Summertime cinema is in the air and the extravagant strides of escapism are in full force. Time travel. Mutants. Killer robots. Superheroes. Days of doom and gloom. So what does all these frivolous factors add up to in the long run? Sci-fi and comic book-loving moviegoers are in for another exciting treat as one of the most cherished superhero freakish factions is back for elevated adventurous chaos in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Director Bryan Singer-the overseer of previous successful X-Men entries-once again infuses magnetic spark as the hedonistic heroes take a jolting journey in the dynamic dystopian universe created for the bedazzling, bizarre bunch. Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg (“Sherlock Holmes”) get creative in serving up the raucous Marvel Comic misfits in a stylish and hyperactive spectacle that sizzles with top-notch CGI special effects and arresting visual vibrancy that further adds to the mystique and charisma of the colorful kooky crime-fighters. Rich in kinetic kitsch and impish imagination, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a blast from the past as its percolating production triggers another inclination to embrace this motley crew of super-powered oddballs.
Essentially, there is an explosive cautionary footnote embedded in this futuristic actioner that begs the question: can returning to one’s troubled yesterday remedy the inevitable conflicts that lie ahead for an unpredictable tomorrow? This puzzling prospect is what the X-Men’s breakout musclebound member Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is up against as the clawed, thick sideburns-sporting rogue must travel back five decades into the past in order to preserve peace and order for humans and mutants alike in the present-day world. Somehow placing the muted Wolverine in the polyester period of the nostalgic 70′s makes for a rather sordid fish-out-of-water story that registers with utter curiosity.
As the desolate days unfold in the fearful future, the massive mechanical menaces known as Sentinels-an army of raging shape-shifting robots with killing tendencies-are engaged in a mission to snuff the life out of the petrified human and mutant species. Naturally everyone is in panic mode and need to relocate from place to place in order to avoid the sadistic Sentinels’ wrath. Old veteran contemporaries and rivals Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan) hide out while trying to determine how all the madness can come to an end.
Thankfully, a plan is hatched to use Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) mental time-jumping powers to send Wolverine’s consciousness back to 1973 where he can prevent the intended death of villainous anti-mutant Sentinel inventor/mastermind Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Targeting Trask with oozing terrorism is a rebellious blue-skinned mutant freedom fighter named Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). If any harm comes to Trask then the future looks grim for everybody’s livelihood in the future as the Sentinel program would accelerate even more convincingly. So Wolverine, being the ideal candidate to venture back in time because of his healing powers, starts to search for the younger version of his colleagues but wanting to track down a younger and disillusioned Xavier (James McAvoy) in particular.
Poor Wolverine has a tough road ahead in trying to convince a distant and drugged-out Xavier (no doubt a wounded soul influenced by the turbulent times of the Vietnam era) that his psychic skills (now vacant) are required to salvage what may be a fatalistic future. Besides Xavier being a complete checked-out mess Wolverine also has to figure out how he can get this broken character to team up with a federally jailed young Magneto (Michael Fassbender) so they all can figure out how to combat what may be devastating turmoil in the advanced years to arrive. The fact that the dejected Xavier is literally being spoon fed by the watchful eye of Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) as he learns to cope with his crippling condition further complicates Wolverine’s agenda. Nevertheless, the group forges on to get an incarcerated Magneto freed from the authority. Wolverine’s speedy resilient teen buddy Peter/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is in tow to rescue the rabble-rousing prisoner while contemplating how to curve the sinister intentions of Mystique.
Simply put is that X-Men: Days of Future Past has a lot of components to juggle around but manages to decently keep the exploits flowing without any considerable lapses to hinder the peppered proceedings. After so much exposure to the X-Men/Wolverine outings stretching back to the beginning of the millennium one would think that this misguided Marvel mob would have worn out its welcome quite some time ago. Incredibly, Days of Future Past only ensures that the upcoming X-Men sequels may carry higher expectations in high-octane exuberance that Singer has established with this cunning comic book film franchise.
In addition to Jackman’s continued favored turn as the iconic mutant struggling with identity issues there are combustible parts of comedy, conviction, contemplation and chicanery that allows X-Men: Days of Future Past to perhaps be the most ambitious and imaginative of the rollicking installments up until this point. One minor consideration to take into account is that folks may get caught in the movie’s cluttered revolving door of erratic personalities-some that make a degree of impact but are not featured long enough as they get lost in the shuffle of the extended cast.
Still, X-Men: Days of Future Past has the presence of mind to compliment the pumped-up popcorn pleaser with a hearty dosage of newsreel remembrance that feels compellingly dated. References to assassinations, political disdain, reflections of war, drugs, youth-oriented delinquency, radical ideology, vintage clothing styles and signature music (who wouldn’t melt to Jim Croce’s reflective tune “Time in a Bottle”?)-all bring back buried recollections of youth and formative years for some while acting much as a discovered history lesson for those not alive to relive those decadent early seventies in the scrutinized duration of the Nixon administration.
It is easy to glorify the action-packed pageantry of combative monster robots and milk the same motif regarding mankind’s fragile existence at the expense of humans subjected to the ultimate hands of their own destructive tendencies through technological arrogance. Refreshingly, X-Men: Days of Future Past showcases something more deeper and disturbing for a flashy comic book blockbuster…an engaging and excitable look at the genetic rejection that we all feel victimized at one time or another. If it takes a sociopolitical superhero saga to cause some incidental reflection accompanying our escape at the movies then basking in clashing robots and misunderstood mutants should give some credence to big-budgeted, mind-bending entertainment.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Michael Fassbender, James, Avory, Ellen Page, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Halle Berry, Peter Dinklage, Evan Peters
CRITIC’S RATING: *** stars (out of 4 stars)