“No, I don’t want your suffering, I don’t want your future!” – Charles Xavier
X-Men: First Class (“First Class”) is a fantastic prequel to the original X-Men film trilogy. After the lukewarm reception to the final film in the original trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand; the return of Bryan Singer, as a producer, brought the magic back to the franchise. In addition, I am a big fan of Matthew Vaughn, who directed First Class. He has also directed Kick Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Singer returns to the helm as director in X-Men: Days of the Future Past (“DoFP”). The Days of the Future Past story arc is one of the most iconic in X-Men lore. Singer does an incredible job with the movie and totally exceeds my expectations on what a perfect film adaption of the source material could be. First, I really enjoy the film showing the future and past story lines moving concurrently. Next, there have been many characters introduced in the previous four films. As such, Singer’s biggest challenge with DoFP is potentially having too many characters that could lead to a mess of a movie. He handles the situation magnificently. Wisely, he has most of the characters as supporting characters with small roles or cameos. Regardless of the size of the role, I enjoy and agree with how much each character is a part of the story. More importantly, I completely agree with focusing the story on Logan/ Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and the younger versions of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and Raven Darkhölme / Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). For me, it is magic every time McAvoy and Fassbender are on screen in First Class. I cannot think of better actors to portray the younger versions of Charles Xavier and Magneto. They have great chemistry as the legendary frenemies. Since the Days of the Future Past story arc is set in the past and DoFP is a sequel to First Class, the focus on those two characters is obvious. In addition, I agree with expanding the roles of Logan and Raven from previous interpretations of the story arc to make them main characters in the film. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is the most popular character in the film franchise. Moreover, Jennifer Lawrence’s career has exploded since First Class with her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen in the popular Hunger Game series, her Academy Award winning performance in Silver Linings Playbook, and Academy Award nominated performances in American Hustle and Joy. Consequently, it is a no brainer to rework the story to focus the film on McAvoy, Fassbender, Jackman, and Lawrence. In addition, composer John Ottman does a phenomenal job with the score of the film. His music captures and reflects the emotion of the key moments in the film seamlessly. First Class is still my favorite film in the entire franchise. DoFP is a very close second.
The Days of the Future Past storyline is one of the most well-known among X-Men fans and centers on Sentinels, robots created to hunt down and kill mutants. In the comic books, Sentinels are successful in collecting mutants and superhumans and putting them in internment camps for extermination. They eventually conquer all of North America and set their sights on the rest of the world. However, the world is aware and ready to use nuclear weapons to stop the spread of the Sentinels. In order to prevent a nuclear holocaust, the remaining X-Men send Kitty Pryde/ Shadowcat back in time to possess her younger body and prevent the assassination of Senator Kelly by Mystique which sparks the outcry for the need and use of Sentinels. Since the younger Kitty had yet to learn how to stop a telepathic attack, she is the obvious choice. In the 1990s animated series, an aged Wolverine is the last remaining X-Men and supposed to go back in time to stop Mystique. Instead, mutant and bounty hunter Bishop goes because he is much younger than Wolverine. Moreover, he uses a time machine and a wrist band that keeps him in the past. I appreciate that the film incorporates all of these characters and a lot of the elements while still providing a fresh and unique version of the events.
The movie begins with narration from the older Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) about the future: “The future, a dark, desolate world. A world of war, suffering, loss on both sides. Mutants and the humans who dared to help them, fighting an enemy we cannot defeat.” We see the chilling images of a destroyed New York City and internment camps with mutants and humans. Next, we encounter a group of X-Men in Russia that includes some familiar faces in Bobby Drake/ Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Kitty Pryde/ Shadowcat (Ellen Page), and Peter Rasputin/ Colossus (Daniel Cudmore). Again, their respective powers are creating and manipulating ice, phasing through solid objects, and transforming into steel with superhuman strength. They are joined by newcomers Bishop (Omar Sy), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), and Blink (Fan Bingbing). Their powers are absorbing energy and redirecting it in the form of blasts, creating flames and firing it in blasts, super agility and superhuman strength, and creating portals. An additional power for Warpath is enhanced senses. As such, he is able to sense incoming Sentinels that are about to attack them. The film introduces a group of futuristic Sentinels that are different from previous versions featured in the comics or the animated series. The battle is an absolute rout. As the fight progresses, it is revealed that the Sentinels have an ability to adapt to any mutant power and neutralize it. Accordingly, the X-Men can only fight to slow down the Sentinels. They cannot stop them. Nevertheless, it is still fun to see the various mutant powers in a live action movie. Specifically, Blink’s ability to create portals is phenomenal. She uses it to move the X-Men around the complex and redirect the Sentinel attacks at each other. The only previous Sentinel, the DoFP’s version reminds me of, is Nimrod. He is virtually indestructible and could regenerate itself if even a small part of him remains intact. It takes an entire team of X-Men to defeat him. However, they only had to fight one Nimrod. From my perspective, it is like every one of the DoFP Sentinels are a Nimrod. Bryan Singer also a long list of mutants who have powers that would look flashy on screen. I like that he does not include a mutant just for flash. In this scene, we get to see the amazing powers of the X-Men. However, they are utilized to demonstrate the terror of the Sentinels and the futileness of trying to defeat them in the future.
