FILM: “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Review by Pete Mason

As the title indicates, there is time travel in this, the seventh X-Men film and fifth to feature the familiar cadre of mutants. But this film does something “X-Men: First Class” did not – it combined the cast from the first three X-Men movies and added them to the new, younger cast, through the benefit of time travel. At the start of this comprehensive movie, mutants and humans are under attack from sentinels, and sending Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back to his 1973 self is the only way to prevent humanity and mutant-kind from being wiped out. Totally uncomplicated, too – no sarcasm intended, just remember these mutants have special powers and all will be well.

What has been regarded as one of the best X-Men comic storylines is written for the screen by Simon Kinberg and Jane Goldman and covers all the bases, without leaving a plot hole or gap in the progression, either in the dark future or in the past. Time travel is needed to prevent the rise of the sentinels, mutant-hunting machines that X-Men fans have been waiting years to see lifted off the pages of the comics. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) is the brains behind the sentinel program, and his death sets into motion a chain of events that leads to the dystopian future we are presented with in the beginning of the movie. Going back to prevent his death is the only way to change the future.

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But naturally, things do not go according to plan, and while his death is averted in a fantastic action sequence, history is altered and mutants are exposed to the public far greater than they have been in the past. Although Wolverine spans time via Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) to warn the fractured few X-Men and prevent the massacre, some 50 years in the future, he has the odds stacked against him. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy in 1973) is not the same man with a positive outlook on the future of mutant kind, beset by alcohol and treatment to keep his legs working, but losing his telepathic powers at the same time. Uniting with Magneto, who has been locked in a plastic cell beneath the Pentagon for a role in the assassination of JFK, is a daunting task, which involves new face Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who provides comic relief and a hilarious escape scene. Once they are together, it is fleeting at best, as they cannot work together with their opposite views of mutants in a human world.

The progression throughout the film is intense, with mutants in both the past and future getting fair amounts of screentime and not dropped in just for the sake of adding another mutant. The final scene, where a transplanted RFK stadium is lifted up by Magneto to surround the White House is as intense as it is spectacular. All the glory of the comic story is brought to life through young Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and his struggle to co-exist with humans. History is altered, but the affects are far from the sentinel future the X-Men were to face.

Now, if you’ve seen one or none of the X-Men films, you will easily find the story and plot and characters accessible. Mixed within the Vietnam War and American history, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” does us all a favor and eliminates the disaster that was “X-Men: Last Stand,” as that plot was thankfully erased from history. Wolverine’s absent memories are explained, as well as groundwork for General Stryker and many more frequent members of Marvel’s X-Men universe.

Post-credits, we are given a taste and link to the next film, “X-Men: Age of Apocalypse,” one that will have to go a long way to top the majesty of “Days of Future Past.”

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is rated PG-13 and is now playing in theaters.

Pick up Pete Mason’s book “The Evolution of the War Film Genre” for iPad and Kindle.

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