X-Men: Days of Future Past ticks with suspense
Starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender. Rated PG. Now playing
When Bryan Singer directed X-Men in 1999, he opened the movie in a Nazi prison camp, demonstrating that comic books could inspire films with thematic heaviness as well as outlandish action.
The subsequent years have been kind to comic-book movies, but horrible for the X-Men: Singer’s new movie opens with them being hunted to death in a new, globalized prison camp.
In the “future” part of Days of Future Past, the entire world is perpetually scoured by legions of Sentinel robots that seek and destroy mutants, people who might be related to a mutant, and anything in their way. Facing extinction on a blasted, ruined Earth, the few remaining mutants attempt to save the present by changing the past. Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) can project someone’s consciousness backwards through time; the mutant best capable of surviving the dangerous journey is the quick-healer, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). His mission: to prevent the 1973 assassination of fervent antimutant agitator Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) by the shape-shifter Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), an event that directly led to the Sentinel program being put into operation.
Naturally, Wolverine has only a day or so to stop the crime. One wonders whether he should have been sent back years earlier so that he could create goodwill for mutants by ‘inventing’ penicillin, or the Internet, or something; at any rate, he lands in the swinging ’70s (where the costuming is hilarious), needing to persuade Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) to help him stop Mystique.
To complicate matters, Magneto is in an unbreakable jail, Xavier is a neurotic ruin addicted to medication that blocks his powers, and they hate each other. The seething, coarse Wolverine is an untalented mediator for the once and future super-pals.
From here, the story takes a number of surprising turns, which keeps the ’70s story ticking with suspense, intercut with depictions of the awful future. It’s an absolutely lavish bouquet to series fans, who get to see the entire X-saga summarized and effectively reconceived through Wolverine’s desperate and time-addled perceptions.
If you are not a fan, I would expect hopeless confusion, as the utter absence of character introduction or series background requires viewers to have reasonable knowledge of the X-saga. If this is your first X-Men movie and you understand it, you may have mutant superpowers yourself.