Marks the spot

Did you notice the way the light shines an X across his face? It's very subtle.

Did you notice the way the light shines an X across his face? It's very subtle.

Rated 4.0

The X-Men franchise goes the time travel route made popular by James Cameron’s Terminator movies and the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) partakes of a unique form of time tripping, and the results are the best in the series since X-Men 2.

Another big contributor to the awesomeness of the latest installment is the return of Bryan Singer to the director’s chair. Singer piloted the first two X-Men films, and he has a nice command of the characters in their old and younger incarnations. It’s good to have him back.

The film starts in the future, where the likes of Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Wolverine have been reduced to hiding out in a dark, apocalyptic world where their enemy is a vicious robotic force called the Sentinels. Things are looking really bad for the mutants.

Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) has perfected a form of time travel to mess with the Sentinels. It involves time traveling in one’s own mind back to a particular point in one’s memory when the fabrics of time can be messed with. She can only send somebody back a few minutes or so due to brain trauma, but then it strikes the X-Men that Wolverine has those instant healing powers.

So Wolverine travels back to the early '70s, before the Sentinels go into production, and before Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) commits a murder that will doom the future. It’s a nice chance to see the Wolverine with his bone claws again and, of course, an opportunity to combine the two X-Men casts. Most of the action takes place in the past, so the X-Men: First Class cast gets most of the screen time. That means more of the terrific Michael Fassbender’s take on Magneto, who is being held in a prison underneath the Pentagon for allegedly having something to do with an infamous magic bullet. James McAvoy actually steals the show as young Xavier/Professor X, who has found a solution for his crippled legs, though it has a bad side effect.

Peter Dinklage has a pivotal role as the creator of the Sentinels, and Dinklage always adds a level of class to any project. The film also allows for a funny take on Richard Nixon (Mark Camacho), who finds himself in the middle of a mutant public relations fiasco.

Lawrence gets plenty of screen time as the young Mystique, but we never see Rebecca Romijn as the older Mystique. We do get a brief, brief glimpse of Anna Paquin’s Rogue, but her pivotal scenes wound up on the cutting room floor, according to Singer. There’s more Storm in this movie than anybody really needs, and that means there’s more than 30 seconds of Halle Berry in the film.

A welcome new addition to the cast is Evan Peters as the speedy Quicksilver. One of the film’s best sequences involves how the world looks to Quicksilver as he rearranges a gunfight with his fingertips in half a second. We see it in slow motion, with much comedic detail. It’s a brilliant moment.

This film basically allows the controllers of the X-Men universe to jettison X-Men: The Last Stand, a film made by the much-abhorred Brett Ratner and one that was not a favorite with fans. I didn’t hate that movie, but it stands alongside the mediocre X-Men Origins: Wolverine as the weakest movies in the series.

As with Star Trek, the whole system has been reconfigured with X-Men, and all options are wide open for future films. We can still get X-Men modern day stories, we can get X-Men in the past—it’s an open book. Any chance they can use the whole time travel thing on the Matrix movies, and fix those screwed-up sequels?