|The Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Professor X (James McAvoy), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in front of Cerebro|
The second and third films of that first set were not quite as good, although X2 (2003) featured Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, who was super-cool and fun to watch. What came as a real surprise after the rather dismal X3 (2006) was a really fun and decent reboot, X-Men: First Class, in 2011. All of the main characters were brought back in an origins story that told how Professor X (James McAvoy) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and friends came to be. So what would be better than another story based on that timeline with that cast? Well, how about mixing both together, with Jackman's ever-popular Wolverine (who in the meantime had starred in two off-shoots of his own, 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2013's The Wolverine) as an anchor?
Something that must have sounded crazy but brilliant (money-wise) on paper turned out to be crazy but fun to watch at the theater. For X-Men: Days of Future Past original X-Men director Bryan Singer came back, and it was great to see a lot of the old gang back together again, especially the recent internet-sensational bromance of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. The story starts, like so many sci-fi/fantasy epics do these days, with a post-apocalyptic future. Creepy shape-shifting robots called Sentinels are flying around the world, charged with hunting down and killing off all the mutants. Professor X and a few key mutants (recognizable to comic book geeks, but unfortunately not really introduced properly to the rest of us) are holed up and trying to come up with a plan to stop this war on mutants before they all perish. It's a shame we don't really get to see who's who, because Ellen Page seems to have a fairly big job to do, being able to send Wolverine back in time, but only in the credits or online did I identify her as a mutant named Kitty Pryde. I did recognize Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), and his ice-making ability, from the earlier films.
|Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, above) learns a valuable lesson: don't mess with Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence)|
But back to the plot. The assignment? Stop Mystique from killing Sentinel inventor Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) in 1973, which seems to be the jump-start event of their current perilous situation. And who better to go back in time than Logan, or as we know him, Wolverine, with his whole invulnerable situation.
The X-Men and their movies have always had a sense of humor, so things get off to a good start by plonking the surly Wolverine in the middle of brightly-colored, toe-tapping '70s background soundtrack. I couldn't help but be instantly reminded of Austin Powers's similar journey in his Goldmember film, and wished that some of the time-bending humor was able to be sustained until the oh-so-serious film finish. As usual, a lot of the exploding buildings and robots leave one on the cold (and bored) side, including an inexplicable and tedious CGI sequence of Michael Fassbender lifting and moving a baseball stadium. Doesn't (young) Magneto have better ways to terrorize? But there are some pretty wonderful things happening too, especially concerning a young and super-fast moving mutant (Evan Peters) enlisted by Wolverine to help break Magneto out of the Pentagon. I checked online later and learned he in named Quicksilver. All I know is his character was great and I'm sure will be back for the next one, X-Men: Apocalypse, which is due in 2016 and supposed to take place in the 1980s. Cue up the Prince, punk, and new wave soundtrack in 3, 2, 1 ...
|Quicksilver (Evan Peters) steals every scene he is in, super-speed or not|
Folks who lived through the '70s or love the decade will be rewarded with clever cultural reference points. The Kennedy assassination - did Magneto curve the bullet trajectory? Richard Nixon's White House. Mystique pulls off a mutant rescue-op in war-torn Saigon. Fans of the entire series will be happy to catch a glimpse of some of their favorite mutants (and villains) from earlier films. Peter Dinklage's villain was interesting - not your typical comic book mad scientist. Surely he's a bad guy for experimenting on mutants, but does he really want to wipe them all out? Or maybe rather to become one? Maybe a comic book fan could help answer that question.
Although I found it hard to connect with the dystopian future scenes, and I suspect, like most movie-goers, enjoyed the time travel to the past far more entertaining, X-Men: Days of Future Past did keep its focus primarily on the characters, the X-Men, and the appealing actors who portray them. And that's who we really all came to see, no matter what decade.