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Recap: How X-Men: Days of Future Past Lives up to the Hype
Last summer, I shared a list of my concerns regarding X-Men: Days of Future Past. While genuinely excited for the film, as a lifelong fan of the battling, infinitely-cooler-than-regular-people superheroes and supervillains, I held my share of consternation about how Fox and Bryan Singer would handle a film adaptation of the ever popular comic book while repairing the damage done by the missteps in the film universe. I am happy to say most of those concerns were laid to rest upon seeing the film. Let’s take a look at how it measured up to my initial reservations.
And yes, SPOILERS LIE AHEAD!
While my hopes that Days of Future Past would correct the myriad of continuity errors prevalent in the previous films weren’t entirely satisfied, many of those concerns have been laid to rest. For starters, as I hypothesized back in August, X-Men Origins: Wolverine has in fact been ignored by Fox, much to many a fan’s delight.* Given that the film already contained an insane number of inconsistencies with the original trilogy, this was a smart move by director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg.
On the flip side, the film made no effort to establish the original trilogy as existing in a separate universe from First Class. While the timeline does indeed split at the end of the film, effectively erasing the original trilogy, it’s made quite clear by Professor X and Magneto’s instructions to Wolverine in the beginning of the film (2023) that, up until Wolverine is sent back in time to intervene in Mystique’s assassination of Bolivar Trask, they lived through all the events depicted by the younger cast (X-Men: First Class). It’s a bit disappointing this wasn’t handled better, as it conflicts with some of the original trilogy (Charles and Erik meeting at age 17, the two building Cerebro together, visiting Jean as a child to recruit her to Xavier’s school) but really, since the film is so great, the oversight can be forgiven. Plus, we still got what we really wanted: X-Men: The Last Stand removed from the newly established canon.
Correcting continuity errors aside, I had also previously addressed major concerns about characterization. By and large, I was not left disappointed in this department. The absence of Rogue is a minor letdown, but in the context of the film there really is very little they could have done with her. Having received three films that developed the original trilogy’s cast, their limited screen time in Days of Future Past is hardly noticeable, and the story may have suffered if these characters had been given more screen time. The one major disappointment was the lack of depth given to the new future mutants. Bishop in particular would have been great to see more of. However, Quicksilver proved to be an unexpected delight, and they really made the most out of his limited screen time. All in all, this was as much the younger cast’s story, and they continued to impress just as they did in First Class.
In my previous article, I was also a bit bummed by the lack of a true First Class follow-up. Fortunately, this isn’t really noticeable in Days of Future Past. Xavier is still suffering from the blows Magneto dealt him in First Class and, due to Magneto spending most of the interim in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, there was little development to be had with him. It was also nice to see First Class director Matthew Vaughn’s idea to include the Kennedy assassination in the story was not thrown out. What is weird is that a promotional web site, thebentbullet.com, makes it clear that Mystique killed JFK while impersonating Lee Harvey Oswald, while in the film old Xavier mentions that Trask was the first man she had ever killed.
Another concern was levied against ridding the film of most of First Class’s supporting mutants. This is another one that wasn’t noticeable, as they couldn’t have possibly played an integral role in the film. The one First Class supporting character to be included, Havok, had a negligible role, while the others’ deaths were alluded to throughout the film. While it still would have been nice to see a film centered around JFK assassination and its aftermath, it definitely isn’t necessary, and Singer and Kinberg are talented enough to explain the backstory without ever stalling the film’s plot.
Similarly, I was worried about the stylistic differences between Singer’s films and Vaughn’s. This again, wasn’t really noticeable, mostly due to the context of the film. Though many, many characters were featured, it focused heavily on a select few, leaving little room for any friction in style to emerge. At the very least, Singer seemed to respect Vaughn’s direction and harmonized it well with his own style. Young Magneto’s attire may have not hearkened back to the comics as much as it did at the end of First Class, but it was a wonderful blend of that style and the more realistic tone of the original trilogy.
My final concern regarded the length of the film. As I predicted, Singer did not opt for a lengthy outing, instead keeping the running time consistent with the other films in the franchise. I retract my earlier sentiments by praising Singer for this in most regards. The one complaint I’ll lob at the film in this regard is the first few minutes leading up to Wolverine’s arrival in 1973. Rather than taking a few extra minutes to show us with more depth how things have come to be, Singer breaks the “show-don’t-tell” rule by having Professor X sit down and explain the situation to Wolverine. In effect, Patrick Stewart is explaining everything to us, and that just wasn’t very fun. It certainly didn’t need to take an extra twenty minutes, but spending five or ten to show a bit more of the backstory for the film would have been welcome. That being said, the film felt an appropriate length, unlike so many that seem to drag on far longer than need be, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises being notable examples.
There were a couple of issues I had after seeing the film that didn’t exist beforehand. First and foremost, Professor X’s resurrection in the post-credits scene of The Last Stand is never elucidated. Kinberg revealed they cut the dialogue because there was already too much exposition, but it would’ve been nice to receive some explanation. While some have surmised Xavier’s consciousness inhabited his twin, who was in a coma, that cannot be true unless his twin was also involved in a coincidental accident that caused paralysis. Alas, it shall remain a mystery. My second issue, though minor, is the recovery of Wolverine’s adamantium claws, which he had lost in The Wolverine. Singer indicated that Magneto aided in restoring them, but this is never confirmed on-screen. While it would have been wasted screen time to explain it, it probably would have been better if they had left his claws bone in the future portion of the film. After all, they still were in the past!
All things considered, Days of Future Past was good enough to be considered among my favorites in the film series, if not my absolute favorite. Creating an alternate timeline where we can more or less forget about the original trilogy (despite the first two films being damn good) was a smart move, and giving the original cast a final sendoff with a happily-ever-after was a great touch that felt appropriate and the perfect hand-off to the newer cast (besides Hugh Jackman, who will likely be sticking around for at least another couple of films).
How did you think Days of Future Past stacked up? Did you enjoy it as I did? Any issues you had? Feel free to share them!
*This is proven by the fact that much of Days of Future Past takes place in 1973, the same year Wolverine meets William Stryker in Vietnam in Origins: Wolverine. Since the Stryker in Days of Future Past does not even recognize Wolverine, it is not possible the stint in Vietnam already happened. Also, since Wolverine is not in the company of Sabretooth, the film cannot take place before Wolverine is deployed to Vietnam. Clearly, Origins: Wolverine has just been ignored and therefore de-canonized.