Directed by: Bryan Singer
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklege, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan
Rated: PG- 13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language
Comic book fans are no strangers to “retcon” – short for “retroactive continuity” – that device long used by the major comic book publishing houses (among others) to change the events of past publications. Retconning is far more common than “rebooting” a franchise, which is what most moviegoers are used to. Consider the Spider-Man films of the last fifteen years: three from Sam Raimi starring Tobey Maguire, then five years later, “The Amazing Spider-Man” with Andrew Garfield. These weren’t sequels, they just ignored the previous films and started over.
The X-Men films have taken a different approach, creating prequels when “X-Men: The Last Stand” left things in a problematic state (several characters dead, and possible storylines from the comics nixed as a result). The newest film, “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” acts to retcon events from earlier films – as expected. As soon as it was clear that there was time travel in the movie and that both sets of actors were involved, it was obvious a retcon was in the works
The plot is loosely based on the famous comics arc of the same name, but only in general terms. In the film, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back in time from a dystopian future where mutants (and the humans who try to help them) have been nearly exterminated by powerful robots called Sentinels. His goal: find the young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and persuade them to help him stop an assassination which acted as the catalyst to get the Sentinel program off the ground.
The broad strokes of the story are more than a little hokey, but the actors make things believable. Jackman is incredibly popular as Wolverine for a reason – he can be both serious and hilarious, and he does an excellent job portraying a simple, direct, violent man who has to stay hidden and use persuasion to accomplish his task.
Of course, McAvoy and Fassbender are incredibly gifted actors, and like Stewart and McKellan, they bring their acting chops to the table even in a film most would consider lightweight. In 1973, Charles Xavier was a very different person than the Professor X we (and Wolverine) know. McAvoy manages to make him a petulant, angry young man without making him a ridiculous whiner – no mean feat. Fassbender’s Magneto hasn’t changed at all, however. He’s still the angry, focused, completely determined man he’s always been.
There’s only one scene in which Stewart and McAvoy interact (and sadly none for McKellan and Fassbender), but it’s a joy to see two top-notch actors play the same person having a very difficult conversation with his younger self. The X-Men films have always taken themselves more seriously than those from Marvel Studios, but they wisely cast actors good enough to pull that off.
If you’re a huge fan of the original story from the comics, you’ll need to set that aside. This is a flick for people who like superhero movies and don’t mind if the plot isn’t an exact copy of the source material. If you aren’t in that group of people, you should probably steer clear of “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”