X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Dir: Bryan Singer
Academy Award Nomination: Visual Effects.
When I studied a few modules of scriptwriting at university, the lecturer had a saying that essentially became his catchphrase, “Raise the stakes”. What’s at stake here is all of mutant-kind and any humans who sympathise with them or have the genetic ability to produce mutant offspring. They’re pretty big stakes!
In the not-too-distant future mutants are completely outlawed, being hunted down and killed by huge adaptive robots called Sentinels, and the last few X-Men are constantly on the run, but the Sentinels are closing in on them. In a last chance at stopping the war, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) sends Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back to his mind in the 1970’s so that he can stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from setting things in motion that will lead to the Sentinels being developed and so disastrously unstoppable. To do this, Logan (still Hugh Jackman) must bring together Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) who is without his powers, and his nemesis Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who has been imprisoned, while encountering many issues along the way while in the future the X-Men are rapidly running out of time as the Sentinels approach.
This marks Bryan Singer’s fourth time directing a superhero film, and is a very welcome return to the X-Men franchise after a couple of serious misses by interim directors. With Singer back on board, it opened the way for this particular fan-favourite storyline to be adapted, uniting both the cast of the original trilogy and the newer prequel cast. It was a masterful move.
There are so many appearances from previously seen and unseen mutants, which fills the film with moments that excite fans of both the previous films and the source material. It’s this ability to feature cast from the original trilogy and the rebooted series that was clearly an incentive to adapt this storyline for the screen. It was also a very beloved story for the comics’ fans, and it’s quite clear to see why, it’s a brilliant storyline that allows for the film to simultaneously be a sequel to ‘First Class’, ‘The Wolverine’ and ‘Last Stand’ while also adjusting events enough to mean that future films can tread new ground without getting tied in knots avoiding contradictions from the preceding films.
The film offers so much to fans of the franchise in any form, providing something to satisfy those who loved the first films but not the new ones, those who weren’t so in love with the originals but really liked ‘First Class’, those who enjoyed them all, and those who love the actual comics. There are scenes in which you can play ‘spot the mutant’ just ticking off a list of appearances from most of the original cast, and having a few new ones introduced including many who have long been longed for from the fans but weren’t developed into full characters. Battle settings allow for mutants to almost walk on screen, showcase their abilities so as to be identifiable, then leave or in many cases, die.
Mystique and Logan take much of the focus through this film, with Wolverine’s role greatly increased and adapted for many obvious reasons, mostly that he’s the one character to have appeared so far in all the films of the franchise and as he doesn’t age can be played by Hugh Jackman without much more than some hair spray. I also have to wonder if Jennifer Lawrence’s part was increased somewhat after she became “Academy Award winner Jennifer Lawrence”? It does all work well though, as although things get complicated it’s not overly confusing, each role makes sense and the links between the different eras are explained enough to be reasoned.
There’s one superbly memorable scene featuring Quicksilver (Evan Peters), which really is Fox making effective use of and staking their claim on the character. It’s important for their version of him to make an impression when the character is also being featured in the next ‘Avengers’ movie played in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (‘Nowhere Boy‘, ‘Godzilla’, and a brief cameo in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’), and make an impression he does!
Bryan Singer wasn’t able to fully promote the film as intended due to some serious legal issues that arose during the promotional window. Now those problems have been resolved, Singer is back on track to helm the sequel ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ in 2016 which is teased in a brief post-credits scene. He’s been busy working at assembling a new cast of young mutants to take on some of the roles made popular in his orignal films, and this week revealed on twitter that Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark in ‘Game of Thrones’) Tye Sheridan (‘Mud’, ‘Joe’ ) and Alexandra Shipp (lead in the much-maligned ‘Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B’) are taking on Jean Grey, Cyclops and Storm respectively, which has been met with a mixed response to say the least. I’m a little less sceptical than many seem to be. Simply put, you have to remember than this is the director of ‘X-Men’ and ‘X2’ with a lot of the same casting and production team alongside him, so the people responsible for these casting choices are those who cast the much-loved original cast, we should have a little confidence in their choices.
This film was a huge success, both critically (the first X-Men film to get any Oscar nominations) and financially, so expectations are high for the next instalment, I just hope that the storyline will be as strong as this one was, and hopefully the formidable Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis‘) can raise the stakes even higher!