‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ may be the most important superhero movie of all time. I don’t say that lightly. Those whose blood pressure is starting to rise should take note: I didn’t say it was the “most fun” or “action packed” movie of all time — I said it may be the most important film ever.

Right out of the gates director Bryan Singer lets the audience know he’s created a movie about big ideas. When the first thing a director asks is “Does free will exist?” he’s given himself a tall order to fulfill:

Charles Xavier: The future…a dark desolate world. A world at war. Suffering and loss on both sides. Mutants and the humans who dared to help them fighting an enemy we can not defeat. Are we destined down this path, destined to destroy ourselves like so many species before us? Or can we evolve fast enough to change ourselves, change our fate? Is the future truly set?

Everything from the visuals and the narration to the music by John Ottman says: “This movie has gravity. Leave now if you just want a mindless popcorn flick.”

Charles Xavier

How many of us yearn to be able to go back in time and visit our younger selves — to talk some sense into them? What price would you pay for a single attempt to impart wisdom and knowledge on your reckless youthful counterpart — who wouldn’t listen to anyone — because maybe, just maybe, he’d listen to you? What if you could go back in time and convey something to your younger consciousness that would save all sorts of pain and suffering that you — although you wouldn’t ever admit it publicly — caused friends and loved ones? What if you’ve created a “dark desolate world” for yourself, but you knew there was a moment in time that could set things on a very different path? Would you risk ripping your consciousness into a million pieces for a chance to travel through space and time to set things right?

These are all very deep questions, and the actors tasked with making it all real to the audience do a magnificent job. James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman, Peter Dinklage, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Evan Peters and basically the entire cast all do a commendable job. Everyone who was required to provide emotional weight to movie comes through in the clutch, and the end result is a movie worth watching many times.

Charles Xavier Young Old XMen

In addition to the covering free will, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ covers redemption. The turning point in the film (major spoilers ahead — you have been warned) comes when young Charles finally comes face-to-face with his older self.

Young Charles: So this what becomes of us. Eric was right. Humanity does this to us.

Old Charles: Not if we show them a better past.

Young Charles: You still believe?

Old Charles: Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, it doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. Sometimes we need a little help.

Young Charles: I’m not the man I was. I open my mind and it almost overwhelms me.

Old Charles: You’re afraid, and Cerebro knows it.

Young Charles: In all those voices…so much pain.

Old Charles: It’s not their pain you’re afraid of — it’s yours. And frightening as it can be their 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 that can bear pain without breaking, and it’s born from the most human power: Hope. Please Charles, we need you to hope again.

Can you forgive yourself for all the mistakes you’ve made? Can you forgive your friends and loved ones for the pain they’ve inflicted upon you? Can you forgive humanity for all the injustices it’s inflicted upon itself? Can you find strength in pain and then use that strength to make the world a better place? These are all questions asked by Singer, and the end result is a movie that aims — and largely succeeds — at affecting those who are willing to let it do so on the deepest of philosophical levels.

Charles Xavier Days of Future Past

In short, the evolution of Charles Xavier over the course of the film from a broken man and into the hero who would lead the X-Men to a better tomorrow is nearly flawless. Along the way you might even forget that you’re watching “just” a superhero movie and find yourself welling up inside. For much of the movie you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Yes, fans “know” how it’s going to end (another movie is on the way, of course) but the writing, acting and directing are so good that it’s easy to get lost in it all and say, “Wow, they might not pull this out.”

Luckily, Professor Xavier regains his hope at a pivotal point in the film.

Hank McCoy: There’s a theory in quantum physics that time is immutable. It’s like a river — you can throw a pebble in and create a ripple, but the current always corrects itself. No matter what you do the river just keeps flowing in the same direction.

Wolverine: What are you trying to say?

Beast: What I’m saying is, what if the war is inevitable? What if she’s meant to kill Trask? What if this is simply who she is?

Charles Xavier: Just because someone stumbles and loses their way it doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. No, I don’t believe that theory Hank, and I can not believe that is who she is. Ready the plane. We’re going to Washington.

If you get a chance to see ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ in theaters, I would highly suggest making the trip. It’s rare for a movie to work on so many levels, and the fact that it’s an X-Men film makes this longtime Marvel fan very happy.

Editor’s Note for regular readers: I know I mentioned not being able to pay to see this movie, given the storm clouds hanging over the director’s head. I went to the movie theater with every intention of paying for Godzilla and then walking into X-Men: Days of Future Past, but the theater turned out to be about the size of my bedroom. There was no way I could pull it off without creating an awkward scene, so I allowed a friend to pay for me. I still don’t feel right about it, so if Mr. Singer’s legal issues do not turn out in his favor I will make a donation that would in all likelihood meet his accuser’s approval.

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

30 comments

  1. I haven’t seen it yet, but probably will next weekend when I have the money. Thanks for the review. This is one movie I’ve been really looking forward to, in spite of the accusations against Singer, because it’s based on what’s easily one of the best- if not the best- X-Men storylines of all time. I also am curious to see how it fixes the mistakes of “The Last Stand” and “Wolverine Origins,” both of which were terrible. I don’t even like Deadpool that much and yet I didn’t like how he was depicted in the latter movie.

    I already know about the post-credits scene that features a certain mutant supervillain from ancient Egypt. That one should be good, too. X-Men First Class and The Wolverine restored my faith in the X-Men series, so I look forward to seeing DOFP next week and I’ll let you know what I think.

    1. I’m looking forward to your review, Carl. I would say that this is the best X-Men film to date, hands down. The first one set the stage for so many other superhero films that followed, but this one just works on every single level.

      I won’t get into how it “fixes” some of the mistakes of the other movie unless someone else in the comments section brings it up. It is rather…interesting.

