Aug. 28, 2014

“X-Men” a great installment in franchise

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May 25, 2014

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Early on in X-Men: Days of Future Past”, the hyper-speedy (emphasis on hyper) Quicksilver (played to cheeky perfection by American Horror Story’s Evan Peters) cradles Erik/Magneto’s head before launching him out of prison at light-speed.

“Don’t want you to get whiplash,” he said. If only director Bryan Singer had let Peters come and cradle the audience before launching them into this dizzying albeit brilliant installment of his popular X-Men franchise.

The “basic” premise is this — in 2023, creepy and adaptive “Sentinels” are eradicating mutants, anyone whose offspring could be a mutant, and anyone who tries to help a mutant. We’re forced to watch some heroic former X-Men do battle with the Sentinels before dying horrifically — but, surprise — they’re not actually dead, thanks to the gleeful abandonment of the conventional laws of nature. Kitty Pryde (played here by the woefully quiet Ellen Page, whose snarky banter skills made her a good fit for the role in earlier movies) has learned to use her powers to send one’s consciousness back in time. Magneto and Professor X (whose on-again/off-again friendship has formed the majority of the drama of the X-Men franchise) ask her to send Wolverine back to 1973 to stop the shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Dr. Bolivar Trask. If she kills him, his company will get the go-ahead to mass-produce Sentinels—the same Sentinels who will be killing our heroes one by one, back in the future land of 2023.

Of course, Wolverine has his work cut out for him as Magneto and Professor X hate each other in 1973 and neither one has seen Mystique for a while. But Wolverine has to do his best to stay calm or Kitty will lose her hold on him and he’ll lose his hold on reality. If Wolverine is successful in getting Mystique to spare Trask, the future will be saved. Because, well, time travel!

Confused? You should be. But don’t focus on that, because, let’s face it, you’re watching a movie about people with the abilities to control magnetic fields, read minds, and manipulate the weather (to name a few), and you’ve probably paid money in the past to see another movie in this franchise. So, don’t complain about feasibility and just enjoy the ride.

A hectic jumble of genre and timeline, “X-Men: Days of Future Past relies on its spectacular display of special effects and the use of familiar and beloved characters to get to its conclusion in one piece. If you aren’t an X-fan, the all-too-brief exposition that attempts to summarize four movies in flashbacks and conversational asides may confuse where it intends to elucidate — and it will assuredly give you a splitting headache when the absurd time travel that takes place works to undo the events of most of those movies.

This is not your typical summer blockbuster, It relies on either a prior knowledge of the X-Men universe, or on the viewer’s constant attention (or multiple viewings).

Some bright spots in the movie include Peters as the charming and deranged (not an entirely new combination for the actor, if you follow American Horror Story) Quicksilver, whose breath-taking and hilarious assistance in Magneto’s jailbreak is one of the movie’s major comic reliefs. The viewer wishes he would stay for the rest of the movie, but Singer favorite — and in this reviewer’s opinion, overused, Wolverine is the movie’s linchpin.

The decision to employ Hugh Jackman’s abs (I mean, acting talents) is not a new one in the franchise. A half-hearted attempt to explain that his impressive regeneration skills make him the only mutant capable of sending his consciousness back 50 years to 1973 seems more of an afterthought than anything else. With the talents of Halle Berry, Ellen Page and Jennifer Lawrence (whose character, we’re told, is the most important person in the world, although you couldn’t tell that based on screen time) available, you wonder why no female characters play a more prominent role. Peters and Michael Fassbender are also underutilized, and the beloved Jackman seems to be growing almost as tired of his reprised role as we are.

All in all, this movie stands as a great installment in the X-Men franchise, and the constant stream of cameos and references seem to make this movie an apology letter to the fans disappointed by “X-3: The Last Stand.” “X-Men: Days Of Future Past” is for the most part an amusing, smart and fast-paced summer movie that should satisfy long-standing fans and bring new ones into the fold.

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