X-Men Days Of Future Past – The best of yesterday and tomorrow
Little did Bryan Singer expect how the X-Men franchise would grow to be a series with a fan following on par with Star Trek and Star Wars, creating a fan base consisting of both fans of the long running comic books and the less discerning moviegoers walking in for a decent summer blockbuster. To think, this was at a time when comic book movies were still frowned upon thanks to the massive debacle of Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin. However, after the critical and commercial success of the first two instalments, Singer left to make Superman Returns and took with him one of the stars of the franchise, James Marsden. Thus, the final instalment X-Men: The Last Stand instead went into the hands of Brett Ratner, and instead of getting an epic conclusion to the trilogy adapted from the Dark Phoenix storyline, we got a largely middling finale that was a commercial success, but critically, not so much, what with random characters showing up, old characters getting killed off, and to add insult to injury, Vinnie Jones’s (in) famous line “I’m the Juggernaut…b***h” getting immortalized for all the wrong reasons (Memes) .
The franchise then continued by attempting to bring to celluloid, the origin of one of the most beloved X-Men, Wolverine which ended up having its own spin off series, but somehow didn’t manage to capture the imagination of fans, the way the original trilogy did. Then came along Matthew Vaughn, who decided to give the franchise a much needed dose of freshness, which he did with a reboot, giving us a good look at the great friendship between Magneto and Professor Charles Xavier, and also an insight into Mystique and Beast, and set it in the politically turbulent times of the 50s and 60s during the Cold War. As expected, X-Men: First Class ended up pleasing all groups and paved the way for a new trilogy, and when Bryan Singer decided to make a return to the franchise, as did Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen, the audiences knew they were in for a treat, but are they?
Days of Future Past begins in a dystopian version of 2023, where mutants have been all but eradicated thanks to the Sentinel programme where sentient robots track down mutant DNA and exterminate them right then and there and are able to even adapt in real time to the abilities of the mutants thereby avoiding any retaliation from them. However, the X-Men have been managing to elude them thanks to the powers of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) who travels back a few days in time to warn the others about imminent attacks. This Sentinel programme resulted from Raven aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinating a scientist Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) back in 1973 leading to her capture and use of her DNA to design the sentinels. Thus, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) decide to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to prevent the assassination from happening.
With Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise, you can see how comfortable he is with the story and handling an ensemble cast, and he makes sure that every department of the movie, be it the story, the screenplay, the soundtrack, the effects all combine together to give the audience one solid blockbuster with hardly any flaws. The proceedings move along at a frenetic pace hardly giving the audience time to breathe as the story seamlessly moves between past and future. And Singer manages to capture the spirit of the 70s quite perfectly here. Add some rather brilliant and imaginative action sequences, crackling lines and great chemistry between the characters, and you’ve got a movie that will keep you glued to your seats.
However, the best part of the movie also ends up being one of its few flaws. The cast. Singer manages to reunite the best of the original cast as well as actors from First Class, and to his credit even explains the absence of many cast members quite beautifully. But, the trouble here is, with so many actors filling the screen, some of them are bound to get the short end of the stick and sadly some of the best characters do. For eg: The character of Quicksilver played with aplomb by Evan Peters (Kickass) ends up starring in one of the best sequences in the movie that had the audience in rapture and even ended with him getting a standing ovation from there, but after that he just disappears from the story and is seen just once towards the climax. Same with the older Magneto and Professor X, as with some of the newer X-Men like Sunspot, Blink, Bishop and Warpath. Even the character of Bolivar Trask seems slightly under-developed as his motivation behind developing the Sentinel programme is hardly explained.
However, be it the veterans of the franchise like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Ellen Page, First Class alumni like James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult and Jennifer Lawrence or the newcomers to the franchise like Fan Bingbing, Omar Sy, Booboo Stewart, Evan Peters and Peter Dinklage, everybody chips in with a fantastic performance making sure your eyes are glued to the screen throughout.
So overall, a very satisfying summer blockbuster experience, only marred by the rather terrible post converted 3D as well as the propensity of Indian theatres to suddenly stop the movie in between for a forced interval, thus ruining the flow. But these are just minor niggles. Also, as always, one would suggest that the viewers stick around for the post credits sequence to get a brief glimpse of the next instalment.