The X-Men fight and die valiantly to buy time for Kitty and Bishop who retreat to a secured room. She has developed an ability to send another person back a few days in the past to his younger. When the Sentinels attack, she sends Bishop back in time so he can warn the team to leave before the Sentinels ever arrive. It is a good nod to the source material that Kitty and Bishop serve this function since they each went back in time in different versions of the story arc. Kitty’s new ability is similar to the method used to send her back in time in the comics. As the Sentinels breach the room, Shadowcat mocks them “Too late, assholes!” and they all vanish because the past and resulting present has changed. Shortly afterwards, Professor Xavier pilots the Blackbird to rendezvous with the team at a monastery in the mountains in China. In addition to Xavier, familiar faces Erik/ Magneto (Ian McKellan), Storm (Halle Berre), and Logan/ Wolverine exit the Blackbird. While each character comes down the ramp with the swagger fitting of their legendary status, Wolverine definitely makes the most memorable entrance. Despite being in the midst of an apocalyptic future, he remains calm, cool, and styling smoking a cigar in his mouth. They meet to discuss the dire situation. The Sentinels continue to close in quicker and they will not be able to escape them much longer. Accordingly, a drastic last ditch effort is needed.
Xavier and Magneto explain how the dystopian future transpired. The Sentinels were created by Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). He was assassinated by Mystique in 1973 at the Paris Peace Accords that ended the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, she was captured afterwards. Her captors experimented on her and were able to duplicate her powers of transformation for use in the Sentinels of the future. Accordingly, it explains how they are able to adapt to different powers. In the source material, Mystique assassinates Senator Kelly which escalates anti-mutant hostilities and only reinforces the public support for Sentinels. Since he is killed off in a different manner in the first X-Men film, her target needs to be changed to Trask. In addition, it only makes sense to increase Jennifer Lawrence and her Mystique’s role and significance to the story because she is the most well-known and accomplished cast member now. In my opinion, the weaponization of her genes in the Sentinels is a brilliant way to expand her role in the apocalyptic future. In addition, it builds on the idea Hank McCoy/ Beast (Nicholas Hoult) has in First Class to utilize her genes to control appearance so all mutants can look normal [human]. Instead of using them to create a cosmetic solution, it is a fascinating idea to misuse them for warfare instead. Of course, I also love the decision to change Logan’s role in the events so he remains a main character in the film. Although Kitty can theoretically send a person back in time decades, the strain of going back so far is too much for the mind to handle. Even though the initial thought is to send Xavier back in time, even his powerful mind cannot survive it. However, Logan’s ability to heal will allow his mind to regenerate as soon as it is torn apart. Accordingly, he becomes the only choice to travel back to 1973. The film could have made up any quick, lazy reasons to increase the roles of Mystique and Logan in this story arc to feature Jennifer Lawrence and Hugh Jackman. I appreciate that it provides a well thought out explanation of why the characters are necessary in this fresh take on the Days of the Future Past storyline.
