It's a sobering moment in a nerd's life when the comic book movie finally loses its appeal.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST is the latest installment in the superhero franchise, and it's about as well-done as these movies can be. The story is tight, the characters are compelling and the action sequences are bananas.
But there's a limit, I think, to how many times you can watch super-powered heroes save the world—or in this case, the entire space-time continuum—and still care.
Based on a famous story arc from the comics' 1980s heyday, Days of Future Past features a clever time-twisting plot that unites most of the original cast, led by Patrick Stewart's Professor X, with the new kids from the 2011 reboot X-Men: First Class, including Jennifer Lawrence.
The story begins in a near-future dystopia where hyper-advanced robots known as Sentinels have imprisoned all the world's mutant superheroes and their human sympathizers. Wolverine (the always-game Hugh Jackman) must travel from 2023 back to 1973 and prevent the government weapons program that created the Sentinels.
Parallel plotlines ensue, with our 2023 heroes holding off the invulnerable Sentinels while the '70s crew fights to create an alternate future. Befitting Lawrence's new star status, she plays a central role as Mystique, the basically naked blue-skinned shape-shifter whose moral choices will determine which future wins out.
A few new characters are introduced, including the speedster Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who completely steals the movie in a spectacular shootout. As time slows to a crawl, he takes a leisurely stroll through the carnage, rearranging bullets and other projectiles. Director Bryan Singer elevates the bullet-time digital effects to a new level of awesomeness (there is no other word), then adds Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle" as an inspired musical counterpoint.
The other showstopper sequences never approach this level of playful invention, and the frantic climax ends on the bewildering note to which all time-travel paradox stories seem fated. By invoking the possibility of endless alternate timelines—a ploy done to death in the comic book world—Singer raises the stakes one wager too far. The relentless crises on our Earth already strain plausibility; crises on infinite Earths make it really hard to care. Still, on the chance that you do, stick around for a post-credits scene to see what's on tap next.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Bullet time."