Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” | 131 min. | Rated PG-13 | Director: Bryan Singer | Stars: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Evan Peters and Peter Dinklage
Different timelines are tricky to manage and can be quite difficult to watch at times, but thanks to a crisp script and a strong franchise return for director Brian Singer (“X-Men,” “X2″), we never get misplaced on the X-Men’s latest wild, entertaining ride.
Of all the “X-Men” films, this sustains the most complex game, and thankfully it makes out. When it comes down to it, each film pretty much has the same story: humans are pissed at the mutants, vice versa. But duh, when you’re working in a world like this, that’s pretty much all you can do: put a spin on that plot. I think that’s why so many of us enjoyed last year’s “The Wolverine.” Well, at least the first two-thirds of it, before it fell apart there at the end by mixing in silly villains and CGI. But ultimately, “The Wolverine” was a bit different. “Days of Future Past” is different too, and to add a little more spice to the already soothing recipe, it has strong villains with meat on their bones.
Magneto, the always devilishly good Michael Fassbender, continues to bring mayhem and long for a world where mutants will rise up and claim command. And new addition, Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”), who plays Dr. Bolivar Trask, is the “South Pole elf” from hell. He creates a horde of intelligent, death-mongering robots known as Sentinels. They have the ability to absorb mutant powers and defeat them. So, in the story, it’s up to the X-Men to go back to the past and change the course of history and stop these evil robots from ever being created.
Maybe the most telling thing about Singer’s return is how well he weaves all the disparate threads of his tale together. This is not the same Singer who gave us cinematic misfires such as “Superman Returns” (2006) and “Jack the Giant Slayer” (2013). Rather, this is Singer returning to his roots: a film with a stark blend of humor, wisdom, character and story. And where he takes “Days of Future Past,” especially the dynamic between Erik (Ian McKellan/Fassbender) and Charles (Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy), is fascinating. He adds welcome depths of emotion to the high stakes already in play. The deep, troublesome relationship between these two men has been the glue of this series, and Singer allows it to breathe and bloom.
With so many familiar faces and characters on the screen, Singer manages to give most of them their hearts and psyches. So you needn’t worry all too much there. But where you may need to worry is how familiar you are with the series.
Singer expects for his audience here to have done their homework. So, if you’re planning to head out to the theater and see the behemoth of a film, make certain you shoot the breeze (or fresh yourself up on) the original trilogy, spin-offs (well, maybe not, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009). Don’t do that to yourself.) and “First Class” (2011).
Your enjoyment depends on how much you know. And if you are a newbie, expect to find yourself lost, bewildered and maybe even bored when things aren’t jumping out at you on screen. But to everyone else, ranging from casual fans to enthusiasts, Singer crafted something truly great here. It’s the best of the franchise – steeped in history, lore and plain ol’ fun.
“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is playing everywhere today.
Feature Photo: The cast of “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
Center Photo: Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Hugh Jackman return as Beast, Prof. X and Wolverine in “Days of Future Past.” Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.