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Arts & Entertainment Presented by Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts

Cinema in Focus

Cinema in Focus: ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’

By Hal Conklin and Denny Wayman | @CinemaInFocus |

3 Stars — Thought-provoking

Marvel's newest X-Men film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, is so fast-paced that it is exhausting. Additionally, the critique that you need to be a fan of the series in order to understand an individual film is especially true in this latest chapter. This is accentuated in part because the past and present are woven together in such a way that there are dual actors playing the same character in the past and present, and this film spins a tale with intriguing complications both in the characters' development and the timeline of events in the storyline itself.

Directed by Bryan Singer (Valkyrie, Superman Returns), who has been involved with the franchise on various levels in previous films, X-Men: Days of Future Past was written by Jane Goldman, Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn with Kinberg taking responsibility for the screenplay. This excellent team has produced a tale as complex as it is intriguing.

The ensemble cast is well known to all who are fans and allows us to compare the various actors as they play the same characters 50 years apart. However, a dual actor is not necessary to portray a 50-year younger Logan the Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) because Logan has the unique healing ability that has not only kept him from aging over the years, but he is also the only one who can handle the physical difficulty of having his mind projected back so far in time.

Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart) is a fascinating study and demonstrates the maturity the years have developed in Professor X. This is also true of Eric Lehnsherr/Magnito (Michael Fassbender and Ian McKellen), whose struggle with his own ambition wrecked havoc both within the history of the world and within his own relationships.

Also playing major roles among the other mutants is Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Storm (Morgan Lilly and Halle Berry), Hank/Beast (Nicholas Hoult and Kelsey Grammer), Peter/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and the complex industrial scientist Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).

The underlying message that we need not fear the unusual person, who is analogically presented as a mutant in the X-Men films, is once more the theme and, once again, fear is shown to be the greater danger. The battle for superiority and the right of might is present on all sides as mutants struggle with one another, as industry struggles with government and everyone struggles with adapted machines. In all of these conflicts, it is clear that it is humanity as a whole who is the loser.

The time travel of this film also shows that if we are to have the future we all desire, we need to start finding ways now to end the fear and begin to find ways to trust and cooperate with one another. With that message, we can all agree.


» When you meet a human being with a unique difference, what does that cause you to feel? Do you accept them and offer them the opportunity to work together or avoid them? If you avoid them, what do you think happens within them?

» The overwhelming loss with which Xavier struggled as a young man caused him to escape into drug abuse. How often do you think drug abuse is fueled by grief? Why do you answer as you do?

» Without spoiling the film, how do you think the future of the world continued after the end of the film? Were the mutants at peace only because they were isolated in Xavier's school? Why or why not?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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