By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s been six movies and 14 years since the X-Men franchise first mutated onto the movie screen.
Sometimes the movies X-ceeded our expectations, sometimes they didn’t.
But as X-Men: Days of Future Past kicks off as the Marvel Comics superhero team’s seventh X-cursion, we can’t help but wonder whether the future has passed them by.
The answer? Nope. Even if X-Men: Days of Future Past doesn’t measure up to the series’ best, the franchise seems far from finished.
X-Men: Days of Future Past follows four X-Men flicks and two Wolverine spinoffs.
With X-Men: First Class remaining the pick of the impressive litter of globetrotting fantasies, this latest installment — a sequel and a prequel, and surely not the last of either -– is somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Like most of its predecessors, it’s an involving and intriguing, visually arresting entertainment about mutant superheroes with astonishing otherworldly powers who are second-class citizens, metaphorically speaking.
The screenplay by Simon Kinberg offers the most complex blueprint in the series thus far, with a time travel tale involving characters from the original trilogy as well as from the 2011 prequel, X-Men: First Class.
As always, the internal logic of time travel proves elusive and thus problematic, although we’re more than willing to go along for the fanciful ride.
If the busy plot goes in directions that seem to contradict happenings in earlier episodes, if lapses in continuity seem to announce themselves, well, only purists and fanatics will care.
What it boils down to (well, up to) is a conflict for survival of the fittest and a shot at redemption for the mistreated.
The future the X-Men face in Days of Future Past is a downbeat one, with virtual extinction on the line, as the mutants are being hunted by murderous robots. And when they’re not actually killed, they’re rounded up and held in internment camps.
Meanwhile, it’s Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine who travels back in time to the ’70s -– the period that dominates the 130-minute running time -– when the X-Men join forces with their younger selves in an attempt to prevent war between the humans and the mutants.
Also returning to the screen for another go-round, fans will be happy to know, are Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, Michael Fassbender as Erik, James McAvoy as Charles, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Ian McKellen as Magneto, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Halle Berry as Storm, and Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde.
And Peter Dinklage jumps aboard as Dr. Bolivar Trask.
But the film pays a price for squeezing in a couple of dozen prominent characters: the emotional focus can’t help but get fuzzy along the way.
Director Bryan Singer returns to the franchise that he helped launch by directing X-Men in 2000 and X-2: X-Men United in 2003. But his confidence level in story and plot may reveal itself in the considerable amount of time devoted to pure action scenes.
As for the splendid special effects, there are more of them than we need, but at least they more or less remain at the service of the ambitious narrative, which is pitched quite directly (in-joke alert!) at fans of the franchise. And why shouldn’t it be, given that there’s not much obvious disenfranchising going on among newcomers and chaperones?
So we’ll travel back to 2½ stars out of 4 for X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Are we X-static? Not X-actly. Call us X-hilarated but X-hausted.
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