X-Men: Days of Future Past is a rare breed of superhero movie

Despite the title of this article, I feel like a big enough deal has not been made about how truly bad this movie’s name is. The movie, on the other hand, is quite good.

The seventh instalment in the X-Men saga, which is both second and last chronologically, is the truest to its comic form. Its time-bending storyline is a little bit ridiculous, as the X-Men themselves kind of are (if we’re being honest), but everyone involved in the blockbuster was so committed to what they were doing that it all played out fairly naturally.

The film covers two separate story lines. The first features a dystopian future that pits a pair of well-known Canadian mutants (Ellen Page and Shawn Ashmore), as well as a slew of new mutants, against the unstoppable force of the Sentinel. The second story arc showcases a ‘blast from the past’ storyline that reunites Magneto and Professor Charles Xavier roughly ten years after the events of X-Men: First Class, as they try to prevent a key moment in mutant history from transpiring.

The film references Cameron’s The Terminator as a narrating Charles Xavier poses the question, “Is the future set?”

Immediately, the film references Cameron’s The Terminator as a narrating Charles Xavier poses the question, “Is the future set?” In my head, I hear Linda Hamilton telling me “No. The future is not set; there’s no fate but what we make.”

It was clever of whoever put that line into the movie to draw the parallel, because something about sending an agent back through time to prevent a robo-apocalypse naturally makes the audience think of Terminator, anyways. But X-Men is not Terminator. The machines aren’t going back in time to kill a mutant that will lead a rebellion against them: no mutant is capable of that. The Sentinels are an unstoppable force, a force that makes even the fully matured powers of Professor Xavier, Magneto, and Storm basically useless.

No, this time it is the humans, or rather the mutants, who go back to stop a key act in history that will lead to the robotic uprising.

This is where Kitty Pryde (Page) comes in. In addition to being able to phase through anything, she has also picked up the handy little trick of being able to send people’s current stream of consciousness into their younger bodies.

So, Kitty could just send Professor Xavier back—but she can’t do that. To go back decades, Kitty says, it would tear the traveler’s mind apart. Luckily, the X-Men’s franchise star Hugh Jackman is perfectly suited for this as his brain is able to heal faster than it can be torn to pieces. I know—I was skeptical too, but the science checks out.

Thus Jackman, the Wolverine, is sent back to the 1970s, where virtually the entire film takes place, to get Xavier, Magneto and Mystique to alter the course of human and mutant history.  

What DOFP does do really well is really show you how Xavier becomes Xavier. McAvoy is once again brilliant in the role. The ambiguously-aged future leader of the X-Men is not the Stoic and infallible man Patrick Stewart has made him out to be. Nor is he what you expect him to have become after McAvoy portrayed him in First Class. Instead, the audience is presented with a broken man. A man who tried to bring about the greater good by controlling the people he loved the most and, after an accident, was left paralyzed, broken and alone.

The original message, of course, was that it was wrong to hate someone for being different.

The relationship between Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique is an interesting one, perhaps the best that exists within the genre of superhero movies. Each one loves the other two but each is driven by a bigger purpose and a moral code that ultimately pulls them away from each other.

This is where DOFP is at its best: when it is exploring this dynamic relationship.

When the X-Men were created, they were a way for a couple of guys in their 40s who made a living writing and drawing funny books to lend their support to the civil rights movement. The original message, of course, was that it was wrong to hate someone for being different. And while this was fairly black and white, both now and in 1963 when the Uncanny X-Men first went to print, what isn’t so clear is what to do about those that choose to hate. Xavier believes in always being the better man, Magneto the stronger man and Mystique, well, she just wants to live in a world where she doesn’t have to hide. Ultimately the means to achieving each of these goals leads the characters to places they never wanted to go. Each is reacting in their own way to the hurt the world has caused them.

In the end, each has to choose whether to gratify that hurt or to be the example the world needs to follow. It’s a difficult struggle, but it is one that elevates the film beyond its genre.

Also, there’s this one scene with Quicksilver that’s really cool. But you’ll have to go see the movie yourself to get what I mean.

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