Everyone who dislikes time travel movies, stand up. … Is anyone left sitting? Dislike is perhaps the wrong term, it’s just that they seem so cheap, the sci-fi equivalent of the tearjerker. When a guiding principle of your story is that you can always start over and erase everything that came before it, and conceivably do that over and over again, what’s the point? So, when X-Men: Days of Future Past starts in a dystopian landscape of just a few years hence, and posits the notion that Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, whose vascular physique and butt shot are alone worth the price of admission) must travel back to 1973 to correct everything that’s happened since … well, since the first X-Men movie, it feels as if all the emotional energy you’ve invested into all these characters for more than a decade was for naught. Just erase and start over. Video games do that; movies are supposed to be above that.
It is with that caveat that I can still recommend this nth sequel in the Marvel franchise, a kind of smaller-scale Avengers series that keeps adding stars and superheroes as quickly as it kills them off. Jackman’s Wolverine is the unifying actor, though the characters of Professor X (Patrick Stewart as an adult, James McAvoy as a younger man) and Magneto (Ian McKellen/Michael Fassbender) are fairly constant as well — the big boys who give the X-Men story its arc.
And what a gay arc it is. Mutants are so vilified, they might as well be gay, which is the underpinning to the entire series. Mutants come out, and get bashed, and seek equal rights … sound familiar? But it’s hard to feel too sorry for them when they can stop time, command metal and listen into every brain on the planet.
At least until a scientist (Peter Dinklage) turns their own DNA on them to create super-robots who can track them down and use their own powers against them — Terminators to Sarah Connor’s survivor.
The story becomes a convoluted mess that relies too heavily on matters such as subtle political reactions, good PR, convincing psychopaths to behave sensibly and such, but the visual effects are stellar, and despite some lulls in the telling, the action is entertaining. There are quite a few Oscar winners and nominees among the cast, actors who know how to zero in on some emotional resonances. They sell this summer comic book, giving color to the drab world of the future.