Seeing The New 'X-Men'? Take Along A Teenager To Explain

Seeing The New 'X-Men'? Take Along A Teenager To Explain

6:36pm May 23, 2014
Professor Xavier and Magneto scheme to send Wolverine back to the Nixon-era past to avert a devastating war in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Professor Xavier and Magneto scheme to send Wolverine back to the Nixon-era past to avert a devastating war in X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Alan Markfield/Twentieth Century Fox

The final "X" in the 20th Century Fox logo glows for an extra second as X-Men: Days of Future Past gets started, but what follows is darker than dark — a bleak, dire future in which all of Manhattan is a mutant prison camp. The Sentinels (soldier-robots crafted with shape-shifter mutant DNA, and therefore adaptively lethal) are hunting down the few mutants still on the loose, while Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) are hatching a scheme with Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) to send Hugh Jackman's Wolverine — or at any rate, his consciousness — back in time to the Nixon years to stop the mutant war before it starts.

"What's the last thing you remember?" wonders the professor in a whisper at one point, and though he's addressing Wolverine, that's not an idle question where the audience is concerned, at least those of us who've stopped reading comic books.

Kids, who maybe can't memorize state capitals, have no trouble keeping straight the names and powers of dozens of mutants in this series, not to mention the twice as many actors who've played them in six pictures across 14 years. Me, not so much, so when I went to see the movie, I took along a 16-year-old, and when I had problems, I'd whisper "Who's that?" and she'd whisper "Quicksilver" and I'd be OK.

Quicksilver (Evan Peters here, though the vagaries of studio contracts mean that he'll be played by Godzilla-chaser Aaron Taylor-Johnson in Disney's Avengers 2) is the coolest of this picture's new guys, zipping around so fast in a niftily conceived, enjoyably prankish slow-mo sequence in the Pentagon kitchen that he can taste soup, rearrange guards' limbs, and nudge bullets off their trajectories all in the time it takes to blink.

Everything about him is crystal clear. But X-Men: Days of Future Past is, as that title suggests, deliberately tricky — designed by director Bryan Singer to allow the audience to geek out as comic-book tropes get rejiggered and previous movies sidestepped through time-travel.

It's all but impossible to talk about the plot without spoilers, so I'll just say that everybody's acting up a storm (not to be confused with Halle Berry's briefly seen character, Storm), that someone should've thought of more for Jennifer Lawrence to do, that the special effects, while spectacular, have nothing on Mark Camacho's terrific Nixon impersonation, that the film is awesomely urgent and utterly forgettable all at once, and that it left the 16-year-old I went with bouncing with adrenaline even as she snorted derisively at what she regarded as crazy plot missteps.

She has, let me just say, the makings of a fine critic.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" is the 7th movie in the Marvel Comics franchise that has made more than $2 billion at the box office.

A couple of movies ago, fans were saying X-Men's mutants were losing their mojo. But now, critic Bob Mondello says they've gotten it back.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: The film starts in darkness, a dire future, all of Manhattan of mutant prison camp, monstrous soldier robots hunting down the few mutants still on the loose, and Professor Xavier hatching a scheme to send Hugh Jackman's Wolverine back in time to the Nixon years to stop the mutant war before it starts.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST")

PATRICK STEWART: (as Professor Xavier) What's the last thing you remember?

MONDELLO: This is not an idle question - even for the audience - at least of us who've stopped reading comic books.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST")

STEWART: (as Professor Xavier) I had a glimpse into the past.

MONDELLO: Kids who can't memorize state capitals have no trouble keeping straight the names and powers of dozens of mutants, plus the twice as many actors who've played them in six pictures across 14 years. My memory is not that good. So when I went to see the movie, I took a 16-year-old...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST")

STEWART: (as Professor Xavier) You'll need me as well.

MONDELLO: And when I had problems, I'd whisper, who's that? And she'd whisper Quicksilver and I'd be OK.

Quicksilver is the coolest of this picture's new guys, in the film's most enjoyably prankish he's zipping around so fast that speeding bullets appear stationary.

Everything about him is crystal clear. "X-Men: Days of Future Past," though is as that title suggests, deliberately tricky - designed by director Bryan Singer to allow the audience to geek out as comic-book tropes get rejiggered and previous movies sidestepped through time-travel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST")

HUGH JACKMAN: (as Wolverine) You and I are going to be good friends.

(as Wolverine) You just don't know it yet.

MONDELLO: It is all but impossible to talk about the plot without spoilers, so I'll just say that everybody's acting up a storm - not to be confused with Halle Berry's character, Storm - that the special effects, while spectacular, have nothing on Mark Camacho's terrific Nixon impersonation, and that "Days of Future Past" left the 16-year-old I went with bouncing with adrenaline even as she snorted derisively at what she regarded as crazy plot missteps.

She has, let me just say, the makings of a fine critic.

I'm Bob Mondello. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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