I was pleasantly surprised by “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Given that these Marvel superhero franchise movies are not going to go away anytime soon – not in this millennium – I suppose we should be grateful for the few that actually deliver the goods.
Time travel is the centerpiece for this new Bryan Singer-directed installment, initially set in the future. A government army of Sentinels, mutant-killing robots, have forced Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Lehnsherr/Magneto (Ian McKellan), and some others of their ilk into a Chinese safe house. Their only hope is to transport Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) – or, to be exact, his consciousness – back to 1973 in order to undo the Sentinel program and make the world once again (sort of ) safe for mutants.
The young Charles is played by James McAvoy, Magneto by Michael Fassbender. The plot hinges on liberating Magneto from the subterranean Pentagon prison where he is being held for a particularly heinous crime (not to be revealed here). Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), shape-shifty as always, snarls into view, threatening to take down the scientist (Peter Dinklage) whose relationship with mutants is not unlike Ahab’s with Moby Dick.
What elevates this film above most of its predecessors is the dynamic action filmmaking and, above all, its wit. (The script is by Simon Kinberg.) The ‘70s scenes, with their period references to lava lamps and waterbeds and Tricky Dick Nixon, provide the requisite chortles. The best scene in the movie is actually relatively free from mayhem: Quicksilver (Evan Peters) intercedes in a shoot-out with such celerity that he has time to rearrange the scene to the advantage of Team Mutant while everyone remains frozen in superslow-motion. It’s a classic sequence, worthy of audience applause.
I couldn’t follow many of the ins and outs of the time-travel scenario, and I’m not altogether sure that the filmmakers could, either. It doesn’t really matter. It’s enough that the movie is fun. We shouldn’t also expect it to make sense. Grade: B+ (Rated PG- 13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language.)