Sunday, May 25, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past / ***½ (PG-13)

Logan/Wolverine: Hugh Jackman
Charles Xavier: James McAvoy
Eric Lehnsherr: Michael Fassbender
Raven/Mystique: Jennifer Lawrence
Hank/Beast: Nicholas Hoult
Dr. Bolivar Trask: Peter Dinklage
Peter/Quicksilver: Evan Peters
Professor X: Patrick Stewart
Magneto: Ian McKellen
Storm: Halle Berry
Kitty Pride: Ellen Page
Bobby/Iceman: Shawn Ashmore

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Bryan Singer. Written by Simon Kinberg from a story by Jane Goldman & Kinberg & Matthew Vaughn. Running time: 131 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some suggestive material, nudity and language).

If the latest movie in the X-Men franchise proves anything, it’s that as long as they’re working with good material, filmmakers can indeed keep this up forever. Through a seemingly endless pool of superheroes to pull from, recasting roles with even more versatile actors, using multiple timelines and just plain rewriting anything that has come before, the equally seamlessly interchangeable filmmaking teams are quite capable of utilizing every ounce of artistry and cleverness to put together entertaining packages of superhero action and mythology to engage audiences for many years to come.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” combines casts, story lines and ideology from the six previous X-Men movies and even adds mostly original content to the mix. It also comes from a combination of past filmmakers, with director Bryan Singer returning to the series for the first time since the second film, last episode’s director Matthew Vaughn providing some story elements and scribe Simon Kinberg returning from the third film. I don’t know if I can really say how many wrinkles are left in this load of laundry. There’s just so much content in this movie, I suspect it would take several viewings to determine just how solid the story is logistically, but they do a pretty good job making it look like they know what they’re doing.

The movie opens in the future—an undisclosed year. In this future, mutants have been hunted to near extinction. Only a few resistance fighters remain, mutants who would be X-Men if the team had survived the war. Some are familiar. But it doesn’t appear they are going to last long against the giant adaptable Sentinel robots that hunt them. To this ragged band come Wolverine, Professor Xavier and Magneto with a plan to travel back to 1973 and stopping the war long before it begins by stopping the series of events that leads to the Sentinels’ creation.

Their creator is Dr. Bolivar Trask, whose assassination by the mutant Mystique leads to the popular acceptance of his Sentinel program. Wolverine is the only mutant capable surviving the time traveling process because of his self-healing ability. He must find the Professor’s younger self as well as Magneto’s so they can try to talk Mystique out of her plans to kill Trask, giving humans reason to believe the mutants are dangerous.

Singer and Kinberg do good to quickly move the action from the oppressive and frankly depressing scenes from the future to the much more vibrant 70s. Wolverine is the right vehicle for this transition as well, adding a good deal of levity to his situation in the way his brash character reacts to the period elements of fashion and culture. He is also once again left without his adamantium skeleton, as these events take place before William Striker turned him into Weapon X, leaving him at least slightly physically vulnerable.

The lighter hearted nature of the setting is also helped along by the introduction of a new mutant played by Evan Peters (of “American Horror Story” fame). He’s a kleptomaniac with the mutant gift of super quickness. As played by Peters this quicksilver is laid back despite his speedy nature and has a great deal of fun when he’s asked by Wolverine and Xavier to help them break into the Pentagon to break Magneto out of a super secret prison located beneath it.

As the story builds the humor is dissipated by the dire consequences at stake. With the weight of those consequences, Singer’s production grows bigger and bolder, culminating in an action sequence the cuts between ’73 and the future. It is the most grandiose sequence I’ve seen from the director and proves that Fox made a good decision in bringing him back into the franchise.

There’s a great deal going on here. So much that there is little urge on the first screening to stop and analyze it. I was content to just experience it, reserving a possibly rewarding analysis for subsequent screenings. There is a sense, however, that Singer is taking this opportunity to lay the X-Men he helped introduce in the initial trilogy to rest. With “X-Men: Apocalypse” already scheduled for a May 27, 2016 release and the casting looking like it will be sticking with the “First Class” group of actors, “Days of Future Past” may be the last time we see some of the characters who were introduced later chronologically than the current main players. But then again, as I was saying in the beginning of this review, they’ve really rewritten all the rules with this one.

1 comment:

Kathy in MD said...

We went to see it last night and enjoyed ourselves.