I guess I’ll start of by warning everyone that this post probably contains spoilers. I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past this weekend and, while my intent is not to review it here, I do think it’s an okay movie, neither great nor awful, but not generally remarkable in anyway. My biggest complaint however is Magneto continuing to be portrayed as a villain, when, in fact, more often than not, though his actions may be violent, they seem to be necessary and his fears well-founded. There are clear parallels drawn between the murder of millions of mutants and mutant-sympathizing humans and the Holocaust in the first half hour of the movie. It’s canon that Magneto’s parents died in a concentration camp during WWII. Dr. Trask, played by Peter Dinklage, is clearly a representation of Dr. Josef Mengele and his horrible human experimentation at Auschwitz. They even use trains to move mutants to Trask’s laboratories.
Wolverine arrives in the past in an attempt to stop the mass-murder of countless innocent people. He rounds up the younger versions of Magneto and Professor Xavier and essentially confirms that everything Magneto has always feared and done whatever he felt necessary to prevent will happen. Yet, Wolverine and Professor Xavier are still against killing or using any violence really to prevent a massive genocide. It was sometime around the time that pacifism became the solution for preventing the Holocaust that I started shaking my head in disgust.
Does anybody really think if someone gave Hitler a hug, he would have changed his mind about the atrocities he ordered? Or maybe Stalin just needed a friend? If history has taught us one thing, it’s taught us that sometimes the solution to saving millions is messy.
Magneto attempts to kill the president and Trask. He also attempts to kill Mystique in order to prevent Trask from getting his hands on her DNA and engineering the Sentinels that will wipe out their people. His actions might be awful, but they also seem to be necessary. Is he really the villain or is he simply making hard choices that no one else wants to make? On some level his actions certainly make the most sense to me.
X-Men: Days of Future Past would attempt to cast its villains very clearly as wrong; they might be flawed rather than evil, but they are definitely, completely wrong. In doing so I think Bryan Singer is attempting to push a belief that violence is never the answer without really stopping to think about what that means. We live in a world beset by violence and it’s used as a solution to far more problems than it should be. However, sometimes violence is necessary for survival or to prevent a greater evil. We might wish that violence is never the answer, but sadly sometimes it has to be; pacifism would never have ended WWII, the primary metaphor of this movie. The world exists in shades of gray, so do good villains and maybe the best villains aren’t really villains at all.