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"X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST"
(2014) (Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi/Action: A mutant is sent back in time in hopes of stopping a present day war by preventing incidents in the past that ultimately led to that.
PLOT:
In the near future, both mutants and humans trying to help them are under siege by robotic sentinels programmed to find and kill them. With their numbers dwindling, X-Men leader Charles Xavier (PATRICK STEWART) sees no choice but to try a risky gambit of going back in time to try to prevent the series of events that lead to the eventual deployment of those sentinels.

But the mutant who can control such time travel, Kitty Pryde (ELLEN PAGE), warns that such a trip -- that only involves sending one's consciousness back into the younger version of themselves -- is highly dangerous. Thus, Wolverine (HUGH JACKMAN) volunteers to take the trip, what with his regenerative powers likely serving to protect him.

While Charles, his former adversary Magneto (IAN McKELLEN), Storm (HALLE BERRY), Rogue (ANNA PAQUIN), Iceman (SHAWN ASHMORE), Bishop (OMAR SY) and other mutants await the sentinel siege in the present, Wolverine wakes up in his 1973 self. His mission is to find younger Charles (JAMES McAVOY) and Magneto, a.k.a. Erik Lehnsherr (MICHAEL FASSBENDER) -- who were then adversaries -- and get them to help stop shape-shifter Raven/Mystique (JENNIFER LAWRENCE) from killing sentinel creator Dr. Bolivar Trask (PETER DINKLAGE). That past assassination led to her capture and the use of her DNA to enhance the sentinels into the nearly non-stop killing machines they became.

With the help of fellow mutants Hank (NICHOLAS HOULT) -- who can turn into the Beast -- and Peter (EVAN PETERS) -- who zips around at high speed as Quicksilver -- Wolverine, Charles and Erik try to find and stop Mystique before it's too late for them, both in the past and present.

OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
The beauty of time travel as a corrective concept is that one is given the chance to fix past or future mistakes. If one goes forward, they're able to see what becomes of them, others or society in general and can thus return to make the necessary changes if needed. When one goes back, there's the chance to fix mistakes that lead to the current/present state. Of course, that comes with downside of accidentally changing other things via a temporal ripple, otherwise known as the Butterfly Effect.

When it comes to movies, there are plenty with time travel plots (mostly going backwards). At the same time, many studios and filmmakers utilize a modified time travel in terms of rebooting certain movies and particularly profitable film franchises by reconfiguring them via "going back in time" and starting the series anew with new performers in the old roles and (sometimes) with fresh ideas.

A few, however, take that to the next extreme and go back to an earlier time in their own, currently existing universe in hopes of fixing storytelling wrongs and making other changes, and that's exactly what "X-Men: Days of Future Past" intends to do. The seventh film in the Marvel Comics franchise (if you include "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and "The Wolverine"), this one follows 2011's surprisingly good "X-Men: First Class" that essentially, sort of, rebooted the franchise by showing the popular characters in their earlier years (and played by new and younger performers).

This time around, screenwriter Simon Kinberg has thrown in an actual time travel plot (partially cribbed from the "Terminator" flicks by way of "The Matrix"), while the studio has gone back in time to retrieve director Bryan Singer who directed the first two "X-Men" films back in 2000 and 2003. In short, it's sort of a dual sequel to 2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand" as well as the more recent "First Class." Fortunately for fans of the series and any average moviegoer who might stumble upon this offering, it's far more akin in quality to the more recent flick than the older one.

Despite being far more of an "Avengers" and company comic book fan as a kid back in the 1970s, I've always liked the "X-Men" movies (at least the more worthy offerings) than many of their Marvel or DC Comics contemporaries. And that's because they often feature subtexts of alienation, discrimination, intolerance and so on, all while featuring more realistic characterizations, drama and more. And this latest movie is loaded to the gills with a terrific cast including the likes of Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and so on.

The story is just a variation of the old "Terminator" movie where a character is sent back in time to stop someone whose actions back then ultimately involved the war that's taking place in the future and threatening human and mutant-kind. But rather than actually send a person in physical form, the script has the consciousness of Jackman's Wolverine sent back into his own body in 1973. That not only allows for some fish out of water meets lets laugh at the '70s jokes, but also more serious material involving the Vietnam War, President Nixon and such.

Wolfy travels back to try to stop fellow mutant Mystique (Lawrence giving some emotional and subtext depth to her shape-shifting character) from killing the original creator (Peter Dinklage decked out in '70s era garb and hair) of the robotic villains of the future war. But he needs the help of younger versions of other mutants (McAvoy, Fassbender, Nicolas Hoult and Evan Peters) to find and stop the nude, blue-skinned young woman from doing the deed and inadvertently setting things into motion.

There's plenty of action in both time frames (with the setup in the present having a "Matrix" vibe, what with the robots coming for those stuck there while actions elsewhere determine what's going to play out), and Lawrence gets the lion's share of the best while doing her acrobatic combat moves. Yet, the film's most entertaining sequence features Peters' Quicksilver character.

He can zip around at high speeds and gets his moment to shine in a slowed down sequence (he's seen at near regular speed while others around him are barely moving) where he alters the course of bullets fired at the mutants by Pentagon guards. It might not sound like much on paper, but as depicted in the film (with the late, great Jim Croce's song "Time in a Bottle" playing on the soundtrack, it's a fun, funny and enjoyable moment in what's otherwise a fairly serious film.

While it's not as deep as Christopher Nolan's "Batman" trilogy, this film still has enough substance (and a cast to drool over) to play far better than the likes of the over-hyped "Avengers." Like its immediate predecessor, "X-Men: Days of Future Past" is better than expected (certainly this far down the line of a long-running series) and thus rates as a 7.5 out of 10.




Reviewed May 20, 2014 / Posted May 23, 2014


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