By Roy Mathur, on 2014-05-20, for Maybe Magazine (in which an edited version appeared)
Months in advance of its DVD release, and an interminable time spent avoiding trailers, spoilers and reviews; I finally took myself down to budget day at the local flicks. All this, so that by the time you read this, you can judge for yourself whether the latest of the ever-expanding X-Men franchise will enliven an otherwise dreary Autumn evening betwixt now and Halloween. Don't even start about those rich Autumnal colours unless you want to help rid me of the leaves that will be blocking my gutters whilst, no doubt, hiding vicious squirrels. But I digress! X-Men: Days of Future Past is based loosely on the eponymous storyline that ran in two issues of Marvel's The Uncanny X-Men comic book back in 1981.
If you're new to the X-Men, I'm not sure how much to bore you with an explanation of their fictional universe. However, for the two Rip Van Winkles out there who have managed to miss any mention of the last six movies (yeah, THAT many), and have never picked up a comic book (shame on you), thus follows the skinny. The X-Men are a comic book team of superheroes dreamed up by god-like comic book writer, and serially annoying cameo-meister, Stan Lee and, the equally divine, golden pencil of ultra-artiste Jack Kirby in the early sixties. Why 'X'? The X-factor is the characteristic in DNA that gives these superhumans their powers. It was also a reference to the civil rights movement in America at the time and, given the strong allegorical parallels between mutants struggling against paranoid human-supremacists and African Americans struggling for civil rights, the 'X' also parallels the 'X' of Malcom X.
Lecture over and back to the movie. We are in the future, during a genocidal culling, by a human-supremacist government, of anyone displaying even the slightest sign of mutation. Terminator-like Sentinels are also being used to destroy the last vestiges of resistance led by the X-Men. But wait! There's a plan! We must send John Connor, whoops sorry I meant, of course, Wolverine (a buff, to the point of exploding, Hugh Jackman), into the past to prevent a key event in history from happening which will inevitably lead to this nightmare future.
I already mentioned that there is a strong resemblance to The Terminator franchise, but there are also scenes lifted from other movies. For example, there's a wakey-wakey scene straight out of Groundhog Day (1993). Though here, instead of Sonny and Cher's I Got You Babe, we have Roberta Flack's 70s hit The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face as the iconic track that lets you KNOW we are right back in the day. That and the lava-lamp. Oh, and the big moustaches and wide clothes too. Then there's the care that has been taken to weave the plot into the fabric of real-life past events, like the Vietnam War and Nixon's paranoia. I also particularly liked the overly colour-saturated TV news coverage typical of the time.
There are some standout performances of note too. One of my favourite aspects of the movie was easily the, all-too-short, ditzy and rocking interpretation of teen super-speed superhero Quicksilver, AKA Pietro Maximoff by Evan Peters. His fun and laugh-out-loud portrayal eclipsed all other performances and just begs to be spun off into a standalone movie. Other great performances included the prolific and excellent Peter Dinklage, who ably played mad scientist Doctor Bolivar Trask, and the frighteningly beautiful and fabulously named Fan Bingbing, as teleporting super-heroine Blink.
The question is did I like it? If this move came out way back, I would have responded with a resounding yes, and possibly have thrown in a huzzah or two for good measure. But now, in the light of dime-a-dozen superhero movies, I don't think it quite works as a film for the big screen. Also, while I appreciate nostalgia, that lovingly crafted retro-look has been used in so many other movies. For example, near-past eras, that straddle the decade fore and aft of this movie, have been artfully modelled in films like X-Men: First Class (2011), set in the 60s, and Watchmen (2009), set in the 80s.
And, while I'm in nit-picking mode, let me just tell you about the other non-plot problem I have. It's the incessant, never-ending, background music that builds and builds, but never quite reaches a crescendo. While such a device worked well in Inception (2010), here it is simply a frustrating irritant.
However, since X-Men: Days of Future Past has been widely lauded, my fussiness is a minority view. In any case, we are talking about the movie's suitability for a vid/pizza night at a particularly boring time of the year and, in that respect, I say, yeah, go for it! And maybe invite me round for a Guinness (or six). Laterz. };->
You can intercept Roy's non-linear timeline at RoyMathur.com where he writes about his adventures through space, time, and a multitude of weird dimensions.