Exploits through time

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20th Century Fox
A young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) encounters his older self (Patrick Stewart) in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which brings the element of time travel to the franchise.

‘Future Past’ bounces X-Men back to 1973

The gang’s all here in X-Men: Days of Future Past, a fanciful retelling of mutant mythology. Beginnings and endings twist themselves into entertaining pretzels as both the young and old gather for director Bryan Singer’s latest chapter in the history of our superheroes.

The theme of this X-Men can be found more in its Proustian subtitle than in the usual “outsider” vibe that runs throughout the franchise. But this new perspective does not translate onto screen as some subdued meditation. Singer, from Simon Kinberg’s screenplay, takes the opportunity to use time travel, giving the X-Men a new gimmick with which to unleash their powers.

The developing scenes align themselves after an opening attack by the robotic Sentinels when Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) arrives to inform the squad that the only way to stop the machines is to go back in time and thwart the creations of evil scientist Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). After she asks, “Is the future truly set?” Logan (Hugh Jackman) magically transports back to 1973 when the Sentinel program still remains unrealized.

Once back to the time of bad hair and wide lapels, Logan encounters a young, skeptical but mobile Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). The time traveler eventually persuades the professor of his mission: assembling the necessary team to stop Trask, who, for his part, has acquired DNA from Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) to work into his creation.

From there, others appear, such as Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who’s inconveniently incarcerated 10 stories below the Pentagon because he assassinated John F. Kennedy (don’t worry, it’s a frame-up). Director Singer seems to enjoy these human interactions, even portraying President Richard Nixon (Mark Camacho) as a gun-toting mad man.

The special effects remain somewhat blunted while the mutants and their adversaries face off, as Singer saves most of his flashy pyrotechnics until the final blowout. And despite the jumping around of time and place, Singer coherently pieces his film together, never obfuscating the plot or quick-cutting to such an extreme that the action sequences are obscured.

This X-Men may relegate some characters to lesser roles (Storm, Rogue, Iceman), but it is done to achieve an overall effect of greater clarity, and, in the process, a better movie.

BOO ALLEN is an award-winning film critic who has worked for the Denton Record-Chronicle for more than 20 years. He lives in Dallas.

MOVIE RATING

X-Men: Days of Future Past

*** 1/2

Rated PG-13, 131 minutes

Opens Friday


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