Release Date: May 23, 2014
Rating: PG-13 (sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity and language)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Run Time: 131 minutes
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore

So it has come to this: hunted to the edge of extinction, it is painfully obvious that the X-Men are not going to survive without help. Solving this problem will require two sets of Xs. In what may well be the most superhero-studded film ever, X-Men: Days of Future Past features the cast of the original X-Men trilogy plus their younger selves as seen in X-Men: First Class. If you're a fan of the series, all this abundance is like gorging on ice cream. On the other hand, if you're new to the X-Men universe, go catch up and come back later or you'll be hopelessly confused. (As this is number seven in the series if you include the two "Wolverine" movies, there’s a lot of catching up to do. Go on. It’ll be worth it).

Back to the future: with their very existence on the line, the only ones who can save the X-Men are themselves. Not their current, old, battle-weary selves—their younger, cooler, seventies-era selves. Yes, it’s a time-travel adventure that sends Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, Prisoners) back to the Nixon era to try to stop the war before it begins. His mission: find the young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, Penelope), reunite him with a young Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave), and stop young Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games) before she ruins things for everyone (sidenote: why are they called X-Men when so many of them are women?).

Once Wolverine wakes up in the past he has his work cut out for him. The Vietnam War has just ended and no one wants to go through another ordeal like that. Enter Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, Elf), a scientist who has developed mutant-killing machines that will keep the U.S. safe from future enemies. Empathy is not Trask's strong suit. Like concentration camp doctors in WWII, Trask is perfectly happy to "experiment" on mutants in order to perfect his machine.

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Meanwhile, back at Xavier's Institute, Charles is a broken man with few hints of the Professor he may (or may not?) become. Erik is not the easiest man to talk to for a variety of reasons that will delight conspiracy theorists. Getting them to work together will take all Wolverine's powers of persuasion.

Like most Marvel films, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a fun, fast-paced romp. There's plenty of humor, sly references to previous films, visual jokes, and some perfectly-placed music. The seventies vibe is omnipresent with polyester shirts, bad hair, Richard Nixon (Mark Camacho), rampant smoking, and so on.  My favorite scene, hands down, was watching time pass at the speed of Quicksilver (Evan Peters). No spoilers here, but at my screening the film crashed and had to be restarted so we saw that scene twice. It was just as good the second time around.

As might be expected, the special effects are stellar and the 3D is probably worth the extra cost (unless you don't like roller coasters; the opening credits were downright dizzying). One quibble: at one climactic point the attacking machines looked like nothing so much as flying electric shavers, which did not quite achieve the desired ominous effect.

With so many characters to attend to, there's not a lot of time for any deep personal growth. They do squeeze in a little, but mostly this is about watching familiar characters in unfamiliar situations and attitudes... although some awesome fights and killer robots certainly don't hurt.

"Just because someone stumbles, it doesn't mean they've lost their way forever," the Professor says. On the other hand, it doesn't mean they'll change their wicked ways, either. It boils down to our old question of free will vs. predestination: is the future set or can it be changed? With this solid entry in the X-Men series (thank you, Bryan Singer, for coming back to direct) the future of this series appears to be set for some time to come.

CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Quite a lot of smoking and drinking; people shown drunk; some drug use (addiction to medication).
  • Language/Profanity: a**hole, holy sh**, he**, pi**- and f-off, and da**
  • Sex/Nudity: In her natural state one of the mutants is not technically clothed, but her 'skin' is basically blue feathers and scales and has the effect of a body stocking. Man and woman shown sleeping in bed together with the inference that they were doing more than sleeping the night before. Man's bare chest and backside shown (briefly). Brief shots of deep cleavage. A man orders a woman to remove her clothes (and is made to regret it).
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense: It's an action movie and as such has a significant amount of hand-to-hand (or what passes for an alien's hand) combat, torture, explosions, and peril. Several characters are run through with large pointy things. People are shot, necks are broken, a character is pulled in two (surprisingly not as gory as it sounds), another is impaled with rebar, there’s a lot of alien menace, and so on.

Publication date: May 23, 2014