The ‘70s look good on the X-Men.
As the franchise moves into a new era (in more ways than one), “X-Men: Days of Future Past” infuses new life into the series.
In a dark, hopeless future, the mutants from the original trilogy that have managed to survive reconvene, initiating a plan hatched by Professor X (Patrick Stewart), to send someone back in time to rewrite history and save their fallen comrades.
Because of his regenerating ability, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is the man for the job, and after a little mojo from Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), he returns to the 1970s to bring Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender).
In the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco from “X-Men: First Class,” the Professor’s school has shuttered and his friendship with the Man Who Would Be Magneto is fractured, in large part over their feelings for Raven, AKA Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).
Wolverine’s blast from the past, with both the decade and his future friends and mentors, is the perfect springboard for much of the movie’s humor.
McAvoy keenly embodies the young Charles with a slovenly, stubborn boyishness that serves as the perfect foil for his older self, as seen in the apocalyptic frame narrative.
Conversely, Fassbender is so serious and controlled in his movements, that it’s a shame he and Ian McKellan’s Magneto never share a frame, as the fluidity between the two is subtle yet noteworthy.
As the most human of villains, Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) takes on the role of Bolivar Trask, a scientist with Machiavellian plans to wipe out the mutants.
And it’s not much of a spoiler to say he succeeds, weaponizing Mystique’s shape-shifting to upgrade his robotic Sentinels, leading to the very mutant holocaust the Professor is attempting to avoid at the film’s start.
While the project takes place on the global stage, it all comes back to the States, climaxing at the White House then led by Nixon (as played by your cousin who tries to do celebrity impressions at family parties).
“Days” actually simplifies the franchise’s dense mythology, filling in the gaps and teasing characters who have bigger roles to play in the lives of these heroes.
Of the other mutants, of which there are many, Evan Peters makes an incredible first impression as Quicksilver, a speedy young mutant and maybe-son of one of our heroes.
A slow-motion action scene set to Jim Croce’s “If I Could Save Time In a Bottle” will be all anyone is talking about after the movie, save perhaps from an appearance from Hugh Jackman’s bum.
“Days of Future Past” also has fun with its direction, breaking out of its often bleak shell in Quicksilver’s scenes, which come with a “Scott Pilgrim”-esque comic choppiness, as well as Wolverine’s pulpy, Tarantino-tinged fight scenes.
At a little over two hours, the film never wears out its welcome, though it could have used a little tightening here and there.
With the Wolverine spinoffs spawning increasingly diminished returns (both creatively and monetarily), it’s essential for the X-Men to adapt if they plan to have any future on the big screen.
If “Days of Future Past” is any indication of what's in store, then bring on the “Apocalypse.”