      Is Bryan Singer on board to direct the next one? If one assumes that the legal issues will be taken care of (although you never know), I would think he’d be the obvious choice. I’d pay him whatever the heck he wanted if I was guy with the deep bank account. I don’t think I would take a chance with anyone else at this point.

    2. Yeah, I think he’s scheduled to direct “X-Men: Apocalypse,” with Simon Kinberg returning to write the screenplay. This one will take place in the 1980s and feature younger versions of Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm. There are also plans to create more spinoff movies to compete with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

      Like I said, “First Class” and “The Wolverine” helped to restore my faith in the franchise after two stinkers in “The Last Stand” and “Wolverine Origins.”

    3. Look, we all know time travel is involved in this one so does anyone need it explained on how this movie “fixes” the others?

      Though there is some meta humor to be found with quicksilver & scarlet witch being in this movie AND after the credits in Capt ‘Murica 2.

    4. At this point I don’t know why you’d leave a Marvel movie without watching the end credits scene.

    5. “Though there is some meta humor to be found with quicksilver & scarlet witch being in this movie AND after the credits in Capt ‘Murica 2.”

      Interestingly enough, both Fox and Marvel own the rights to those two characters. But there are stipulations: Fox cannot reference the two as Avengers, and Marvel Studios cannot refer to them as mutants or reference Magneto as their father. Rumor is that for Age of Ultron, they’ll be Baron Strucker’s kids or Inhumans.

    6. I think Singer has said that the little girl in Quicksilver’s lap is not the Scarlet Witch, or at least that was the plan. They apparently refer to SW as a separate character in lines that did not make it to the final movie.

    7. Wow, can I comment on this so late? Doug really summed up my feelings about the movie precisely. What they did with the Xavier character was so beautifully written…I was very impressed. I felt the message of this movie was one of hope…maybe it impacted me as much as it did because I needed that at my current stage of life. But…also, of course, it didn’t hurt that the male main characters were easy to look at, too. Good show, all! Great review, Doug. I heartily concur.

    8. Thanks for the comment, Beth! I’m glad you liked the movie (and Hugh Jackman’s abs). 😉

      I felt the message of this movie was one of hope…maybe it impacted me as much as it did because I needed that at my current stage of life.

      I’m not sure what you’re going through at this stage of your life, but it makes me happy that the themes and ideas running throughout this movie helped you out in some way. It’s always nice when a movie can touch its viewers on such a personal level.

  2. Good review Douglas. It was a fun blockbuster, that also had a sense of heart. Much like the early X-Men movies, and a lot unlike the later ones.

  3. Great review, Douglas..
    Just saw the movie.. I think this is the best superhero movie as a wake up call to humanity; the most important superhero movie ever!

  4. This is very accurate and I agree with what you said. I found the movie had an emotional depth uncanny to the other ones. It did fix a lot of problems, even added a few new ones in my opinion, but all along the way, it was just an amazing ride along.

    Seeing Charles Xavier grow into who he became and, in my opinion, a stronger version of him, was pretty awesome. And I never expected to even be taught a lesson in being a hero from Charles talking to himself, but I did.

    I left a lot of X-men movies highly disappointed. This is the first one I walked out of very happy. I’mma go see it again and waste another 10 bucks doing it!

    1. Thanks for the read and comment, Wyatt. Yes, I think some of the past efforts (e.g.,’X-Men: The Last Stand’) were pretty forgettable, but this one was a home run.

  5. Excellent analysis, Doug. I’m not ashamed to admit to admit that when I saw that scene between the young Xavier and the old Xavier, I was choking up a bit. Because as you so rightfully point out, the message of “Just because someone stumbles and loses their way it doesn’t mean they’re lost forever” is right at the heart of this film. Some film critics have compared X-Men: Days of Future Past to the Terminator, given how it involves a post-Apocalyptic future in which machines all but drive humanity to the brink of extinction, but I would contend it’s also similar thematically, specifically to Terminator 2: Judgement Day specifically as both films argued for hope in the face of adversity, that we didn’t have to be “destined to destroy ourselves.” Which, if you think about it, its quite rare in many of Hollywood’s output, especially given it’s tendency towards moral relativism and nihilism.

    One can also look at X-Men: Days of Future Past as a metaphorical apology for how badly the X-Men film franchise has been screwed up, as if the filmmakers are saying, “Yeah, these last few films unfortunately took everything towards this very dark place which really do seem to run counter to what the X-Men are supposed to be about and failed to satisfy its fan base. We’re sorry and, hopefully, we’ve put everything back on track and taking things into some genuinely exciting directions.”

  6. Thank you for a wonderful write-up on the movie. Just watched it at a theater and the experience is truly as you describe it, considering that I’m an X-men fan 🙂 you did justice to the movie!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I really appreciate it. I’ve never been a huge X-Men guy (more so because of the size of my wallet than the size of my love for the characters), so it’s nice to hear that an X-Men fan approves of the review! 🙂

  7. I loved this movie. I honestly think this was the best in the series. Between this, “First class” and “The Wolverine,” the franchise has found its legs again. I look forward to “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

  8. The soundtrack was good, too. You can’t wrong with Alice Cooper and Jim Croce (1973 was also the year Croce sadly died in a plane crash).

  9. I saw this yesterday. I knew the comic book story and that there was a sequel but managed to avoid spoilers about the basics of the story.

    I really enjoyed it. A very close second to The Winter Soldier for my comic book film of the year so far.

    As Doug said, the growth of the major characters, especially Xavier felt realistic.

    My wife came with me and she has not read an X-Men comic in her life and she enjoyed it as well.

    I’m looking forward to the sequel.

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