Ashley’s Uncanny X-Watch: Days of Future Past

As we all undoubtedly know, X-Men: Apocalypse comes out on May 27th, which is TOMORROW! In the time leading up to this premier, I will be re-watching and writing about each X-Men movie made so far. Today, Days of Future Past.

I love this movie. I’ve watched it more times than all the other X-movies and most regular movies, too. Recently, I’ve had several people express to me their distaste for Days of Future Past. This was a shock to me. How could anyone hate this movie? It’s so fun and emotional, and we learn so much about the characters! I resolved to go into it this time with a more critical eye, keeping a sharp lookout for anything that might bother a viewer. Because I am a professional.

Guys, this movie is still fucking amazing to me. Whatever you all see in this that makes you hate it, I just can’t find it. Sure, the characters are dramatic and their dialogue is a tad overwrought, but it all makes sense in the context of the stories, for the personalities of these characters. Shit is so real for them here! I buy into the drama, one hundred percent, so it works for me. And I’m not sorry.

There is one complaint I will voice about DoFP, and it’s one that extends a theme we’ve seen from these movies before. If you’ll recall, in The Last Stand, I complained about Jean Grey’s one monumental display of personal agency in the comics being stripped from her and given to Logan to execute instead. In the Days of Future Past comics, Kitty Pryde (going by Kate in the future) is the one who travels back in time to lead the X-Men in their quest to change history.

In the movie, some science-y bullshit is made up so that only Logan, the man who has already had two full movies of this franchise to himself, can travel back to the 70’s. As much as I love this movie, I can’t even imagine how much I would lose my shit over a version that was helmed by Kitty Pryde. I guess Hugh Jackman is the reason folks go to see these movies.

Why would anyone want to look at THIS? I just don’t get it.

Oh, okay, and my other complaint is that Booboo Stewart playing Warpath and Fan Bingbing playing Blink were both so good and they deserve their own movies and not three collective minutes of screen time. 

Wait, sorry, one more complaint and then I truly am done, and it’s not really a complaint for myself so much as a thing I can totally understand bothering other people. Science got real weird in this one. The sentinels are able to mimic the powers of the mutants. Because of Mystique’s DNA? They made robots with DNA in them that affects the way they operate? Somehow? Also Mystique’s transformation abilities apply to her appearance and not her powers? Also Kitty can send people back in time now? For no reason that is explained? You couldn’t get a telepath to do that one so it at least made some semblance of sense? Anyway, I’m pretty good at suspending my disbelief and operating fully by movie logic, but I’ll admit these are some pretty big gaps to jump.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you why I love this movie so.

I never expected it to be good. When I heard the franchise was going to try to bridge First Class with the original trilogy, I was honestly upset. It seemed unnecessary to me. Let the movies focus on being good movies, and who cares about them all existing together in the same continuity. I was worried that an attempt to fuse the two timelines would come at the cost of the movie’s quality. 

But I was wrong! Our familiarity with both of the timelines makes the stakes in Days of Future Past so high for us. We know whose lives are at risk, and we know who’s risking them. 

Erik/Magneto is the real wild card in this movie because of his character’s complexity. When young Erik berates Charles for abandoning his fellow mutants as humans are killing them off, using them for experiments, he’s the good guy for a moment. Everything he says is true. Yet later, when he turns on Mystique and tries to kill her “for the greater good” we are reminded of just how far this guy will go to secure his goals. Erik in this movie really helps us to understand Magneto in the previous movies. On some level, he’s not wrong. He just has no boundaries. He does not let his decisions bear the burden of his personal emotions. He’ll kill someone he loves in cold blood if he thinks it will help more people in the long run.

Mystique/Raven continues to give us perhaps the best overall character arc in this franchise. She’s conflicted, torn between Erik and Charles. She confronts the whole kill/don’t kill conflict at least four different times in this movie. And while we know in the original timeline, she chooses Erik (only to be betrayed by him in the end), here we see her choose neither. She makes her own decisions, and sets off on her own. (Apparently this involves impersonating Stryker and taking custody of a nearly-drowned Logan to do God knows what.) I’m anxious to see how her story continues in Apocalypse.

I had a moment in which I wondered if maybe the reason I love this movie so much is because of Quicksilver, known only as “Peter” for the purposes of this movie. Man, that kid is so good. Even the details of Evan Peters’ performance really emphasize that this poor kid is stuck in a world that ticks by at a glacial pace, and he is just desperately trying to keep himself entertained. That scene when he helps Charles, Logan and Hank free Erik from the Pentagon is one of my favorite movie scenes ever.

The casting here was really excellent. Everyone delivered their “dramatic” lines so well, it all felt real to me even in the most unrealistic moments. While I don’t really believe in congratulating institutions of power for doing the bare minimum in terms of diversity/representation, I do find it quite a relief that Warpath is played by someone of actual Native American decent. Also it was heartening to see Peter Dinklage cast in a role solely because of his acting ability, and not at all due to his height.

At the end of this, I think the reason I love this movie so much is because I am so emotionally invested in its conflict and the outcome. When we find out how Trask is killing and torturing mutants, when Mystique cries, that hurts my soul, you know? I care about these people. I know the ones who’ve been killed. I know them. In the same way that The Last Stand punished viewers for knowing/caring about the characters, Days of Future Past rewards them. I’ll never clearly see why casual X-watchers dislike this movie, because I’ll never be able to remove myself from my love for and investment in the lives of these guys. They’ve been a part of my life for so long, and in so many different media. They’re a part of me.

Sorry, I did not expect to get this emotional.

The stakes are so high, but we get our happy ending. (At least as much as you can count any ending that involves Jean and Scott being alive as happy.) Everyone is alive and together and laughing. And we earned that. We sacrificed so much to get that. 

I love the X-Men, and I love this movie.

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