Friday, September 19, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ — One for the ages!

XMen Future PastW

After learning that black-ops types plan to conduct dangerous — even lethal — medical experiments on some helpless mutants, a furious Raven (Jennifer Lawrence, second from right) gets quite irate with the goons responsible, while hoping to help the others escape. Courtesy photo

By
From page A9 | May 23, 2014 |

“X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Four stars

Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Halle Berry, Shawn Ashmore, Evan Peters, Josh Helman

Rated: PG-13, for nonstop action violence and considerable grim content

Intriguing superhero franchise continues to deliver thoughtful action

By Derrick Bang
Enterprise film critic

This one cooks.

The X-Men film series has earned high marks from its debut back in 2000, notwithstanding the frustrating rival studio issues that prevent these characters from operating within the larger tapestry of the “Marvel Universe” project that includes Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Avengers.

Director Bryan Singer got Marvel’s “merry mutants” off to an excellent start with the first two films, and he returns here, batteries fully charged, for a rip-snortin’ adventure that satisfies on every level.

Longtime comic book fans, who’ve followed these characters since their debut back in September 1963, can point to three periods of writer/artist genius during the series’ half-century history. Old-timers still cite the Roy Thomas/Neal Adams run, despite its brevity, as the highlight of 1969 and early ’70. The subsequent generation scoffs at that choice, pointing instead to the bravura Chris Claremont/Jim Lee run from 1989 through ’91.

In between, though, we enjoyed four years of greatness from late 1977 through early ’81, thanks to Claremont’s imaginative stories and artist/co-author John Byrne’s artwork. And that run produced a two-parter, “Days of Future Past,” which remains one of the all-time best comic book stories, anywhere … not to mention one of the most ingenious time-travel narratives ever concocted (and cited as such in a recent issue of the British pop culture magazine SFX).

Fan reaction was guarded, when word broke that this new X-Men film would adapt that classic tale. Doing it justice would be difficult enough; carefully sliding it into the big-screen mythos already established by the first three films and 2011’s “X-Men: First Class,” even harder. Screenwriters Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn therefore deserve considerable credit, because they pulled it off. And then some.

To a degree, this film also has been shaped by the wattage of its primary stars, most notably Jennifer Lawrence, who has become huge since first playing the shape-shifting Raven/Mystique in “First Class.” Hugh Jackman’s ultra-cool Wolverine also is front and center, as are James McAvoy’s angst-ridden Charlie Xavier and Michael Fassbender’s smoothly malevolent Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto.

Events begin in a ghastly future that will look familiar to fans of the “Terminator” series: a dark, dystopian realm where all of humanity has been subjugated — or killed — by the terrifying, shape-shifting robots (Sentinels) initially designed to protect “ordinary” people from mutants. (Read in your favorite real-world racist/apartheid parallel; the symbolism is deliberate.)

The Sentinels have become virtually unstoppable, although the remaining X-Men — noble mutants, each gifted with a different and unusual power — are doing their best to hang on.

A precious few remaining stalwarts, led by the mind-reading Xavier and metal-shaping Magneto (Stewart and McKellen), have made a final stand within a mountainside shelter in China. While a handful of guards stand watch — Storm (Halle Berry), Bishop (Omar Sy), Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Blink (Bingbing Fan), Warpath (Booboo Stewart) and Sunspot (Adan Canto) — Xavier guides Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) through a desperate gambit that will send Wolverine’s consciousness back in time, to his younger self in 1973, and the moment when a single incident triggered the events that led to this horrible, worldwide outcome.

The catastrophe: Raven’s assassination of Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), inventor of the Sentinel program. In the wake of that murder, with Raven identified as the culprit, all nations united behind a shared desire to rid the world of all mutants.

But once activated, the Sentinels took their programming a bit too seriously … because a vast majority of people have “aberrant” DNA sequences that could be viewed as “mutations.”

Armed with the awareness of what awaits, Wolverine awakens in 1973, where the bulk of this story takes place, knowing that he must unite the younger Xavier and Magneto, so they all can stop the renegade Raven.

Yes, it’s the ultimate time-travel cliché: As with Stephen King’s recent novel about an attempt to stop Kennedy’s assassination, Wolverine & Co. are trying to prevent the similar death of a “bad” guy. And, perhaps to demonstrate that they’re fully aware of the toys with which they’re playing, this film’s scripters cheekily introduce the younger Magneto in an exotic underground prison cell, where he has been incarcerated since being found responsible for Kennedy’s death.

How else could that fateful bullet’s trajectory have been along such a curved path?

The resulting adventure, a taut 131 minutes granted impressive snap by editor John Ottman, is cleverly divided into distinct acts, each with an “impossible” challenge. The first, involving the need to break Magneto out of his prison far beneath the Pentagon, serves as a marvelous introduction to young Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters), not yet known by his mutant handle of Quicksilver.

The attitude-laden Maximoff is a great character, wonderfully played by Peters, who joins the team strictly for kicks and grins. This sequence injects a welcome level of playfulness mostly absent from the rest of the film, while also foreshadowing even better things to come.

Elsewhere, the enraged Raven — feeling betrayed by both Xavier and Erik (as per events in the previous film) — has been mounting her own clandestine crusade to free young mutants from nasty, black-ops “experimentation” programs sponsored both overtly and covertly by Trask and his lieutenant, Stryker (Josh Helman, suitably vicious).

Lawrence gets considerable screen time, second only to the always engaging Jackman, whose cigar-chomping Wolverine remains one of the best-cast Marvel superheroes brought to the big screen. Jackman can be counted on for snarky verve and methodical mayhem, but Lawrence deftly delivers impressive emotional complexity: Raven, although operating with similar lone wolf ferocity, has yet to become a cold-hearted killing machine.

