If anyone needed proof that Bryan Singer is the best man to steer the X-Men ship, then this is it. The latest instalment in the franchise by Marvel stands out in sharp contrast to the 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine film by Gavin Hood. While some of that could also be put to pure stylistic differences, the untold truth remains that Singer understands the X-Men better than his peers. However, that is not to say that there are no goof-ups in this one.
As a matter of fact, X-Men: Days of Future Past has quite a few of those, but none so bigger than the question: How is Professor Xavier still alive? In the last installation — at least, the one where all the X-Men were together — Jean Grey has ‘willed’ the wheelchair-bound professor into a million tiny atoms. Heck, there is even a scene where Storm (Halle Berry) gives a glowing eulogy to the departed professor. How is it then that he is back in Days of Future Past? It can’t be explained chronologically, for X-Men: The Last Stand was set in 1986 and this one is in the present? So, what happened?
The only possible explanation is poetic licence and it would not be the first time that Singer has resorted to it. Past instalments by the director have often ended up looking muddled, as far as dates and history go. But, this is nitpicking in what is otherwise an exciting film. And empowering.
Empowering, because Days of Future Past could also be called “X-Women” and it rolls off the tongue just as nicely. Singer’s film is built largely around Raven aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Set in the future, this is the story of how the X-Men, led by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) send back Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into the past, into the 1970s, to dissuade Mystique from assassinating the weapons tycoon and scientist Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).
But, Logan can’t do it alone. He will need the help of the two pioneers of the X-Men, the much younger professor (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to help him stop the shape-shifter. Otherwise, Trask’s death could trigger off mayhem in the form of his sentinels, who have the ability to track down and kill each one of the mutants. This presents an interesting quandary.
Both Magneto and Xavier are agreed in spirit about what is to be done and both have the same end in mind, but wholly different ideas of how to get there. While the mind-reader wants Mystique to turn away of her own accord, Magneto’s method is more direct, and frankly, much more urgent. He wants to kill Mystique, nip it in the bud, so to speak. In that sense, both of them are the clichéd “two sides of the same coin” representations. Interesting as the encounters are, the most intriguing character in the film — besides Mystique — is Trask.
One can’t help feeling an ulterior sense in the projection of Dinklage as the hand that holds the button for the future, even after his death. It is no coincidence that a very short man, probably chided his entire growing-up days for his height, has developed an ego as big as his machines. So much so that he even looks to steal the limelight from Richard Nixon in his heydays. Of course, it can all be dismissed as reading too much into a comic-book story, but that would be doing disservice to a director of Singer’s calibre.
With this one safely in the stack of DVDs that always fly off the shelves, the eighth instalment will showcase more of Wolverine. All things notwithstanding, Jackman is after all the one with the steely glitter. And the cigar.