Epic Movie (Re)Watch #173 - X-Men: Days of Future Past
Have I seen it before: Yes
Did I like it then: Yes.
Do I remember it: Yes.
Did I see it in theaters: Yes.
Was it a movie I saw since August 22nd, 2009: Yes. #294
1) The film marks Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise he helped to start, making it his first X-Men film since X2. He was a producer on X-Men: First Class and originally Matthew Vaughn was slated to direct this film. But Vaughn dropped out to speak with Lucasfilm about Star Wars: Episode VII before focusing his efforts on Kingsman: The Secret Service allowing Singer to step back into the director’s chair.
2) Magneto, Xavier, every mutant in the X-Men films (especially the original trilogy) had fears about war. The X-Men tried to avoid it while Magneto was preparing to win it. Well now everyone’s worst fears have come to past in a dark and desolate future were Magneto was right and the X-Men are forced to band together.
3) John Ottman’s theme from X2 plays in the opening credits, making this film feel like a triumphant return to form from the get go. It fills the audience with an energy, hope, and even nostalgia that helps make the film as great as it is. While I absolutely adore Henry Jackman’s score for First Class, Ottman’s theme has now become the (unofficial?) theme for the franchise in a lot of ways.
4) We’re off to a strong start with the movie’s opening action sequence.
This film features - by far - the best action sequences in the entire franchise. It embraces the powers of its mutant characters in a way no film has before it. This leads to incredible visuals and extended action scenes which never lose the audiences interest. It does what some films (The Last Stand) have failed to do before: show off the X-Men’s powers in incredible and memorable ways. The opening action sequence alone feels like something out of a comic book or (dare I say?) the 90s animated series. Characters like Iceman and Colossus have finally reached the full potential of their mutant powers, making good on a promise any X-Men film makes. New characters too have small roles but are wildly memorable. Blink, Sunspot, Warpath, and Bishop come across as unique with not a lot of lines and not a lot of screen time. But they have an impact because of the visuals of their powers/fighting styles.
From a storytelling standpoint the opening scene also works to set the stakes of the film. We understand immediately how much of a threat these sentinels are, they are able to massacre an entire squad of mutants with relative ease. If it weren’t for Kitty’s ability to send people back in time this war would be over very quickly. The dark tone and sense of dread this future has is established immediately through the action sequence, making the rest of the film carry that weight in a conflict driven/interesting way.
5) I am so impressed and so grateful that this film was able to get all the original cast back they wanted. Kelsey Grammer couldn’t participate because of scheduling conflicts with Transformers: Age of Extinction (ew), but most of these actors have gained a higher price tag since X-Men: The Last Stand. Ellen Page in particular is a critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated actress who comes back for what is essentially a supporting role, but she (like the rest of the returning cast) commits to it all the same. It provides a nice amount of fan service which also feeds into the story and I love it.
6) It is so weird for me to hear Patrick Stewart Xavier talk about this.
Professor X: “I knew [Mystique] as Raven…she was like a sister to me.”
He never talked about her like that in the original trilogy, it first came up in the First Class prequel. But it adds something to Professor X’s character: he walls parts of himself and his past off for the sake of the future.
Note: In this post Patrick Stewart will be referred to as Professor X and James McAvoy will be referred to as Charles.
7) The decision to send Logan back instead of Kitty might upset Kitty Pryde fans and comic book purists (as Kitty was the one to go back in the original storyline), but I think it makes the most amount of sense. The original story was published in the 80s or 90s and Kitty came back from 2013 into her younger body. Movie Kitty has no younger body in 1973 but Logan does. So that’s why it makes sense from an in world decision, but also from a filmmaking standpoint it makes sense too. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is the face of the X-Men films primarily, with only one film up to this point not having him in a prominent role. So it makes sense to put stock in his character as you have in the past. My biggest regret though is that I do LOVE Kitty Pryde and so it would’ve been nice to see her do more, but she still serves a more important role in this film than she does in The Last Stand.