It does not take long for Hugh Jackman to show us why we enjoy watching him as Logan. When Kitty successfully sends him back in time to his younger self in 1973, he wakes up on a water bed next to a young woman. In actuality, she is a mob boss’s daughter who Logan is assigned to protect. Henchmen arrive at the room to kill Logan for his debauchery. In response to the men accosting him for sleeping with the boss’s daughter, he explains “No. I mean, yes, I slept with her many times, but… That wasn’t me, that was the old me. I just got here like twenty seconds ago.” His response is a hilarious play on words that capture the irony of the situation. It is one of many great lines that Logan has in the film and Jackman delivers them perfectly. His answer only escalates the situation and the men eventually shoot him. Of course, his mutant power immediately heals his body and he easily beats up the goons. He takes the leader of the pack’s clothes and the keys to his car. Next, he drives to the X-Mansion. However, the school is closed and Hank McCoy opens the door to tell him so. Naturally, Logan does not take “no” for an answer. He struggles with Hank to keep the door ajar and even teases the younger version of his future friend “You’re Beast? Look at you. Well, I guess you’re a late bloomer.” He continues to prod Hank to pressure him into turning into Beast. Eventually, he loses his patience with Hank standing in his way and notes “Look, kid, you and I are gonna be good friends. You just don’t know it yet.” As we would expect from Logan, he punches Hank in the face to get inside the house. It is typical Logan and features how funny it is to see him handle a situation in a ridiculous manner. Obviously, Hank is not amused by being assaulted. He transforms into the Beast and swings around the mansion to engage Logan in a very entertaining, quick fight. In these two scenes, Logan demonstrates exactly why he is everyone’s favorite bad boy X-Man.
Logan and Hank cease their battle once Charles comes out to check out the commotion. Before Logan’s trip back to the past, the older Xavier warned that “I didn’t have my powers in 1973. Logan, you’re going to have to do for me what I once did for you. Lead me, guide me. I was a very different man then. You’ll have to be patient with me.” Since the younger Charles does not have his powers, Logan tries to convince him that the future Xavier sent him back in time to stop and save Raven to prevent the apocalyptic future. Of course, Charles is highly skeptical of the story. It is beyond ridiculous. However, Logan is able to persuade him by retelling a private anecdote that Charles has yet to tell anyone else about when he first got his powers: “. I know you thought you were going crazy when it started, all the voices in your head. And it wasn’t until you were twelve that you realized all the voices were in everyone else’s head.” Once Charles is willing to listen, we learn more about the horrors of the dystopian future: “In the beginning, the Sentinels were just targeting mutants. Then, they began to identify the genetics in non-mutants who’d eventually have mutant children or grandchildren. Many of the humans tried to help us. It was a slaughter. Leaving only the worst of humanity in charge.” While we would expect Charles to immediately help, this film starts us out with an apathetic Charles Xavier. In a nod to Logan’s brief cameo in First Class, Charles remembers when he and Erik tried to recruit Logan for the X-Men. As such, he offers the same response when he tells Logan “Fuck off!” [Logan actually says “Go fuck yourself”]. I am pleased with the direction this film goes with Charles as a character. First Class is set in the 1960s. DoFP brings us to the 1970s and I enjoy the movie using Charles to reflect the times. As we know, the controversial Vietnam War dominates the American landscape during the 1970s. In this film, Charles is affected directly by it. As Hank explains to Logan “He lost everything. You know, Erik, Raven and his legs. We built the school, the labs, this… this whole place, then just after the first semester the war in Vietnam got worse. Many of the teachers and all the students were drafted, and it broke him. He retreated into himself. I… I wanted to help, do something, so I designed a serum to treat his spine. You know, derived from the same formula that helps me control my mutation. I take just enough to keep myself balanced, but he takes too much. I tried easing him back, but he just couldn’t bear the pain, the voices. The treatment gives him his legs, but it’s not enough. He’s…he’s just lost too much.” The point that even the ultimate optimist in Charles Xavier has lost hope in the world due to the war is a brilliant choice to parallel the sentiment at the time. It is also compelling character development to watch a pessimistic Charles be skeptical of his own dream for a better world. Moreover, his addiction to Hank’s formula is a mirror of the rampant drug use during the 1970s. Only when Charles sees a picture of Raven and convinces himself he is doing it to save her does he agree to help Logan.
Next, they also need to jailbreak Erik who is being held in a concrete prison well below the Pentagon. Hank and Charles note that Erik is imprisoned there because he assassinated President JFK with a curved bullet. Again, I really enjoy the historical fiction used to tie the film to the era. Of course, Charles is reluctant to work with Erik, who he holds responsible for a lot of the issues in his life (e.g. taking away Raven, paralyzing him, etc.). However, the future Charles and Erik sent Logan back in time to unite the two men much earlier in life in order to save the future. Accordingly, they embark on a prison break. It provides an opportunity to introduce the most fun newcomer to the X-Men film franchise, Peter Maximoff/ Quicksilver (Evan Peters). This version of Quicksilver blows away the one shown in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Logan, Hank, and Charles visit Peter’s house to recruit hm. They find him in his basement playing ping pong with himself by utilizing his super speed. He is a kleptomaniac and displays his stolen goods in plain sight. The character is very fun and entertaining because he is a wise cracking teenager who is not afraid to flash his powers. He continues to crack jokes even in serious situations. In addition, he is sarcastic and enjoys pushing boundaries and getting on people’s nerves. As Charles puts it, “He’s a pain in the ass.” Naturally, Peter will not respond to authority or tugs at his compassion. Instead, they appeal to his compulsion to steal “You, you kleptomaniac, get to break into the Pentagon.” Accordingly, Peter’s eyes light up with excitement at the prospect. Moreover, Logan extends his wooden claws to show him they are also mutants and he can trust them.
