In 2011, director Matthew Vaughn and his fellow screenwriters brilliantly revitalized the “X-Men” franchise with the extraordinary “First Class,” which took us back to the very beginning of the titular superhero group as they came together for the first time to stop a madman from starting a nuclear war. Four years later, director Bryan Singer (director of “X-Men” and “X2”) and screenwriter Simon Kinberg (co-writer of “X-Men: The Last Stand) have come together to continue the hot-streak with “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” where our heroes are once again put to the test to stop an incident that ultimately spells disaster for the mutant race.
As the film opens, we are introduced to a bleak future where mutants are being hunted down and destroyed by large machines known as the sentinels. In a last-ditch effort to prevent this future from coming about, Charles (Sir Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen), and other mutants pin their hopes on the powers of Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), who has the ability to send someone’s consciousness back into the past. However, the only one strong enough to go back the required 50 years to 1973 is Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who looks the same back then as he does in the present.
His mission is certainly no walk in the park: First, he must bring together younger Charles (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who weren’t particularly good friends at this time, and then together they must help prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the inventor of the sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), which was the event that sparked the government’s desire to have these weapons manufactured. With mutant-kind’s future resting in his hands, Wolverine must put aside his usual aggressive tendencies and help do for these younger mutants what Charles once did for him (i.e. helping to find the better path and seeing the potential in it), for if he fails, history is doomed to repeat itself all over again.
One of the main reasons “X-Men: First Class” had been so successful was because of the fascinating way in which it played around with history. Not only were we seeing the creation of the X-Men that we have come to know and love, but we were also seeing them get involved in an event that really happened back in 1962, The Cuban Missile Crisis. For “Days of Future Past,” the X-Men aren’t getting involved in real events, but they are trying to rewrite history for the better, and that proves to be just as interesting. A premise like this opens the door for several intriguing possibilities, such as one theory that says how history can’t be changed and will always correct its course, and as the film proceeds, it certainly seems to try its best not to be deterred from the path that has already been played out once with devastating consequences.
The film also involves other consequences, such as those of the Vietnam War, which is still going on in the past timeline. This is one of the things that actually makes Wolverine’s mission even more difficult, finding a completely disillusioned Charles who has closed his school and lost all hope in what he had originally been so optimistic about due to many of his students and staff being drafted. To put it simply, the film offers a deeper study of the characters and how history has affected them, not only in the obvious sense of the terrible future, but also in the past that helped shape everything to come. Once more, we find the franchise using history in a grand sense and working wonders with it that end up turning what could have been a simple action-based comic book movie into something a little more grounded in reality.
It really is quite something to see the amazing turn these films have taken in just the last few years. The first three films were primarily for the action junkies in the audience, offering little in the way of story, but still providing some entertaining moments now and again, while the less said about the two dreadful solo Wolverine films the better. Now we have films with deeper characters and richer and more complex storylines that are vastly more satisfying than anything we had seen from this franchise before. On top of this sturdier foundation, we are treated to top-notch action sequences (with Oscar-nominated visual effects) that help support the story instead of overwhelming it, which will no doubt help please those very same action junkies mentioned earlier. Just like its predecessor, it is not just a great comic book film, but an all-around great film in general, proving to be one of the very best of its year, which, as fans of the genre will tell you, is certainly no small feat.
Note: This release comes with both the new extended cut of the film (“The Rogue Cut”), which runs about 149 minutes, and the theatrical cut, which runs about 131 minutes. The new footage is primarily concerned with a portion of the film that has a few of the characters in the future going to rescue Rogue (Anna Paquin) and bringing her back to their hideout so that she can take over for a wounded Kitty Pryde. These scenes are not particularly essential, but it does help the narrative make a little more sense in the wake of Kitty accidentally getting stabbed by Wolverine’s claws. In video game terms, it’s a sidequest that’s not really needed, but it’s still fun to explore nonetheless. That being said, if you don’t particularly care for the new footage, you can always fall back on the theatrical cut.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past (The Rogue Cut)” comes to Blu-ray in a stunning 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer that has every frame looking perfectly sharp, allowing the impressive effects and designs to shine. Even the scenes that take place in the dark and drab future remain clear and dazzling, lacking even the tiniest bit of fuzziness that can sometimes occur when the scene is rather dim. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is truly outstanding, giving you the dialogue, score, and multitude of sound effects in excellent quality. Overall, the film has been given exceptional treatment that leaves absolutely no room for complaint.
Commentary by Director Bryan Singer and Composer/Film Editor John Ottman (Rogue Cut): An intriguing commentary that has Singer and Ottman mainly discussing the score and structure of the “Rogue Cut” of the film, with other little tidbits of information thrown in. A decent track, though perhaps not quite as informative as the second.
Commentary by Director Bryan Singer and Producer/Writer Simon Kinberg (Theatrical Version): This second track has Singer and Kinberg discussing such topics as how they developed the idea for the film and how/why certain design choices were made. Just like the previous track, it’s worth a listen.
Mutant vs. Machine: A fantastic nine-part (approximately 52 minutes) series of featurettes that delve into the making of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew who discuss topics like the story, characters, costumes, cinematography, music, and more. Definitely worth watching.
X-Men: Unguarded: An intriguing 30-minute roundtable with the cast, moderated by director Bryan Singer, in which they discuss their experiences on the film and their thoughts on the franchise. This is another featurette that is certainly worth exploring.
Gallery: Storyboards, Costumes, and Concept Art
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” builds upon the outstanding “First Class” by offering up a deep, thoughtful exploration of the titular superheroes and another elegantly-crafted use of history for an immensely fascinating and spectacularly entertaining storyline that just goes to show how far this franchise has come in recent years. Along with an outstanding set of special features and a choice of two different cuts of the film, this is a release that is most definitely worth adding to your Blu-ray shelf, directly next to its equally compelling predecessor.
Now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
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