X-Men: Days of Future Past — Christian Movie Review
As made obvious in all of its marketing, the X-Men are going back to the future in true time-travel style! (Though I don’t think there will be any Hover Boards…sorry, Marty McFly). In this sequel to the prequel (X-Men: First Class) the old cast from the first three X-Men movies join with the new cast from the prequel when Wolverine is sent back in time to find the young Xavier to prevent a cataclysmic event in the future.
The critics are loving it with one of the highest Rotten Tomato ratings of the year (93% so far), but the critics — as I’ve seen in many movies — are not infallible. After we look at the parental guidance issues, I’ll give my two cents on whether the movie is worthy of its high rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Parental Guidance Issues at a Glance…
Sexual Content/Nudity: A male character is seen with a woman the morning after. When he gets out of bed, we see a fully nude shot of him from behind. The woman is seen briefly in her underwear. The nude shot of the male character seemed unnecessary and extraneous and, frankly, I don’t really understand why the director (Bryan Singer) felt the need to shock the audience with such a sudden full-body nude shot (from behind the actor). The entire theater either giggled or laughed outright because its random inclusion was almost comical. Go figure. Who knows what directors are thinking sometimes.
Violence/Gore: Mutants suffer the most gore, and while they are transformed, we heads crushed, knocked off, bodies pulled apart and incinerated. All of this “gore” happens when they’re not in their human form (most of the time), which is how the film gets away with a PG-13 rating. This film has a strong amount of violence in general: a man is shot in the head and we see the bullet wound, Wolverine kills several people with his claws, a mutant in their human form is hideously impaled with metal poles, and other mutants while in their human forms are impaled by large blades. A man is shot through the side of the neck, and we see it in slow motion. Characters are electrocuted with tasers. In a dystopian future, we see dead bodies roll into mass graves.
Language: One f-word, and a fair amount of s-words and other milder profanity.
Alcohol/Drug/Smoking Content: A man smokes a cigar, government officials in a night club celebrate with alcoholic drinks. A character injects himself with a serum.
Frightening/Intense Content: Besides the violence mentioned above, Wolverine’s flashbacks of his troubled past are always very intense. We also see pictures of mutants after they’ve been tortured.
(Review continues below)
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“Days of Future Past manages to present a vastly complex plot in a fluid, engaging way that never gets bogged down or gives the viewer too much of a time-travel headache (similar to an ice cream headache, but worse).”
Entertainment Value and Film Craft
The screenplay works brilliantly because it weaves nuanced plot details from several time periods at once, and it blends it all with the perfect touch of master chefs when they balance all of the ingredients into a gourmet dish. The writers deserve the most credit. Time travel movies easily distract the audience from the power of the story because they become so over-complex and abstract that everyone is just sitting there scratching their heads. Days of Future Past manages to present a vastly complex plot in a fluid, engaging way that never gets bogged down or gives the viewer too much of a time-travel headache (similar to an ice cream headache, but worse). I can say this with confidence because I have never read an X-Men comic book. I did not have the advantage of being a knowledgeable comic book fan of the X-Men universe, but I could track this film’s general plot without a problem. To be sure, there were a number of things that were confusing and didn’t make sense if you thought too hard about it; and there were a couple silly plot gaffes that the writers should have caught, but overall the general plot was understandable.
I will admit, however, that I have seen all the movies, and I would definitely recommend seeing X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and X-Men: First Class before seeing this film (at the very least First Class). If I hadn’t seen these movies previously, most of the powerful emotional moments of Days of Future Past would have zipped right over my head. And if you’ve seen the X-Men movies and liked them, you will be richly rewarded in this film as it brings back the old cast in very imaginative and emotionally satisfying ways while featuring the same brilliant newcomers from First Class.
This film also has one of coolest — and funniest — action sequences I’ve seen in years, and it involves Quicksilver, a mutant who moves at lightning speeds. If you’ve ever seen the animated film Over the Hedge, you might remember a scene where the hyper-active squirrel Hammy moves at lightning speed after drinking the equivalent of Red Bull. If you remember how funny that scene was, you will get the general idea of what happens with Quicksilver. It’s just a shame that Quicksilver didn’t have a more prominent presence in Days of Future Past.
It isn’t a perfect movie though. There are some general elements of the plot that are cliche. The movie certainly isn’t wholly original; it borrows quite a lot from other time-travel action movies like Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the Star Trek films. And because it is so complex if you think too hard about certain things you do walk away scratching your head a bit. In fact, some people have been confused enough about details that websites are posting articles like this one (warning: major spoilers in it!) that help viewers sort things out after they’ve seen the film. That article also goes into detail about the two silly gaffes in the plot that I mentioned earlier. Despite its derivative nature and its sometimes overwhelming timeline complexity, this film adds great variations to the time travel formula; it keeps everyone in the theater guessing as to what will happen next, and, for that reason, I would have to agree with the critics: the film is deserving of its high score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Worldview and Redemptive Qualities
Like all X-Men movies and comic books, the entire premise of mutating humans is built upon the assumption by the storytellers that the theory of macro-evolution is fact. Godzilla, the film I reviewed last week, had the same underlying worldview, except the X-Men universe is much more strictly along the lines of naturalism. Godzilla left a little room for the possibility of the spiritual, but in X-Men the thought that spiritual beings like God could exist is excluded from the outset — not even mentioned at all as a possibility. In that sense, the X-Men universe is distinctly naturalistic. It could be, however, more of an issue of convenience. It takes more than enough time just to explain all the rules of the X-Men universe without throwing the complication of religion into it. I suspect that is why the movie ignores the question of religion completely — at least one of the reasons. While it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the movie for its fantastical superhero elements, it’s always helpful to be discerning about what worldviews are being thrown at you when you step inside a movie theater.
Besides these elements, the film has many positive qualities and messages. There is a strong sense of cause and effect in this film: that our actions have real consequences, and this means we each have a great responsibility every time we make a decision, no matter how small. We see characters deeply remorseful over the consequences of their actions when they finally realize what they have done. A prominent theme of hope plays throughout the movie, as well as the belief that no one is too far gone; everyone deserves a second chance to change their ways and make amends.
Without going into detail (to avoid spoilers), there is an emotionally satisfying, incredibly powerful — nostalgic, even — scene in this film that could have some parallels to spiritual truth: particularly the belief that God not only has the power to redeem us from our sins, but He can even mend us and re-write our history so that the darkness of our past takes on new meaning. To put it simply: God can restore to us what was lost in more ways than we can imagine, especially when you consider the implications of Heaven and eternity. Although I do not believe the film intentionally drew a parallel to this spiritual truth, it did whether it realized it or not.
X-Men: Days of Future Past is a highly entertaining film with some edifying, positive themes and truths in it. Although I strongly disagree with the underlying worldview that supports its premise, that element didn’t stop me from enjoying the characters and wanting to see what happened to them as the story unfolded. However, the film does push its PG-13 boundaries with nudity (seen from behind), an f-bomb, and some intense violence: definitely no one under 13, and any younger teenagers who see it will hopefully have some meaningful discussions with parents or youth pastors who can help them sort through the film’s worldviews and pick out the edifying themes that the movie powerfully (but subtly, in some cases) presents.