X-Men: Days of Future Past is now no longer a name that makes people twitch their eyebrows and stare with furrowed foreheads while trying hard to understand the oxymoron theme in the title. It is in fact one of the most eagerly awaited films of the year, which has been backed by a massive production budget by 20th Century Fox, and has been aggressively marketed in the past few weeks. The weekend has now arrived for us to judge on how great really is X-Men: Days of Future Past going to be. But the important question also is, how big is this movie supposed to be?
X-Men: Days of Future Past is the seventh movie of the X-Men series. This is the longest-running superhero themed movie series since the turn of the century, the time when superheroes really found their foot in the Hollywood space again. Needless to say, X-Men series has been a commercial success, and has seen its fan base multiply over the years. History will always judge the first movie, which is 2000’s X-Men, favourably. For this was the movie that once again made comic heroes the stars of Hollywood, even though the Spidey fans would call Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) as the real game changer. X-Men came at a time when comic book heroes were no longer adored in the movie world; Batman had been brutally murdered in 1997’s Batman & Robin, Superman had been long forgotten after 1987’s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, the attempt at a Phantom film in 1996 was never spoken of again, there were no Spider-Man films, and the Marvel cinematic universe as we know it now, never existed. X-Men was a gamble, and oh boy, did it pay off! The movie shunned any attempts at building a bright colourful picture aimed for teenagers, and rather carved out a seriously toned, dark themed, action packed film, where the good and the bad weren’t clearly segregated but maintained a seamlessness within them that made us pause and wonder about the dynamics of the film. It was the beginning of a superhero revolution, which even after about a decade and a half, is nowhere close to saturation.
Those are the roots from which X-Men: Days of Future Past has emerged. And now in 2014, the movie series has its own set of fresh challenges to conquer. To begin with, it would need to first recoup its huge cost and then earn decent profits on it too. X-Men: Days of Future Past is said to be the costliest film of the series till date with $225 million as the production budget alone, which is higher than the $210 million of the third film X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). All the other five X-Men films have been made in a budget much lower than $200 million, with the most recent film The Wolverine of last year managing its budget within $120 million itself. The big budget of X-Men: Days of Future Past is not surprising, given the huge ensemble cast brought together for the movie, and the scale of visual effects too is expected to be notched up. But even by today’s standards $225 million is a huge amount. It is somewhat on par with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, but compare it with this year’s Captain America: The Winter Solider ($170 million) and last year’s Iron Man 3 ($200 million) which have a much stronger global base, and one can see the kind of gamble Fox is taking on the mutants this time. Add maybe another $100 million to the marketing spend; this would mean that the movie would have to earn somewhere close to $650 million worldwide in box-office collections to be break-even for the studio (assuming that 50% of the collections are routed back to the studio). These are rough calculations, we agree, for the marketing spend could be lower, or the ratio of earnings for the studio could be better. But even if this figure is off by a little, X-Men: Days of Future Past would still have to significantly outperform the best earnings seen so far in the movie series, which was close to $460 million (worldwide) by X-Men: The Last Stand. The likes of Captain America: The Winter Solider and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 have already heading north of $700 million, and so Wolverine & Co will have to keep pace with these heavyweights, and beat its predecessors in the box-office run.
Beyond the financial angle, X-Men: Days of Future Past also marks the return of Bryan Singer to the movie series he had sown and cared for initially. For many, including myself, 2000’s X-Men remains incomparable not only in this series but in this genre altogether. Singer had then delivered an astounding sequel X2: X-Men United. But he left the series and later on delivered the much criticised Superman Returns, the subdued Valkyrie and the forgettable Jack the Giant Slayer. None of these movies comes even close to Singer’s work on the first two X-Men movies. Now at a time when the quality of the movies in this series have come under some criticism, the return of Bryan Singer at the helm of things is the wish of many that has come true. Not only to resurrect the series, but to resurrect himself too. While the criminal allegations that have come up against him in the recent period have taken up the headlines, there is no escaping the fact that the success of X-Men: Days of Future Past would be a seen as a personal triumph for Bryan Singer as a director, and prove that the man still has his touch.
X-Men: Days of Future Past comes in an age much different from the 2000 film. Movies around comic book heroes are no longer uncommon; each movie is adding a new angle in its film to differentiate itself from the growing mass of superheroes on the big screen. We have already had Captain America and Spider-Man entertaining us this year, with the Guardians of the Galaxy set to follow. In such a scenario, X-Men: Days of Future Past will have to deliver on the promised quality, and meet upto the expectations of the fans. Each movie series has an expiry date, but X-Men has not reached its yet. There is X-Men: Apocalypse planned for 2016 straightaway, and a third Wolverine movie is also being talked of. But it takes only a failure or two for a series to soon be wiped off, and considering the big budget pumped in for this one, the pressure is really on. But hopefully X-Men: Days of Future Past will deliver; hopefully, the great and enormous acting cast in this movie along with the whole idea of travelling back in time will keep us sufficiently hooked; hopefully, Bryan Singer would have expertly managed such a wide cast giving each one ample space and time in the film the way he did beautifully in his previous works; hopefully, it will all fit in perfectly, the way the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle are meant to, and the satisfaction from watching this movie would be no different than seeing that puzzle whole and complete again.