Thursday, May 29, 2014

Movie Review X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) is the seventh installation of the movie series on the X-Men. The theme of this movie is loosely based on the 1981 Uncanny X-Men storyline "Days of Future Past" by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. Personally I prefer the comic storyline as it is more nuanced but this movie is worth watching on its own. Unlike the X-Men movie trilogy which ended with X-Men: The Last Stand, there is more character development and story telling in this movie. Though the action sequences are excellent, it is not as confusing as the Last Stand. This movie is a direct sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class as it made references to both movies. I will suggest that you watch these two movies before watching this. This will make it more enjoyable.

[spoilers alert]
In the future, the war with the sentinels (these are giant robots, not the multiple eyed octopus thingy in the Matrix trilogy) has destroyed much of the cities. Mutants and human mutant sympathizers are being held in detention camps. A small group of mutants make their last stand against the sentinels in the apocalyptic scenario similar to the Terminator series. Why must artificial intelligence and humanoid robots be anti-humans, I wonder? Have no one heard of Asimov’s three laws of robotics anymore? The last remnant of mutants which include Professor X (Charles Xavier), Magneto (Erik Lehnsherr), Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde), Storm (Ororo Munroe) and Wolverine (James Logan) devised a plan to send the Wolverine into the past, specifically to 1973. They decided the pivotal moment in time when the war against normal or non-mutant humans began was when Mystique murdered Dr. Bolivar Trask (the designer of the sentinels) and was herself captured in 1973. The research on her DNA from her blood was used to upgrade the new class of sentinels.

Most superhero movies and comics has allegorical implications. These superheroes are our new mythology. X-Men: Days of Future Past, like the Avengers movie series and the Spiderman series have lessons for us today.

First, our actions have consequences that echo through time. Like the butterfly effect in chaos theory, one simple action may cause a ripple that may cause the destruction of a civilization. Driven by hate because of the murder of her fellow mutant, Mystique hunted down to murder Trask because Trask was the one who killed her friends in his scientific experiments. Trask on the other hand, fears for the survival of the human race. Fearing mutants will kill off non-mutants, as humans themselves had killed off the Neanderthals, Trask seeks to find a weapon which will destroy the mutants. His chosen weapon was the sentinels with mutant adaptive powers. Our everyday actions has consequences. A mechanic who was sloppy in installing a brake pad may cause a bus crash that may kill someone who may one day invent the source of limitless non-polluting energy power. A doctor who was sloppy in his work, taking short cuts and doing the minimal work may cause the death of a patient. Time travel may have a way of messing with or creating new consequences. An unforgettable scene in the movie has Hank (Beast) in 1973 watching Captain Kirk (Star Trek) explaining time travel on television. The scene is from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode ‘The Naked Now’.

Second, there is redemption when we are involved in a cause that is greater than ourselves. Both Charles Xavier and Erik (Magneto) believe in saving mutants. Charles believe that it is possible for human and mutants to coexist. Magneto, on the other hand, believe that only way mutants to survive is when humans are destroyed or subjugated. Charles, an idealist, believes in moral ethical rules to achieve their ends. Magneto believes that the end justifies the means. Logan finds a wimpy drug addicted Charles when he arrived in 1973. Charles was pining for his lady love (Mystique) which he lost to Magneto. He became addicted to a drug which allow him to walk (and sleep) but suppressed his mental powers. In other words, Professor Xavier was hitting rock bottom. In a stereotypical storytelling in the movie, his redemption came when he met his future self who revealed to him what his life purpose is. In a heroic messiah like moment, he discarded his drug habit and regained his mental powers to save the day. We often need a cause that is greater than ourselves if we are to live meaningful lives. People who live only for themselves often end up narcissistic and self-centered.

Finally, power is might but may not always be right. To demonstrate his power over magnetism, Magneto lifted and dropped a stadium over the White House and commandeered the sentinels. Magneto wanted to show humans how powerful he is and by doing that cow them into submission. While it is a powerful demonstration, Erik (Magneto) should have remembered his history lessons. History has shown that might as power may not always produce the desired effect. Instead of being cowed, the less powerful always find a way to strike back. The wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan should remind us that the most powerful armies do not always win. In many ways, our world is being divided into ‘us’ and ‘them’. The division may be along the line of skin color, economic status or religions. Instead of trying to annihilate one another, there may be place for peaceful coexistence as envisioned by Charles Xavier.

There is much to recommend for this movie. However there is an incredible amount of violence so parents are forewarned. The sentinels torn Colossus into two in a fight sequence. As he was in his metal state, there was no gore. The Wolverine was kebabed with many metal rods and thrown into the Potomac River by Magneto. The Wolverine starred in so many X-Men movies that we have no doubt that he will survive, as I have the sense that this movie was made as a pre-sequel to many more movies to come. Wait in your seat until the movie credits end and you will see what I mean.


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