8) I absolutely love this.
Professor X: “Logan, you’re going to have to do for me what I once did for you.”
I am a sucker for character development and having watched now seven X-Men films in a row seeing Wolverine in this role is incredible to me. This was the guy who originally wanted to ditch the X-Men, who was a loner and who primarily looked out for Rogue. Even with that he was mostly out for himself? Now. He’s invested. He’s older, a bit wiser (if not perfect), and gets to repay the kindness Professor X showed him by helping Charles along his way. It puts him in a new role, a role he’s not all too comfortable with, but it is just so damn interesting and I love everything about it.
9) The extended prologue in 2023 as well as the fact that this film will cut back to that time occasionally helps make this film a worthy ending to the cast and characters first introduced in X-Men. It could’ve ended that series entirely, a farewell tour for all the actors we came to love in their respective parts. Despite this, at its core this film - more than anything else - is a sequel/continuation of the story set in place by X-Men: First Class. Doing both of these things is no easy feat but the film is able to pul it off beautifully.
10) Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask.
Dinklage is one of the finest American actors around right now, notable for his work in “Game of Thrones”. And his performance as the villainous Trask gives us the best X-Men villain since William Stryker in X2. While I do LOVE Sebastian Shaw in First Class, there is something fundamentally more unsettling in Dinklage’s performance. He is chilling, focused, intimidating. You know this is not a guy you want to mess with. And Dinklage himself has a unique look on the character. This according to IMDb.
According to Peter Dinklage, Bryan Singer picked him to play Bolivar Trask because of his height, stating, “With my dwarfism, I’m a bit of a mutant. I can’t move metal or anything, but I thought of it as self-loathing. Deep down, Trask is quite sensitive about that aspect of himself.”
11) Mystique in Saigon.
The scene of Mystique saving a group of mutants in Saigon from being shipped off to Trask (including Lucas Till’s return as Havok) works really well for a number of reasons. First of all: it helps not only re-introduce her character but also her motivations for this film. She has gone through a lot between First Class and now so this scene helps to establish just exactly this NEW Mystique is. She’s one with a lot of pain, working towards avenging the loss of her friends. Mystique is also much more of a fighter in this film than in First Class, with her choreography and skills leaning much closer to what we would expect from Rebecca Romijn. She has been pushed up to the point of no return but hasn’t crossed that line yet and that’s what this film is about. If she’s going to become the Mystique she does in the original timeline or if this is her second chance. The writing for her character is conflict filled and amazing, I absolutely love it.
12) Logan really needs to give people a spoiler warning about their futures.
Logan [before punching out Beast]: “You and I are going to be good friends.”
13) And because he’s Wolverine, it doesn’t take long for Logan to cause shit.
(GIFs originally posted by @ofsagitta)
14) James McAvoy’s return as Charles Xavier.
So First Class was really about Erik becoming Magneto, this is about Charles becoming Professor X. We have never seen the character so low, he has never been so low. He is a broken man with the events of First Class changing him more than he - or the audience - even expected. He tried soldiering on but the war in Vietnam led to his school being shut down. Charles is wallowing in pain, in self pity, he is exactly what Professor X said he was: as lost as Logan used to be. Hell, he’s a drug addict! The serum to give him his legs is a not-so-subtle parallel for drug use. There is a great conflict there, a great pain, and it leads to an incredible story.
15) This is kind of a perfect representation of how continuity works in the X-Men films. The movie tries to remember something from the past, tries to have continuity track, only to get something about it wrong and make everything more confusing.
(GIFs originally posted by @mcavoying)
In fairness the original line in the First Class script WAS, “Fuck off!” but First Class was released three years before Days of Future Past meaning they knew that wasn’t the actual line for a while. Granted I’m
probably just nitpicking.
