We continue our look back at the X-Men franchise ahead of Dark Phoenix, with a look at X-Men: Days of Future Past. The film that successfully brought every X-Men cast member together.
Imagine for a moment that it’s 2014. The world is a little calmer than it is today, but there’s still civil discourse. It’s not as prevalent as we see today. The evils of this world are hidden in the shadows, waiting to find their time to shine. They’re there in ways we can see when we look at the details and when we look into the history of our culture. But they’re not yet at a place where it feels overbearing. It’s a world full of potential, for good and bad. This is the world we were given in X-Men: Days of Future Past. This is a film which 5 years later, has not only aged remarkably well, but poses a question to all of us today: “How can we evolve fast enough to change ourselves–to change our fate?”
The seventh installment of the X-Men franchise acts not just as a sequel to X-Men: First Class but is in fact the seventh entry in a complicated franchise. It’s one that accepts the good and bad of the past and asks these characters if things can be changed now that the world has been destroyed by those who fear anyone that’s different. In what could be an insanely convoluted plot, especially considering the time travel element, the film plays everything out simply and directly. It makes the backbone of the story easily accessible so that when we get into the details, we can enjoy the characters and where they are in this moment.
The film continues to grow every character involved. It gives us reason to fully believe that Professor X is filled with hope and understand why he uses that above all else to fight the evils of this world. It takes the “Jennifer Lawrence” Mystique and shows us how she became the kickass spy we came to love in the original trilogy. It adds even more weight to Magneto as he fights for all mutants in his own way, yet also gives him a moment in the end to look back and ask for a second chance. It also strengthens the bond of the relationship between Professor X and Wolverine, something that would become more meaningful as time went on.
This film is proof that with the right story, a series can fully bounce back from every bad element that came before. It makes everything that came before, good or bad, worth the ride. This isn’t just a film about the struggle of the X-Men. It’s a film about the struggle of the series, and it’s a film about the struggle that we as people face when we’re different. It asks us to reassess the past and find new ways to look forward. It brings the series back to a point where the story means something more.
The X-Men series thrives the most when it has meaning. It’s fun to watch Wolverine tear people apart, Mystique turn into someone to find secret government documents, or Magneto send metal objects flying at his enemies. But the series has survived because it is about something deeper than that. This is a series about finding your place in the world when the whole world looks at you as a danger to their way of life. That’s who the X-Men are and what their stories have always been and why having a deeper story is important for these films.
Days of Future Past gives us nearly every single thing we could have possibly asked for in the series at this point. It rewrites the history and brings back the heroes we lost by the end of X-Men: The Last Stand. It even finds a way to give us a moment between the two Charles Xaviers. It shows us in the best ways possible what a Superhero Film can be, just as the series did 14 years beforehand with X-Men. But the series wasn’t done here, and as Charles Xavier says in the closing moments of the film, “Countless choices define our fate.”
Be sure to check out the final installment of the X-Men Franchise, Dark Phoenix, when it hits theaters this weekend. You can check out the previous installments of our X-Men Retrospective at the links below.
X-Men Review: The Superhero Revolution Begins
X2: X-Men United – The X-Men Return To Save All Mutants
X-Men 3: The Last Stand – Thank God This Got Erased By The Prequels
X-Men Origins: Wolverine – Why God, Why?
X-Men: First Class – Mutants Are Groovy Baby
The Wolverine – The Solo Adventures of Wolverine Get Better