X-Men: Days of Future Past

★★★

As summer gets closer, the blockbusters get bigger. This season kicked off with "Godzilla" (2014) last weekend, and the trend continues with Marvel’s "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014).

If this one's any indicator, get ready for a summer chock full of awesome movies and midnight premieres.

In the distant future, mutantkind nears extinction at the hands of the Sentinels, highly adaptable robots created by Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) in 1973. To undo the events that led to their creation, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) agree to use Kitty Pride(Ellen Page)'s powers to transport Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and his consciousness into the past.

Once there, Wolverine reconvenes with a much younger Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who were the stars of the excellent X-Men: First Class (2011). Wolverine must convince them to overcome their demons and work together to prevent one of their own, the shapeshifting Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), from assassinating Dr. Trask and inadvertently furthering the Sentinel program.

Twentieth Century Fox / Marvel Entertainment

Twentieth Century Fox / Marvel Entertainment

It’s a complex time-traveling story that works extremely well. Leave credit to director Bryan Singerwho, after directing the first two X-Men installments, reclaims his mastery of the X-Men here.

While it’s tough to mention Singer now without recalling the allegations surrounding him, an $8.1 million Thursday night opening appears to indicate the bad press will not affect the box office.

Thankfully, that lets us focus more on the movie, in particular on the characters. With numerous appearances, cameos, and mentions, "Days" rewards both Marvel movie junkies and avid comic readers: Storm, Rogue, Beast, and Iceman all return, while Sunspot, Blink Colossus, and Bishop make their movie debuts. The movie successfully juggles the cast and gives each X-Man their due time to shine.

Twentieth Century Fox / Marvel Entertainment

Twentieth Century Fox / Marvel Entertainment

The diverse cast is anchored by the leadership of Jackman’s Wolverine, who must adjust to the water bed and lava lamp-laced 70s while also anchoring for the young, unstable, and angsty Xavier and Magneto. Wolverine is equal parts teacher, comic, and badass superhero all in one. The perfect protagonist.

However, the scene-stealer is undoubtedly Evan Peters’ Quicksilver (think Marvel’s version of The Flash), whose sarcasm and high-speed antics make him hilarious as well as powerful. A marvelous bullet time scene, in which Quicksilver fells a group of armed Pentagon guards, masterfully blends action, comedy, and visual effects as he changes the path of bullets, makes guards punch themselves, and even gives a wedgie. In my theater, it was the only part of the movie to roused hundreds of laughs and thunderous applause. That scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Quicksilver also has the coveted distinction of being with both the Avengers and the X-Men (in the movie continuity). You saw him briefly in the post-credits sequence of "Captain America: The Winder Soldier" (2014, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) with his sister, Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Here’s hoping Quicksilver will be equally as great, if not better, in the upcoming "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015).

All the stars were aligned to make "Days" an X-Men version of "The Avengers" (2012) with cities destroyed, thousands of enemies killed, and the fate of the planet in the balance. Yet the movie is much more intimate and psychological than the typical superhero movie; we are just as concerned by young Xavier’s psychological well-being, if not more than, the mutant-hunting Sentinels. Apart from the breathtaking scene of Magneto lifting up RFK Stadium in D.C., spectacle is kept to a healthy minimum.

The real enemy of the X-Men here is not a god or a planet-killing alien race, but time itself. The movie’s strong foundation and direction lets it carry and execute a complex plot into a beautifully simply story. It is a refreshing departure from other Marvel movies.

"Days of Future Past" is a solid outing for the X-Men that uses great storytelling and characters in unison with, not subsidiary to, its superhero spectacle. The result is a surefire blockbuster that cannot be missed.

Now get to the theater and start your summer right.

This article originally appeared in Neon Tommy on May 23, 2014.

© 2015 Rex J. Lindeman.   All rights reserved.   |   (760) 274-5948   |   rexlindeman@gmail.com

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