Time travel is typically a disorienting affair. In “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” jumping back and forth in the timeline is an unusually uncomplicated task that provides an amusing bridge between the original trilogy and the prequel chapters. While it’s entertaining to see both iterations of classic characters like Professor X and Magneto in the same film, the clutter appears as a general overabundance of mutants and their unbridled (and often unexplained) powers. Worse yet are the faceless robot villains whose expertise is countering the ability of any mutant they meet. Luckily, the bland antagonists merely pose the threat that requires tampering with the past, allowing the majority of the adventure to focus on the more standout heroes and their eonian plight to coexist with the rest of humanity.
Intent on combating the escalating mutant threat, renowned scientist Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) creates the Sentinels, an army of anti-mutant androids. But what begins as a war on abnormality becomes a battle against all of humankind when the robots turn rogue and seek to destroy the entirety of sentient life. Determined to avert this desolate future, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) devise a plan to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to stop the catalyst for the Sentinels’ creation: the assassination of Trask by vengeful warrioress Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). With time rapidly running out, Wolverine must convince the young, embittered Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to partner with his nemesis Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) in order to prevent the chain of events that will bring about the utter annihilation of mankind.
Time travel can be a messy, messy venture. In “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” the writers present a premise not too far removed from the basic setup of “Back to the Future,” in which a visit to the past is necessary to correct negative eventual outcomes. Here, the future is a bleak, postapocalyptic wasteland of human misery and oppression, like the environments of “The Terminator” or “The Matrix.” And the past is a mirthful 1973, full of lava lamps, waterbeds, and the jokingly obsolete phonebook. Even Vietnam and presidential assassinations are targets for sportive entanglements. But the approach to time travel harkens back to the curiousness of an isolated tangent that continuously affects and modifies the future, like “Timecop,” and grounds for the theory of immutability, as seen in 2002’s “The Time Machine.” For the sake of another reference, the exhilarating finale borrows editing concepts from “Inception,” as two riveting moments in time are alternated.
It never strays anywhere near to the knottiness of the “Back to the Future” franchise, though the gimmick allows for the diverting casting and inclusion of actors and characters spanning all of the prior X-Men films. Considering that, despite the first three films forming a specific trilogy, the entire series is something of a harmonious continuation (rather than routine reboots), it’s particularly appealing to reunite numerous familiar faces. The project as a whole, however, feels very much like a single episode of a long-running series, which takes a bit away from the scope of the project as a standalone event. In fact, viewers unfamiliar with the previous six films (two dealing chiefly with Wolverine) will be more lost than ever.
When mutants aren’t combating other mutants (somehow Magneto can’t help but stay villainous, even while aiding the primary champions), it seems necessary to invent a Kryptonite to weaken their general invulnerability. Several mutants wield expectedly undefined powers that are quelled by the equally unexplained capabilities of the Sentinel nemeses. Allies turn into enemies for added opposition, background mutants are predominantly poorly designed (save for Blink, played by Bingbing Fan), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) gets the single greatest scene in the film before returning to his regular shenanigans (his presence could have effortlessly saved the day several more times), and Mystique’s movements are largely obscured thanks to her precarious state of unremitting near-nudeness. But the humor is consistent, genuinely funny, and handled superiorly to “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” having opened a couple of weeks earlier, which brought back the idea of simply embracing the inherent silliness and carefree attitudes of masked superheroes, instead of dampening them with explicit morbidity and grotesqueries.
- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)