Quicksilver’s powers are ideal for the prison break. He is able to infiltrate the prison block by running into the elevator at the kitchen when a guard goes to bring food to Erik. He is so fast that he is a blur that no one notices. He uses masking tape to strap the guard against the elevator and takes his uniform to walk past a hallway of guards awaiting at the bottom of the elevator. Once he gets to the prison cell, he touches the glass with his hands and move them so fast that it causes the glass to shatter. As the guards in the hallway converge on the prison to shoot them, Peter prepares by holding Erik’s head to prevent whiplash and runs back to the elevator as soon as the doors open. The momentum of his speed knocks all the guards down. When Peter is alone with Erik in the elevator, he gets a moment to pester him with questions (e.g. the reason he is in prison). His motor mouth has no inhibitions as he also asks random questions like whether Erik knows karate. In response, Erik hilariously answers “I don’t know karate, but I know crazy.” Comic book fans also know that Erik is actually Peter’s father. As an indirect nod to that genealogy, Peter notes “You know, my mom once knew a guy who could do that.” when Erik tells him that he has the ability to control metal. There is a lot more irony in the situation. On one hand, Erik is a darker character who is always stern and focused. On the other hand, Peter is a mischievous teenager who thinks everything is a joke. The fact that they are actually father and son and do not know it makes the scene even more funny. When the elevator reaches the top, they are greeted by Charles and Logan. Shortly after, more guards arrive and with plastic guns. Since Charles does not have his powers, Erik tries to use the metal objects around the kitchen and the guards fire their guns. It leads to the most spectacular scene in the movie. Peter moves at super speed to neutralize the guards (e.g. tapping one in the cheek, throwing dishes at another, adjusting their arms to punch themselves or each other in the face, etc.) and redirecting the bullets to miss his friends. True to his ridiculous nature, he also takes the time to sample soup, knock a hat off a guard’s head, put on another guard’s hat, and give a wedgie. The scene is perfectly synced to the song, “Time in a Bottle”. It is a fantastic idea and incredibly executed.
Magneto continues to be a compelling character in this film. He has caused a lot of pain to Charles since the end of First Class (i.e. paralyzing him and taking Raven). Accordingly, Charles punches him in the face as soon as he sees him in the Pentagon. Their tensions explode into an all-out argument while they fly on a small airplane to the Paris Peace Accords to stop Raven from killing Trask. In addition to taking Raven, Charles accuses Erik of abandoning him. However, Erik counters that “Angel, Azazel, Emma, Banshee. Mutant brothers and sisters, all dead! Countless others, experimented on, butchered! Where were you, Charles? We were supposed to protect them! Where were you when your own people needed you? Hiding! You and Hank, pretending to be something you’re not!” Erik is so incensed that his magnetic powers begin to crush the plane. Erik’s methods are extreme and cannot be condoned. However, his intentions to protect mutants is justifiable. As a survivor of the Holocaust, his fears of genocide are very real. He cannot stand by and wait for it to happen to his people again. His gripe with Charles is not unwarranted. As a quote from Edmund Burke explains, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” While Erik’s actions often cross the line, there is a case that Charles’s inaction is a worse sin. After tensions subside, Erik explains that he did not kill JFK. In fact, he tried to save him because he was a mutant. Upon this revelation, Charles concedes “You must think me so foolish. You’ve always said they would come after us.” Again, Erik’s fears are real and action is needed to stop evil. The contrast, between Charles’s dream of peaceful coexistence via leading by example and Erik’s belief [perhaps more realistic] that war is inevitable so a preemptive strike is needed to ensure victory, is one of the most fascinating debates in the X-Men saga. I enjoy how this scene explores and rationalizes Erik’s side of the debate. Moreover, I like that it explains the absence of many of the mutants introduced in First Class. It would have been too many mutants on screen if some were not killed off screen in between films. However, their deaths support the narrative of the film. After Charles and Erik’s argument, there is a funny and great moment when Logan tells Erik “So you were always an asshole… I spent a lot of years trying to bring you down, bub… You’re like me. You’re a survivor.” It is a blunt, yet good description of Magneto. He continues to be an amazingly interesting anti-hero and great character.
