Summer has finally graced us with its presence! No doubt you’ve been developing a love/hate relationship with the heat, staring wistfully out your window at the vacation that seems just beyond your reach. If the amount of hair you’re pulling out due to finals stress is starting to drive to an early bald spot (have you seen Prince William lately?), I highly recommend hitting the Galesburg theater for one last hurrah before school’s out. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is the summer superhero flick I’ve been waiting for, and if you want to watch a bunch of super talented actors battle Peter Dinklage using mutant powers, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Plus movie theaters have air conditioning.
Don’t know much about X-Men? Basically, what you have are humans with warped DNA that gives them superhuman abilities. They’re called “mutants,” and they possess the powers of mind reading, shape shifting and super speed, to name a small few. Professor Charles Xavier founded a school in which mutants could come out of the shadows and discover the full capacities of their powers. Magneto’s the big baddy, using his powers of metal manipulation to fight for mutant supremacy. It’s always been this big allusion to MLK vs. Malcolm X … and that’s about all you need to know.
All right, “Days of Future Past.” The film starts things off with some pretty horrific imagery of the not-too-distant future, one in which all mutants have been shackled and rendered powerless by the non-mutants’ (Muggles?) weapons, called Sentinels. These giant robots can adapt to any mutant power and have been successful in their purpose to oppress and kill mutants. Luckily a few outliers lie in hiding, battling the Sentinels and awaiting the arrival of Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Storm (Halle Berry), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). If you’re at all a fan of the original X-Men films, you’ll probably adore the reunion.
Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) has been assigned to transport an X-Man into the past in order to right the present. It turns out that Wolverine is the only one capable of transcending space and time because he can heal as quickly as he is wounded. I’m a bit upset that director Bryan Singer chose Wolverine to do the traveling rather than utilizing Kitty, who made the trek in the original comics. I would complain more, though, if I didn’t have a blast every time Wolverine is on screen.
Wolverine zips into the 1970s and makes his way to a young Charles Xavier with apropos long hair, played once again by the engaging James McAvoy. Turns out Charles wants nothing to do with Wolverine, but the film wouldn’t last very long if everyone stayed idle in the past, would it?
Personally, I adore time travel. It fries my brain but I can’t get enough of it. The way Singer connects the past to the present is thrilling, largely due to the emotions exhibited by the stellar cast.
The cast is the film’s strongest asset. Not only do you have the impeccable younger versions of Xavier and Magneto, but you’re also spoiled by the inclusions of their elder selves, played by the venerable Stewart and McKellen. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, the latter of which plays Magneto’s early self, Eric, have such strong and nuanced presences onscreen that I couldn’t help imagining how the duo in the upcoming Snyder “Batman vs. Superman” will measure up. Ben Affleck indeed…
While I was constantly taking sneak peeks at the time during “The Not-so-Amazing Spider-Man 2,” the only time I was worried about in “Days of Future Past” was the travel variety. Each cast member offers something valuable to the film, from Jennifer Lawrence as the strong-willed and -bodied shape shifter Mystique, to Peter Dinklage as the film’s comprehensible if understatedly despicable human villain hell-bent on reminding mutants who the dominant inhabitants of the planet are. Evan Peters plays a newbie with super speed, providing the film with one of the funniest gags I’ve seen in a superhero flick since the Joker’s improvised hospital malfunction in “The Dark Knight.”
Just when I start to lose all faith in the superhero genre (wow, that is actually a thing now), something refreshing like “Days of Future Past” comes along and rekindles my love. So go study, suffer through the heat wave, then reward yourself with a trip to the chilly movie theater. Maybe your microbiology final might not seem as daunting after you watch mutants fighting for their right to live by traveling through the delicate fabric of space and time.
Nah, finals are worse.