16) In this film we learn that Emma Frost, Zoe-Kravitz-Angel (as opposed to the Angel from The Last Stand and Apocalypse), Azazel & Banshee are all dead by the hands of Bolivar Trask. Which is sickening and heartbreaking but left a unique opportunity which Apocalypse never took with the characters. I’ll talk about it briefly now but go in depth during my Apocalypse post but in the comics Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen are resurrected dead characters. Using this to bring back the four mutants I just listed would have been a smart move I think.
17) Let’s share what IMDb has to say about the rights to Quicksilver:
The addition of Evan Peters as Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver to the cast sparked wide discussion over the direction of the character who is also slated to appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Quicksilver had been discussed previously as a potential character in both X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and The Avengers (2012), but legal complexities over the license to the character resulted in his omission from both films. However, in May 2013 both Marvel and Fox Studios announced a resolution to the previous legal issues, and that Quicksilver would appear in this film as well as an Avengers sequel, though under certain parameters: no reference to Quicksilver’s membership in the Avengers can be made in an “X-Men” film, and no allusion to his relations to the X-Men or Magneto (the character’s father) can be made in an “Avengers” film; the rights agreement between Fox and Marvel even goes so far as to stipulate the character cannot be referred to as a “mutant” in any Marvel film. Additionally, the day after the announcement of Peters’s casting, Marvel and Fox entered into a legal standoff over provisions of the rights agreement for the character, including the issue of whether Peters would be allowed to portray Quicksilver in any other film outside the “X-Men” franchise, possibly necessitating a second actor to play Quicksilver in any Marvel film, resulting in two different versions of the same character appearing in two competing film series. Ultimately, Fox and Marvel decided to cast different actors in the part for the “X-Men” and “Avengers” films, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson taking on the role in the latter sequel, thus preventing any connection between the two franchises and keeping the X-Men confined to a separate universe from those of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
18) Evan Peters as Quicksilver.
No, I said EVAN PETERS as Quicksilver!
That’s better. Anyways: Evan Peters’ performance as the speedster is the definite scene stealer in the film. His screen time doesn’t amount to much - with a more significant role in 2016′s X-Men Apocalypse - but every time he’s on screen you are drawn to him. The character is wonderfully fun, with his smart assery amusing to us as the audience without being totally annoying. There’s a unique and vibrant energy that Peters brings to the character which is 100% captivating. By far one of the best new elements of this film.
19) Peter Parker could learn something from this.
Quicksilver [to Erik]: “I’m holding your neck so you don’t get whiplash.”
20) Okay, so Logan knocks out a bunch of Pentagon guards with a frying pan. Is it wrong that this is the only thing I could think of?
21) Oh boy….
(Screenshot taken from a GIF set originally posted by @barrel–rider)
22) It is unique and conflict filled to see Charles filled with such intense hate/loathing towards Erik when Professor X always has hope for his, “old friend,” Magneto.
Charles [upon first meeting Erik]: “I’m never getting inside that head again.”
Note: In this recap Michael Fassbender’s character shall be referred to as Erik while Ian McKellen’s shall be referred to as Magneto.
23) THE QUICKSILVER SCENE!!!!!
This is without a doubt the best scene in the entire film and it is absolutely brilliant across the board. Like the earlier fight scenes it takes the concept of mutant powers and is able to translate it into absolutely phenomenal visuals. From a technical standpoint the scene is a masterpiece, as the seams are practically invisible. It’s hard to make, but you don’t want the audience to know that. Which makes it all the more impressive that it seems so relaxed. The scene pulls your interest and never lets go, using music and point of view in absolutely stellar ways. How boring would this scene have been if it were from Erik’s point of view? Or Charles’? The most interesting way to do this moment is through Quicksilver and that’s what we get. It is intelligent, organic, full of small surprises, and despite its short length is strong as hell. If they were to teach this class in film schools some day, I would not be surprised.
Although it does raise the question: why don’t they just bring Quicksilver to Paris? It seems like he’d be really helpful.
Erik [looking at Wolverine’s bone claws]: “Imagine if they were metal.”
25) Erik and Charles having it outis very key to the film. Right now the audience sees Erik as the one who messed up. Taking away Charles’ legs, getting arrested for killing the president, etc. But Charles needs to know he’s made some pretty crucial mistakes.