Jennifer Lawrence’s career has skyrocketed since First Class. Naturally, we get a heavy dose of her Raven/ Mystique in DoFP. The character has significantly matured since the first film. In First Class, she is innocent and unsure of herself. I also thought she is a bit childish and whiny. However, I have retrospectively retconned all my opinions of Jennifer Lawrence’s characters to appreciate all her performances. In that film, Charles is her adoptive brother so she feels an obligation to believe in his dream. However, Erik’s beliefs resonate with her more. Throughout the film, she struggles with balancing what she thinks she should do against what her instincts tell her to do. Charles realizes it and tells her to go with Erik at the end of the film. In DoFP, Raven is a lot more confident and sure of her purpose. In her first scene, she infiltrates an army base in Vietnam by shapeshifting into a colonel to save a group of mutant soldiers, who unbeknownst to them, are about to be shipped to Trask industries for experimentation. Among the mutants, are Alex Summer, aka Havoc from First Class, and Toad. The leader of the soldiers rounding up the mutants is a young William Stryker (Josh Helman). As we know, he will become the mad scientist who infuses Logan with adamantium and attempts to kill all mutants. It is a great scene where she transforms back to her regular body and neutralizes all the soldiers with an assortment of acrobatic moves and a few assists from the other mutants. When it appears she is about to kill Stryker, Havok uses his powers to knock him out of her grasps. One of the important subplots in the film is Raven killing for the first time. Once she gets her first kill, it will be a point of no return. It will fundamentally change her as character and she will continue to kill. It parallels the end of First Class when Erik kills Sebastian Shaw and falls from grace. Throughout the film, there is a persisting question of whether her fate is predetermined or whether she still has a choice in the matter. After Raven knocks out the soldiers, she reverts back to her disguise as a colonel to ensure the mutants are on a plane home. She walks away with a swagger that shows her confidence as a strong woman that no longer needs Charles or Erik to tell her what to do.
Next, Raven sneaks into Trask’s office disguised as Trask. To her horror, she finds pictures of deceased mutants who have been experimented on. Among the dead are her friends, Azazel and Angel Salvadore. Of course, she is grief stricken by the revelation and sheds tears. Naturally, her next emotion is anger. It provides the motive for her to assassinate Trask out of vengeance. Again, it parallels Erik’s pursuit of Shaw to avenge his mother. Afterwards, she attends a victory celebration in a bar in Paris attended by the Soviets and Vietnamese. She masquerades as an interpreter to seduce Vietnamese General Nhuan. She knocks him out in his hotel room so she can shapeshift into him and take his place at Paris Accords to be in the same room as Trask, where he will be making a presentation about his Sentinel program. At the same time; Charles, Hank, Logan, and Erik are on the way to stop her. While they prevent her from killing Trask, the mission is a major disaster. Not surprisingly, Erik betrays them. His objectives are always to ensure the survival of the mutant race at all costs. Accordingly, he concludes that he must kill her so the race can survive. In the words of Spock whose Vulcan logic would agree with Erik’s disregard of his affection for Raven, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. As he uses his powers to point a gun at Raven, Hank intervenes and holds him back while Raven runs away and jumps out of the window into the streets below. Nevertheless, Erik is able to discharge the gun and curve the bullet towards her. It hits her in the leg and some of her blood is left on the ground. Since the Paris Accords is a major event, the media and a crowd is outside of the building and see a blue skinned Raven as well as witness her shapeshifting. When Erik arrives to chase her, Hank intervenes again and transforms into Beast to fight him. As a result, the world becomes aware of the existence of mutants and are terrified of their abilities. In response, President Nixon asks for countermeasures and an opportunistic Trask arrives to offer his Sentinels. Nixon greenlights the program and wants a public demonstration to alleviate fears. In addition, Wolverine sees Stryker when they arrived to stop Raven. The sight of Stryker instantaneously sparks horrific flashbacks of his adamantium procedure. It makes it difficult for Kitty to hold Logan’s mind in the past. Moreover, his body in the future goes out of control. He starts swinging his arm and slashes Kitty. She is critically injured but has no choice than to hold on because the past and future are in worse shape. Logan needs to stay in the past to correct it. In a deleted scene, the X-Men search for Rogue in the future so she can absorb Kitty’s power and replace her. There is a cut of the movie with this side mission. The official cut and flow of the movie is fine without it.
