Thursday, June 05, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (Bryan Singer, 2014)

It looks like the mutants’ time is up in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. A sentinel program with a genetic guidance system targets the biologically aberrant heroes and is on the verge of wiping them out if something isn’t done soon. Their only hope is to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 to keep Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), who experimented on mutants to develop the weapons.

Things aren’t looking so great for mutants decades earlier, though. Wolverine finds the Institute for Gifted Youngsters closed and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) depressed and reliant on a serum that returns function to his legs but suppresses his telepathic abilities. Erik Lehnsherr, otherwise known as Magneto (Michael Fassbender), is imprisoned deep below the Pentagon. After breaking Charles out of his funk and Magneto out of his cell, the team of X-Men, which also includes Beast (Nicholas Hoult), head to the Paris Peace Accords to stop Raven from completing her mission and dooming their future.

The X-MEN films have the biggest cast of characters among comic book adaptations, yet DAYS OF FUTURE PAST never gets bogged down trying to devote sufficient time to each of them. The follow-up to X-MEN: FIRST CLASS is mainly Wolverine, Charles Xavier, and Magneto’s show. Jackman is the anchor, bringing the gruff humor and brute force he’s lent to the role six other times. McAvoy and Fassbender harness the tension between Charles’ idealism and Erik’s cynicism. Still, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST finds showcase moments for other mutants too. Quicksilver (Evan Peters) receives an amusing introduction to the franchise in a funny, slow-motion confrontation that stands as the film’s most memorable scene. Blink (Fan Bingbing) uses portals to enliven the future’s actions sequences, particularly the opening one.

Despite two concurrent time periods and various locations to manage, director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg keep events clear-cut. The path may be a little complicated to follow, but it’s all conveyed in a straightforward manner that doesn’t require audiences to have brushed up on the events of previous films to understand the importance of what’s happening now. The threat and actions needed to overcome it are more firmly defined than the world-at-risk scenario that has become the default blockbuster setting. While DAYS OF FUTURE PAST doesn’t lack for spectacle, such as Magneto ripping RFK Stadium from the ground and dropping it on the front lawn of the White House, it has the good taste not to use anonymous mass casualties as a cheap way of raising the stakes.

DAYS OF FUTURE PAST isn’t lacking seriousness or long-form episodic storytelling that fuels these superhero series, but Singer never loses sight that this should be fun too. Like FIRST CLASS, the ‘70s setting gives a unique look to this one over other X-MEN and comic book entries. DAYS OF FUTURE PAST takes pleasure in showing off the variety of powers its characters’ possess and retains a sense of humor about X-MEN history and the inherent silliness in these adventures.

Grade: B

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