“X-Men: Days of Future Past” Movie Review


     Bryan Singer's "X-Men: Days of Future Past isn't the first franchise film to utilize a subplot involving time travel, but it just may be the one which uses the storyline with the highest level of effectiveness and plausibility.  Pulling out all of the stops with the film's casting, Singer and story/screenwriters Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman, and Matthew Vaughn developed a concept that allows both the actors who portray the main characters in the original "X-Men" trilogy and the actors who play younger versions of the same characters in "X-Men: First Class" to co-exist on screen together, sort of.  The result isn't necessarily an original take on the "X-Men" story, but the film is a solid entry for a franchise that has shown no signs of slowing down and seems primed for a solid future.

     Speaking of the future, DOFP begins by introducing the audience to a very "Matrix" like dystopian future on Earth in which the few remaining mutants are hunted in much the same way humans are hunted in "The Matrix" trilogy in that small pockets of surviving mutants live an existence in which they flee and hide from robots called Sentinels.  Original cast members Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), Halle Berry (Storm), Ian McKellan (Magneto), and Patrick Stewart (Professor X) have barricaded themselves for one last stand against an approaching Sentinel army.  Within the group is Kitty Pride (Ellen Page), a mutant who has the ability to send someone's consciousness back in time with the benefit of knowing what will happen in the future.  Previous attempts at this have always had the traveler being sent back a few weeks, but Professor X intends on sending someone back decades in order to stop a young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating a scientist, Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage), who in 1973 was in the process of creating the technology that would lead to the creation of the Sentinels.

     It's determined Wolverine, with his ability to heal, is the only mutant who could survive the process of occupying the body of his past self some 50 years before (Of course he looks the same anyway, so it's convenient).  After the events of "First Class", convincing both Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to work together and save the future of all mutant existence proves difficult, if not impossible.  One of the last things Wolverine is told before traveling back in time is the fact each and everything he does will alter history in some way.  Singer has fun with a number of historical situations within the early 70s setting including a rather odd incarnation of President Nixon, as well as the real truth behind the magic bullet theory and the JFK assassination.  The film's second act plays out a "fish out of water" scenario similar to other franchise films that went the time travel route such as "Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home" and more recently, "Men in Black 3".

     Speaking of "Star Trek", the Sentinels are the "X-Men" version of the famed Star Fleet Academy test, the "Kobayashi Maru", otherwise known as the no win scenario.  Dr. Trask's creations utilize within their technology the ability to adapt and overcome all mutant powers.  This makes holding them off impossible and death a certainty for mutants who in the future are nearly exterminated.  Singer and his effects team certainly deliver the expected action set pieces which typically involve the remaining mutants in battle with the Sentinels.  Well choreographed sequences featuring a barrage of fire, ice, laser blasts, and worm holes to escape through highlight several of the skirmishes.  The effects work involving Magneto's unstoppable powers are both creative and awe inspiring, especially in a scene involving the old RFK stadium in Washington DC (Could that be a nod from the filmmakers to change the Redskins nickname, or else?). Unlike many summer films, Singer doesn't allow the action to reach the numbing effect seen in recent films like "Spider-Man 2" and "Godzilla", choosing instead to direct the film as a more traditional character driven vehicle, an attribute I wish more filmmakers would embrace.

     As the obvious anchor of the entire series, Jackman's Wolverine continues to impress as a character who with two separate spin off films, still manages to be irreplaceable within the story as the other characters, with the exception of Magneto, seem to come with only limited appeal.  With all of her popularity, Singer and his collaborators made a smart decision to also ensure Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique remains a central character as well.  Having three of the most popular actors today (Jackman, Lawrence, and Fassbender) together in a Marvel superhero movie was always a recipe for success; however the absence of an appealing storyline would've meant certain doom for the film both critically and commercially.  Fortunately, Singer delivers one of his best films in years.  DOFP is well paced, and written with a certain wit and charm that takes full advantage of it's talented A-List cast, while also ensuring summer crowds will be entertained by top notch effects work. The only real question I have now is, does this mean the events of the "X-Men" trilogy are now significantly altered or didn't even take place at all?  GRADE: B+