Charles [to Erik]: “You abandoned me!”
Erik [after bringing up the dead mutants]: “We were supposed to protect them!…You abandoned us all!”
26) A part of me gets why Raven seduces the Vietnamese general in order to take his place at the pace conference. Another part of me lives in a post Wonder Woman world and A) never sees male characters doing this and B) thinks there was probably a different way she could’ve gotten into the peace conference. And this isn’t a comment on a woman using her sexuality in a way she is comfortable with, this is a comment on men trying to shoehorn scenes were a woman’s defining feature is her sexuality.
(GIF originally posted by @marshmallow-the-vampire-slayer)
27) I love the added conspiracy theory that JFK was a mutant. I remember reading a promotional material at the time that Bobby Kennedy was a mutant too and that’s why he was assassinated. I’m a nut for conspiracy theories though.
28) Okay, I just need to take a minute to geek out about HOW HAPPY RAVEN IS TO SEE CHARLES!!!!
29) And this is the turning point of the film.
- Wolverine gets rocky and weak when he sees Stryker, injuring Kitty in 2023
- Erik tries to kill Mystique
- The world can’t deny the existence of mutants anymore and reacts with fear
- Charles & Erik are now against each other again
- Trask gets Raven’s blood
The tone of that is not lost. There’s a sense of darkness and dread which falls upon the film as it moves forward. It has an impact on the audience and helps to raise the stakes.
30) Okay, this is funny as hell to me. In an effort to calm Logan down:
(GIFs originally posted by @marvelheroesdaily)
31) Hey look, a Bryan Singer cameo!
So now in the X-Men universe, Bryan Singer is someone who first introduces mutants to the larger world through his movies. How meta.
Erik [after Mystique pulls him into a phone booth and holds a knife to his throat]: “It’s been a long time since we were this close.”
(GIF originally posted by @rocktheholygrail)
I don’t know why, but I don’t like the idea of an Erik/Mystique relationship. Maybe it’s just a hold over from how I felt about their seduction scene in First Class.
33) And this right here is Mystique’s motivation, clearer than before.
Mystique: “I’ve seen too many friends die, Erik. I don’t want a war. I only want the man who murdered them.”
Mystique is no longer an idealist. She does not subscribe to Charles’ or Erik’s way of thinking. She is on her own now, which she said in the very beginning of the film. It makes her character and the conflict she has all the more interesting.
34) The first step in Charles accepting who he is comes from accepting his powers. He tries Cerebro, but it’s too much at first. All he has is pain and suffering. But then - and I can’t understate how much I love this - Logan helps guide him.
Logan: “I was your most helpless student.”
Logan is able to guide him, showing off not only his own growth but also the strength in his relationship with Charles/Professor X. We are reminded of all of Logan’s pain as Charles sees it, but we see now that he has moved past it. It is absolutely incredible for me and leads to an amazing scene.
34) Charles (McAvoy) and Professor X (Stewart) meet.
This scene has much more of an impact now than I was expecting. Charles is at his most broken in life, it will never get worse for him than this. Or so he thinks. He looks into the future and sees just how awful things have gotten and he sees his older self in Professor X. Except when Professor X speaks of the future…he still has faith that it can turn out well. He still has HOPE. Professor X’s endless search for hope has always been his defining feature and it is something he has even in a dark future. It is something Charles has lost and which his older self helps him find again. It is an absolutely beautiful and moving scene, perfect in so many ways. Developing Charles, giving us a peek into the mindset of Professor X, we even get an incredible new theme from composer John Ottman. “Hope (Xavier’s Theme)” I think might be the most moving piece of music in the entire X-Men franchise and I absolutely love it.
35) If you’re a writing student, I suggest you analyze Raven’s character in this film. Particularly the scene where she and Charles are talking about Trask in an airport. It’s an excellent example of how important stakes are to a story and its characters. If a character can leave the scene without what they want and not be devastated, the stakes are too low. Raven’s personal stakes are high as are Charles’. And the fact that Raven doesn’t is still set on this path leaves Charles - in some shape or form - devastated.
