The newest entry in the X-Men series is vibrant and entertaining, I’m happy to say… but only if you’re a dedicated follower. Like some other continuing movie sagas, this one assumes you’ve seen all the previous films and memorized its characters’ relationships. That includes the 2011 reboot, X-Men: First Class, which cleverly introduced James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the younger versions of Professor X and Magneto. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are still around to lend their imposing presence and effortless gravitas, but the action is in the hands of their youthful alter egos, along with the time-traveling Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman.
The story, by Simon Kinberg, begins in a dismal future where the Mutants are being slaughtered by an army of deadly Sentinels, which were invented by an ambitious scientist played by Peter Dinklage. The only way to survive is to send someone back in time to alter history and, in so doing, change this outcome. Wolverine is chosen as the likeliest one to endure the difficult transition. His mission: return to 1973 and stop shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating the power-hungry Dinklage. In order to do this, Wolverine must earn the trust of both Charles Xavier/ Professor X and Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, who are at that moment sworn enemies.
Thus the stage is set for conflict, in two time frames, and challenges galore. Director Bryan Singer manages to keep this busy screenplay on track most of the time, with the aid of his likable cast and a nonstop parade of arresting visual effects. There are even a few moments of humor involving a young Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters, who is featured in a bravura sequence at the Pentagon that understandably has audiences cheering—and laughing.
Longer than it needs to be, X-Men: Days of Future Past threatens to wear out its welcome toward the climax, but Singer wraps things up in satisfactory fashion. His longtime editor, John Ottman, provides a suitably muscular music score.
The characters of young Charles and Erik are fairly superficial and straightforward, and with this second go-round there’s no longer novelty value in seeing two of this generation’s most talented actors inhabit the roles. Some series veterans like Halle Berry as Storm have little to do, while other members of the mutant team are just along for the ride. On the plus side, Nicholas Hoult provides solid support as Hank McCoy in the extended flashback story.
Overall, I’d rate this as a good, if unexceptional, installment in the series. I don’t think faithful fans will be disappointed.