“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is a hard movie to wrap my head around, and not because it involves Wolverine’s consciousness traveling back to the 1970s to foil a plot that will destroy the future for men and mutants.
I know we’re watching the physical conflict involved when men share a world with mutants possessing superpowers. On that front, “Days of Future Past” is fun — a baseball stadium floats in the air, Jennifer Lawrence (or her stunt double) beats the life out of the Homo sapiens — but only superficially. This isn’t satisfying entertainment, but the mixing of concrete to build the same story moviegoers have seen since 2000 when Anna Paquin had her baby fat.
In the not-too-distant future, a legion of fighting machines called Sentinels has eliminated virtually all the humans and mutants. To ensure their survival, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) — or, to be accurate, his consciousness — returns to his 1973 body to reunite a young Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to stop Mystique (Lawrence) from committing a murder that will cause a lifetime of misery to unfold.
Getting everyone together is difficult. Xavier is a drunk who medicates himself to block his prodigious mental abilities. Magneto is imprisoned underneath the Pentagon. The one-time friends still have different ideas of mutants’ place in the world and feelings for Mystique, who has left a wake of bodies in her maturation.
“Days of Future Past” makes me sad and frustrated, because I don’t feel director Bryan Singer wants to entertain us as much as build another planet in a universe that can ceaselessly make money and provide a forum for really good actors.
This is apparent in how Singer hoards the film’s conflicts. You keep hoping to hold onto something juicy — the young Magneto and Professor X’s lack of common ground in dealing with the humans; how the past affects the future; Mystique’s burgeoning independence — but Singer holds them just long enough to let us know what we’re missing. There’ll be time for that later. And if that means talented actors are working in a vacuum, so be it.
That’s the key issue. By resolving one subplot, leaving another wide open, and offering another Wolverine machination, Singer has extended the con even longer. “Look at what could possibly happen! You have to stick around for the next chapter!” Why should we care, especially if the cloak-and-dagger maneuverings are kept to a minimum? A cliffhanger means nothing if we don’t care about what got us there. “X-Men: First Class” at least made us care what was coming around the bend.
I guess superhero franchises can go on forever. We’re just killing time until the movie dead-ends or the director gets bored. And, then, it’s reboot time! Perhaps fans of the comic books can offer some encouragement. Right now, I get a sneaking suspicion that I’m watching the building of a perpetual movie machine, Summer Blockbuster Edition. That’s not a lot of fun, especially if you’re stuck on the assembly line.
Rating: W W V
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