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X-Men' offers uncanny excellence

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'Days of Future Pas' an outstanding superhero offering

The superhero has reigned supreme at the box office for a few years now. The studios that are churning out these spandex-clad CGI spectacles are looking to recoup nine-figure investments; they need as many people as possible to see their movies. So of course, they must seek out ways to broaden the appeal of their films as much as possible.

Often, this new breadth comes at the expense of the fans of the source material the comic book readers. It makes sense, really if the producers of these films can count on anything, it is that the fanboys and girls will come out to see their favorite characters on the silver screen, no matter what liberties might have been taken with comics canon along the way. We comic fans might grumble and moan about what's been done to our beloved characters, but we'll still go watch.

All we ask is that we get an interesting story that is well-told, packed with as much of that awesomely larger-than-life action/pathos/morality as they can manage to squeeze into two hours. Give us the stuff that makes comic books such an engaging and entertaining art form.

When they give us that, they give us movies like 'X-Men: Days of Future Past.'

We begin in a war-torn future version of Earth. The conflict between mutants and mankind has escalated; now, all mutants and mutant sympathizers are either imprisoned or dead, thanks to the high-tech mutant-hunting robots known as Sentinels. Just a handful of mutants remain free, including familiar faces such as Professor X (Patrick Stewart, 'Match') and Magneto (Ian McKellan, 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug') and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, 'Prisoners').

It turns out that another familiar face Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page, 'The East') has the ability to send a person's consciousness back in time to its younger self. A plan is hatched to send Wolverine (because he's the only one who can withstand the trauma) all the way back to 1973, where he is to enlist the younger Professor X (James McAvoy, 'Filth') and Magneto (Michael Fassbender, 'The Counselor') in an effort to prevent the event that sent the world down its current path Mystique's (Jennifer Lawrence; 'American Hustle') assassination of the noted scientist (and Sentinel inventor) Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, TV's 'Game of Thrones').

Got all that?

Naturally, it isn't easy. Wolverine finds himself in a world that he only vaguely remembers, trying to convince two bitter enemies to rejoin forces in order to prevent the darkest timeline from coming to pass. But there are other agendas at play agendas that could wind up foiling any attempt to set a brighter path for the future.

It's fantastic, really; director Bryan Singer and company have not only managed to bring together all the elements of the extant 'X' movies the first trilogy plus 2012's 'First Class' into one film, allowing us to see that these films all exist in the same universe, but they've done it through the prism of one of the most popular and enduring story arcs in the decades-long run of the 'X-Men' comic book. Regardless of how well you think the concept was realized (I think it came together beautifully, personally), you have to admit that it's a masterstroke. In one fell swoop, 'X-Men' showed 'The Avengers' that they haven't cornered the market on world-building just yet.

The cast is great, too. The sheer talent is obvious Stewart and McKellan, Jackman and Lawrence, Fassbender and McAvoy but none of these people give the slightest indication that they're too good to be here. They're all out there having fun, and if the ensemble is having fun, chances are good that the audience is going to have fun too.

Setting aside my obvious delight with the film, there are plenty of flaws to point out. While I'm no expert on 'X-Men' canon, I'm pretty sure that a fair number of significant liberties were taken. And the back-and-forth-through-time nature of the plot made for a story that was maybe a bit too convoluted for some. Many of the multitudes of characters who got shoved on-screen had little more to do than show us their mutant powers and then get shunted aside to make room for the next. There's also a sense of unevenness to the narrative that was occasionally tough to shake.

But to my mind, those are all relatively minor criticisms. 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' is probably the best 'X-Men' movie to date and maybe the only one that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the 'Avengers' juggernaut. It captured the essence of the comic book spirit to an extent that few superhero films have matched.

[5 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 27 May 2014 21:44

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