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Complex, Wow-Inducing ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’

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CHICAGO – Although a post graduate degree in space/time continuum studies may be necessary for maximum enjoyment, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” still delivers a comic book wham-bam, and the series continues its exploration of recent history through the prism of a mutant universe.

And in that parallel universe, the film creates several levels, all based on changing the past to affect a war torn present. That complexity is accomplished through some overwrought explanation and a story that deliberately takes its time, but the action sequences are breath-taking and well thought out, and is presented in 3D with beautifully composed comic book filmmaking – courtesy of veteran X-Men director Bryan Singer. The saga of the X-Men – originally created by Marvel Comics and now in its fifth film – can be formulated into multiple expressions of symbolism and wonder, and “Days of Future Past” throws it all into the cinematic winds and makes it whirl.

The future is a desolate place, with constant war against a robot weaponry that can effectively track down and defeat the mutants – which include the X-Men. But luckily a mutant named Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) can send her comrades back in time to warn each other of the attacks. This strategy intrigues Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan), who figure they can send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973, when the robots were invented, and have him alter a series of events in the past to prevent the present war.

Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman
Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Professor X (James McAvoy) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in “X-Men: Days of Future Past”.
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

These events involve Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), the shapeshifting blue mutant, whose pursuit of Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage) – the creator of the robots – is the impetus for the future calamities. Wolverine tracks down young Professor X (James McAvoy), Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) to help him get to Mystique. And this being 1973, it also involves the end of the Viet Nam War and, of course, President Richard M. Nixon (Mark Camacho).

Got all that? The Marvel movies are stepping up their levels of storytelling to multiple forms and functions – as evident in the earlier year release of “Captain America: Winter Soldier.” Both that and the X-Men films are darker and more attached to our reality, and in the case of X-Men, our historical reality. As was done in the 2011 entry, “X-Men: First Class,” the use of history in the narrative provides a foundation for some interesting and even profound commentary.

Getting the right actors in the right parts is also a talent of the Marvel film team. Peter Dinklage – sporting an era-appropriate 1970s haircut – creates a low-key corporate villain who personally wants to destroy the mutants. Jennifer Lawrence was a stunning choice for the blue sex appeal of Mystique, and she relishes portraying the tough gal aspect of the character. Evan Peters plays a brash and speedy Quicksilver, and has a sequence that is so eye-popping there was spontaneous applause at the screening after it ended.

It is the action sequences that sets the X-Men into another realm, because of their variety of powers and in the way they have to use them. The film begins with a robot attack, and the fight is blur of punch and counterpunch, depending on which mutant is using what power. This also can favor the story, because solutions are culled from these powers. Need to use magnetic powers for creative battle purposes? The X-Men have a mutant named Magneto.

Jennifer Lawrence
Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) Shows Her 1970s Fashion in ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

The film is deliberate in how it relates this latest adventure, the comic book genre has never followed the brevity-is-the-soul-of-wit advice. And because the audience is thrust into a middle of a future war, explanations for why that is occurring comes in a string of fast-talk explanations that may have you thinking “what the what?”. But once the time travel takes place, events settle down, as long as you figure out who are the younger versions of which hero.

On a side note, the comeback of songwriter Jim Croce – again appropriate for the 1970s and last heard in 2012’s “Django Unchained” – continues in “Days of Future Past.” There is something so wistful in Croce’s one-of-a-kind vocalization, when used as soundtrack for the mutation of a parallel universe.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” opens everywhere on May 23rd, in 3D, IMAX and regular screens. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Screenplay by Simon Kinberg. Directed by Bryan Singer. Rated “PG-13”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2014 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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