This sequel fully revives the well-known superhero franchise through a whirlwind of action and emotion.
Warning: Some spoilers are ahead.
One would be hard-pressed to deny that 2006's X-Men: Last Stand was quite the unsatisfactory exit for Marvel's popular franchise. The 2011 prequel, X-Men: First Class, revived the franchise with a fresh, fierce experience for comic book and casual fans alike and also provided the perfect opportunity to make up for the trilogy's end. Its follow-up, the studio bigwigs decided, would merge timelines with the ended trilogy. With Bryan Singer back at the helm, who directed the first two X-Men films and produced the prequel, it's no surprise that X-Men: Days of Future Past does the impossible and brings back the X-Men series for a second, undoubtedly more than adequate go-round.
The film opens at an undetermined time after the events of X-Men: Last Stand in a dystopian future. Mutant-hunting robots known as Sentinels oppress both humans and mutants, not only exterminating those with mutated genes but also humans whose offspring may inherit them. A small group of mutants manages to survive, thanks to Kitty (Ellen Page) and her ability to send a person's consciousness to the past with a warning. Upon meeting with another group of mutants that includes Professor X/Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr (Sir Ian McKellen), they create a plan to use Kitty's power to change the course of events.
In 1973, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) killed Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) but was then captured whereupon her DNA was used to create the Sentinels. Professor X and Magneto believe that if they can stop Mystique, they can change the future. They choose to send Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) as he is the only one who can survive the danger of the trip.
Logan wakes up in 1973 and seeks out the young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). Upon arriving at the school, he finds it empty, since most of the students have been drafted to go to Vietnam. Its only occupants are Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) and a distraught and disheveled Charles, who has lost his powers thanks to a serum that affects his nervous system to allow him to walk. Despite his initial refusal, Charles eventually agrees to help Logan find and stop Mystique, though he is miffed to find out that they need to get Erik (Michael Fassbender) for their plan to work. The problem is that Erik is currently locked up in an underground prison cell beneath the Pentagon because he assassinated President JFK.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, in Saigon, Mystique is busy at work, helping to protect her fellow mutants. She disguises herself as usual and manages to help a group of mutant American soldiers escape from William Stryker (Josh Helman). Working with Trask, Stryker planned to hand them over for research. Skeptical of Trask, Mystique investigates him and discovers that he has captured and tortured mutants for experiments. Full of anger and pain, she resolves to kill him and end his work, not even realizing what the consequences of her actions may be for everyone.
The power of X-Men: Days of Future Past is the dramatic irony. With the nonlinear nature of the film's narrative, it is unsurprisingly suspenseful. Director Bryan Singer's brief jumps to the future remind us just how important every action and its impact are while heightening the tension further. The time shifts gradually increase in frequency closer and closer to the end, leading to an emotionally taut nail-biter of a climax and satisfying payout.
Despite its lack of an actual villain, the movie is still powerful as its focus is on the core characters and their development. With Wolverine as the anchor, it feeds on the strong, emotional performances from the actors, especially James McAvoy. X-Men: Days of Future Past shows the tremendous changes these characters have gone through to become their future selves but also doesn't forget to knock the breath out of viewers with plenty of fast-paced action.
Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox and Marvel.