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Movie review: 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' cleverly fixes the series' past

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Time travel is probably the most convenient device a story can use. It can be used for dramatic impact, as the hero races through time to save the future; comedy, as the hero finds him or herself in unfamiliar surroundings; and as a way to right any wrongs in a way that seems like it makes sense. Time travel is starting to become a cliché, but in the latest “X-Men” movie, “Days of Future Past”, director Bryan Singer uses it rather cleverly, uniting both the cast of “X-Men: First Class”, in which many of the mutant heroes and villains appear as their younger selves, and the original “X-Men” trilogy.

Michael Fassbender returns as young Eric/Magneto
20th Century Fox

The movie opens in a future where the world is torn by war, and advanced robots called Sentinels, which have the ability to change their weapons based on who they are fighting, are steadily eliminating the mutant population. Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan), Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Storm (Halle Berry), and a handful of other mutants are hiding out in China, using Kitty Pryde’s ability to send a person’s consciousness a couple of weeks into the past to warn themselves of Sentinel attacks. I don’t recall Kitty being able to do anything other than pass through solid objects, but we’ll overlook that for now.

Out of nowhere, they get the idea to send a person many years back in time, to 1973, to prevent Raven, aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), from killing Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage)—the creator of the Sentinels—and convincing the world of the danger mutants pose to humans. Logan gets sent back, because he is the only one whose body can repair itself after the straining passage through time. But his task, to convince a much younger and different Xavier (James McAvoy) to help him won’t be easy. Xavier has given up his telepathic powers in favor of medication to help him walk, and has retreated within himself.

Xavier, Logan, and the younger Hank/Beast (Nicolas Hoult) also decide that they need to recruit Eric/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to help them, probably because he was the last person to really have a connection to Mystique; as pretty much everyone likely saw coming, that turns out to be a really, really bad idea.

This movie is not nearly as accessible to audiences as its predecessor, “First Class”, was. If you haven’t seen “First Class”, you probably won’t know what’s going on. If you haven’t seen the first “X-Men” trilogy, you probably won’t know what’s going on either, as many of the characters from that series make reappearances and several incidences are referenced. However, for moviegoers who are familiar with those films, “Days of Future Past” will be a real treat, for all of the above reasons.

This also isn’t a very comedic movie. Most superhero films have some humorous elements, and while there are some funny scenes in this movie, for the most part it is rather serious. That yields for some really nice character development by way of Professor Xavier, whose past before this new series wasn’t really explained before, and who is the opposite of his wise, cool, and collected older self. Much of the movie dwells on him refinding himself, so that he can become the man he was meant to be and continue to collect and teach mutants from all over the world. McAvoy turns in a great performance here in what is really a dramatic role.

Much of the film’s humor derives from the introduction of a new character, Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Quicksilver can move so fast, the whole world slows down around him, and this is shown in what is easily the most impressive scene in the movie—in recent movies in general, in fact, and one that will make moviegoers wonder just how it was done. That’s a difficult feat to accomplish considering the world of highly-realistic computer effects we now live in.

This movie also uses time travel not just as a plot device, but as a way to essentially correct the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand”. I won’t say too much to avoid spoilers, but it was a clever way of giving series a fresh start. There are some glaring problems with the plot that don’t involve the time travel aspect though. For instance, Magneto’s involvement doesn’t seem necessary in stopping Mystique, so why release him and a whole lot of trouble too? It seems like someone like Xavier, his former friend who knows what he’s capable of, would know better. The ending also doesn’t tie up all the loose ends, but it’s pretty fun, if a tad sentimental.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is, despite any flaws it has, one of the better, if not the best, installment of the “X-Men” film franchise so far. It makes me, and I’m sure other fans as well, hopeful—and eager— for the future of this series.

Runtime: 131 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity, and language.

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