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Movie ReviewsRating: 4.5 of 5 yaps

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men Days of Future Past inside

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is a big movie that does big things, and does just about all of them very well.

It’s a sequel, a prequel, an in-between-quel, a movie that retcons past mistakes, bridges generations and forges new territory all at the same time. Heck, it pretty much even nails time travel, which is dicey even for the headiest of sci-fi.

“Past” starts in the future, an apocalyptic time where evil Sentinels — futuristic, robotic mutant killers — have laid waste to most of the mutants and much of the rest of humanity as well. The X-Men, or what is left of them, are losing the war.

Convinced that the only way to turn the tide is to stop it from ever happening, Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to stop a pivotal event from occurring, one that sparks the war and gives the bad guys the ammunition they need to eventually wipe out homo superior. (Note that this segment is a direct sequel to the original X-Men films. You may or may not find this to be important, but stick with me here.)

Wolverine returns to the ’70s, inhabiting his younger body (which means no adamantium skeleton and hello again to the bone claws), where he must find the younger Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing a man named Trask (Peter Dinklage), the inventor of the deadly Sentinels, whose death sparks the war. (Note that this is a sequel to “X-Men: First Class,” but also a prequel to the original X-films.)

Intermingled in this admittedly convoluted setup is a lot of intrigue, a little more of the pop kitsch element of interjecting the X-Men into real historical events (this time, Vietnam, JFK and Nixon are referenced at the very least and, in some instances, play integral parts in the film).

But this X-Men is about more than gimmickry and tricks. It’s the richest, most emotional and most exciting story yet. We see the future X-Men overwhelmed by the Sentinels, and some of the X-Men die surprisingly horrific (if bloodless) deaths (some more than once as the timelines bounce around). We see sad fates for “First Class” characters, and we get the continuation of Wolverine’s arc as the loner who has now found a place and has to become a leader, even to his mentor.

In a movie loaded to the gills with mutants, everyone has a moment to shine, though this is still very much a story of the central characters: Xavier, Magneto and Wolverine are center stage, with Kitty Pryde, Iceman (Shawn Ashmore, who I want to see even more of in the next X-stallment) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) playing substantial supporting roles.

But it’s Quicksilver (Evan Peters), yes, that guy, who has dueling versions between this film and the “Avengers” sequel, has been ridiculed for his look in this film and who has that ridiculous Hardee’s commercial, who absolutely steals the show. One sequence (you’ll know it when you see it) is the best cinematic comedic use of slow motion since Hammy the Squirrel in “Over the Hedge.” Though his screen time is short, his impact is large, and he has a couple of great lines, including one that calls back to his lineage (though they never explicitly reference it).

McAvoy again owns the role of Xavier, who has fallen into depression but has regained the use of his legs at the cost of his mutant powers. (Beast develops a serum that allows him to walk but blocks his telepathy.) Director Bryan Singer clearly creates parallels between Xavier’s plight to that of a heroin addict, as he has “withdrawals” when his powers re-emerge as millions of uncontrollable voices in his head.

Speaking of, Singer and Co. do a good job of making the time-travel aspect work (well, almost). They use a nifty device where time passes more quickly in the past, but Kitty must also maintain a bond long enough for Wolverine to complete his mission. This builds tension and amps up the stakes for the climax, with two simultaneous races against time.

In addition to some really spectacular action beats, there is solid humor and great character moments aplenty. (This is the real strength of these films, that we are able to enjoy every aspect of the film rather than merely waiting for the next action sequence.) A moment where Patrick Stewart’s Xavier speaks to his younger self is a fantastic moment, as is a really great exchange between the younger Xavier and Magneto, who is easily the best-developed villain in any comic book movie ever.

There are so many more moments I’d like to reference here, but you need to experience this movie for yourself. What doesn’t work? I’m pretty positive overall, but the film slows down a touch near the end of Act 2 as the plot continues to unfold. I would hardly call this a negative though. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is the superhero movie you’ve been waiting for, the one that unlocks the potential of the franchise beyond the “mutants are a metaphor for _______” and raises the stakes to a whole new level.

Speaking of which, it goes without saying that you should stick around after the credits for a tease of the next film, which Singer has already announced: “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

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