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Daze of Future Past: X Men, Again, by Rob Williams (FILM REVIEW)


Are we humans destined to destroy ourselves like so many species before us?

Or can we evolve fast enough to change our fate?

Is the future truly set?

So muses Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) at the beginning of director Bryan Singer’s lavishly-funded new “X Men: Days Of Future Past,” one of the first Hollywood blockbusters of the summer 2014 season. Important questions, all three, symbolizing what has sometimes separated the X Men series from many other Hollywood comic book superhero vehicles: pseudo-scientific smarts, relevant social themes (genetic differences, the problem of the Other, and other meditations on human relations) and a sense of immediate connection to our own time.

Yet, Singer’s new X Men film feels surprisingly “ho hum,” despite a star-studded cast (cue the usual suspects, plus Jennifer Lawrence and Peter Dinklage, the dwarf actor of “Game of Thrones” fame) and several impressive action sequences, including the effortless levitation of an entire professional sports stadium in the film’s climactic scene. The ham-handed plot, in a nutshell, may be part of the problem. So-called Mutants, humans-turned-X Men (and Women) who have genetically evolved to harness special super powers, exist in uneasy coexistence with normal folks, and now face a new threat: Sentinels, monster robotic machines who can defeat and destroy Mutants by absorbing their powers. As our film opens, X Man Logan/Wolverine (the well-endowed and spikily coiffed Hugh Jackman, whose muscles and ademantium claws seem to get larger with each new installment, but whose nicotine/cigar addiction remains) is transported back in time to alter events leading to Sentinel creation. Ah, the old time travel trope.

This throwback to the 1970s (the Vietnam War is winding down, concerns about mutants are ramping up) brings our man Wolvie into uneasy collaboration with really trashy Seventies fashion wear, as well as a rogue band of Mutants led by Eric/Magneto (Played in the future by Ian McKellen – think Gandalf with teeth, while Michael Fassbender reprises Magneto’s role in the past, with a JFK assassination tie-in to boot) and shape shifter Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence – red-haired, yellow-eyed, and sporting a skin-tight blue body suit), along with their merry band of highly-evolved prankster baddies.

Turns out, Raven’s DNA is in danger of being weapon’ized by those preparing to run the Sentinels. Worse, Wolverine discovers that a young Xavier from the past at first refuses to help Wolverine of the future in his quest. Once the good professor comes to his senses, dramatic tension and lots of action sequences and special FX ensue, as a young Magneto and Raven jockey for power with Xavier and Wolverine against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. If this summary sounds a bit convoluted, remember this is a Hollywood summer superhero film – action and one-liners trump both plot and reason, and judgment must be suspended at will.

Back to our three questions. As we humans in the real world of the 21st century come to grips with the big questions of our new millennium – climate change, Peak Oil, an over leveraged U.S. Empire that is spinning out of control – we don’t have the luxury of time travel, super heroes, magical powers, or genetic evolution to save us. “Countless choices decide our fate,” the film rightly concludes, “the future is never truly set.” The takeaway here? Only we ordinary humans can “evolve” ourselves if human civilization is to survive and thrive. Wolverine and Xavier cannot save us. We must all be X Men and Women now.

Rob Williams is the publisher of

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This entry was posted on May 30, 2014 by in culture, environment, Finance, Media, Politics.

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