In a grim gray future, giant flying robots are blasting the bejesus out of a shrinking band of X-Men, turning the mutants’ super powers against them and pushing them to the brink of extinction. What to do? Why, hold a meeting, that’s what.
This does not bode well.
But wait. Have patience. Director Bryan Singer has a whole lot of setting up to do in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
There’s a tricky take on time travel. There’s an all-out war against not only mutantkind but all of humankind as well. Plus, the picture has to blend the X worlds presented in the first three “X-Men” movies (the first two directed by Singer) and the world of 2011’s “X-Men: First Class,” featuring the young versions of Professor X, Magneto and other characters. It must also incorporate elements of the “Wolverine” stand-alone movies.
That’s a lot of ground to cover.
So as those robots are closing in, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) have to hunker down, review history and hash out how to short-circuit the impending robopocalypse and give the world a happier future. After much back-and-forth, the decision is made to use Kitty’s special time-jumping ability to send Wolverine’s consciousness back from the future to his younger self in the 1970s. (Only he can go because only someone with his regenerative powers can survive the brain-frying trauma of the time jump.)
The ’70s are when the seeds of destruction were planted in a complicated scenario involving a mutant-hating, robot-creating mad scientist (Peter Dinklage), a vengeful shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), an embittered and diminished (he’s lost his mind-reading superpower!) young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and an imprisoned Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Wolverine must somehow persuade Xavier to overcome his hopelessness and help save the world. First though, he has to convince Xavier that he’s come from the future.
When Wolverine makes the jump to the past, this “X-Men” quickly gathers steam, complexity and moral dimension. It becomes ever more powerful as it progresses, largely due to the finely shaded performances of McAvoy and Lawrence, both playing characters who are emotionally damaged and full of pain.
Singer, intimately familiar with the X-world, navigates the plot’s intricacies with impressive assurance. Overflowing with top-notch special effects, the movie is mostly, and understandably, grim.
But Singer lightens things up with some clever digs at the ’70s and with a very funny sequence in which a smart-alecky and super-speedy character named Quicksilver (Evan Peters, in a breakout performance) deflects bullets with flicks of his fingers and an impish grin.
Once it reaches takeoff velocity, “Days of Future Past” becomes one of the best installments in the “X-Men” series.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
* * * *
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page, Ian McKellen, Peter Dinklage, Evan Peters
Director: Bryan Singer
Running time: 2:11
Rated: PG-13; sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language.