Just Plain X-Cellent – A review of X-Men: Days of Future Past
Title: X-Men: Days of Future Past
Production Company: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 131 minutes
Director: Bryan Singer
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, HalleBerry, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page
Summary: Take several well-known actors and return them to roles they’ve played before, add in a director who is very familiar with the material, stir in a time travel plot heavily laced with action and suspense and you have the makings of a top notch summer thriller.
Comic book stories lend themselves well to temporal experimentation. We’ve revisited the same stories and seen them retold a number of times in numerous different ways in more than a few Hollywood reboots.
The last X-Men movie that featured the older cast lends itself to this kind of tinkering. Many fans were disappointed in the outcome of that tale.
Here, we’re introduced to a desolate future where mankind has sealed its own fate by allowing construction of an army of Sentinels – giant robots capable of sniffing out mutant kind in order to wipe them from the planet.
Unfortunately, as is the case with many decisions by human kind that aren’t well thought out, the Sentinels are also targeting regular humans for extinction as well. This means that the mutants, who are now the last line of defense against these amoral constructs, must devise a plan to save our doomed species and the future of mankind.
A plan is devised that may allow Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) to send his mind back to the past to convince his younger self (James McAvoy) to thwart the events that lead to the creation of the Sentinels in the first place.
But because of Xavier’s age and health, it becomes more practical to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) instead. Given his healing abilities, he would better be able to withstand the ordeal associated with temporal transference.
The wonderful charm of this story is the way it blends the characters from both generations of the X-Men movies into one seamless story. And some of the plots that have been left unresolved become clearer for movie audiences as we see what happened after each plot had unfolded.
These are characters that comic book audiences have loved for generations. Movie audiences have had less time to embrace them, but when they’re handled right by a director who understands the character nuances, we can’t help but respect the choices that these icons make.
Bryan Singer is just such a director and it was evident that much was lacking from the story when he departed after directing the second movie in the classic tale. Here once again, he shows us the vulnerabilities of his charges and their commitment to focus on repairing the damage that was done to their timeline.
Stewart and Ian McKellan (who plays Xavier’s rival Magneto) play off each other with quiet resolve. Both men have been fighting with humanity for far too long and the weariness that comes with that fight shows visibly in both of their characters.
Even Wolverine, whose character has transcended generations, shows a marked comfort with himself and a commitment to do his part to resolve the conflict.
By contrast, the younger actors who are just starting out on their life adventures show more of a commitment to stay their own destructive courses rather than resolve a conflict that they can only speculate about in the wake of their encounters with future Wolverine.
Young Xavier, for instance, has traded his psionic powers for his ability to walk again with the use of questionable and potentially lethal drugs. His own selfishness, though, prevents him from seeing the bigger picture until he hears his future self in the words of the Wolverine.
Young Magneto (Michael Fassbender), imprisoned in the bowels of the Pentagon after being accused of an assassination that he may or may not be responsible for is still resolutely focused on making humanity pay for its treatment of homo superior, as he refers to both himself and his fellow mutants.
Intriguingly, the backdrop for the story is the Nixon era of the early ‘70’s, a time when distrust of the government was almost as high as it is today. I shudder to think what our current administration might do with Sentinels if they were really capable of existing in our reality.
But then again, Marvel Entertainment has never shied away from dragging the real world into the fray time and again. And that’s the reason we always look forward to the stories that come from the minds that brought us The Avengers, the Fantastic Four and Spiderman.
The future beckons and the past awaits. I give “X-Men: Days of Future Past” 5 out of 5 stars.