Her mounting rage over Trask’s efforts, however, is about to tip her into berserker chaos.

Xavier, battling despair over the dissolution of his dream for a peaceful co-existence between mutants and humankind, is similarly conflicted. McAvoy also shines as yet another intriguingly flawed character, and that’s an important hallmark of this film, and the entire series: The primary protagonists constantly battle uncertainty and demons of their own creation, and these inner conflicts are skillfully portrayed by the top-notch cast.

Fassbender’s Magneto is regal, aloof and also at a tipping point: an implacable man who bears grudges and grimly takes the path of least resistance, no matter the collateral damage. Dinklage, as well, is quite memorable as the chilling Trask, a scientist who regards morality as something for lesser beings, and therefore finds an ally in this saga’s President Richard Nixon (Mark Camacho, at times eerily dead-on).

Nicholas Hoult makes the most of his large supporting role as Hank McCoy, better known as the professorial Beast, who must take care lest he lose control of his own blue-furred other self. Back in the future, Page’s Kitty Pryde bears the emotional weight of this desperate gambit, while Fan’s Blink is fascinating, establishing a solid premise despite having very few lines. Shawn Ashmore’s Bobby Drake/Iceman, always at Kitty’s side, delivers the obligatory “But can this work?”-type dialogue with surprising verisimilitude.

Ottman also contributes a rousing, blood-pounding score and makes droll use of 1970s pop tunes. Production designer John Myhre concocts a horrific future, while also set-dressing a richly detailed 1973; he also is responsible for the unstoppably scary future Sentinels, while sfx supervisor Cameron Waldbauer handled the first-gen robots of 1973.

Although the PG-13 rating feels right, parents should be advised that, at times, this is a very bleak and sometimes shocking story. The future-realm Sentinels are the stuff of nightmares, and plenty of good characters come to extremely bad ends, a few of these deaths particularly horrific.

Given the size of the cast and complexity of the story, however, Singer deserves kudos for orchestrating everything so well, maintaining suspense and plot momentum while building to a literally smashing finale. Five films in, this X-Men series continues to deliver, and I can’t wait for 2016’s “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

— Read more of Derrick Bang’s film criticism at http://derrickbang.blogspot.com. Comment on this review at www.davisenterprise.com.

Comments

comments

.

News

UC to create $250 million venture capital fund

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

 
School district may redevelop downtown site

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1

Grant means new push for moving tracks out of town

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Some say council needs to reconsider MRAP

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

Man faces arson charge in huge California wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
DUI suspected in crash

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
Master Gardeners share their wisdom at free workshops

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Scots vote to stay in UK

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
France strikes Islamic State group’s depot in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Project Linus seeks donations

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Rabid bat found at Holmes Junior High

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Students invited to apply for Blue & White grants

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Telling tales, on ‘Davisville’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Halloween costume sale benefits preschool

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Volunteers sought to make veggie bags

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Woodland Healthcare offering flu shots

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Storyteller will draw on music, dance

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Putah Creek Bike Path to close temporarily

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Little Free Libraries open at Montgomery

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

 
Nonprofits can get DCN’s help

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Register to vote by Oct. 20

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Free workout class set at library

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Explorit: Lots of ways to be a volunteer

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Sierra Club remembers longtime walker

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
DHS Classes of 1954 and 1955 will hold 60th reunion

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Davis maps available at Chamber office

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Reception benefits endangered gorillas

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

 
Downtown history tour planned in October

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

Davis hosts its own climate change rally

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
Sutter Farmers Market offers local goods

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

Wolk applauds approval of stronger rules for olive oil

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
Qigong classes available for heart health

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

.

Forum

Sick of being the bad guy

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Save the ‘pine cone place’

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Affirm our community values

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Project has safety risks

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Learn more about Paso Fino

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Educate homeless with dogs

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

Cheers and Jeers: Not the end of the rainbow

By Our View | From Page: A6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

Return to previous plan

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
.

Sports

No rest for the weary: Aggie TE Martindale busy on and off the field

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Devils hope the light bulb turns on at Edison

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

River Cats and Giants sign two-year deal

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Blue Devil volleyballers hold off Herd

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Aggies’ new energy could be scary for Big West

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

 
Mustangs are no match for DHS boys in water polo

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

Take Zona and Bama this week

By Bob Dunning | From Page: B2

 
A’s slide continues as Rangers sweep

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

.

Features

Name Droppers: Awards keep coming for UC Davis retiree

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
.

Business

Redesigned 2015 Escalade remains breed all its own

By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, September 19, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A10

 
.

Real Estate Review

Featured Listing

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

Professional Services Directory

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

Taylor Morrison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

Malek Baroody

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

Norcal Land

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

Robin Garland

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

Dana Hawkins

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Karen Waggoner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

Lynne Wegner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Martha Bernauer

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Joe Kaplan

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

Remax

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

Melrina A Maggiora

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER10

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

Julie Leonard

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER11

Coldwell Banker

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER12

Kim Eichorn

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER14

Lyon Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER15

Jamie Madison & Associates

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Marcelo Campos

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Julie Partain

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER16

Kim Merrel Lamb

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Bob Bockwinkel

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Juan Ramirez

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER17

Chris Snow

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

James Hanna

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER18

Raul Zamora

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

Susan von Geldern

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER19

Travis Credit Union

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER20

Jamie Madison

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

Karen Waggoner

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER21

Tracy Harris

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER22

Lisa Haass

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER22

First Street Real Estate

By Zack Snow | From Page: RER24