Understandably, Charles loses hope after the setbacks. He is pessimistic and skeptical at this point in his life. As such, it does not take much to revert him back to his sulking and brooding. As one could deduce, the disaster in Paris as well as Erik’s betrayal again is more than just a minor bump in the road. Nevertheless, Logan convinces Charles to not take Hank’s formula anymore and allow his telepathic powers to return so he can utilize Cerebro to find Raven. When Charles attempts to use Cerebro, he fails miserably: “You don’t understand, it’s not a question of being rusty. I can flip the switches, I can turn the knobs, but my power comes from here. It comes from… [his heart]”. In an amazing moment, Logan encourages Charles to looks through his mind and into the future. It provides an opportunity for the two Xaviers to meet and talk. James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart on screen together is a magical moment in the film and franchise. It is another brilliant idea. Stewart’s older Xavier still believes in his dream: “Just because someone stumbles, loses their way, it doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. Sometimes we all need a little help.” It is an ironic situation where an older Xavier is still the ultimate optimistic living in a bleak, apocalyptic future while a younger Xavier is a total pessimist in the past that is still full of opportunities to change the future. In addition, younger people tend to be overly optimistic then become more realistic as they age. Accordingly, the situation is also ironic from this standpoint. The older Xavier notes that his younger self is afraid and Cerebro knows it. With my favorite lines in the film, he notes “It’s not their pain you’re afraid of, it’s yours, Charles. And as frightening as it may be, that pain will make you stronger. If you allow yourself to feel it, embrace it, it will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It’s the greatest gift we have, to bear their pain without breaking, and it’s born from the most human power: Hope.” It is a beautiful moment that is synced to the perfect song, appropriately titled “Hope”. The music captures the emotion of the scene flawlessly. It provides a tranquil and inspirational ambience. When I have trouble sleeping at night or want to sleep on a flight, I play the song on repeat to relax my mind. It is also good thinking music. Back to the film, the younger Charles has the breakthrough that transforms him into the great visionary we know him to be.
The ending of the film is set up very well. Both Erik and Charles get a chance to talk to Raven individually. In terms of the former, Raven tracks him down to a train station. She shapeshifts into a beggar and grabs him so they can speak privately in a phone booth. Erik informs her about the message from the future and how her blood will be used to create the Sentinels of the future that will eradicate mutants. Of course, the prospect only reinforces his wish to wage war and strike first. On the other hand, she still only wants to assassinate Trask. As such, he notes that “Killing one man isn’t enough”, which alludes to him killing but not stopping with Shaw. Nevertheless, she does not yet want to be him. With the help of Cerebro, Charles later finds her at an airport and uses his telepathic abilities to speak to her from afar. He pleads with her that “I know what Trask has done, but killing him will not bring them [her friends] back. It will set you on a path from which there is no return. An endless cycle of killing, us and them, till there is nothing left. But we can stop it, right now, you and I. You just have to come home.” Again, both men highlight the critical turning point in Raven’s life when she will become a killer or change her fate and save her soul. Although she continues on her mission, Chales catches a glimpse of her plane ticket that has a destination of Washington D.C. Meanwhile, Hank has been monitoring the news cycles and deduces that she will next attempt to kill Trask at the Sentinel demonstration. Moreover, Trask already has her blood from Paris so the desolate future may already be set in motion: “What I’m saying is, what if the war is inevitable? What if she’s meant to kill Trask? What if this is just simply who she is?” It reiterates the argument of predetermination vs. choice. Although I sometimes wonder whether certain things were always meant to happen, I believe more in making sound, correct decisions that dictate our own fates. In my opinion, the concept of fate is an oversimplification of cause and effects that we have not or are not able to fully analyze and understand. Charles also agrees with choice over a self-fulfilling destiny and repeats the sage advice his older self gives him: “Just because someone stumbles, loses their way, doesn’t mean they’re lost forever.”
