X-Men fans will see this film anticipating the pleasure of watching their favorite X-Men characters in one of the comic book series most acclaimed storylines: the time-bending saga of a desperate trip to the past to undo one tragic mistake. Wolverine, Mystique, and the old and new versions of Professor X and Magneto are all here and there are grandly staged action scenes involving the White House lawn, Chinese ruins, and a sports stadium. But the powerhouse knock-you-socks-off what-did-I-just-see moments come from a new character in the movie franchise, Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who does a little time-bending of his own in the most dull and domestic of settings, a kitchen. Well, it’s a kitchen in the Pentagon, but still. Part “Matrix,” part Chuck Jones, it is sure to be on end of the year best lists. And of course Jennifer Lawrence is terrific as the conflicted Raven/Mystique, whose loyalties shift almost as often as her chameleonic exterior, and who looks sensational in a costume so revealing that would make a Las Vegas showgirl look like she’s wearing a parka.
Marvel’s X-Men are mutants, the next stage of evolution past homo sapiens, with a range of intriguing and sometimes mutable superpowers. They also represent the next stage of evolution as superheroes, with conflicted characters and complex extended storylines that resonate the themes of societal, political, and psychological struggles. Characters go back and forth between the “good guy” (want to work with humans) and “bad guy” (believe humans can never accept or keep up with them so they should be wiped out in a Darwinian overthrow of the less-fit) teams.
We’ve seen the present-day X-Men in a trilogy of films and stand-out Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in two starring vehicles. And saw the origins of the first X-Men, Charles Xavier, known as Professor X, and Erik Lehnsherr, known as Magneto, in X-Men: First Class. Now, everything comes together in the time-travel saga “Days of Future Past,” a little bit “Terminator,” a little bit “Back to the Future,” as Wolverine goes back in time to change one event in order to prevent the creation of an army of killer robot drones that wiped out most of the mutants and humanity, too.
This will require getting the band back together, including teaming up sometime friends/sometime enemies Charles Xavier (played in the past by James McAvoy and in the present and future by Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (played in the past by Michael Fassbender and in the present and future by Ian McKellen). (Nerd note: In the comic book series, it is Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) who transmits her consciousness back in time to her younger self, but in the movie she sends Wolverine’s consciousness back to his younger self instead.) Thankfully, they minimize the “How do I know you’re really from the future?” stuff and get to the action, starting with breaking Magneto out of the most secure prison facility on earth, buried under the Pentagon. This is where Quicksilver comes in very handy.
Newcomers will enjoy the action and it may lead them to check out the earlier movies and the comics to find out more about the X-Men universe. Fanboys and fangirls will appreciate a couple of insider references. Those old enough to remember the 70’s will appreciate some insider references, too, like the recording device in Richard Nixon’s oval office and the synth-infused score. As in all the best X-Men stories, the themes feel visceral to our times — national security, the definition of “other.” Just don’t try to resolve all the temporal anomalies, and you’ll have a blast.
Parents should know that this film has extended action/comic-book humor, with many characters injured and killed, guns, explosions, fire, some graphic and disturbing images, some strong language, drug use, brief nudity and very revealing attire.
Family discussion: If you could go back in history and change one thing, what would it be? If you could have any of the powers of the X-Men, what would you choose? How should the government make decisions about threats like the X-Men?
If you like this, try: the other “X-Men” movies and “The Avengers”