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Alan Markfield

Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

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★★★★✩

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Directed by Bryan Singer

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ellen Page, Michael Fassbender, and Halle Berry

Rated PG-13

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X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the most satisfying fantasy action movies I’ve seen in years. Director Bryan Singer has managed to build upon the storylines of many previous X-Men movies and generally maintain narrative consistency (except where it would limit his artistic freedom) in order to create what many critics consider the best entry so far in the successful X-Men franchise.

The premise of this film is a variation on a common theme: humans discover there are superpowered mutants living among them, and distrust grows between the two groups. Faced with the threat of human repression, mutants must choose between destruction and cooperation. The novelty comes in the urgency of the threat, which in this movie rises to apocalyptic levels: on the verge of extinction, mutants have to send a message back in time in a desperate attempt to change the course of history.

Though the series spans several movies with a rotating cast of characters, familiarity with previous movies in the series is not a requirement. Ignorance may actually be bliss, since it will spare you the imminent confusion of seeing Professor X and Magneto, two of the most important characters in the X-Men universe who had died and lost all ferromagnetic powers, respectively, in a previous movie. Professor X is resurrected and Magneto has regained powers without any clear explanation.

To those of us who are familiar with the rest of the series, this new film will bring the relief of seeing the franchise rescued from the hole into which it had dug itself after killing some very important characters in X-Men 3 (2006). It also serves to connect the cast of X-Men (2000) and its two sequels with the younger cast of X-Men: First Class (2011). It is very entertaining to see the old and new versions of the characters sharing space and time on screen, playing some of the same characters in different stages of their evolution and maturity.

Singer makes careful and creative use of 3D technology. As opposed to many recent action movies, which use 3D because it is the flavor of the month, Days of Future Past relies on 3D to add (the pun is unavoidable) a whole new dimension to the film-watching experience. Many scenes, including a flying stadium and gigantic spears piercing mutants through portals in space, would not be as memorable without the use of polarized glasses.

Keeping track of the time jumps in the story is fairly simple. The story doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is always good when the material requires such a suspension of disbelief. A few references to JFK were — in my opinion — in bad taste, but the giggles around the theater make me think I’m in the minority in this regard.

Despite the obvious implausibility of the underlying premise, X-Men: Days of Future Past manages to pose some rather serious questions about human nature, free will, the roots of antagonism, and the consequences of our choices. And, in case you are not in the mood for philosophical disquisitions, there’s always the eye-candy of the impossibly ripped Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and the fetching femme fatale Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).

I highly recommend this movie to X-Men fans and newcomers alike.