Yes, I know X-Factor was a team that was composed of the original founding members of the X-Men. The “X factor” I’m referring to is the synonym for that special ingredient that gives something its extra “umpf” — the secret sauce or je ne seis quoi. X-Men: Days of Future Past is candy that has a rich, creamy center wrapped up in a delicious beautiful shell of extravagant special effects and eye-popping action set-pieces. Like a Snickers bar, this latest X-Men outing leaves you satisfied. With lovable, strong, humorous characters, you can’t help but laugh and cheer on all the players. This is what summer blockbusters are supposed to be — magical storytelling at its finest with emotional themes and a bright ending.
Director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg deftly perform a balancing act between the future and the past. Every scene is necessary and exposition is keenly delivered just-in-time. Like a finely-tuned Swiss watch, all the pieces fit and move together with atomic precision. This impressive display can be found in the actors’ sharp-as-Wolverine-claws-portrayals of their characters. No matter the screen time, the characters are people who the audience cares for. When you hear people say “Oh no!” from the brutal death of a minor character, you know the movie has done its job.
Spoiler-ific Plot Details
If you don’t want me to ruin your virginal X-Men: Days of Future Past experience, turn around now! I’m warning you … Okay, last time … Alright, you asked for it…
We start off in the year 2023 and man does it look bleak. Do you remember the prologue from Terminator 2: Judgement Day? Take that sequence and give it a shot of human growth hormone with a dose of speed. A small group of X-Men have just been spotted by Sentinels, robots that make the T-1000 look like a pussy cat. Among the team are Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and Bishop (Omar Sy). The two run and secure themselves inside a vault while the other X-Men buy them time to do what they need to do. These Sentinels are mean and efficient. They’re able to adapt and take on the abilities of the X-Men they’re fighting. In one brutal scene, a Sentinel decapitates Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore), aka Iceman. Killing the group, the Sentinels make their way into the vault just as Kitty and Bishop complete their mission — Kitty transports Bishop’s mind back in time so that their current predicament will never happen. Succeeding in this, the current bloodbath scene is wiped away.
In China, all the X-Men meet up with Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Erik Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen), aka Magneto, and Logan (Hugh Jackman), aka Wolverine. The audience gets a brain-dump on why 2023 looks like Roland Emmerich with an endless budget. In 1973, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), a scientist and industrialist, creates the Sentinel Program. Raven Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence), aka Mystique, assassinates Trask to give all mutants a good future, but the opposite effect happens. The government captures Mystique after the murder and fast-tracks the Sentinel Program. Using Mystique as a lab-rat, they extract her DNA and develop the powerful Sentinels of the future. The initial plan was to send Charles’s mind back into his younger self to stop Mystique, but the ordeal would tear him apart. Logan volunteers because he’s virtually indestructible.
Waking up in 1973, Logan finds himself in his younger body which is evidenced by pre-Adamantium bone claws. He goes to find young Charles (James McAvoy) at his mansion, but is greeted at the door by a resistant young Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), aka Beast. After a brief fight, Charles makes his appearance. A shell of his former self, Charles is able to walk due to a serum, derived by Hank, that he uses to suppress his telepathic powers. With all his past mutant friends killed, he fell into a deep depression and didn’t want to hear the voices of mutants anymore. Logan tells Charles of their impending future if Mystique carries out the assassination. After a brief argument, Charles agrees to help with a plan that involves breaking a young Erik (Michael Fassbender) out of a highly secure prison at the bottom of the Pentagon. Erik is in prison for the assassination of John F. Kennedy because he was able to “bend” the path of a bullet.
Needing more help for the prison break, the team visits Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters), aka Quicksilver, a hyper-speed mutant who can swiftly evade anything. When they get to the Pentagon, Peter sneaks into the elevator and disguises himself as a prison guard. He’s able to free Erik by vibrating the glass and shattering it. The fun doesn’t just end there. Making their way into the kitchen, guards and agents hold them at gunpoint. In what may go down as one of the funniest and most creative escape scenes on film, Peter uses his super-speed and saves everyone while adding some personal touches.
