The invention of movies and the development of special effects introduced a new dimension perfectly suited to the popular genre that is time travel. We’ve come a long way from Planet of the Apes (1965), Time Bandits (1981) The Terminator (1984) Back to the Future (1985), Star Trek: Generations and Time Cop (1994), to name a few.
At the end of the Noughties, time travel movies became more challenging, at least for the audience. Films like Inception, JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot, Looper, and Source Code turned the genre into a kind of geek test, where your brain has to be programmed a certain way to comprehend the plot. To some extent, X-Men: Days of Future Past, the latest film in the X-Men canon, based on the Marvel Comic story Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont and John Bryne, fits into this category.
Don’t let this put you off seeing ‘super hero’ movie X-Men Days of Future Past, in which two, wise old men ask the question, ‘Is the future truly set?’ This superior sequel to X-Men First Class and X-Men the Last Stand is produced and directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men: First Class, Valkyrie, the Usual Suspects) and written by Simon Kinberg (X-Men: The Last Stand, Sherlock Holmes) who also produces.
They strive to make the film as comprehensible as possible for mature audiences, without boring its 16-year-old fans. The demographic reference here is apt, for, with the exception of Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables, X-Men series), the mutant super-heroes battling to save their ‘race’, age like the rest of us.
The appeal of the X-Men franchise lies not only in its message about everyone’s right to be different, but in the nature of their differences. Each mutant super-hero has a particular strength that is as useful for survival and fun to use as it is off-putting or even repulsive.
Professor X/Charles is a powerful telepath. He is played by 35-year old James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland) in the ‘flashback’ portion of the film, where most of the action takes place, and by 74-year-old Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation) in the present time. Magneto/Eric, can manipulate even the heaviest of metal objects with precision, is played by 37-year-old Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, X-Men First Class, Hunger) and by 75-year-old Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings Trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand, Gods and Monsters) in the present/future framing scenes.
Not ageing and having the power to self-heal trumps all the other powers, however, and makes Logan/Wolverine (he with the ejecting blade fingers), the obvious choice to undergo the physically and mentally gruelling task of travelling back to 1973.
Why 1973? Well, that is when Dr Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, The Station Agent), a physically-challenged, mutant-hating scientist, is killed by mutant Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle, The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook). Her ability to mutate into different bodies gains her access to President Nixon’s entourage at the launch of Dr Trask’s Sentinel programme.
The Sentinel robots were reluctantly approved by President Nixon after mutant Magneto/Eric is imprisoned for the murder of JFK, although, interestingly, all the white-haired congressmen who first rejected Trask believe in equal rights for mutants.
Trask took Mystique’s DNA and used it to invent Sentinels – huge, flying robots that are programmed to detect and kill mutants. Her well-intentioned act has back fired and Logan’s task is to prevent the assassination before the Sentinels finish off the entire mutant race. With the help of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), the oldies, Professor X (Stewart) and Magneto (McKellen) send Logan back in time to change the course of history. When Eric/Magneto reveals his own destructive agenda, however, everything Logan/Wolverine has accomplished looks set to derail.
The $200 million budget is clearly on the screen in the form of the superb special effects and, of course, the lead actors, not to mention Halle Berry as Storm, Nicholas Hoult as Beast and Kelsey Grammer as his older counterpart. The scene where a disorientated Logan wakes up in the 1973 and displays his muscle-bound body to the tune of Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle is arguably worth the price of admission. It’s silly, it’s noisy, and at times you might strain to follow it, but X-Men: Days of Future Past cannot be dismissed as a children’s film.
Joyce Glasser – MT film reviewer