This is the most intense game of “Hollywood Squares” I’ve ever seen.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, M. Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by Bryan Singer
2011’s X-Men: First Class is that rarest of things: a prequel that works. Full of snap crackle pop, First Class breathed new life into Marvel’s soggy mutant movie franchise (now fifteen years old) and emboldened 20th Century Fox to put together a sequel wherein an X-Man goes back in time and tries to erase the stuff from the original movies nobody liked. Actually, the heroes in Days Of Future Past seem to want to snuff out the first three X-Men films entirely, and who can blame them? Wouldn’t you rather live peacefully in an upstate New York mansion, teaching little childrens and apple picking in your spare time, instead of living on the run out of some military grade jet while humanity and other evil mutants are constantly nipping at your heels?
The line between good and evil is in truth a tad blurry in Days Of Future Past; yes, Wolverine (Jackman) travels to 1973 to prevent the assassination that kicks off humankind’s war on the mostly benign mutant species, but he also enlists a minor to help him break an incarcerated Magneto (Fassbender) out of his Pentagon jail cell. You see, in the future, Professor X (McAvoy) and Magneto have buried their hatchet, and they convince Wolv that he needs to get them together in ’73 to make sure everything’s on lock. It should come as no surprise that young Magneto, whose personal allegiances similarly blow around like a windsock, decides at a critical juncture to take matters into his own hands, gumming up the entire ballgame.
And then there’s shape-shifter Mystique (Lawrence), the assassinator, convinced she has to kill her target (a gov’t contractor who builds giant mutant-hunting robots) no matter how many people from her past or her future show up. Nobody can convince her this shooting kicks off a major human / mutant conflict. They should have just cracked open a history book for her. Hey dumb dumb, ever hear of Archduke Ferdinand? Pearl Harbor? Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Yoda? You know, I won’t fault you for missing that quote, you were busy with infinitely better movies when the Jedi master dropped that one.
Though clumsy in places, Days Of Future Past serves up a pretty fun slip through time and delivers everything you want in an X-Men movie: Wolverine whuppin’ up on dudes, Mystique whuppin’ up on dudes, political intrigue, a few yuks, a take on Richard Nixon that would be at home on “MADtv,” and tender bromance moments between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the aged Xavier and Magneto (respectively). If you don’t like it, don’t worry: at some point Days Of Future Past will be retconned out of existence just like every other comic property, because that’s the way this business works.
FINAL SCORE: Three and a half funky ’70s duds (out of four).