The film also does a fine job linking back to the original trilogy. At the beginning of the movie, Trask is being grilled in a Congressional hearing about the need for his Sentinels as well as the ethical implications on using them on the country’s own population. He quotes a paper written by a professor in Oxford “To Homo-Neanderthals’, his mutant cousin Homosapiens, which is us, was an aberration. The arrival of the mutated human species, Homosapiens, was followed by the immediate extinction of their less evolved kin.” For Trask, it is not a matter of good or evil. For him, it is Darwinism and the survival of the fittest. He explains his motives to Stryker. At this time, Stryker is just a soldier following orders. He has not developed the animosity he will have for mutants. It is a nice touch to have Trask’s beliefs shape Stryker. Trask notes that “Never before in all of human history has there been a cause which could unite us as a species, until now.” Interestingly, he comments that he actually admires mutants instead of hating them. Nevertheless, mutants are providing “A common struggle against the ultimate enemy: Extinction.” Nature has given mutants an evolutionary advantage. As a result, he needs to level the playing field with a technological achievement. While Trask’s actions are certainly vile, his rationale of self-preservation is a very human notion. Like Magneto, he believes a war is coming and wants to acquire the necessary tools to ensure his side wins. Peter Dinklage is fantastic as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones. He does a good job with Trask. On the other side, Logan takes a moment to talk with Charles about the good that happens in the future and Charles’s importance in it. He pleads with Charles that “Whatever happens today, I need you to promise me something. You looked into my mind and you’ve seen a lot of bad, but you’ve seen the good too. The X-Men. Promise me you’ll find us. Use your power, bring us together. Guide us, lead us. Storm, Scott, Jean. Remember those names. There’s so many of us. We will need you, Professor.” When Charles replies “I’ll do my best”, Logan assures him “Your best is enough”.
The grand finale of the movie is spectacular. In the future, the Sentinels are closing in on the X-Men at the monastery and arriving in overwhelming numbers via transports. The X-Men will only be able to slow them down in hopes of giving Logan enough time to change events in the past. In the fight that ensues in the future, we are treated to a showcase of various mutant powers. Storm hits Bishop with her lightning to charge him to use his gun. She also creates a storm to crash some of the transports. Magneto also goes outside and hurls the Blackbird towards the Sentinels so that Storm can hit the engine with lightning and cause an explosion to destroy a lot of them. Again, Blink has the most visually fantastic power. She opens portals for Bishop to shoot down Sentinels, Colossus to go through the floor and come back up in the sky to land full force on targets, Sentinels to shoot each other, and Magneto to get back inside the sanctuary. Despite the valiant efforts by the X-Men, the Sentinels brutally slaughter them. They impale Storm then throw her over the side of the mountain, overpower Bishop with their heat beams until he explodes, rip Colossus to pieces, and slice off limbs and impale other X-Men. Again, the future and past are moving concurrently. Consequently, the hopeless situation in the future adds to the sense of urgency to change the past quickly.
In the past; Charles, Hank, and Logan attend the demonstration of the Sentinels in front of the White House. There is a funny moment when Logan is pleasantly surprised to go through the metal detector without incident since he is accustomed to having adamantium claws instead of the wooden ones in his younger body. Unbeknownst to Trask, his Sentinels are compromised. Although he built them without metal, Erik intercepted the transport and lined the Sentinels with the metal from train tracks. He commands the Sentinels to attack the crowd. In addition, he lifts the nearby RFK stadium and dumps it on top of the White House. The combination of the stadium and Sentinels creates a barrier to keep law enforcement and military out. It leaves Hank and Logan as the only ones to fight Sentinels. My only gripe with the end is I really wanted to see them take at least one of the Sentinels down. The ones in the future are virtually unbeatable but the 1973 version is vulnerable. However, Hank and Logan are not very effective against them. Logan’s adamnatium claws in the future would have come in handy. As soon as Erik’s attack begins, the Secret Service secure the President and his aides to the bunker under the White House. Unfortunately for them, Erik uses his powers to pull the bunker up from the ground and opens it. He intends to execute everyone in the bunker on live television to demonstrate mutant power and start a war. However, Raven shapeshifts into President Nixon and bravely steps in front to tell Erik to kill her and spare the men behind her. Of course, he refuses to show mercy and moves to kill everyone. At the same time, Hank is being attacked and pinned down in a car by a Sentinel. Its guidance system has a sensor that identifies mutants. With this realization, Hank injects himself with his formula to transform back into a human. As a result, the Sentinel senses the next closest mutant, Erik, and lunges toward him. While he is able to tear the Sentinel apart, it provides Raven a chance to graze his neck with a bullet from a plastic gun to distract him then knock him out. She removes his helmet so Charles can control him and use his magnetic abilities to fix some of the damage.
