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X-Men: Days of Future Past

The newest entry in the X-Men series is vibrant and entertaining, I’m happy to say… but only if you’re a dedicated follower. Like some other continuing movie sagas, this one assumes you’ve seen all the previous films and memorized its characters’ relationships. That includes the 2011 reboot, X-Men: First Class, which cleverly introduced James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are still around to lend their imposing presence and effortless gravitas, but the action is in the hands of their youthful alter egos, along with the time-traveling Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman.

Photo by Alan Markfield - Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Photo by Alan Markfield – Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The story, by Simon Kinberg, begins in a dismal future where the Mutants are being slaughtered by an army of deadly Sentinels, which were invented by an ambitious scientist played by Peter Dinklage. The only way to survive is to send someone back in time to alter history and, in so doing, change this outcome. Wolverine is chosen as the likeliest one to endure the difficult transition. His mission: return to 1973 and stop shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating the power-hungry Dinklage. In order to do this, Wolverine must earn the trust of both Charles Xavier/ Professor X and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, who are at that moment sworn enemies.

Thus the stage is set for conflict, in two time frames, and challenges galore. Director Bryan Singer manages to keep this busy screenplay on track most of the time, with the aid of his likable cast and a nonstop parade of arresting visual effects. There are even a few moments of humor involving a young Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters, who is featured in a bravura sequence at the Pentagon that understandably has audiences cheering—and laughing.

Photo By Alan Markfield - Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Photo By Alan Markfield – Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Longer than it needs to be, X-Men: Days of Future Past threatens to wear out its welcome toward the climax, but Singer wraps things up in satisfactory fashion. His longtime editor, John Ottman, provides a suitably muscular music score.

The characters of young Charles and Erik are fairly superficial and straightforward, and with this second go-round there’s no longer novelty value in seeing two of this generation’s most talented actors inhabit the roles. Some series veterans like Halle Berry as Storm have little to do, while other members of the mutant team are just along for the ride. On the plus side, Nicholas Hoult provides solid support as Hank McCoy in the extended flashback story.

Overall, I’d rate this as a good, if unexceptional, installment in the series. I don’t think faithful fans will be disappointed.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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