X-Men: Days of Future Past

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Imagine there’s no heaven…

People always think critics are so tough on movies. They think we’ve become jaded because we see so many films, or we want to sound intellectual by praising an art film while knocking the blockbusters. With me it’s a lot simpler. It’s the fact that I want the big blockbusters to be like this movie – fun. It seems with all the special effects and CGI that they have now, if they want to make a bunch of explosions and super heroes fighting – I should at least enjoy these as much as I did when I saw Superman in 1978, when the special effects were horrible. That was fun – and it rarely looked like Christopher Reeve was really flying.

I went into this movie expecting to hate it. Not just because the title made me think of a lame Moody Blues album, but…how many times can I see humans and mutants fighting; or Patrick Stewart’s bald head spouting wisdom, which he’s been doing since his days on Star Trek in the late ‘80s.

The movie borrows from Terminator 2, Matrix, and even a scene from The Day of the Jackal – yet I was pleasantly surprised at the great time I had watching it.

Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is alive. I thought he died in one of the previous films, but it’s really hard for me to keep up on all this. I’m not a fan-boy that really follows all this stuff. I rely on expository dialogue to fill me in on what I may need to know.

I kind of chuckled at the fact that Ellen Page came out of the closet recently, and in her first movie back, plays a character named Kitty Pryde. She uses her mutant power to send Logan (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 (the year The Day of the Jackal came out). It’s a perfect time for him, since he’s walking around looking like Dirty Harry.

Logan needs to stop Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing a doctor (Peter Dinklage). He’s the one that created the Sentinels – the creatures that are killing the mutants as the movie starts. Raven thinks that killing him will stop the creation of these machines, but the rest of the mutants realize it will just make humans fear them.

Of course we have some fun with the time period. A mutant named Quicksilver (Evan Peters) has a Buffalo Springfield and Doors posters on the wall , as he sports a Pink Floyd shirt and plays early video games (Pong). Since I think Buffalo Springfield and The Doors are two of the best bands of the ‘60s, I shouldn’t complain, but I think it would’ve been sly to have a Quicksilver Messenger Service poster. Another wasted joke opportunity was when Wolverine experienced a waterbed for the first time. Why not have him puncture it with his sharp claws? I do give the movie credit for not making a joke about Dinklage’s size. It had nothing to do with the character, and that was a wise decision.

It was fun to see the younger Xavier (played nicely by James McAvoy). He was on the verge of becoming a junkie, with drugs to help him with his legs and to stop hearing the voices in his head. His interaction with Logan and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) was interesting. It might be a little hard to follow if you haven’t seen any of the previous films, though.

Watching how Magneto is sprung from a secure prison is a blast. Easily one of the best scenes you’ll see in an action picture all year. It was visually mesmerizing, and to play Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle” was perfect. Perhaps Tarantino will realize why it worked so poorly when he used a Croce song in Inglourious.

Many of the scenes in this will fire the audience up. And it’s proof that critics can like “crap” because really…if you throw this many characters and convoluted stories into a bizarre and derivative sci-fi picture like this, it’s usually going to get a bad review. Yet if we sit there enjoying the dialogue, fight scenes, and humor – we have a fun time. Maybe I had more fun because…coming off the last Spiderman, when I declared that I’m sick of all these battle scenes being the same thing, this didn’t have many of them. At least it didn’t feel that way. Credit that to Bryan Singer, who is back directing for the first time since the second film. He introduced new characters that intrigued us, and we enjoyed watching the references to the older characters and themes we were familiar with.

They blended historical moments (JFK shooting, Vietnam war) in interesting ways. Aside from the great special effects, we got a few scenes filmed as if it were part of the Zapruder footage.

This gets 3 ½ stars out of 5, but the fans of this series will easily give it 5 out of 5.

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