Most reactions I've heard to X-Men: Days of Future Past have been pretty polarized. Some folks hate it. Plenty of diehard X-Men fans love it. At the matinee showing I went to, the audience clapped at the end. I think I'm coming down on the side of it being a very enjoyable hot mess.
The title, for instance, sounds like a MAD magazine parody title. The premise for this latest X-Men film is that it's the year 2023, and the world is a bleak, dystopian place with dark skies and hovercrafts. (So this is going to be funny to watch in nine years; or else we better see hovercraft technology hurry the hell up already.) Giant, unkillable robotic solders called sentinels are hunting down and killing all mutants. Professor X decides the best way to stop this dystopian future will be to have Kitty Pryde send Hugh Jackman's Wolverine back in time—or, excuse me, have him "project his consciousness into his younger self"—to the year 1973, when an evil scientist first designed the sentinels. (In the original comic this story is based on, it's Kitty who goes back into time. I haven't really seen the change raise many comic nerd hackles, though, probably because comic nerds adore Wolverine like none other.)
With a vague set of instructions from Professor X, Wolverine arrives in '73 and finds that stopping the evil scientist's plot will require all sorts of hand-to-hand combat, shenanigans, flights to Paris and explosions at the White House. Epic battles ensue.
- We do the Monster Mash.
I found the plot devices suspect at best, and the time-travel thing poses giant continuity problems for future X-Men sequels. But if you're gonna make a silly summer superhero blockbuster, packing a bunch of awesome things into it is definitely the way to go. There's all sorts of fun tidbits if you're a big comic fan, but also plenty to enjoy if you're unfamiliar with the X-Men universe. The '70s setting gets exploited to the max, with references to just about everything you'd hope for, from AM radio to aviator shades to Pong to Richard Nixon. We get to see our superheroes swagger around in killer bell-bottoms, leather jackets and unbuttoned shirts. We meet a teenage Quicksilver, the guy who runs so fast he's invisible, and his scene where he busts Magneto out of the Pentagon is worth the cost of admission alone.
Also, a lot of extremely handsome and/or beautiful people have intense conversations while standing very close to each other. I kept rooting for somebody, anybody, to just make out already. No dice.
Days of Future Past is also packed with a ridiculous amount of decorated actors and excellent cameo appearances. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen make obligatory appearances as Magneto and Professor X. Peter Dinklage chows down on the scenery as an evil, mutant-hating scientist—good or bad, he's just so damn likable. Jennifer Lawrence is pissed-off, badass and very toned in the blue Mystique outfit. Michael Fassbender as a calculating, brooding young Magneto is fantastic. For my money, James McAvoy (one of my favorite actors ever since seeing Atonement—a very different kind of movie, but also one you should see) steals all his scenes as a young, long-haired, drunken Professor X who hasn't come to terms with his powers.
Somehow, of course, Wolverine and co. fix everything, but the last third of Days of Future Past gets pretty stressful—after seeing a bunch of mutants die in upsetting ways, you can't help but wonder just how this is going to turn out okay. Spoiler alert: it does. (Withhold your surprise that X-Men: Apocalypse is slated to be released in 2016.)
Oh, and there's a completely gratuitous, pandering, objectifying scene where we get to see Jackman's naked ass. Totally worth seeing in the theater.
X-Men: Days of Future Past continues at the Carmike 12 and Pharaohplex.