Everything about the “X-Men” movie universe comes together brilliantly in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” a superhero action thriller that will surprise newcomers and delight fans of the Marvel comic.
Director Bryan Singer neatly melds the world of mutants he first explored in “X-Men” (2000) and “X-2” (2003) with the retro chic of “X-Men: First Class” and juggles a wide assortment of characters for an exciting and sometimes moving tale.
The action starts about a decade in the future, as the Earth is laid waste by a horrific war in which mutants and many humans are massacred by Sentinels, massive and unstoppable killer robots. A few hardy mutants, led by the walking-through-walls Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), lead a last-ditch guerrilla action to keep the Sentinels at bay, but the mutants know they can’t keep running forever.
The last hope for the mutants, and for Earth itself, is a plan hatched by former opponents Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen). The plan is to use Kitty’s other mutant power — to send someone’s consciousness back in time — to stop this war before it starts. To go back that far would melt the average mutant’s brain, so the only choice for the mission is a mutant with instant healing powers: Logan, aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).
Logan’s mission is to go back to 1973 to stop the shape-shifting Raven, aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), from assassinating Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the industrialist inventor of the mutant-seeking Sentinels. Xavier and Magneto know that Mystique’s action would galvanize the humans into building the Sentinels — and that her DNA would give the Sentinels unstoppable power.
But to find Mystique, Logan first must reunite the younger Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr, alias Magneto (Michael Fassbender). It won’t be easy, since Charles is self-medicating to disable his mind-reading powers, and the metal-manipulating Erik is locked up in a ridiculously high-security location (for reasons that will make any history buff smile).
Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”) deftly move between future and past, presenting the parallel storylines coherently and gracefully. They also devise some wickedly clever action set pieces, the best of all involving the super-fast Quicksilver (Evan Peters) moving nimbly through a bunch of super-slo-mo guards to facilitate Erik’s jailbreak. (Peters’ scenes will be a tough act to follow for Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who is playing Quicksilver in next year’s “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.”)
Like the previous “X-Men” films, this one mines the Marvel title’s rich allegories of alienation, discrimination and the internal struggle between right and wrong. Lawrence is particularly touching as the emotionally wounded Raven, and both pairings of Xavier and Magneto — McAvoy and Fassbender, and Stewart and McKellen — relish their byplay, one pair as enemies, the other as forgiving friends.
The finale of “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is ridiculously action-packed and points out the inherent temptation writers face with such time-travel stories: trying to see how bad things can get before hitting the magic “reset” button. But that’s a small quibble for a movie that’s rich in characters and onscreen firepower.
‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’
Past and future intertwine in this exciting, multilayered action movie that unites the different parts of the franchise.
Where • Theaters everywhere.
When • Opens today.
Rating • PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language
Running time • 131 minutes.