A selection of X-Men from both of the recent movie iterations appears in X-Men: Days of Future Past, a fun, if confusing, outing in the X-Men universe.
Days of Future Past begins much as other X-Men movies have, with people being herded into prisons, facing near-certain death. Only this time, it’s not the Nazi past but the future (2023) when Mutants and some humans (those who have helped Mutants, those whose descendants will likely become Mutants) are hunted by robots called Sentinels. Created by the world’s governments (initially or mostly by the U.S. government) to protect humanity from the Mutant threat, Sentinels are now a nearly unstoppable force and Mutants are dying out. A few of the last remaining Mutants, including former X-Men, have the ability to keep one step ahead of the Sentinels through, oh, let’s just make this review simple and call it time travel. Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) is able to send a person’s consciousness back in time a few days to warn them that the Sentinels are going to attack a certain location. Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) believe that they might be able to stop the war before it even starts by going much further back — back to 1973 when Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the man who invented the Sentinels, was murdered. His murder kicked the Sentinel program into high gear and his murderer, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), was captured, which led scientists to use her DNA to help make the Sentinels the killing machines they became. If, Professor X and Magneto reason, they can stop Mystique, they’ll stop the Sentinel program and also save her from committing murder and going down “a darker path” in life.
A note: yeah, I’m with you, I have questions about all of this — your typical time travel paradox questions, whether 1973 is really the moment to go back to, more about the Sentinels. But these questions aren’t ever really going to be answered, along with the many others that pop up throughout the movie and at the movie’s end, so maybe just, you know, go with it.
Because of his remarkable healing powers, only Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is deemed strong enough to have his consciousness sent back to his 1973 body. He wakes up — still in his bone-claws incarnation, no Adamantium yet — and heads to find Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). So this is post-Cuban Missile crisis Charles, still suffering from the events of that day, primarily from what he sees as the betrayal that led both Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) and Mystique to leave him. His broken heart has also led to a broken head — his powers for mind-reading and control are not what they used to be.
Thusly, Wolverine has to do a bit of work to convince Charles that he is who he says he is — and that future Charles considers him a friend. Charles, Wolverine and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), who has been staying with Charles, head off to find Erik and then to Paris in hope of reaching Mystique before she can strike.
Meanwhile, back in 2023, Storm (Halle Berry), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and others prepare to fight an incoming army of Sentinels.
Days of Future Past entertains because its characters (and the actors who portray them) are entertaining. Though I’ve seen all the previous X-Men movies — even the flawed Wolverine ones — I couldn’t always remember who did what or how they died or what side they were on and why, but the movie made the emotional connections strong enough that all the backstory could stay in the background, a fun bit of texture for those who remember but not instrumental in understanding what is happening. In a movie full of stuff blowing up and people having the bejeezus beat out of them, the McAvoy-Fassbender chemistry is the most explosive thing. With Jackman and Hoult along for comic relief, the foursome makes a solid team. I don’t really know the Quicksilver (Evan Peters) backstory —though this movie’s comic beats made it easy to guess — but the character added a fun element and a really nice action sequence to the movie. Old hands at this, Stewart and McKellen do a good job of letting us see the friendship of Charles and Erik continued decades later. I don’t know that I completely buy the story or that it makes sense, but I’m in the tank for these characters and I like seeing how they work together.
I can’t speak to how the diehard fan of the comics will view this film, but for the casual fan of the movies and for movie-goers who have never entered this world before, X-Men: Days of Future Past offers a fun ride that left me eager to hang out with these characters again. B
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language. Directed by Bryan Singer with a screenplay by Simon Kinberg and a story by Jane Goldman & Simon Kinberg & Matthew Vaughn, X-Men: Days of Future Past is two hours and 12 minutes long and is distributed by 20th Century Fox.