Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'X-Men,' Past and Future

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

'X-Men,' Past and Future

Article excerpt

I am the guy who has been known to complain about superhero movies being too somber and serious. But I don't think it's a contradiction to celebrate that same quality in the new X-Men film.

In other comic books and movies, superheroes were usually regular folks who acquired powers through happenstance. Even if they might struggle with controlling them or the implications of their newfound responsibilities, these stories rode an underlying fantasy about becoming special.

The X-Men were always different. They were mutants, born the way they were, and their powers were not a source of joy but an instrument for prejudice and even hatred. And the stakes were always higher: X-Men comics were the only ones I read as a boy where people died on a pretty regular basis.

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" is based on a 1981 storyline in which a future was envisioned where mutants had lost the war against their kind, with most of our favorite characters having been killed by monstrous Sentinel robots. It also attempts - quite successfully in my estimation - to combine the original X-Men trilogy from the last decade with the 2011 "First Class" movie that depicted the nascent days of the mutant movement in the 1960s.

Pop culture aficionados will recognize this as "retconning," in which storytellers retroactively alter the mythology of a franchise to fit their new schemes. (They recently did this with the "Star Trek" flicks.) But this is the mother of all retconning, in which both the present and future of the X-Men, as established in the previous films, are cleverly made to go kerbloowie.

In tackling this ambitious new project, they brought back original director Bryan Singer, who along with screenwriter Simon Kinberg manage to make a movie that is at once entertaining and sobering.

There's a darkness and a grandiosity to "X-Men: Days of Future Past" that has been missing from these movies in the past.

Initially set in the near future, we witness a world where telepath Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his few surviving students fight against the Sentinels, which can adapt to and even copy the powers of mutants. …

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