Because of their future knowledge of Mystique’s eventual assassination of Trask, Logan, Charles, Hank, and Erik board a plane for Paris. In an argument, Charles blames Erik for leaving the team and going rogue. Erik retaliates and blames Charles for leaving him when their friends were murdered. At one point, Erik’s anger almost crashes the plane due to an amplification of his powers.
In Vietnam, Mystique rescues a group of mutant American soldiers from an ambitious young soldier — William Stryker (Josh Helman). Stryker was there to take them back for experiments. This leads to Mystique disguising herself as Trask and visiting Trask Industries for further investigation. In Trask’s office, she discovers files upon files of mutants, some being her former friends, used in brutal tests.
At an American/Vietnamese meeting, Trask introduces his Sentinel Program. While performing a demonstration, Trask’s mutant detector device goes off. It leads to the discovery of Mystique who has disguised herself as a Vietnamese general in order to infiltrate the meeting. About to kill Trask, Mystique is interrupted with the sudden arrival of Logan, Charles, Hank, and Erik. Thinking that Mystique and her DNA are the cause of the bleak future, Erik makes the decision to kill her. Mystique runs and jumps out the window. Erik quickly fires the gun and bends the bullet to follow Mystique which injures her calf. Meanwhile, Logan sees Stryker and has a series of painful flashbacks that have to do with Stryker’s future treatment of him. The flashbacks cause instability in Logan. In the future, Logan’s body struggles with the pain. His flailing gravely injures Kitty as she struggles to keep his mind in the past.
With Logan’s future mind in limbo, Logan has no idea where he is and what has happened. Charles attempts to calm Logan and sends Hank to protect Mystique from Erik. Mystique doesn’t get very far when Erik drags her to himself via the bullet still embedded in her calf. Hank gets to her just in time and battles Erik. Kitty is finally able to stabilize Logan’s future mind in his 1973 body. Erik ends the fight and escapes when he shackles Hank with a fountain’s metal sculpture. The spectacle of the events have now exposed mutants to a fearful public.
Seeing what Trask had been warning everyone about, President Nixon greenlights the Sentinel Program. Because of Mystique’s blood from being shot in Paris, Trask is still able to create the Sentinels of the future. As the Sentinels are en route via rail, Erik boards the train and uses manipulated steel from the tracks to embed thread-sized wires into the Sentinels.
Charles starts to regain his telepathic powers and lose his ability to walk when he misses a dose of the serum. Logan implores Charles to stop taking the serum and use his telepathic powers to find Mystique. Charles agrees and, for the first time in many years, accesses Cerebro. At first, he’s unable to do it and shorts out Cerebro. Logan then offers his own mind as a pathway to the future Charles. Arriving in the future, young Charles is told by future Charles that all is not lost. Young Charles regains his confidence and proceeds to use Cerebro to find Mystique in Washington D.C.
Erik, now with his helmet, uproots a giant stadium and flies it above Washington D.C. At the Sentinel unveiling, Erik takes control of the Sentinels and turn them against Trask, Nixon, and the crowd. The Secret Service take Nixon to an underground panic room. Unbeknownst to them, Mystique had disguised herself as one of the agents. As Logan, Charles, and Hank race onto the White House lawn, Erik drops the stadium over the White House — creating a giant barrier so no one can get in or out. Charles, pinned under the debris, is unable to control Erik because of his shielded helmet. Logan is then pierced with multiple wire rods and thrown into the river by Erik.
In 2023, Kitty, due to her injuries, tries her best to keep Logan in the past. Outside, a swarm of Sentinels attack. At first, the X-Men succeed in holding them back, but are soon overwhelmed. Injured from shrapnel, Erik laments to Charles all the time they had wasted in the past fighting each other.
In 1973, Erik pulls the panic room out of the White House and rips it open. He then speaks to the cameras and tells the world that mutants will now be in control. President Nixon emerges from the room and tells Erik to kill him and spare the others. Nixon is then revealed to be Mystique in disguise. She shoots Erik and injures his neck. This was enough of a distraction for her to kick the helmet off Erik’s head. Charles gains control of Erik and uses Erik’s abilities to lift the debris off of himself. As Mystique is about to shoot Trask, Charles intervenes and convinces her not to do it.
