This weekend X-Men: Apocalypse hits theaters in the United States (I hope to catch a showtime in the next few days and can give my opinion) and I wanted to look back two years removed at X-Men: Days of Future Past. I was excited yet skeptical how Bryan Singer and co. were going to condense this complex narrative into a 131 minute film. As a kid I read the comic run, watched the X-Men animated series adaptation, and have waited to see Sentinels get incorporated into the film series (sans that Danger Room severed head cameo in number three). So let’s dig in and discuss this ambitious blockbuster.
The film retains the basic narrative from the comics. In the future Sentinels are hunting, imprisoning, and killing all mutants. The last remaining X-Men decide the only way to preserve the world is to go into the past to stop the catalyst that set off this grim future. In the original comic it was Kitty Pryde who went into the past to warn the others. And in the animated series they sent Bishop back. For the film they send Wolverine into the past and let’s face it we all know why. Hugh Jackman has become the face (a damn sexy face) of the films and said face sells tickets. It also helps that Wolverine is one of the only X-Men old enough to be alive in the past. In the original comic it was Senator Kelly who was the target for assassination, but since he had been used as an antagonist in previous films they used the creator of the Sentinels himself, Bolivar Trask. I could continue to compare, but let’s focus on the film itself. Time-travel stories are a difficult nut to crack and need to set ground rules as to how time works in the narrative. Thankfully the film doesn’t get bogged down in it’s own set rules and focuses on characters. It’s agonizing to see Charles Xavier in a very broken state. The man we’ve always known for his strength and compassion is bitter and cynical. We root to see him get back on the path we know he’ll end up taking. The moments in the future are also poignant. Seeing Magneto admit to Xavier that what he did was wrong and asking forgiveness for all those years of hostilities is powerful. On the whole they did a great job distilling the story down to it’s core and making it work in film form.
I’ve mentioned many times before that with every X-Men film this is where the real power of the franchise lays. This time around though it’s even more impressive as we get to see the cast from the original series and the prequel series in the same film. There are so many talented actors crammed into this it’s unbelievable. While First Class showcased Michael Fassbender’s talent this time around James McAvoy gets to shine. He portrays Xavier’s bitter and broken side so well. And the moment where he and Patrick Stewart come face to face is fantastic. How would you react if you got to talk to an older version yourself? Much of the cast (especially from the original series) get minor moments, but no real time to stand out. Nicholas Hoult continues to shine as Beast and they even refined his make-up to make it look more in tone with how he’d look in The Last Stand. My biggest nitpick is that with Jennifer Lawrence’s growing popularity meant Mystique’s presence was expanded and she spent less time in the make-up. I really like Lawrence, but it felt like they were doing this to pull in Hunger Games fans who had no interest in an X-Men film. And before I cap this off I must bring up Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask. Dinklage is a phenomenal actor and he plays Trask with such a grace. I always find villains who think what they’re doing is justifiable and rational intriguing. Not to mention Dinklage’s power stache, the real star of the film.
-The Rogue Cut-
With such a stacked cast screentime for characters was a rare commodity. This meant in the theatrical release Anna Paquin’s Rogue was reduced to a mere cameo in the final scene. About a year after the theatrical release came the blu-ray the “Rogue Cut”, an extended version that added an entire subplot and few additional scenes for good measure. As we saw in the theatrical version when Wolverine spots Stryker in the past it triggers a violent episode in the future causing him to hit Kitty with his claws. In the Rogue cut the team sees Kitty is fading and decide they have only one option. Breaking into a mutant prison they get Rogue and return with her to take over Kitty’s phasing power. The additional scenes peppered in are also interesting. We get to see a moment between Beast and Mystique that was sorely lacking in the theatrical release. There were also a few moments that helped clear up continuity issues. While at the mansion Mystique sabotages Cerebro which explained why Xavier and co. didn’t try to use it to track her. At the end of the prison escape we see a severed Sentinel hand grasping to Blackbird as they return to the temple. Now we get a clear idea as to how the Sentinels tracked the X-Men to their hideout. There was also a funny mid-credits scene that showed Bolivar Trask incarcerated in Magento’s cell under the Pentagon. It didn’t add much, but it was nice to see where he ended up. So, which cut of the film is better? Honestly, neither. The theatrical cut is leaner, but the Rogue cut gives you more plot. Depending on my mood I’ll watch either one.
So, as it stands what do I think of the film in relation to the rest of the series? It’s tough, I think X2 and First Class are the best and The Wolverine is an underrated gem, but Days of Future Past comes in a close fourth. It’s good, but my own personal tastes put it there. As usual, what are your thoughts? Where would you rank Days of Future Past in the series? Are you excited for Apocalypse this weekend? Let me know. And if you’re interested I’ll leave links to all of my recent X-Men oriented articles below. Thanks for reading.