Hank [about where his device monitors news]: “Over all three networks. And PBS.”
Wolverine: “All three? Wow.”
Hank: Yeah. And PBS.”
37) The effect of Charles’ discussion with Professor X has an immediate effect and shows that he IS now that man. He is the man who has hope when all is lost, when everything looks grim. He still has faith in people and hope for the best.
38) How powerful do you think this is to hear?
Logan: “Storm, Scott, Jean. Remember those names.”
Charles [after a moment]: “I’ll do my best.”
Logan: “You’re best is enough.”
Can you imagine what that would feel like? This guy from the future telling you that you’re best is enough. Because that’s all we can ever do is our best. And to know that that is enough is just…I cannot tell you how happy I would be in life to hear those words.
39) Thanks to @orsonkrehnnic for this amazing GIF set that perfectly captures this scene:
40) The dual climaxes are edited between wonderful, carrying pacing between the two wonderfully and interesting throughout. Cutting between 2023 and 1973 could have been a mess but John Ottman’s editing helps bring the scenes together spectacularly. When one breathes, so does the other, and that’s what works.
Hank: “In the future, do I make it?”
(GIF source unknown [if this is your GIF please let me know].)
42) Of course Wolverine still gets his ass kicked by Magneto, even without the metal bones. But I will say that removing him from the final conflict is a strong story choice. Because at this point what’s going on between Erik, Mystique, and Charles isn’t about him. It’s about them. The future is about him but it is much more impactful if it results from a choice by everyday people as opposed to the guy who knows what is about to happen. It’s very smart.
43) If this isn’t a beautiful final line for Ian McKellen’s Magneto I don’t know what is.
(GIF originally posted by @hughxjackman)
44) I love this.
Charles [when he can control Raven’s mind]: “I’ve been trying to control you since the day we meet. Look at where that’s got us.”
Charles TRUSTS Mystique. He trusts Raven. He lets her make her own choice and she choses life. She choses to be better. She choses not to become the murderer that Mystique is in the future. But her journey isn’t over yet. That won’t come until Apocalypse.
45) Did I mention I love that Charles embraces the Professor X philosophy?
Hank [about Mystique and Erik]: “Are you sure you should let them go?”
Charles: “Yes. I have hope for them.”
46) I cannot begin to express how satisfying this ending is.
I wish I could find a video clip of the ending so I can perfectly illustrate just how amazing it is, but everything about it feels EARNED. Everything about it breathes HOPE. And not just for this movies. It may be most effective while watching these back to back, but I geeked out at seeing everything. Seeing Rogue and Bobby back together, Kitty and Colossus teaching a class together, Kelsey Grammer’s brief cameo as Beast, Storm as a teacher. THEY EVEN GOT JEAN AND SCOTT BACK! Everything about it just feels SO GOOD! The characters we’ve cared for and loved for 14 years now are happy and at peace. And so what if Logan fucks up their lives again? Right now, everything is just good.
Note: I also own The Rogue Cut version of this film, which reintroduced a subplot featuring Anna Paquin’s return as Rogue that was deleted from the theatrical release for pacing issues. I WILL be doing a post about that sometime in the future. I’ve never seen it before so whatever that post looks like it’ll be a first time viewing. That’ll be labeled as 173.1.
There is a chance that X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best X-Men film yet (as in has X-Men in the title, so discounting films like Deadpool and Logan). It seamlessly blends together a large cast of characters from both the original trilogy and the First Class cast in a story which does the same. With strong performances throughout and incredible character drama (ESPECIALLY for Charles), it marks a triumphant return for director Bryan Singer. The action is better than ever, featuring that amazing Quicksilver scene, and it is practically perfectly paced. X-Men: Days of Future Past is an incredible entertaining and emotionally satisfying film all fans of the series - old and new - should watch.