X-Men: Days of Future Past, by Albert W. Vogt III

When C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) remarks to R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) “Here we go again,” it comes as a new set adventures are about to begin. The line is also meant to evince in the viewer the weight of all they had been through not only to that point in the movie, but in its predecessors as well. It is a subtle nod to the audience that says get ready because you have an idea of what comes next. That was fun. When I said that to myself as I sat down for X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), it was with a sense of dread. The last time I saw this movie was in the theater, and I was just as confused then as I am now. When talking about X-Men: First Class (2011), I pointed out how plot and character decisions in that prequel made the earlier ones set at later date almost nonsensical. How does Marvel go about fixing these problems? By resorting to the trickiest, and usually worst handled plot devices: time travel. It did not make a ton of sense in Avengers: Endgame (2019), and they used it there despite it not making a ton of sense in a previous film, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

In X-Men: First Class we are introduced to a whole new set of people inhabiting the bodies of characters we became familiar with in the first three X-Men movies. But because these films are meant (for some reason) to relate to one another, X-Men: Days of Future Past has to bridge that somehow. So, in true Terminator fashion we start our latest X-Men title in an indeterminate dystopian future. So much for Professor X’s (Patrick Stewart) dream of peace. Instead there are killer robots (told you, Terminator) called Sentinels programmed to kill mutants, and those they do not kill are held captive along with the surviving humans. Professor X and Magneto (Ian McKellen) have put aside their differences and lead the resistance, which is basically just the X-Men. They manage to stay one step ahead of the machines because they are able to see attacks coming, and then Kitty Pryde (Elliot Page) sends Bishop’s (Omar Sy) consciousness back a few hours to warn them of the danger. This gives them the bright idea of sending Logan (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 in order to stop the development of the Sentinels and prevent this war from ever happening. Logan is chosen because they feel he can handle it best. Yes, that is totally the reason, nothing having to do with his Hugh Jackman’s star power. Anyway, he winds up in his 1973 body with a mission to bring Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) back together and stop Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Sentinel developer Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). This act is what provides the impetus for the government adopting the Sentinel program and all the subsequent problems. The hiccup to all this is that Xavier has given up and dulls his telekinetic mutant abilities with a serum that also allows him to walk (he had been paralyzed in the previous movie), and Erik is being held captive in a special non-metal prison stories below the Pentagon. Thus the normally cool, calm, and collected Logan (that is a joke, by the way) is meant to not only play diplomat between two embittered friends, but also must break into one of the most secure locations in the world. To do so, they enlist the help of Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who can move insanely fast. Yet, once that job is done, say goodbye to this character who probably would have been useful later on. . . . Their next move is to travel to Paris where they know Trask will be, and they anticipate Raven showing up there as well. In the process, Erik learns of the Sentinel program and reverts to his annoyingly repetitive default setting of hating humans and wanting mutants to rule. So while they have saved Trask for the moment, Erik has now gone rogue (no X-men pun intended, though Anna Paquin shows up very briefly at the end). The events in Paris also give Trask the cachet with (the worst impersonation ever of) President Nixon (Mark Camacho) he needs to get the Sentinel program approved. It is at the unveiling of the Sentinels on the front lawn of the White House that Erik and Raven decide to attack again. Logan and Xavier, with Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) in tow, arrive in the nick of time to stand between the would-be assassins and their targets. Despite dropping a stadium on the area surrounding the presidential residence, Erik is allowed to escape. Raven, too, comes to her senses and is the one to actually stop Erik. When Logan comes to in the future, everything is back to the way it was in the first three X-Men movies, so hooray I guess.

If you remember in X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), team stalwarts Scott Summers/Cyclops (James Marsden) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) died as a result of Jean giving control over to the destructive Phoenix entity. I am not here to explain that plot all over again. What I do not understand, though, is how putting an end to the Sentinels means that these two are alive at the end of X-Men: Days of Future Past? Or that Rogue decides to remain a mutant, despite giving up her powers in the 2006 film? And where are Erik and Raven? There is a sort of sweet moment (at completely the wrong time!) between Professor X and Magneto towards the end where, with Sentinels about to finish them off, Magneto waxes regretful about the time they wasted fighting each other. Hence, you would think that with such a cinematic olive branch would have them perhaps working together in the altered, more peaceful future. Then again, what was Magneto doing with his powers in the first place since he supposedly lost them in X-Men: The Last Stand? Ugh!

Alright. Deep breath. So how does this practicing Catholic get anything out of the train wreck that is X-Men: Days of Future Past? In watching the X-Men films, my note taking has been minimal because they are just . . . so stinkin’ . . . repetitive. Blah, blah, blah, mutant rights. Blah, blah, blah, evolution. If you have seen one, you have basically seen them all. However, there was one moment in this particular movie that got my fingers working, and that is when Xavier touches Logan mind for the first time. This results in a conversation between Professor X in the future and Charles Xavier in the past. The older version tells the younger one that he is running from his pain, and that rather it should be embraced. He goes on to say that bearing pain well is a human quality, and that transcending it brings hope. While listening to it, I could not help but think of Jesus’ Crucifixion. Keep in mind that while Jesus was God, He was also fully human. And not only did He deal with the agony of the Cross, but He bore the agony of us all. Superficially, this might seem horrid, and truthfully it is not something to be taken lightly. Nonetheless, we all have our own crosses to bear, and when you can see meaning in doing so, like bringing about a hopeful future, then it makes the pain tolerable. Not easy, but tolerable. This is true for Faith and for Xavier.

Unfortunately, these moments in X-Men: Days of Future Past are all too brief as we return quickly to the nonsensical laying out of this time travel plot. Before it began, I warned the old man I live with that this was an awful movie, and he remarked immediately on the oxymoronic title. Strange phrasing aside, there is nothing about the film that I would say might lead you to sin, unless it causes you to want to attempt to steal every copy of it, lock them in an unbreakable vault, and send it the bottom of the Challenger Deep. If you do so, not only would you be guilty of theft, but I believe that would also technically count as pollution. Instead, just avoid it if at all possible.

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