different beliefs about the role of mutants in a predominantly human world.
Raven is the middle-ground. She is the one who hates prejudice, but isn't prejudiced herself as Magneto is. Her assassination attempt on Trask is because of simple vengeance for her fallen comrades, not because she wants to instil terror. It is alluded to on a few occasions that, even though she did abandon Charles for Magneto in the previous film, her views on the world is actually a neutral one. She just wants people to leave people alone, just as she wishes that society can just accept her true form.
Magneto and Charles on the other hand represent the two extremes of how two species can co-exist. And I found Magneto's attempt to kill Raven so diabolical that I actually had thoughts of wanting him to die by the end of this movie. He is an idealist, extremist and terrorist. There is nothing personal in his actions, yet you can but take his betrayals personally. Similarly when Charles decides to quit using his drugs and dons the wheelchair so that he can use his mutant powers again, you do find yourself cheering for him. That is a sign of strong character writing.
Wolverine is unfortunately not as prominent in this film. He barely gets any actions, any witty dialogues and ultimately serves as the surrogate to connect the future events to the past ones. In fact he does at one point become a surrogate for the young Charles to get a pep talk from the future Charles. I honestly think his five second cameo in First class was a stronger presence than in this film, where he's always on the sidelines, just trailing along to keep an eye on things but ultimately fulfilled a role no more significant than a messenger boy. Now that William Stryker sees that mutants are good too, does that mean he'll never end up putting Adamantium into Wolverine? Boo!
I also sincerely hope that this film has an extended or director's cut to flesh out some of the other characters, because I feel like their role has either been downplayed on purpose so that there is enough space for the main characters to receive proper development. I am talking primarily about Bolivar Trask and Peter Maximoff (a.k.a. quicksilver).
The character design of Trask was quite offbeat, in that he is as close to a natural human-mutant hybrid as X-Men characters could get. I am of course referring to his drawfism. From the first moment his stature stood out as a sore thumb in contrast to everyone else. At first I thought I was being cued to laugh, but then the film plays his character so straight and sincerely that I almost felt bad for expecting some jokes or insults from Wolverine in relation to his height. But then the film doesn't really tie his genetic predisposition to his prejudice against mutants, other than that he is on the side of the humans.
If anything, you would think that someone with his shortcomings could empathize better with mutants as opposed to trying to destroy them. I refuse to believe that he wasn't bullied as a kid/teenager in the 1970s, long before everyone became PC Nazis. If he feels that mutants are a threat to the human species, surely he also finds 'normal' humans a threat? A deeper backstory to explain his motivations would have been nice.
The other major character I really wanted to see more of was Peter Maximoff, you know, the super speed guy. Those who do film research like me would know that this character is not only the Quicksilver that is going to be in The Avengers 2, but if you read about his comic book backstory, he is also meant to be Magneto's son. In this film they don't explicitly claim that he is going to be Quicksilver, but given that his mutant power is to move super QUICK and he dies his hair SILVER I think it is more than an educated guess.
Peter was one of the best elements of this film, has the most fun scenes and is the most memorable character by far. During the bit where they were helping Magneto escape from The Pentagon, the film briefly transforms into a fun roadtrip buddy cop-like flick, but then once they fly to Paris without him the film goes back to its dark, grim and rage-filled tone again. He was such a big lipped alligator character (a term coined by The Nostalgia Chick), but it worked so well to lift my spirits to a higher point before the rest of the film gradually drags it back down to mild depression. And no, that dream-like happy ending after Wolverine wakes up in the new future didn't make me feel better.
Also, why didn't Peter go with the gang to Paris to stop Mystique? I know he's a minor and all, but wouldn't he be a great ally to have in stopping what might be the single most important intervention in the X-Men universe? Seriously he just watches the things happening on TV and is like "oh maybe I should have been there to help out" while embracing his sister (who is going to be Scarlet Witch in The Avengers 2; more franchise merging please). Because the needs of the plot outweigh the needs of the logic.
I also wanted to understand who some of the completely new characters are, like Blink (the chinese girl who could create teleportals), Bishop (the dark skinned guy who could collect and shoot energy blasts of some sort), Toad (the toad-looking guy in the past) and Ink (the tattoo guy). The other X-Men such as Storm, Iceman, older Magneto and ALL the previously-killed characters such as Cyclops and Jean Grey, basically just showed up for moral support of sorts.
Despite how much they feature in the trailer, they didn't add much to this story other than trying to protect Shadowcat and Wolverine while he's still mind-connected to the past. Seriously, I counted. There are almost as many recognizable, A-team characters (24 in all) in this film than the ENTIRE Lord of the Rings trilogy had (28 in all). And given that it's only two hours, lots of these characters would have had to be reduced to a one scene, one line cameo. So yea, waiting to have my opinion be changed by an extended cut in the DVD release.
I think the movie-going public in general will begin to tire of the 'end of the world' stories. It's being overdone since 1997, and while most of them are done reasonably well, it's almost like the industry has no better ideas or stories that can be as epic and profitable as this genre. Marvel films are largely about threat of apocalypse. Young Adult franchises (Hunger Games, Divergent, Ender's Game) are all post-apocalyptic scenarios. Most of this year's box office Even freaking Parody films are focused on apocalyptic (This is the End and The World's End), although the latter makes sense since parody films tend to parody the current trend.
Perhaps I'm just worn out by this genre more than others, as I do see a lot more films than would be advised by my doctor. Maybe I'm worn out by not only post-apocalyptic stories, but franchises in general. Given how much money is being poured into that market I doubt franchises will go away any time soon, but I wish to make a conscious effort to keep other threads of the film industry alive.
So for the month of June, I am going to watch only non-franchise and non-apocalyptic scenario films. Yes this means I will be skipping Divergent, Godzilla, Edge of Tomorrow and even How To Train Your Dragon 2. I might come back to look at them later, but thanks to X-Men I've been pushed to my threshold for these serious, big-universe, big-franchise films for a while. After all, I think we are heading towards a better future than mainstream media is generally portraying so I don't think we need so much reminder in media of the potentially bad futures we often think will eventuate.
I know I sort of retired this bit since my return to theaters this year, but this film was just too easy to pull apart on the small stuff (mostly because of the time travelling aspect), and how it works so hard to be franchise glue. So here goes the film's final 13 sins: