X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
**** (out of 5)
May 23, 2014
Hugh Jackman as WOLVERINE
James McAvoy as CHARLES XAVIER
Michael Fassbender as ERIK LEHNSHERR
Jennifer Lawrence as MYSTIQUE
Halle Berry as STORM
Nicholas Hoult as HANK
Ellen Page as KITTY PRYDE
Peter Dinklage as DR. BOLIVAR TRASK
Shawn Ashmore as ICEMAN
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Bryan Singer
BY KEVIN CARR
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Fourteen years ago, Bryan Singer changed the face of superhero movies by directing “X-Men.” This may not seem like such a big deal now, but leading up to the 2000 release date, we were living in a world of “Batman & Robin,” which was just three short years before. Given a relatively small budget and a cramped production schedule, Singer’s “X-Men” redefined comic book movies with a more serious tone and with potential as huge summer blockbusters.
Think about that for a second… without Singer’s “X-Men,” we might have never had Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Now that the “X-Men” franchise is well into its teenage years, we’ve got a new movie which offers a bigger world than we’ve seen in the “Wolverine” spin-off movies, and even larger than the delightfully retro “X-Men: First Class” from three years ago.
Based on a story arc from the comic books, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” starts off about ten years in the future. Giant killer robots known as Sentinels have wiped out most of the mutants, as well as humans who sympathize with them or could potentially give birth to more mutants. The last of the X-Men have banded together to try to change the past.
Using Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) powers, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has his consciousness sent back to the 1970s, where he must meet up with younger versions of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Wolverine must get them all to cooperate and stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the man who created the Sentinels.
Part of what makes this film so easy to slip into, and what helps the always challenging time travel storyline for the mainstream audience, is the fact that the X-Men have been a part of popular culture for the past fourteen years. There’s no need to explain to the viewer what mutants are, who the X-Men are, which ones are good guys, what anyone’s specific power is or what the particular relationships are. This can be seen as a negative to some who haven’t seen the other films, but for the audience this is targeting, it makes the movie work extremely smoothly.
Because these movies have, for the most part, been successful and well received, we see a lot of familiar faces returning, and that helps the audience feel like they’re with the in crowd while watching the film. It also allows for various inside jokes that would be lost on someone who missed out on the last decade and a half of X-Men movies.
The movie also introduces some new characters, most importantly Dr. Trask, played by the brilliant actor Peter Dinklage. Not to sound like a hipster, but I thought he was a fantastic actor long before it was popular to like Peter Dinklage. I’m thrilled to see him getting some top-tier work, because the man deserves it.
But aside from all the inside benefits, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is simply a well-made film. Though it runs longer than all the other installments in the franchise, it’s quickly paced and very even. The story juggles action and dialogue quite well, and it serves as a bridge between not just the Wolverine spin-off films and the series, but between the original three X-Men movies and “X-Men: First Class.”
This doesn’t just make a strong lattice of great characters and interaction in this movie, delivering one of the best X-Men movies ever made, but it also sets things up for future films and a re-energized X-Men franchise.