If you’re among those who feel the cinema has been overrun with a glut of super-hero movies of late, then X-Men: Days of Future Past is not for you. Here, almost every character has a dazzling super-power, and there are a lot of characters.
Freely based on a classic 1981 X-Men adventure, this new and ambitious project establishes the conflict from the get-go. There’s no time spent establishing characters or setting the scene; you plunge headfirst into the struggle.
In the not too-distant future, the mutants are under relentless attack from the Sentinels, robots designed to aggressively hunt and kill all mutants. Before you have time to blink, or at the very least, try to take in what you’re watching, some of the mutants are immediately killed in the ambush. From what you’ve just witnessed, it becomes clear that whatever follows is going to be different from the rhythm of all previous adventures, and that makes X-Men: Days of Future Past suddenly interesting.
What follows involves sending Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973 so that he can stop the government program that began the Sentinel project, developed during President Nixon’s time. If successful, the future will adjust and change and the X-Men will continue to live and fight another day with no knowledge that their existence was ever in jeopardy. At least, that’s the plan.
There’s a lot to understand, but the good news is that despite the complicated setup, not to mention the abundance of characters, once things are established and Wolverine wakes up in 1973 to the sight of a lighted lava lamp by the side of a bed and an NYC radio station playing Roberta Flack, things slow down a little.
What follows is the interesting sight of seeing younger versions of the characters from the future. Wolverine tries to enlist the help of a young Professor X (Patrick Stewart in the future; James McAvoy of the past) and a young and incarcerated Magneto (Ian McKellen in the future; Michael Fassbender of the past).
What works so well is that once we’ve traveled back in time, the film centers on Wolverine as he tries to put the elements together that will hopefully halt the creation of those killer robots. There’s a lot going on, but by centering on just a few of the multitude of characters involved, even those who have wandered in to an X-Men movie for the first time should get a grasp of what’s going on.
One of the movie’s unexpected and extremely humorous highlights involves the character of Quicksilver (American Horror Story’s Evan Peters) as he races around a room at supersonic speeds. From his point of view, we witness those around him firing their weapons in ultra-slow-mo as Quicksilver darts undetected among the characters, adjusting the direction of the flying bullets while Jim Croce’s Time in a Bottle plays over the soundtrack. It’s a surprisingly efficient not to mention funny scene, though it also brings in to question the following: Considering how effective Quicksilver is in solving the outcome of any situation by smartly zipping from corner to corner so fast that no one knows he’s even there, how come he’s not used to save his fellow X-Men in just about every situation? Half of what happens could have easily been avoided if Quicksilver was always on hand. But, then again, there’d be no story; everything would be solved in seconds.
The always watchable Jennifer Lawrence is on hand as a young Mystique, but here as her renegade character relentlessly pursues her one intention of trying to assassinate the man responsible for the Sentinel program, she’s never given the opportunity of doing anything other than glare. The way Mystique is written there’s no chance for Lawrence to act beyond her character’s one-note objective.
Even though, thankfully, there are no shots of major cities being crushed or skyscrapers tumbling down, the set pieces are still spectacular to the point where special effects no longer appear particularly special. A dazzling spectacle is fast becoming common place, and with films like X-Men, the recent Godzilla, and the countless other super-hero adventures Hollywood has delivered during the last couple of years, there’s now a very real danger of the Wow factor disappearing. We’re getting used to it and not feeling particularly moved in the process. However, there’s no denying that the sight of Magneto literally raising RFK Stadium off the ground and dumping it around the White House is impressive.
Director Bryan Singer has successfully placed the franchise back on track after an admittedly lackluster dip that occurred somewhere around the time when Brett Radner took the helm a few years back and caused even fans to loose interest. Like several of its kind, X-Men: Days of Future Past still feels a little too long, plus the many dark scenes are not particularly effective when viewed through 3D glasses, but it still works. In fact, it works remarkably well considering the amount of plot you need to understand, the amount of characters you need to know in order to make full sense of the story, and the relentless, busy action that concludes the final third of the film.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 131 Minutes Overall Rating: 8 (out of 10)