Saturday, May 24, 2014

These Are The Days Of Our Lives

Reel To Reel: X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Going Rate: Worth full price
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart
Rated: PG-13
Red Flags: Sci-Fi Action violence, mild language, about 5 seconds of Hugh Jackman's bare bum

The X-Men franchise gets props for finding a way to crank out sequels and prequels with fresh ideas, mainly by disrupting the time-space continuum of its own universe. Days Of Future Past takes everything people liked about X-Men: First Class and melds it with the original films to create a mash-up of sci-fi summer blockbuster and 70's period piece with an American Hustle vibe.

Apparently, X-Men: The Last Stand wasn't the last stand. Mutants and any humans who dare help them are now facing extermination from a seemingly indestructible legion of super-mutant androids called Sentinels. They have DNA cloned and perfected from that shape-shifting blue mutant named either Raven or Mystique (Lawrence), but I forget and just keep calling her "Big Blue Nude Girl" in my head.

It turns out the current war stems directly from Big Blue Nude Girl's 1970's killing of a weapons researcher just as the Vietnam war is ending, thus setting off a process leading to the perfection of the Sentinel program. If only somebody could go back in time and prevent that from happening. The mutant team led by Professor X (Stewart) and Magneto (McKellen) find a mutant that can pull that off, but the job requires somebody tough enough to survive a trip back several decades. How about Wolverine?

So Hugh Jackman's claw-slashing character is transported back to the days of bell bottoms and polyester. He goes directly to Professor X's school for mutants, now closed and run down. Its former headmaster Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is on the bottle and shooting up compounds that help him walk again at the cost of his mutant powers. Hank, the future Beast (Hoult), is his caretaker. Both have pretty much given up on trying to improve the world for anybody. Wolverine has to convince them that their future selves depend on their current ones to do the right thing, even if it means getting back together with Erik, the future Magneto (Fassbender). He's being held in a deep, metal-free Pentagon cell that nobody can break into. But where there's a will, there's a mutant with skills.

So we meet Peter, aka Quicksilver. That should give you some idea of his ability. Blink and you'll miss him swipe your gun, your hat, and just about anything else he wants to do to you. One inventive sequence, choreographed to Jim Croce's "Time In A Bottle," makes anything you've seen in The Matrix look like amateur night.

Jackman once again has to carry a lot of weight in this film, just like he has in his own X-Men spin-off films, and he handles it just fine. And once again, I like the chemistry between McAvoy and Fassbender. I like Lawrence's shape-shifting antics, but it's nothing without those performance chops honed in the Hunger Games movies.

X-Men has always been a comic-book movie series that continues to exceed people's expectations on multiple levels. That gets harder to do with every film. But because their characters are so compelling and watchable, and because we keep finding new mutants with new abilities, this franchise is not running out of gas.

Make sure you stay all the way through the credits for a hint of what may be to come -- something new that makes us want to see more.

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