Welcome to McKoo’s Movie Club! For more information on how it works, click here. The movie that we are discussing this week is X-Men: Days of Future Past. Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead, so please return after you’ve watched it if you haven’t yet.
As I start this discussion, I have to admit that I may be biased – X-Men: Days of Future Past is not only my favorite superhero movie to date, it’s probably my favorite movie after all three films in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (I’m still not convinced that I’ll ever see a movie that I like as much as LOTR). There are several reasons for this, which I shall attempt to discuss coherently. I suppose I should first explain that the original X-Men trilogy was as formative a part of my teenage movie experience as the original Star Wars trilogy was for my childhood. Given, the X-Men series was never my #1 favorite like Star Wars was when I was a kid, but that’s because LOTR came out around the same time as X-Men, and as I already acknowledged, nothing can ever beat LOTR.
All of this is to say that my love for this film probably is heavily influenced by nostalgia. In fact, the first bit of nostalgia that struck for me when watching this movie for the first time occurred within minutes of the opening of the movie. After a quick prologue with dark shots of the depressing world of the future narrated by Patrick Stewart (whose narration is in itself a throwback to previous X-Men movies), we dive straight into the opening titles. Nothing particularly special, right? Except for the fact that it is the EXACT SAME OPENING TITLE MUSIC FROM X2. I have (and had at that point as well) been saying for years that the most disappointing aspect of most superhero films today is that they lack a single heroic musical theme. Whether it’s compared to John Williams’ Superman theme (which is still my favorite superhero theme, and just may be my favorite Williams theme period) or Danny Elfman’s iconic Batman and Spider-Man themes, we rarely have modern superhero films that have music that can match, and we certainly don’t have superhero movies with opening titles sequences that utilize the theme to get you pumped about the upcoming movie. And in the rare circumstance when a hero or group of heroes does have a recognizable theme, they are either barely used or not used at all in their subsequent films. X2 had the best music of the original trilogy (each film was scored by a different composer) and here was Days of Future Past bringing it back reinvigorated and in an awesome opening titles sequence. There I was in the theater, having seen hardly any of the movie, and I was already in love with it. To this day, any time I watch this movie, I always turn up my television’s volume as loud as I can stand it just for this scene, as it still gets me excited about what I’m about to watch.
The amazing thing is that the movie maintains this level of excitement throughout the very next scene. I still think that the opening fight with the Sentinels is one of the best super-powered fight scenes in cinematic history. Here you see mostly new characters exhibiting some visually beautiful powers, as well as finally getting to see Iceman use his iconic ice-slide. And then, you one by one see most of them tragically die (can I just say how freaking awesome it is to see Warpath facing what he knows what will be his death armed only with a dagger and charging head-on toward the sentinel anyway?) Forget superhero movies, this is one of my favorite action scenes in any film, period. As in, I’m seriously considering stopping this post right now just so that I can watch it again. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve probably watched just the first 10 minutes of this movie dozens of times.
Moving past the opening of the film, another one of my favorite scenes occurs when McAvoy’s Xavier meets Stewart’s Xavier. Let’s just set aside the fact that we get to see these two phenomenal actors interact for a moment, and focus on the dialogue of the scene. Xavier’s speech that includes the line “just because someone stumbles and loses their path, doesn’t mean they’re lost forever … sometimes, we all need a little hope” just might be the most, well, hopeful, speech in a movie since Samwise Gamgee reminded us that “there is still some good left in this world … and it’s worth fighting for.” I don’t know how someone can watch this scene in the context of the film and not feel inspired to not only become a better person, but also to help loved ones who may be struggling. Additionally, John Ottman’s score during this scene, while subtle, I also find to be just as memorable and moving as the main theme that he used for the opening titles and end credits. Entitled “Hope (Xavier’s Theme),” I literally hear the opening notes of this piece of music in my head any time someone says the word “hope.” Can we also acknowledge what a throwback this is to one of the early scenes in the original X-Men film? When we see Xavier and Magneto on the screen for the first time in the original film, Magneto feels that Xavier is probing his mind, and he asks “Whatever are you looking for?” His response: “I’m looking for hope.” Throughout every film in the franchise, Xavier continues to hope, among many things, that Magneto can be redeemed. However, one of the main focuses of DOFP is Xavier’s loss and regaining of hope for his future, as well as Raven’s. And I feel that it explores both beautifully.
There is so much more that I could talk about with this film, but for the sake of attempted brevity, I will skip toward the end. Not only does the climactic battle have nearly as much amazing action as the opening scene, it also has a lot more emotional heft. Unlike the opening scene, when each of the characters were fairly confident they would live again via a changed timeline, here, the characters had nothing more than the hope (there’s that motif again) that by sacrificing themselves, their friends might be able to save the day. Once again drawing a parallel to LOTR, this scene reminds me of the emotional beat at the battle at the very end of Return of the King. The remains of the army of Gondor and Rohan, led by Aragorn, are willing to sacrifice themselves to a horde of orcs that greatly outnumber them, all in the hopes that it will buy Frodo enough time destroy the Ring.
And just like in Return of the King, where we get the joyfully happy endings of various Fellowship members reuniting with each other and the Hobbits returning to the Shire, we end this film seeing the characters that we know and love from the original trilogy not only alive, but also happy. It is of course especially moving to see both Scott and Jean, who both tragically died in The Last Stand, alive and together again. Perhaps this is the reason that I love this movie so much – I am a sucker for happy endings. And while this film may not be the ending of the X-Men franchise, it is the perfect ending to the original trilogy that started some 14 years before the release of this film. In a way, this movie was everything that I really wanted The Force Awakens to be that it wasn’t – a reunion of my favorite characters not only being their awesome selves (I’m looking at you, Luke “I’m only in this movie for 30 seconds” Skywalker), but also getting the true happy ending they deserve. For most pieces of fiction, the ending is always my favorite entry. Whether it was Deathly Hallows (both the book and the movie), Return of the King, Return of the Jedi, or even Children of the Mind (the conclusion to the original Ender’s Game book series), I am often a sucker for the final story that wraps everything up and puts a nice bow on it. And Days of Future Past can really be seen as the true ending to the original X-Men trilogy (while also continuing the new series that starting with First Class). What more could you want?
What are your thoughts about X-Men: Days of Future Past? Please sound off in the comments section below! Likewise, please share this movie club with your friends on social media – it will give you more people to discuss these movies with, and may even provide you opportunities to watch it with them!