X-Men: Days of Future Past
Time travel tends to be tricky business, at least as far as movie-making goes. Make it too complex, and you lose your audience. Too simple, they’re bored. And if you exploit it too obviously to reconcile inconsistencies in characters’ pasts, they’ll cry foul — just take a look at the previous X-Men films. Moviemakers dealing in the subject have to handle a fine, quantum mechanical line.
Director Bryan Singer works the line well in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” a film that operates on two planes. The first is set in the dystopian future of 2023, where terrifying super-robot Sentinels relentlessly hunt down mutants, who have been forced into hiding. A small band of mutants, whose powers result in a visual feast, repeatedly escape the extermination with the help of Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) time-travel abilities.
But an aged Professor X, played with great remorse and hope by the returning Patrick Stewart, comes to the group with a plan to prevent this dark timeline from ever transpiring. Using Kitty’s powers, the group will send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973, the second plane, to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from ever killing the creator of the Sentinels, whose death spurred on the development of his machines.
The premise of the time travel is simple: change the past to change the future. But the stakes are high, and made even more so by the twist that the past is cemented when future Wolverine wakes up, even if it’s before his mission is complete. The tension created by the potential of an even darker future keeps audiences engaged in what might otherwise be a too-straightforward concept.
Jumping between 2023 and 1973 throughout the film produces some nice parallels: the disparagement of mutants; the relationship between Professor X and Magneto (Michael Fassbender); and at the end, two epic battles against the Sentinels raging at once simultaneously and 50 years apart.
The clever plot is liberally sprinkled with metal-moving, mind-controlling, portal-opening and general power-wielding, all which is superhero junkie jaw-dropping, yet none of which seems excessive. Genuine, sans-power moments between characters — as people rather than mutants — balance the overwhelming visuals nicely.
In addition to pure action, the film contains enough specific nods to the comics to make super fans squeal (including an undeniably cool appearance by Evan Peters as Quicksilver), but throughout, it has a plot universal enough to appeal to even the most uninitiated Marvel neophyte. The best X-Men to date, “Days of Future Past” is clever, agile, action-packed and really fun.
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