If “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” weren’t enough to satisfy your Marvel movie fix over the last couple of months … well, you may have an entitlement problem. Regardless, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” has arrived to complete the spring 2014 hat trick.
“Days of Future Past” picks up about 10 years into a post-apocalyptic future. The X-Men are up to their mutant necks in a war with a group of super-robots called The Sentinels that were initially designed to rid the world of mutants but wound up taking on the entire human race instead. When we find Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and company, the Sentinels are closing in, and our heroes are left with one option: use a special mutant power to send Wolverine back in time to stop the creation of the bad guys.
The target is 1973. Specifically, the moment a disgruntled Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) put a bullet in Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the guy who invented The Sentinels. Apparently, Trask’s death hastened the production of the Sentinels, so the idea is that saving him will prove that mutants aren’t so bad.
The bulk of the film, then, takes place in the early 1970s, and once we get a little period humor out of the way, Wolverine tracks down young Xavier (James McAvoy) to get the band back together. Unfortunately, no one is too anxious to help out. Ten years after the events of “X-Men: First Class,” wounds are still running deep, and young Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has managed to get himself thrown in prison for some apparent connection to the JFK assassination.
X-Men movies are always a bit of a juggling act with their ensemble casts, and this time around they’ve doubled their trouble, fusing the Wolverine-heavy casts of the early films with the prequel crew from 2011’s “First Class.” Periodic cuts take us between each timeline to ratchet up the tension, but by focusing on Jackman, McAvoy and Oscar-winner Lawrence, director Bryan Singer keeps things streamlined enough to keep the story on the rails.
“Days of Future Past” is far from a comedy, but its sense of humor is definitely one of the highlights of the film. The ’70s references are pretty easy, but a sequence with a mutant newcomer named Whiplash that involves Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” was a big highlight, and Jackman continues to provide the much-needed Han Solo grounding that is critical to sci-fi and fantasy films.
But rest assured, there are lots of mutant powers on display that aren’t here for laughs. There’s plenty of metal-twisting, mind-reading and claw-slashing to go around (though since Wolverine is sent back to 1973, he is stuck using his pre-adamantium claws). The resulting action and violence are pretty intense but a lot more stylized and considerably less graphic than that in last year’s “The Wolverine.”
Some parents might be concerned with the sensual content of the film, however. Mystique's blue bodysuit has never left much to the imagination, but it does seem slightly more subdued than in earlier films. (Of course, now that Lawrence is in the role, Mystique does get a lot more screen time.) The more obvious offender is a pretty gratuitous shot of Wolverine's bare backside. For a movie that will get so much attention from kids and teenagers, Singer could have at least given the man some underwear.
Altogether, “Days of Future Past” isn’t as much of a pleasant surprise as “The Winter Soldier,” but it’s a lot less formulaic than “Amazing Spider-Man 2.” It doesn’t deliver as many “wow” moments as one might hope for, but as far as the X-Men franchise is concerned, it’s one of the better installments. And considering the number of familiar faces floating around, you have to give Singer and Co. credit for managing what could have been an incoherent mess.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is rated PG-13 for profanity (including one use of the F-word), considerable action violence and the aforementioned sexual content.
You can see more of Joshua Terry's work at woundedmosquito.com.