No, Really, I’m From the Future: A Review of X-Men: Days of Future Past

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off: just as denizens of the internet had feared, Pietro’s goggles were really awful. Actually, let’s get two things out of the way: although he was referred to as “Peter” throughout the film, the mutant known as Quicksilver is actually named Pietro, and his goggles were really awful. Having said that, however, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the rest of X-Men: Days of Future Past exceeded my expectations. In spite of all the time travel malarkey, the plot was cohesive, the casting was stellar, and lots of geeks got to geek out about their favorite less-famous mutants.

Please stop immediately.

Please stop that immediately, Pietro, you’re ruining this for me.

Spoilers after the jump.

The film is set in an apocalyptic future where humanity’s fear of mutants has led the governments of the world to call for their total annihilation. Robots called Sentinels have been developed with the ability to adapt to and outmatch any mutant power. The Sentinels have eliminated not only mutants but—in the spirit of eugenics—any ordinary human who they detect may eventually have mutant descendants. With only a handful of mutants clinging to life on the fringes of society, Professor Xavier, Magneto, Wolverine, and Storm locate a small group of young mutants who seem to have somehow avoided being found by the Sentinels.

I'm basically a wizard.

I’m basically a wizard.

Kitty Pryde explains that they haven’t, in fact. Unable to escape or defeat the Sentinels, they have no choice but to wait for an attack to happen, then use Kitty’s power to send Bishop’s consciousness back into the past several days and warn the group in advance. That way, they can simply avoid being where they know the Sentinels will find them. Professor X hopes to use Kitty’s power to send himself back to 1973 and stop the events that led to the Sentinels being created, but because long-distance time travel is so traumatic on the human brain, they determine that the only one who could survive the trip is Wolverine.

Wolverine then sets about the monumental task of bringing the young Magneto and Professor X together to change the course of history. All the while, the team of mutants in the future struggles to protect Kitty from the approaching Sentinels as she anchors Wolverine’s consciousness in the past.

Look out, we got some badasses over here.

Look out, we got some badasses over here.

For a series about oppressed and struggling minorities, X-Men movies have historically featured troublingly few actual minorities. Days of Future Past finally makes real steps toward fixing that. While previously canonized casting choices are obviously maintained (Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Patrick Stewart as Professor X and so on) an admirably large portion of the newly introduced characters are from minority groups. In fact, many of the mutants who appear in DoFP are not what one might consider A-List characters, suggesting that they were chosen for this film with representation in mind. Warpath, who is Apache in the X-Men comics, is played by Nils Allen (BooBoo) Stewart, who is partly of Blackfoot descent. Fan Bingbing, a Chinese actress, plays Blink (whose ethnicity is not specified in the comics), Omar Sy, a black French actor, plays Bishop, and Adan Canto, a Mexican actor, plays Sunspot.

Also, where the hell was Wanda?

Let’s move to DC and infiltrate a middle-class family.

In addition to being ethnically diverse, DoFP casts Peter Dinklage as the inventor of the Sentinels, Dr. Bolivar Trask, who was of typical height in the X-Men comics. Unfortunately even this film was not completely exempt from erasure: Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver (called “Peter” for presumably no reason other than to make him sound more American) was recruited by Wolverine and Professor Xavier to help break Magneto out of prison. While Pietro and his sister Wanda are of Romani descent in the comics, Pietro was re-written as a reasonably well-off suburban white kid from Washington DC. This was especially disappointing, considering both that Quicksilver is a major character in the X-Men series and that Romani people have had virtually no positive representation in film.

I suspect that this decision was more a matter of convenience than malice, but there was really no need for it. Pietro spent a lot of time chattering at breakneck speed already, surely the writers could have sacrificed just one or two jokes for some backstory. In fact, if they hadn’t changed his name, it would have been incredibly easy to segue into a cursory explanation of his heritage. It’s the sort of name new acquaintances would feasibly ask about. I’m also baffled as to the decision to exclude Wanda Maximoff, Pietro’s twin, from the film. Wanda’s powers are far more sophisticated and diverse than Pietro’s, and if I were planning a prison break, I would have much preferred Wanda on my team—but she wasn’t even mentioned. This doesn’t minimize the otherwise excellent job DoFP did with casting, but it does beg the question of why this character in particular was stripped of his history.

In terms of the storyline, the film somehow managed to include massive, history-altering time travel while skillfully dancing around the plots of the other five X-Men movies and keeping everything more or less continuous. There were a few mildly confusing moments, but nothing that genuinely detracted from the plot. As per usual, Wolverine, Magneto, and Professor Xavier were the most pivotal characters, and while I understand how important they are to the comics, after six films it would be ideal to see a plotline that focused on one of the many other significant in-universe mutants. Mystique played a more prominent and assertive role in DoFP than she did in its predecessor X-Men: First Class, and her complexity, comic history, and extraordinary powers would make her an ideal candidate for her own spin-off film, especially considering that Wolverine has already had two.

Overall, this film was a pleasant surprise. It has me more excited about the X-Men franchise than I have been in a long time, and makes me eager to see an even larger community of mutants, as well as expansion on all the newly introduced mutants, in future films. The X-Men comics are so popular and expansive that there is certainly no shortage of material to draw from.

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