“X-Men: Days of Future Past” Casting Review

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

If you’re an X-Men fan like myself, Days of Future Past is easily the best movie iteration to date, and has an expertly-crafted story that sets out to merge elements from the entire film franchise to create a singular, unifying piece. Prior to Days of Future Past, there have been 6 other films. The original trilogy (X-Men, X2, and X-Men: The Last Stand), is probably the most cohesive of the bunch and the other three films, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine, and X-Men: First Class do their best to stick to the ground work laid out in the trilogy, but are ultimately guilty of creating character inconsistencies and further fragmenting the overall filmic narrative. Days of Future Past seeks to rectify these differences while also pushing the franchise forward, and does so with flying colors I might add. The film’s success is in no small part due to Bryan Singer returning to the director’s seat, whose return definitely helped to sway many of the film’s previous cast members to don their leather outfits once again.

Tackling the series’ disjointedness is no easy task but thankfully, Days of Future Past is able to bridge these gaps by making use of a common, yet highly-effective narrative tool–time travel. Before you roll your eyes at the cliché use of time travel, you should know that this isn’t some convenient gimmick whipped up by the writers in order to cram X-Men characters past and present into one story. In fact, the use of time travel here is taken directly from the source material: specifically, from the ‘Days of Future Past’ comic book storyline. The storyline in the comic book (similar to the movie), revolves around the premise of one of the X-Men traveling back in time to stop a high profile assassination in order to change a bleak and desolate future.

The film opens on the aforementioned future, where mutants are mercilessly hunted and executed by advanced killing machines called “Sentinels”. The X-Men, one of the few mutant resistance groups left, are fighting a losing war, and, as a last-ditch effort, decide to send “Wolverine” back in time to prevent this future from ever coming to pass. Given the futuristic aspect of this scene, the characters here are composed of X-Men from the original trilogy plus a couple newcomers to keep things fresh. Hugh Jackman reprises his role as Wolverine, and serves as the bridge between the X-Men of the future and the past. Fittingly, Jackman is the only actor that’s been in every other X-Men film to date (he had a cameo in First Class), so it’s only natural that his character is used as the unifying catalyst here. Jackman is then joined by his fellow X-Men alums–Patrick Stewart, returning as “Professor X”; Ian McKellan as “Magneto”; Halle Barry as “Storm”; Ellen Page as “Kitty Pryde”; Shawn Ashmore as “Iceman”; and Daniel Cudmore as “Colossus”. These characters haven’t been together onscreen since 2006’s Last Stand, so fanboys will cheer seeing the old gang back together. It’s also cool seeing how much these characters have grown and matured over the years.

Joining this dystopian band of mutants are “Sunspot”, “Bishop”, “Blink”, and “Warpath”, played by Adan Canto, Omar Sy, Bingbing Fan, and Booboo Stewart, respectively. These new characters inject a much-needed sense of ethnic diversity to the mix, and each actor also brings their own added touch of international recognition. Sy is a well-established actor from France, Fan is known for her work in China, Canto hails from Mexico, and Stewart, although an American actor, has a Native American background, and is probably best known for his portrayal of “Seth Clearwater” in the Twilight film franchise. Considering the predominantly Caucasian group of core X-Men characters, it’s nice to see that a concerted effort was made to make sure these new additions brought a sense of cultural diversity–an element that has always been a central theme in the X-Men comic books, but not necessarily in the films. Fan’s Blink will probably stand out the most amongst the “Future Mutants” due to her mutant ability to create portals allowing for teleportation. Her action scenes definitely harken back to the opening White House sequence in X2 in terms of sheer coolness. It’s a shame that Fan and her fellow new additions don’t get as much screen time or character development, but given the massive cast in this film, it’s understandable that the bulk of the narrative has to focus on the franchise’s key characters, i.e., Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique.

Once the film introduces the concept of time travel, the story transitions to the “past” where we are re-introduced to the characters that were established in X-Men: First Class. Michael Fassbender reprises his role as “Young Magneto”, James McAvoy as “Young Charles Xavier”, Jennifer Lawrence as “Mystique”, and Nicholas Hoult as “Beast”. Not surprisingly, the returning cast members here all turn in great performances, and McAvoy and Fassbender’s emotionally volatile relationship is mesmerizing to watch. It’s also amusing to note that Lawrence’s Mystique, an ensemble supporting character in First Class, is very much front and center this time around (both in the film and in the movie’s marketing campaign), undoubtedly due to Lawrence’s explosive career accomplishments (The Hunger Games films, her Oscar win for Silver Linings Playbook, and her recent Oscar nomination for American Hustle) after First Class.

New additions to the past group include Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage as the antagonist “Dr. Bolivar Trask”, and Evan Peters as the speedster mutant “Quicksilver”. Although widely known for this charismatic portrayal of “Tyrion Lannister”, Dinklage’s Trask is a bit more straight-laced and subdued. Although Trask is one of the key villains in the story, his character is never really developed, which leaves audiences wondering why he is the way he is. Once again, this lack of character development can probably be chalked up to the plethora of other characters in the film, but it would have been nice to see just a little extra focus on Trask’s character–especially given the fact that Dinklage is an extremely talented actor and readily steals every scene that he’s in. Although Peters’ Quicksilver is only a supporting character amidst the swelled cast of mutants, he probably stands out as being the most memorable character amongst all the new additions to the franchise. Quicksilver plays an instrumental role in breaking Young Magneto out of captivity, and his action sequence easily ranks as one of the best for the film franchise as a whole. Fun nerd fact: in the comics, Quicksilver is the son of Magneto and the film directly hints at this connection during a conversation between Fassbender and Peters.

Finally, if we’re truly talking about the film’s cast, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that there are several surprise cameos at the end of the film. These appearances aren’t necessarily shocking (especially to fans of the franchise), but will readily elicit strong feelings of nostalgia and excitement in the masses. Without giving anything away, let’s just say the use of time travel in this movie allows for the return of several key X-Men characters . . .

X-Men: Days of Future Past is an extremely ambitious superhero film, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since 2012’s The Avengers. The film takes a commonly-used concept, time travel, and not only adds its own unique spin to it, but actually uses it to bring the X-Men characters from both the original trilogy and the more recent First Class together into a single, cohesive story. Besides for reconciling the six films before it, Days of Future Past also moves the franchise forward while giving itself a subtle reboot, much like J.J. Abrams’ first Star Trek film did. Although the movie struggles with issues common to films with extremely large casts (i.e., uneven character development), it succeeds where it matters most – creating an epic narrative that has equals parts action and heart.

Extra viewing tip: Like most Marvel films, make sure to stay until the end of the credits to watch an additional scene. A direct sequel has already been announced and is currently titled X-Men: Apocalypse. People well-versed in X-Men lore won’t need any explanation about the post credits sequence, but for everyone else, the clip depicts one of the most powerful villains from the X-Men universe. Fittingly, this villain’s name is “Apocalypse”. Subtle, right?

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Kyle