Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Despite a somewhat gimmicky plot device used to gather the casts of both sets of "X-Men" films - that is, the original cast featuring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as well as the actors playing their younger selves, including James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, from more recent entries - "Days of Future Past" is a mostly fun summer spectacle movie and certainly better than the major studios' other releases so far this season, such as "Amazing Spider-Man 2," "Neighbors" and "Godzilla."

In this latest "X-Men," which is the seventh of a series that has included three original films as well as a reboot and two spinoffs, the original team of super heroes (Stewart, etc.) are somewhere off in the future battling gigantic robot-like creatures known as sentinels that have laid waste to the planet.

The sentinels, so we are told, were first created in 1973 by a man named Trask (Peter Dinklage) in 1973 as a means to destroy mutants, who he believes to be dangerous. A complete rundown of the film's plot would threaten to take up the entire length of the review, so suffice it to say that one of the superheroes - Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) - must travel back in time and link up with a drug addled Charles Xavier (McAvoy), spring Magneto (Fassbender) from a high security prison and prevent an assassination courtesy of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).

The whole ripple effect theory is put into motion, meaning that whatever Wolverine and pals do in the past will change the future. He is chosen to lead the mission back in time, by the way, due to his ability to heal quickly.

As I've said, "Days of Future Past" is a bit heavy on the exposition and the film's storyline feels, at times, a little gimmicky - or, rather, an excuse to gather together all "X-Men" past and present into one film. And much like other comic book films of its type, there's not quite enough humor to lessen the complete self-seriousness of it all.

That being said, this latest film is a cut above most of the other comic book movies of late, although I have yet to see the mostly lauded "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." In fact, this latest "X-Men" is better than most of the others in its series. And, thematically, this franchise is a bit more interesting than other superhero movies because the mutants' plight can be a stand-in for any number of ideas, which have more recently been set against historical backdrops.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the annual onslaught of comic book based movies can get a little tiring, especially since so many of them are narratively, thematically and visually indistinguishable. So, it's refreshing to see one that's trying a little harder than the rest. This is one of the good ones.

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