This is a SPOILER-FREE review, but there is a section after my score which discusses my title and features spoilers. It’s clearly labelled, so hop in after you’ve seen the movie!
X-Men: Days of Future Past is a movie loosely based on a small comic arc of the same name. Anyone familiar with that plot might be surprised that I’m calling anything about this movie feminist. After all, in the original Days of Future Past story arc, Kitty Pryde is the one to travel back in time, while the movie features a play on an alternate version with Bishop (played by Omar Sy), this time featuring Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) as the main time traveler.
I’d argue that this was an unnecessary move box-office wise, but we all know that most people had very low expectations for “yet another” X-Men movie. They needed to pull out the big gun (Wolverine), because everyone loves him.
Despite Wolverine being featured as the protagonist, he is not the most important mutant in the story. That title belongs to Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), upon whose actions the fate of all mutants rests. I’ll have more on Mystique in the spoiler section, but basically we’re seeing her at a time where she’s gone rogue and relies on no one but herself. This version of Mystique feels distinctly adult when compared to First Class.
Beyond all my expectations, I truly enjoyed this movie. The plot was interesting, light-on-its-feet, and engaging. In my opinion, this was also the best use of moving between two timelines in an action movie to date, as the ‘future’ timeline chimed in flawlessly to add suspense to the ‘current’ timeline.
Besides a wonderfully independent-minded Mystique and the ever-lovable Wolverine, we were also treated to younger, angstier, drug-abusing Professor X (James McAvoy) and the adorable Quicksilver (Evan Peters). We also have Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), who’s the reason her team has survived so long in the future. Unfortunately, Storm (Halle Berry) and Rogue (Anna Paquin) get very little screen time, although Blink (Bingbing Fan) is shown to be integral to the future team’s fighting tactics.
Although I understand people wishing for more screen time for their favorite characters, I think that time needed to be slim to accommodate the deep, painful, hope-filled plotlines of the main characters. Ultimately, it would have taken away from the story to try to focus on multiple mutants. Yes, I said that just for the alliteration.
The special effects were big yet gritty. Nothing felt overdone. Hands-down the greatest action moment of the movie for me was Quicksilver demonstrating his true powers. This movie could have used 50% more Quicksilver in my opinion.
So I just gushed about the movie, but what does it do wrong? Well, for starters, I would have preferred it if Kitty was the main character. Despite the hugely important role both she and Mystique played, they weren’t trusted to be the ‘face’ of the movie, and that stings. This film doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test, that’s for sure. There was also the tiny little nagging question of: why does Wolverine have adamantium claws in the future? Didn’t he lose them in his last movie? The 3D also felt extremely unnecessary. It added nothing to the movie but an uncomfortable presence on my face.
X-Men: Days of Future Past was an amazing return to form for the series. The natural feeling of the CGI and sharp pacing made for a great movie, but it was really the characters themselves who brought the story to life.
So what is this feminist subplot of which I speak?
In movies with the two guys, one girl setup, the woman is usually the focus of some sort of contention. Both men want her, or one is trying to protect her and the other wants her for himself. Or maybe one wants to kill her and the other wants to save her. Rarely is the woman shown to be the equal of the two men in this sort of configuration. Her fate is decided by the men in her life.
Mystique decides her own fate. She makes it clear that she takes orders from no one, and finally, fully, trusts in herself. She’s grown and sexy and efficient.
While Xavier wallows in the pain of losing her and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) treats her as an object to further his cause, Mystique refuses to give in. I actually wondered at one point if the men in the audience even understood why she was mad at Xavier when he finally reaches her telepathically. I asked my coworker if he got what that conversation was really about. Turned out he didn’t, so I’m interested to see how men and women heard this point differently.
Xavier’s demands that Mystique “must come home” can be compared to telling a woman to “calm down.” To a man, this statement is “I care/worry about you, I don’t like to see you stressed.” What a woman hears is, “Your problem isn’t important to me, so get over it.”
While Xavier means “You must come home because I miss you and I want to protect you,” Mystique is hearing, “I know best. I don’t trust you to make your own decisions.” This is why she gets so upset, and why she points out that Xavier still wants to control her and can’t see her as his equal.
It took Xavier respecting Mystique as an adult for this storyline to be resolved. Once he trusted her to make the correct decision, she did. It was all she was asking for all along, and she was the true savior of the timeline. The entire movie, then, technically hinged on a man understanding that the woman he cared for is his equal, and that he can’t force people to do what he wants by using love as chain. It’s also why he’s able to let Magneto go in the end as well, and why he’s eventually able to be such a useful mentor to the X-Men.
This was all rather unexpected from a movie whose plot seemed to be “this woman mucks up history, us menfolk gotta go fix it!”