The near future is an apocalyptic wasteland. Giant robots known as Sentinels exist to eradicate the mutant race. Those that are left survive day to day, hoping for a way to end the nightmare. Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) has kept her group alive by a neat trick. Whenever they are discovered by the Sentinels she transports an ally’s consciousness through time to warn them in advance. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) has also survived the war along with two of his X-Men, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry). His old friend and sworn enemy Magneto (Ian McKellen) is once again an ally. Xavier wants to send back his own consciousness to the 70s and prevent the assassination of the Sentinels’ creator Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), an incident that kick starts Armageddon. Kitty warns him that he wouldn’t survive the trip, that his mind would be ripped apart. Thankfully Wolverine is still around to offer his services. His mutant ability of regeneration is the perfect tool to aid their quest. Once back in the 70s he seeks out a young Charles (James McAvoy) for assistance. What he finds is a bitter and lost individual who has lost his faith. Not only will Wolverine have to convince Charles of his mission, he must also reunite him with Eric “Magneto” Lehnsherr, his old friend and still enemy at this point in time. Easier said than done considering Eric is being held in the most secure prison on Earth.
The X-Men films have proven to be unique for this day and age. Whereas other franchises are hastily rebooted, the series has existed in the same continuity for 14 years. X-Men: First Class and X-men Origins: Wolverine were prequels that did create a lot of plot holes in the series however X-men: Days of Future Past has proven that every film, including the Wolverine spin-offs, remains cannon. Having original director Bryan Singer back at the helm does no harm either.
Many people won’t forgive Singer for abandoning X-Men: Last Stand for Superman Returns in a move that didn’t turn out well for fans of both franchises. DOFP is a good starting point on the road to redemption. The movie is more of a First Class sequel than it is a continuation of Last Stand. It’s set in the 70s with the primary cast being those of Matthew Vaughan’s entry to the series. This isn’t a bad thing, or a coincidence as Vaughan and Jane Goldman are credited with the story. Like Vaughan, Singer draws on real life events to enhance his narrative. JFK and the Vietnam War are used as plot devices to propel the story forward. We’re even treated to a decent portrayal of President Nixon.
The set pieces are spectacular and exciting. In a story that serves as a metaphor for bigotry it’s good to switch off at times and be entertained. The Sentinels themselves are fantastic as is the display of the mutant powers on show, most notably Quicksilver. Played by Evan Peter, Quicksilver’s introduction offers some comic relief in contrast to the dark subject matter. There’s also an in joke that fans will love with regards to who his father is.
The star of the film is Hugh Jackman, the only character that the plot allows to play both his past and future selves. He brings to the role everything we love about Wolverine including his humour, wisdom and balls to the wall violent fury. Fassbender returns as the young Magneto and offers as much complexity to the role as Ian McKellen. Eric isn’t your stereotypical evil villain; he’s idealistic and prepared to do what it takes to preserve the mutant race. James McAvoy’s Professor treads a different path. His Xavier is so detached from Patrick Stewart’s to begin with that you’re hooked on his character development. Despite each actor bringing something different to their character it’s important that they show characteristics of the people they become and that we’re familiar with. Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique has evolved into the sultry martial arts expert we get from Rebecca Romjin whilst maintaining a more conflicted personality exhibited in the previous film.
There is a sizeable gap between the events of First Class and DOFP that are glossed over. In many ways the film stands alone however it relies on the audience being familiar with the events of each instalment. For a film series that started in 2000, it’s a big ask for new customers but a great show of loyalty for those that have followed it since the beginning. It’s too easy to just rip it up and start again; Fox have managed this whilst preserving the history of the early films. The massive plot holes that skew the continuity between the films over the years aren’t answered here, but they do rectify it in their own way.
With X-Men: Apocalypse already announced, it’s clear Fox aren’t slowing down the juggernaut any time soon. A wonderful post credits scene will have the fanboys screaming in delight but may leave those unfamiliar with the source material a little puzzled. If you thought the DOFP was ambitious, you ain’t seen nothing yet.