Review for X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: First Class was a breath of fresh air when I finally picked the Blu-ray out of a bargain bucket, my curiosity coming into sync with my budget. After the dismal Last Stand, and an uninspiring first Wolverine spin-off (I never bothered with the second Wolverine movie), I thought I was done with the X-Men universe, that two decent films were all we would get. But First Class delivered something new, fresh and original. It recast the iconic roles, set the story way back in the sixties, deftly tying in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it also served as something of an origin story to boot. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender brought suave, energy and vitality to their roles as Professor X and Magneto, compared to the gravitas and weight of their older counterparts from the original trilogy. While First Class had its flaws, it did more than enough to re-enthuse me about the X-Men franchise, and I actually went and got this sequel, Days of Future Past on the day of release. And it’s been gradually working its way up my to-watch pile ever since.
In the future, the war that Magneto long predicted has come to pass. Only it’s the mutants, and most of humanity that is on the losing side. The machine Sentinels now hunt down and exterminate anyone with a mutant gene, or anyone liable to become a parent, or grandparent of a mutant. With their adaptability and invulnerability, all that the few surviving mutants can do is to remain on the run, one step ahead of the Sentinels, thanks to Kitty Pride’s time-travel abilities. But it’s these abilities which provide their last hope. The Sentinel program advanced when its creator Bolivar Trask was assassinated by Mystique, and who was subsequently captured, her DNA providing the Sentinels’ lethal adaptability. One person could go back, find the younger Charles Xavier, and Erik Lehnsherr, act as peacemaker, get them to reconcile, and together stop this nightmare future from ever coming to pass. Unfortunately the only mutant who might survive the trip that far back is the prickly Wolverine, and Logan will have to go back to 1973.
X-Men: Days of Future Past comes on this disc with a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. There are no issues with the transfer onto disc, with the ‘print’ getting a stable, clean, pixel perfect presentation. However I did note that there was the odd moment of digital banding, shadow detail was surprisingly subdued making the film seem flat, as did the lack of organic vibrancy that the preceding film had. Sure enough, Days of Future Past was shot digitally, as opposed to on film as First Class was.
There are plenty of audio tracks on the disc, and even more in the way of subtitles, but I suppose that the pertinent choices here might be the DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround English track, or the DD 5.1 Audio Descriptive track, I stuck to the lossless audio and was very pleased with the surround treatment, with the film getting effective and impactful sound design without losing the clarity of the dialogue. One small disappointment was in the music soundtrack, as Days of Future Past misses out on the opportunities that the seventies setting provided. It should have taken a leaf out of Life on Mars’ book.
After autoplaying a trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings, the disc boots up to a simple animated menu that shows the best bits out of the film. Press Play quick lest you wish to be spoiled. This is one of the discs that hold its place in your player memory, as I learned after re-inserting the disc into my player some 5 months on.
On the disc you’ll find five deleted scenes running to 5:36 HD with optional director’s commentary from Brian Singer.
The Kitchen Sequence 6:28, is another scene that didn’t make the final cut, and this adds the comedy value of an ailing director and co-incidentally poor word choice in the script, for plenty of bloopers.
There are more of these, plus goofing around in the 5:40 Gag Reel.
There are also several featurettes, Double Take: Xavier & Magneto lasts 11:51, and takes a look at two iterations of the main characters. X-Men: Reunited looks at the classic movie cast coming back together for the future war sequences, and this lasts 9:47. Classification: M takes a closer look at all the new mutants in the film, useful as I can’t keep track of them. This lasts 11:54. And finally there is a bit on the Sentinels: For a Secure Future, which runs to 9:19.
There are three Trask Industries image galleries, three Theatrical Trailers, a Second Screen App (I only use the one when I watch a film), and a Sneak Peek at Exodus: Gods & Kings.
The extras are pretty underwhelming for a feature film of this stature. Unsurprisingly there is a director’s cut version of Days of Future Past (with Rogue subplot restored) scheduled for later on. I bet that gets the audio commentary and the usual goodies.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is another one of those films, films that I’ve seen quite a lot of recently, that are more fun to watch, than they are to think about. For two hours, I’m jazzed about the experience, loving the story, the special effects, the characters, the action, and then the end credits roll, I eject the disc, put it away, and step away from the TV, go do something else instead. And then I make the mistake of thinking about the film, and suddenly the experience doesn’t feel as rosy to me. It’s the equivalent of that recent phenomenon that I’ve taken to calling event TV. TV shows, like the nu-Doctor Who that are fun to watch when first broadcast, but lose their appeal on repeat, and I’m never tempted to buy them on disc.
