X Men: Days of future past
Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Peter Dinklage, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Omar Sy, Evan Peters
In 2023 the mutants are almost extinct. They are being hunted down by the Sentinels, robots capable of adapting to their powers in order to destroy them. In a last-ditch effort to save his race, Professor X manages to harness the powers of the mutant Kitty Pryde to send Wolverine (or at least his consciousness) into the past, in 1973, to prevent the war between mutants and Sentinels from beginning. The task of Wolverine is complicated by the fact that Charles Xavier (who later becomes Professor X) has lost confidence in his powers; Magneto is locked up in a maximum security prison; and the dangerous Mystica is haunting the United States looking for revenge against Bolivar Trask, the future promoter of the program Sentinels, who captured, tortured and killed many mutants …
Expectations for the latest instalment of X-Men were high and the film does not disappoint, with a very successful mix of drama and humor that elegantly blends past and future in the name of the most humane and fragile of virtues — hope.
The story oscillates between a dark futuristic setting where the last mutants, gathered around the two friends/enemies Xavier and Magneto, fight for survival, and the past (1973) when the war itself is about to break out. It builds a compelling parable that moves convincingly among the classic pitfalls of time travel, to enhance the meaning and power of free will and individual responsibility.
Singer varies the familiar opposition between Magneto, who is determined to protect “his” species at the cost of sacrificing humans and even his allies (including Mystica, with whom he has developed a complex relationship), and Charles Xavier (who later becomes Professor X), an advocate of dialogue and second chances. Surprisingly Charles is not the usual wise mentor, but a young man lost in suffering and disillusion who needs guidance to win his faith back.
There are some important morals relayed by the film. The persecuted can easily become persecutors, because they are blind to the wrongs suffered by other people. As well, reformation is always possible. While, as Professor X says, “you can lose the road but the road is not lost forever,” since the single choice to forgo a vendetta can change the destiny of the whole world.
As in X-Men: First Class, which takes place during the Cuban missile crisis, viewers get a quick lesson in alternative history. In the film’s version of 1973 there are Nixon and Vietnam, odd clothes and weird hairstyles and conspiracy theories (Magneto is imprisoned for being considered responsible for the assassination of Kennedy, although he claims to be innocent because “he was one of us”), and more or less direct references to movies and comic books abound in order to make happy both fans of the X-Men and newcomers.
A number of new characters appear in this instalment. Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones appears as the villain Bolivar Trask, but the most successful is undoubtedly Quicksilver, a mutant teenager who uses his powers in a rather breezy way. He almost steals the show from the ‘classic’ characters, as the protagonist of one of the most spectacular and fun sequences of the movie.
Problematic elements: generic scenes of violence and tension, a male nude, some profanity.
Laura Cotta Ramosino is a story editor for Rai Uno, the national Italian broadcaster, and contributes to several magazines and websites about cinema and television.