2014 will be known, it seems, as the year where superhero films tackle the big stories from their comic book counterparts. Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man has already (spoiler) adapted the iconic Death of Gwen Stacy story from the comic books and in the coming months Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, their first film not directly tied to the Avengers, will be released. Most recently, Fox adapted the popular ‘Days of Future Past’ storyline to film, bringing together the youthful cast of X-Men: First Class and Brian Singer’s original X-Men for an epic time travel adventure in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as epic as they hoped.
Firstly, before I listing the many flaws that this superhero film had, there are postitive aspects to the film. The acting is solid, especially from James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Hugh Jackman does what he does best by sounding gruff and appearing naked in one scene. While Jennifer Lawrence still doesn’t impress with her acting skills there isn’t a terrble lot demanded of her in this sequel, so she comes out the otherside looking good. Speaking of looking good, the action scenes are top notch, especially for this franchise. In particular, Blink was a joy to watch in battle and hopefully they can get her back for a future installment.
For some films that would be enough. If the acting is good and the fights are fun, there is usually alot about story and character that be forgiven but X-Men: Days of Future Past stretches that good will beyond breaking point. The story is filled with massive, gaping holes that very distracting unless you’ve never seen an X-Men film ever before. And even then there are logical leaps that might leave a viewer wondering how such a thing was possible.
The story goes that in the future, mutants, human carriers of the mutant gene and humans who help mutants are being hunted and killed by sentinels, large humanoid robots that can adapt to use the mutant’s powers against them. This was caused by Mystique’s assassination of Boliver Trask in the early 70’s. Somehow, Kitty Pryde is able to send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time to his younger self so that he can band together a broken and disheveled Charles Xavier with Magneto, who is being kept in a secret prison beneath the pentagon because he assassinated President Kennedy.
Even within that summary there are a number of issues that make it difficult to take the film seriously. Such as, how is Kitty Pryde able to send other people back in time? If Kitty herself was going back in time, as it was in the original comic book, that would make sense because temporal phasing is an extension of spacial phasing. But she herself doesn’t phase, she phases others. The only time others have been shown to be able to phase through anything is when they have been in direct contact with Kitty and in those instances Kitty herself was also phasing. It doesn’t help that the film makes no effort to explain her new ability. She’s simply shown to be able to do it and we are expected to accept it.
Then there’s the sentinel’s themselves. Their power to adopt the powers of mutants is apparently taken from Mystique but that ability is far more inline with Rogue’s skill set than Mystique’s. The reason for that is because originally Rogue was captured and experimented on, not Mystique. Ignoring that Mystique is somehow running around free in the previous X-Men films, it’s a clear sign of lazy writing that once Anna Paquin’s role was reduced to a cameo that they simply exchanged one for another. But that seems fair when you consider that, despite Trask being assassinated in 1973, it took over 30 years for the sentinels to be deployed, even though Trask specifcially mentions having several on hand for whenever the President signs off on the operation. Once again, the film offers no explanation how an assassination causes a war thirty years later.
Speaking of assassinations, remember I mentioned Magneto killing the President. Apparently he was trying to save JFK because the Kennedy was a mutant too. Why Magneto’s intervention is unsuccessful is again untouched upon, but is also poses a much bigger question. Why was Trask’s murder cause for use of the sentinels and Kennedy’s wasn’t? I can accept that Trask probably hadn’t build the robots in 1963 since they were expensive and designed using ‘space age technology’ but it isn’t like Trask just thought of the idea in 1972. Trask was shown collecting deceased mutants such as Azazel for research so this project had been in the pipeline for a long time. Even if the government knew that Kennedy was a mutant, they kept it secret because they were obviously afraid of them. Or was it just because Trask’s murderer was blue and so obviously inhuman?
There are also a bunch of smaller paradoxes. Quicksilver’s character is one that only appears because Wolverine met him already in his universe but this this time line rewrites that one, this is the first time Wolverine meets Quicksilver…and yet that meeting would be impossible without the information from the future. Similarly, the film seems to credit Xavier’s recovery to Wolverine and Wolverine asks Xavier to find all the X-Men in the future…even though we see from the previous X-Men films that he already did. There is little reason for this except to speed up the recovery so that we can see it on screen but Wolverine’s presense seems so pivitol to Xavier’s recovery that one has to wonder what the cataylst was in the previous time line.
This is why time travel is a bad idea. Unless a time travel story is plotted right, the story becomes confusing. And preferably the time travel should be plotted before the rest of the story is written, not attempted to be slotted in as an after thought. X-Men: Days of Future Past isn’t a bad film in the same sense that X-Men: The Last Stand is a bad film; it is just incredibly frustrating. The acting is solid and there are a lot of fun moments but ultimately X-Men: Days of Future Past fails to surpass X-Men: First Class in terms of story and structure.