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X-Men: Days of Future Past - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Directing: B+
Acting: B
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+
Special Effects: B+

Suddenly, the long-tired X-Men franchise has new life injected into it. And how did they manage that? By bringing back director Bryan Singer, who hasn't directed an X-Men film since the best one to date: X-Men 2 (2003), and arguably even more importantly, script writer Simon Kinberg. Okay, so the last X-Men movie that guy wrote was the just-okay X-Men: The Last Stand (2006 -- incidentally, before four more "stands" were released), but he evidently did get some help from two other people with story credit -- the even worse X-Men: First Class being the only other film in the franchise either of them have worked on. Well, what do you know? I guess every once in a while they do better their second time around.

Somewhat ironically, First Class had nothing new to offer, besides new actors to play the same characters in an earlier decade. There really wasn't anything fresh about it at all. And now we come back to them, complete with both the new actors and several of the original, older actors brought back, and somehow we wind up with what is easily the best X-Men movie in over a decade. We even get yet another great Magneto escape sequence, only this time its cleverness is infused with welcome humor -- and it plays well.

Maybe it's that First Class had no chance to pass the torch between the previous generation and the reboot, and here we get the X-Men equivalent of Star Trek Generations (also starring Patrick Stewart!) -- only done better.

Not that it's perfect, mind you. You can't have everything. Days of Future Past opens in a desolate future, if you do the math based on dialogue here and there, roughly 2023. The world has been overrun by "sentinels," non-metal robots that have been designed to absorb and appropriate any mutant superpower, and thus killed or imprisoned not only most of the world's mutants but any humans who helped them. It got so bad that now, for the first time in the X-Men cinematic universe, Xavier and Magneto are allies, with this common enemy.

In this future world, Ellen Page is disappointingly under-utilized as Kitty Pryde, who can send anyone's consciousness back in time into their own body. Time-travel alternate-universe gimmick alert! Of course it's Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) she sends back in time to 1973, both because Logan is the only one who can withstand the physical strain the process will cause, and because for some reason Hollywood decided Wolverine is the one X-Man everyone is most interested in. (He's the only character now in seven different films: this might as well be called Wolverine VII.)

If they must make separate, stand-alone films about individual mutants, I'd love to see one about Raven/Mystique, especially if it stars Jennifer Lawrence. Days of Future Past has no clearly defined villain, but several potential ones -- and Mystique is one of them. Lawrence does her justice. But there's also, of course, Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who takes a darker view of how to stop the history Mystique is about to create; and even Peter Dinklage as the shady scientific genius who creates the sentinels, and whose murder by Mystique ultimately convinces the world all mutants should be exterminated. The scientist Dr. Bolivar Trask must be stopped, but in a better way!

Could you even follow all that? The impressive thing about this movie is the complexity of the story is rolled out in a way that maintains clarity while you're watching it. For once, we have a movie with natural build-up of tension, with a bit of action in the beginning but it's still handled with unusual restraint. In spite of a few typically preposterous lines of dialogue -- this is still a comic book movie -- it's a solid story, with compelling characters that generate empathy. And unlike other superheroes like Thor or Superman, you can actually get invested in their fates: these guys may be mutants, but they're still mortal. Okay, maybe with the exception of Wolverine. We all love Hugh Jackman but isn't anyone else sick of Wolverine yet?

There is a slight imbalance between the future scenes and the mutant world being cracked open in 1973; the future characters are not given much very interesting to do, which is unfortunate for the likes of, say, Storm (Halle Berry), whom we haven't seen in eight years. Most of the film, thankfully, takes place in 1973, and those sequences crackle with energy -- partly thanks to the omission of some of the worst characters from First Class (no strangely wooden January Jones this time, whew!).

Anyway, Logan is sent back in time to his own body in 1973, to find Xavier and Erik, already enemies by that time, to convince them to join forces in their time to prevent this terrible future by intercepting a vengeful Mystique. Much like J.J. Abrams did with his Star Trek, this potentially changes everything, and frees up countless potential more sequels that have no obligation to adhere to other films in the franchise as canon. I guess we'll be seeing X-Men movies until after we all die of old age. Most will be crap, and some will be good. For the first time in a while, this is one of the good ones.

High Jackman, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy change everything in X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST.

Overall: B+
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