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Movie Review: ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Succeeds in Breathing New Life Into the Franchise

by Bob Garver

May 26, 2014. It’s appropriate that the title of the new “X-Men” movie should imply a confusing timeframe, since “X-Men” hasn’t been the most linear of franchises. The first three films took place in their proper order, but then “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” came before any of those and “X-Men: First Class” took palce before that. Last year we got “The Wolverine” which got us caught up, taking place after “The Last Stand.”

Now we get “Days of Future Past,” which starts out in the time after “The Wolverine,” but largely takes place in the time between “First Class” and “Origins: Wolverine.” If you think that summary is confusing, wait until this film’s third act.

imgresAs we start out, the planet is overrun by deadly robots called Sentinels. The Sentinels were designed to hunt mutants, but at some point they got confused and just started blasting everyone. All the remaining mutants have forgotten their differences and banded together for a last-ditch effort to save the world. The plan is to send the indestructible Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time the 1970s to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Sentinel creator Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), an event that made the world scared of mutants and persuaded the government to use Trask’s research to build the Sentinels.

For reasons that are frankly unclear, Wolverine needs help from the 70s versions of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, later Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender, later Ian McKellen). Surprisingly it is good guy Xavier who needs the most convincing, as he would rather risk the future of the world than team with the murderous Magneto and suffer the curse of his own powers again. Magneto goes along with the plan, but as usual he has an agenda of his own. The mission goes haywire as Trask is saved, but the mutants cause such a scene fighting with each other that humanity still becomes scared of them. The government allows the now-living Trask to build the Sentinels after all.

Like a lot of the “X-Men” films, the real conflict here is amongst the mutants and not a third party like Trask or The Sentinels. Xavier wants mutants and non-mutants to live in harmony (actually, what he wants is to be left alone, but that’s just not an option with the stakes so high), Magneto wants mutants to dominate the non-mutants, Mystique is conflicted on the matter and Wolverine wants to prevent the Sentinels from turning the planet to rubble. A lot of time is spent on the characters convincing, arguing and threatening each other. Perhaps it is a bit too much time as the film is shorter on action than I would have preferred.

Probably the best thing about this film is the wide range of potential outcomes. The prequels can be predictable as we know that certain characters are going to make it since they appear “later” in the series. But all bets are off here. The “present” team watching Wolverine’s body as his consciousness travels through time (including the older Xavier and Magneto) are in immediate danger from the roaming Sentinels. As for The Sentinels themselves, they could wipe out human life when they do, or earlier with their rushed production, or, under Trask’s supervision, function as they should and only go after mutants. Also, what happens if an important character like Xavier or Magneto dies in the past? Can characters who have died since the 70s be saved through Wolverine’s actions?

“Days of Future Past” may not be the best “X-Men” film (“First Class” set the bar pretty high), but it does breathe new life into the franchise. It will be best remembered for its ending and the way it sets the surviving characters up for all new adventures. My hope is that those new adventures will prove more interesting than this one.

Two Stars out of Five.