Saturday, June 14, 2014

“X-Men: Days Of Future Past” Takes On The Whole Mutant Timeline

I remember when people actually left when the end credits started to roll. I don't miss those days.

The X-Men practically come gift wrapped to appeal with their themes of isolation, paranoia, persecution, and angst. But they've had a very mixed record onscreen, and I seem to enjoy their movies that inspire hatred and hate the movies everyone likes.

But “Days Of Future Past should bring everyone together again. It begins in a dystopian future, where robot Sentinels have hunted mutants nearly to extinction, as well as the humans who've dared to help them. They've also enslaved the rest of humanity, and even killed humans with the genetic potential to produce mutant children or grandchildren. The few X-Men left are now scattered and dwindling in number. But they come upon a possible solution: send Wolverine back in time to the year 1973, to change the event that caused the devastation.

Said event is the assassination of the scientist who created the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, brilliant as usual) by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), her first kill that would likewise set her irrevocably down her dark path. Trask's death will ensure the continuation of his creations, and Mystique's capture means her DNA will enable the Sentinels to adapt to any mutant's powers.

But when Wolverine wakes up in his younger body and finds the much younger Xavier (again played by James McAvoy) the school has long since closed and Xavier's telepathic powers are blocked by the serum that allows him to walk. Oh, and they need the still terroristically-inclined Magneto's (Michael Fassbender) help, who is imprisoned in the Pentagon. Tough sell.

But wait, there's more. Mystique is already, if not quite set in her ways, then very inclined toward them. How to find her, and then convince her of their errors?

And so our merry journey begins. That some members of the huge ensemble cast get more attention than others is a given, albeit a somewhat disappointing one given the fascinating crowd here. But luckily, the ones the film does focus on are showstoppers. One scene-stealer includes Evan Peters as Peter/Quicksilver, who delivers some of the movie's best lines and moments as he literally runs faster than a speeding bullet.

And if “X-Men: First Class” bungled Mystique's character, “Days Of Future Past” more than makes up for it. It shows her in all her flawed glory, as a smart, strong, capable antiheroine, yet still defined by the two opposing men in her life, who both use and control her in varying ways. Amidst all the chaos through time and history, she is the focus, (art once again imitating life) and her choice will determine her future, as well as everyone else's.

But can the future even be changed? Or will it correct any changes made to it and arrive at an inevitable end point? How much power do our choices really have? Are we simply ruled by fate or another power greater than ourselves? Can a person choose a different path after making a few wrong ones and really change?

These questions are all explored in “Days Of Future Past.” It continues an enjoyable action movie trend, one that believes explosions, special effects, and being an action movie in general doesn't have to mean a dumber product.

That's not to say there aren't a few unanswered questions, some nitpicky (how exactly does Kitty Pryde, whose power is passing herself and others through solid matter, send someone's consciousness into the past? Why couldn't the other future mutants have a few more lines?) to not so nitpicky.

A major lost opportunity is Peter Dinklage as Trask. That no one ever acknowledges his size is mostly a good thing, but you'd think there would at least be some mention of it, especially in a film like this. Dinklage is basically planning a genocide of mutants, yet some would also view him as less than a person because of his height. Could there be some serious self-hatred issues there, and is his focus on mutants part of an effort to make himself more “normal”? Well, we'll never know because “Days Of Future Past” refuses to address it. Having the courage to confront these questions would have made a great movie a perfect one.

But if those are the only things missing, it still won't prevent anyone from enjoying the best X-Men film to date, complete with its own intriguing post-credits scene.

Grade: A-

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