X-Men: Days of Future Past ***

Is it worth $10? Yes

The challenges of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” are enormous. On top of being a glossy, effects-filled $250 million Hollywood production, the film combines the actors and characters from the first “X-Men” trilogy with the newer, younger cast of Matthew Vaughn’s stellar “X-Men: First Class” (2011). Moreover, the story weaves an intricate tale of time travel, social upheaval and desperate survival, and is a strong commentary on the mindset of 2014 America.

Not an easy task for even the most accomplished auteur. But the film, thanks to director Bryan Singer (“X2: X-Men United”) and writer Simon Kinberg, is splendid for a number of reasons. However, in addition to everything it does well are the lingering ramifications of the ending. At the risk of spoilers more will not be revealed, but suffice to say the conclusion works in terms of this film but not necessarily for the franchise as a whole.

The story is complex but not difficult to follow (i.e. this is not mindless summer entertainment – pay attention!). In the future, robots called sentinels destroy both mankind and mutants. Only a few mutants remain, including: Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry), Kitty (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Bishop (Omar Sy). Aware that the sentinels’ ability to kill mutants lies in Mystique’s (Jennifer Lawrence) adaptive DNA, and that the DNA was obtained when Mystique was captured after killing sentinel creator Dr. Trask (Peter Dinklage), the mutants send Wolverine back in time to prevent Mystique from killing Trask.

Back in 1973, Wolverine first needs to find the young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), the latter of whom is incarcerated in the Pentagon for killing JFK. With Beast (Nicholas Hoult) also along for the ride and a big assist from the super fast Quicksilver (Evan Peters), the group travels to Washington, D.C. and Paris to stop Mystique.

Like the other “X-Men” films, “Day of Future Past” serves as an allegory for tolerance and social acceptance. The mutants could be gay, minorities or any other group that strives for equality. This is what has always made the debate between Professor X and Magneto so fascinating: Professor X believes in the good of mankind, whereas Magneto believes mutants need to take forceful control or be exterminated. For good measure this time Singer adds the question of destiny vs. fate, which is nicely articulated as the events in one time period directly impact the actions of the other.

We know what to expect from the actors: Jackman quips, Stewart philosophizes, Lawrence looks great in blue, etc. Production-wise the film is top notch, from the imaginative production design by John Myhre to the playful costumes from Louise Mingenbach to the dazzling visual effects. The Quicksilver sequence in the prison is a creative work of art, and other action sequences are similarly imaginative. One note: The 3D doesn’t pop, so don’t waste money on the upcharge.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is a large-scale, impressive experience that combines fantasy and reality in a truly unique way. You may not love the ending, but in its totality it’s a project well done.

Did you know?

The franchise’s next film, “X-Men: Apocalypse” (opening May 27, 2016), will be set in the 1980s. Stay for the credits for an “Apocalypse” preview!

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