'X-Men: Days of Future Past' a spectacular superhero film

Rating

4 Stars4/5

Bruce Kirkland, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

X-Men: Days of Future Past is the smartest and most complicated superhero movie in years. That sophistication may push it out beyond the passions of some youngsters, but X-Men fans will be thrilled. Overall, the movie is as spectacular as it is serious.

Even the unique time-travelling plotline makes some kind of sense. This is rare in movies which mess with parallel realities, the role of fate and the effect on the future when the past is altered. While this seventh X-Men movie falters a bit at the climax and comes across as a tad confused (if self-amused) in its denouement, its science-fiction saga holds up rather well. But I would have awarded it 4-1/2 stars if that climax had been less abrupt.

Regardless, the mixed X-Men cast is terrific, particularly Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Jennifer Lawrence as an amazing Raven/Mystique and the dynamic duos of Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier and Ian McKellen/Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto. Each of these performances combines physicality with great emotional depth. None of these actors is just posturing.

Among many familiar faces, Nicholas Hoult (Beast), Halle Berry (Storm), Anna Paquin (Rogue), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) and Ellen Page also appear, with Page having a critical role to play as Kitty Pryde. Evan Peters, as Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver, gives the movie its funniest and most inventive, slow-motion set-piece after our heroes break into the Pentagon. This amazing sequence gives the 3D version its reason to exist. Meanwhile, Peter Dinklage (so great in Game of Thrones) portrays the villainous scientist Bolivar Trask who wants to exploit and/or exterminate all mutants.

Days of Future Past is based on the story developed by Chris Claremont and John Byrne for Marvel Comics and published in two 1981 issues of The Uncanny X-Men (with additional artwork by Terry Austin). Simon Kinberg, First Class’ Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman get the story credits for the new movie, although we suspect returning X-Men director Bryan Singer played an important uncredited role.

With its two timelines, the movie serves as a dystopian sequel to both X-Men: The Last Stand and the original trilogy’s prequel, X-Men: First Class. The story begins now, when most of the mutants have been wiped out in a genocide unleashed by inventor Dinklage, who creates the Sentinel program. It flashes back to 1973, at the end of the Vietnam War, when mutants are first being suppressed and the Sentinels are being upgraded.

Because of an event that happens at the Paris peace summit in 1973, Dinklage’s war on mutants is able to accelerate. In the present, as a last desperate act of survival, Xavier and Magneto work together to send Wolverine back to ’73, using Kitty Pryde’s ability to transport a person’s consciousness through the time-space continuum into his or her younger body. Wolverine wakes up in his super-sized ’70s carcass, but with retractable claws made from keratin and not metal. The moody Canadian superhero’s job is to convince the younger versions of Xavier, Magneto and Mystique to collaborate on a plan that will change their bleak future.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is not just a diversion. It is also a social commentary on racism, genocide and human folly — elements that have enriched the X-Men universe since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby conjured it in 1963. Five decades later, these themes are relevant as ever and even more engaging and provocative as mainstream entertainment.

Twitter: @Bruce_Kirkland

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca

 


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