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Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

May 28, 2014

By John Corrado

*** (out of 4)

Days of Future Past Poster

X-Men: Days of Future Past is predominantly a sequel to the 2011 prequel First Class, that also serves as a continuation of where the original trilogy left off in 2006 with The Last Stand, and could very well lead into a reboot of the entire series.  The fact that this latest entry in the franchise pulls off being all of these things at once is quite impressive.

But perhaps even more impressive is the fact that X-Men: Days of Future Past still manages to entertain on its own merits, offering plenty of exciting sequences and smart twists.  The film is currently riding high at the box office, coming off a mammoth first place opening over the weekend.

The action starts in the year 2023, when the robotic Sentinels have destroyed much of the mutant population, leaving Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) working together to try and save their kind.  But the war has been escalating for years, starting way back in 1974 when Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) killed Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the driving force behind the Sentinel program.

The plan now is for Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) to send Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back to the 1970s so that he can stop the assassination from taking place, with help from the younger versions of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult).  This includes breaking Magneto (Michael Fassbender) out of his underground prison at the Pentagon, which leads them to recruit a young mutant named Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who brings a whole new meaning to the word hyperactivity.

But whatever Wolverine fixes in the past will drastically change everything that happens over the next fifty years, leaving the original timeline to exist only in his mind.  This might sound confusing, but the separate timelines are kept easy to follow, nicely edited together with clever twists along the way.  The time tripping finale is impressively pulled off, playing as both a period piece and vision of an apocalyptic future, smoothly switching back and forth between past and present.

At times the film gets bogged down by our attempts to logicize everything that is going on, and there have been some challenges with continuity between the first six entries in the franchise.  Last year’s exciting and surprisingly smart The Wolverine is still the strongest film in terms of gritty action and character development, and this sequel doesn’t have the same sense of stylish fun as X-Men: First Class.  But Days of Future Past does an admirable job of mostly tying everything together and forging ahead along a new path, elevated by solid performances from both the old and new members of the cast.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender once again seem to be having a lot of fun with their roles, and they both bring excellent depth to the young counterparts of these classic characters.  Hugh Jackman continues to take Wolverine in some interesting directions, in what amounts to his seventh appearance with the claws.  But it’s the scene stealing Quicksilver who provides some of the best moments in the film, including a spectacular slow motion sequence that takes place in the kitchen of the Pentagon.  It’s a great feat of special effects, and Evan Peters rocks the role.

Aside from the main players, not all of the supporting mutants are fully developed.  But there continues to be some interesting ethical and political debates about whether they should be cured or accepted for their differences, which was one of the main themes of the original trilogy.  With Bryan Singer returning to the director’s chair after helming the first two entries, X-Men: Days of Future Past does feel like a direct continuation of the earlier films, finding ways to work in many of the original characters.

Watching the original trilogy, it’s interesting how they have changed over the years, especially against the evolving landscape of comic book movies.  The first three films are still entertaining and enjoyable, but they are also flawed in their own ways.  The 2009 spinoff X-Men Origins: Wolverine was fun, but didn’t really go all that deep.  Perhaps most interesting about X-Men: Days of Future Past is how they acknowledge the original trilogy in a way that works in conjunction with First Class, while rewriting the course of the first three films, particularly Brett Ratner’s The Last Stand.

But most importantly, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a solidly entertaining summer blockbuster that does a lot of things very well and continues to take the franchise in some interesting new directions, while balancing the multiple timelines with ease and excellent performances.

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