Posted by Zak Wojnar On May - 26 - 2014 0 Comment

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“In the future, do I make it?”
“…No. But we have a chance to change that.”

It’s may be hard to believe, but Days of Future Past is the seventh entry in the X-Men series. After veering wildly into spin-off territory with a pair of Wolverine films and something of a reboot in the distant prequel, First Class, it was time to unify all the films in one fell swoop to give the series something of a fresh start. Bryan Singer, director of X-Men and X2: X-Men United, and daddy of the franchise, has been entrusted with this task. But the question is, can DoFP fulfill its greater role within the X-Men continuity while remaining an enjoyable film on its own merits?

Starting in the not-too-distant future of roughly 2023 or so, mutantkind has been all but wiped out by the Sentinels, nigh-invincible killer robots. In a last-ditch effort to save the world, a group of surviving mutants, led by veterans of the original trilogy, from Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen to Halle Berry and Shawn Ashmore, come up with a plan to send Wolverine’s consciousness back into his younger body from 1973 prevent the creation of the Sentinel program.

Think of it like X-Men meets Terminator, with a healthy dose of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, with plenty of historical references for both comedy and drama.

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The high concept is easy to digest thanks to a healthy dose of kinetic momentum to balance out the necessary bits of exposition. It also doesn’t hurt that Patrick Stewart is the main expositor. In addition, the fresh perspective, of Wolverine in 1973, offers a unique twist on the relationship between Wolverine and Professor X. When they first met, Wolverine had no memory of his past and Xavier guided him onto a more virtuous path, and now Wolverine gets to see his mentor’s younger self, played by James McAvoy, in a pit of despair. Drinking heavily, shooting drugs (not heroin, mind you, but still…) and being otherwise depressed, this Professor is a far cry from his wise, benevolent, and bald future self.

Along for the ride are much of the First Class cast. Michael Fassbender’s younger version of Magneto is as militant as ever, and Jennifer Lawrence is… Well, you don’t need me to justify her performance. The newcomers are few and far between, but the breakout newcomer in this movie is Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters. His mutant power is super speed, and it is one of the best visual effects in the movie, particularly in 3D.

The villain, Bolivar Trask, is effective, but enigmatic to a fault. His intentions are never fully clear; is he out to wipe out mutants for the ultimate good of humanity, or is he after war for fun and profit? The momentum of the film never lets up long enough for the relative thinness of his character to be an issue compared to that of the series’ main antagonist, Magneto.

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One gets the feeling that a lot of film, particularly in the first act of the movie, wound up on the cutting room floor. The new mutants in the future segments really get the short end of the stick; Blink (Fan Bingbing) has no character at all outside of being incredibly handy with her portals, and I really can’t say anything about fellow newcomer Bishop, including what his power was. Something about red lines on a futuristic gun, or something. In addition, returning mutants Storm and Colossus have almost no dialogue, though they do get to kick a ton of butt.

Ultimately, it is all for the best, as Days of Future Past succeeds by focusing on its core duo, Professor X and Magneto. Wolverine facilitates the events of the film, but never hogs the spotlight, a testament to the talent of the cast as well as Bryan Singer’s direction, working from a script by Simon Kinberg. The problem for stalwart X-Men comic fans will only be that the focus wasn’t on their personal favorite mutant. Sorry, but Jubilee will never be interesting enough to be anything other than a background cameo. This is also true for Ink, who is in this film as… A background cameo. Fortunately, the relationship between The Professor and Magneto is dramatic and all-encompassing enough to shape the supporting cast. Nicholas Hoult’s Beast tends to his friend and mentor, Professor X, while Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique has grown disillusioned with both men and is driven to a militant extreme, collateral damage in the divorce.

Armed with genuine heart, the most important weapon a serious blockbuster can have, Days of Future Past never loses sight of its intimate core, despite being a sprawling epic with a ton of characters and the biggest action setpieces the series has yet seen. It’s easily the best X-Men film since X2: X-Men United. Despite having a degree of conclusiveness to the story, one gets the sense that, for the first time in quite a while, the future of the franchise is looking very bright.

Rating: ★★★★½

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And one more, just because Shawn is my bestie.

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