Despite her heroism, Raven turns to shoot Trask. Due to Erik’s actions, she believes the world sees mutants as the enemy now anyways so she might as well get retribution and kill Trask. However, Charles reasons with her that “All you’ve done so far is save the lives of these men. You can show them a better path.” This moment in DoFP is brilliantly filmed with Raven’s struggle with her decision in the past concurrently happening with the nearing end for the last X-Men in the future. For the X-Men, the Sentinels have broken through all the defenses and are about to fire their heat beams to kill Kitty, Logan, and Professor Xavier. Before this point, an already mortally wounded Magneto laments “All those years wasted fighting each other, Charles. To have a precious few of them back.” His regret highlights the wisdom attained through age and experience. A sentiment that many people have is “if knew what I know now when I was younger”. However, making mistakes and growing from them is a natural process that cannot normally be shortcut. Even though he tries to impart his younger self with the benefit of hindsight, the younger Erik still lacks the maturity to listen and makes the same mistakes. While his comment appropriately reflects his younger self’s story arc in this film, it also mirrors the difficulty Raven has with her own decision. As her age, does she have the foresight to understand the gravity of her choice? Is she too young to have the wisdom to make the correct move and change her fate? Back in the past, Charles comes to the realization that he needs to allow Raven to choose her own fate instead of using his powers to stop her: “I’ve been trying to control you ever since the day we met and look what that’s got us. Everything that happens now is in your hands. I have faith in you, Raven.” In the end, the point of the film is choice over predetermination. Consequently, it makes perfect sense that Charles allows Raven to choose her fate and decide the future. Moreover, an individual person cannot be told what to do. She needs to come to the conclusion herself and believe it is the appropriate thing to do. Nevertheless, she can be guided and encouraged. Similar to how Charles broke through in his conversation with the future Charles, an appeal to hope and faith in one’s goodness overcomes fear. Of course, Raven decides not to shoot Trask and prevents the dystopian future. In the future, the Sentinels and the remaining X-Men vanish right before their beams kill the X-Men. It signals the past has sufficiently changed enough to alter the future. In the past, we see a news headline that states Trask has been arrested for selling military secrets and the Sentinel program has been terminated.
In the X-Men film franchise, it is no secret that Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand is the least beloved of the movies. To make matters worse, it kills off a lot of key characters. An extra plus of DoFP and its time travel storyline is it utilizes the opportunity to erase that movie with an altered timeline. After the future is changed, Logan awakes in his bed in the X-Mansion. He walks around to see everyone alive and well. He sees Rogue (Anna Paquin) walk through the halls, runs into Storm and an older Hank (Kelsey Grammer), and peers into a classroom being taught by Colossus and Kitty. Moreover, he is stunned and thrilled to see Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) standing outside Charles’s office. As he goes to touch Jean to make sure she is alive, Scott Summers/ Cyclops (James Marsden) intercepts him and says “Woh! Easy, pal.” Some things never change. Of course, Jean and Scott die in the Last Stand. Since Logan is the only one aware of the original timeline, Scott is hilariously perplexed that Logan is actually happy to see him. The scene is awesome. It basically erases the worst film in the franchise and cameos some more fan favorites from the original trilogy. It is another example of the brilliant balancing act Bryan Singer does in incorporating a lot of characters in the perfect proportions to enhance an amazing story. Once Logan meets the Professor, he reveals that he has returned from the past and the last thing her remembers is being hurled into the Potomac River by Erik during the climactic battle then drowning. In response to Logan [specifically the improvements to the altered timeline], Charles smiles and alludes the conversation Logan had with him back in the past “Well…I had a promise to keep. You and I have a lot of catching up to do.”
The final sequence of the film features one last touch. The beginning of the film is narrated by Patrick Stewart’s older Xavier describing the horrifying future of the Sentinels. Accordingly, it is only fitting that the end of the film is James McAvoy’s younger Xavier speaking about the hope for the future and how our fates are in our own hands:
“The past, a new and uncertain world. A world of endless possibilities and infinite outcomes. Countless choices define our fate. Each choice, each moment, a ripple in the river of time. Enough ripples and you change the tide. For the future is never truly set.”
For X-Men: First Class, please go to: http://rookerville.com/2014/06/12/retro-rehash-x-men-first-class/