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X-Men: Days of Future Past blends brains and brawn into superheroic movie

Hugh Jackman in X-Men: Days of Future Past
Hugh Jackman is as brooding as ever as Wolverine in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Photo by Alan Markfield
Jennifer Lawrence in X-Men: Days of Future Past
Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique is at the center of the plot of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Photo by Alan Markfield
Peter Dinklage in X-Men: Days of Future Past
Peter Dinklage plays Dr. Bolivar Trask, who wants to get rid of all mutants, in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Photo by Alan Markfield

It’s now been 14 years since X-Men started the current superhero movie craze that shows no sign of slowing down. That film and most of its sequels, prequels and spin-offs have always felt a bit different than other comic-book movies, as they’re as much about the stories as they are about big action sequences.

X-Men: Days of Future Past forges a similar path, with a nice time-travel gambit (not to be confused with Gambit) thrown in. The film begins with future versions of X-Men like Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and others seemingly facing extinction at the hands of unstoppable uber-robots called Sentinels.

 Bryan Singer is back at the helm of the series for the first time since 2003’s X-Men 2, and it’s like he’s never been away. 

Their last hope is for Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) to transport Wolverine’s consciousness from his 2023 body to his 1973 one. Once there, he needs to recruit the younger Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to help him stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the inventor of the Sentinels, Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), an event that actually bolstered the program instead of stopping it.

Bryan Singer is back at the helm of the series for the first time since 2003’s X-Men 2, and it’s like he’s never been away.

Singer just has a knack for making an ultra-complicated storyline like this seem deceptively simple. That’s not to say that everything makes complete sense — in a time-travel movie, nothing ever does — but he comes as close to connecting all the dots as any filmmaker could.

Of course, the timeline of who knew whom when gets hopelessly muddled in the process, but being chronologically consistent has never been the series’ strong point. Seven movies in, you either accept X-Men’s time discrepancies or you don’t.

Anyone who needs comic-book movies to be all action, all the time may come away disappointed from Days of Future Past. Although there are some bravura sequences, including face-offs between the mutants and the Sentinels and a final act showstopper in Washington, D.C., the film is once again more about characters communicating with actual words than fists.

The one action scene that everyone will be talking about is when Wolverine, Professor X and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), a.k.a. Beast, bring in Peter/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) to help spring Magneto from a maximum-security prison. Slowing down the film so we can fully appreciate Quicksilver’s lightning-fast movements, Singer provides a scene that’s hilarious and action-packed — and one that actually helps move the plot forward.

You can’t ask for more in the acting department than what X-Men provides. It’s always a pleasure to see old pros like Stewart and McKellen at work, but it’s equally interesting to see McAvoy and Fassbender’s take on their characters. Jackman could play Wolverine in his sleep now, but he still gives an all-out effort. And Hoult and Lawrence fit in seamlessly, with Lawrence, even underneath all that blue make-up, once again showing why she’s the hottest young movie star in Hollywood.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is everything that a comic-book movie can and should be. This is one film where those who want a little brains with their brawn can have their cake and eat it too.

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