It’s unfortunate, as X-Men: First Class didn’t have this problem. It was a decent story, with decent characters, that left an impressive lasting impression, mainly because it stepped away from the established movie lore and offered a fresh spin on the story. Days of Future Past doesn’t. It feels just like any other X Men movie, especially the first two, which given that all three share a director in Brian Singer would normally be a good thing. But in this case it means adhering to a certain visual style, and it also means that once again this is really a Wolverine movie, again normally a good thing, but one that First Class managed to refreshingly avoid, offering a much better balance for its other characters.
The thing that I liked about First Class, no loved about it, was its 1960s setting. They made the choice to make the film like a Cold War spy thriller; it could have been a super-powered James Bond movie. The aesthetic, the production design, audio, all felt quintessentially 1960s in tone, and more than that, the movie felt as if it was made in the sixties. Personally I think the decade jumps in the First Class timeline are a mistake, with the forthcoming Apocalypse set in the eighties, as there was a whole lot of wonderful period history to mine for the sixties. But they made that choice, and Days of Future Past became set in the seventies. Only it doesn’t feel that way at all. I’ve already mentioned the sparse use of period music in the soundtrack, but the odd wide collar and flared trousers aren’t enough. This doesn’t feel like a seventies movie or a seventies set movie. The past sections felt curiously timeless, and the first Wolverine movie did a better job of capturing the era. Maybe it’s the Sentinels looking like they walked out of an Apple i-Store, the bowels of the X-Mansion looking unchanged from the future films, the various anachronisms, or on the other hand scenes like Quicksilver’s ‘lair’ a kleptomaniac paradise festooned with seventies merchandising, which looks like trying too hard.
I also didn’t appreciate most of the cool mutants introduced in First Class, being killed off-screen in the ten-year gap between movies. You invested in these characters, like Banshee, Emma Frost, Angel in that last movie? Well they’re dead now, deal with it. But look at all these cool new mutants we’re showing you, whose names you won’t even remember by the end credits. And Toad doesn’t look like Darth Maul on a bad acne day any more.
As for the film itself... well, it’s Terminator again, isn’t it? Psycho killer machines threaten the end of the world, Wolverine gets sent back in time to prevent it ever happening in the first place. Fortunately for him, the time travel method is Quantum Leaping into his younger self, so no psycho killer machine from the future can come after him. The only psycho killer machines he has to deal with are the i-Sentinels from the 1970s. It’s well paced, action packed, with just the right seasoning of humour and drama to make it an enjoyable viewing experience. The whole time travel thing (as well as being part of the original comic book story), here is a fanboy-ish way of getting both casts on screen. Personally I would have been happy with just the First Class cast, and minimising the future elements to the same degree that old-Spock appeared in the Star Trek reboot.
The big thing here of course is, that just like the nu-Star Trek, this is supposed to reboot the X-Men universe, change the history of the first three films as well as the apocalyptic future through the use of egregious time travel, resulting in the blatant cameos at the end of this film. These movies are comic book adaptations. You don’t need time travel to reboot them, you just reboot them. Hence we get two (or is it three now?) iterations of Spider-man in ten years, we’re working on our second lot of Fantastic Four this year (Fantastic Eight?), and it seems every Hulk movie is a reboot. They should have just declared the X-Men First Class as a reboot right from the beginning, and continued to have fun with these retro settings.
So I had a great time watching X-Men: Days of Future Past. It was fun, entertaining, exciting, thrilling and engaging during its run-time. And Quicksilver’s sprint through the Pentagon kitchen is to this film, what Nightcrawler’s White House bamf sequence was to X2. And in the end, I was disappointed, disappointed by a seventies set film that just didn’t have the seventies feel about it, and instead a little too much apocalyptic future. I know, I’m fickle! Maybe I’ll be more entertained when the X-Men venture forth to my favourite decade in Apocalypse, the decade that taste forgot. Maybe in that film they’ll be able to wear yellow spandex and carry it off.