With most of the remaining X-Men killed in 2023, Sentinels break into the room housing Kitty, Logan, Charles, and Erik. With all of them about to be killed by Sentinel fire, the scene is wiped clean and the room is now empty.
Logan, in Charles’s mansion, awakens to an alternate optimistic timeline. All the X-Men that had perished in 2023 are now alive and happy. To his biggest surprise, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Scott Summers (James Marsden), aka Cyclops are also alive. Logan then reveals to Charles that the last recollection he had was that of 1973.
In a flashback to 1973, a drowning Logan is pulled from the river by Stryker who was actually Mystique in disguise.
In a post-credits scene (surprise, surprise), we see a crowd of people chanting in the desert as the Pyramids are being built in the air. The people are worshipping one man, En Sabah Nur — Apocalypse.
Best “X” Moments
To be honest, this whole movie was one big awesome moment. From the explosive start to the surreal ending, I had a hard time choosing which ones to list. Here are the ones that I found to be the most memorable and compelling:
- When Charles told Logan to “f— off”, this was probably one of the most humorous and patiently delivered payoffs in any film series.
- Charles recollecting back to his first meeting with Mystique when they were children. It really solidified their non-romantic, strong familial relationship.
- Quicksilver sarcastically slowing his speech down so Erik can understand him.
- Quicksilver recalling how his mom met a guy that had the same abilities as Erik. I thought the naiveté of Quicksilver was hilarious in this scene.
- Quicksilver in the kitchen saving the team and doing his gags. Not only was this directing and special-effects at its finest, but it was one of the smartest ways of establishing character. He was just a guy having fun.
- Learning that Erik didn’t bend the bullet to kill JFK, but to save him because JFK was a mutant too. We all know that the X-Men are an allegory to racism and xenophobia, but to really solidify that by saying JFK was one of their own and knew their plight was just awesome. Because JFK was one of the primary supporters of the Civil Rights movement, this commentary really came through strong.
- When Logan walked through the metal detector and he was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t go off due to his non-Adamantium-laced bones.
- The reveal of Jean Grey alive and well, and right after …
- The reveal of Scott Summers alive and well.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is a movie that can still be exciting in repeat viewings. The reason being is that Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg understand how to bring the audience into their world. When you re-watch this movie, you’re actually re-riding a roller-coaster. Sure, it’s the same thrill-ride, but would you say that the second, third, or even fourth time of going over that initial drop is any less exciting than the first? Of course not. This movie is an experience.
Themes of family, xenophobia, and genocide were also skillfully handled. In dealing with such serious themes, it’s easy for the writer to unknowingly go from storytelling to story-preaching. At the same time, a writer can mishandle these elements and not convey the themes strong enough. Thereby, creating a story that is devoid of any soul or emotion. Kinberg found a good balance here and I commend him for that.
The most important thing this movie didn’t forget to do was have fun. It also made a few daring choices. For the first time, Logan was playing mentor to Charles. This role-reversal really spiced things up as we never saw Charles, in past films, being unsure of himself. This time, it was Logan focusing Charles and teaching him to be his best. I really enjoyed how Singer and Kinberg handled this dynamic.
If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? You should’ve seen it yesterday! If I were you, I would find myself the closest “Kitty Pryde” and have her transport my mind back to my day-younger body so that I can live in a timeline where I’ve seen X-Men: Days of Future Past.
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Tags: Apocalypse Beast Bishop Bobby Drake Bolivar Trask Bryan Singer Charles Xavier Cyclops En Sabah Nur Erik Lehnsherr Hank McCoy Iceman Jean Grey Kitty Pryde Logan Magneto Marvel Movies Mystique Peter Maximoff Quicksilver Raven Darkholme Scott Summers Sentinels Simon Kinberg William Stryker Wolverine X-men X-Men: Days Of Future Past