Back in 1981, the X-Men two-issue storyline Days of Future Past gave comic book readers a bleak future where everything was bleak, their favorite characters could die, and it could all be fixed with time travel.  This story gets expanded on, and ties the previous X-Men films together, with X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Days of Future Past opens in a bleak year 2023 (in which apparently black and gray are the standard colors for, well everything).  Sentinels -- giant robots that can adapt to almost anything -- have killed or enslaved both humans and mutants.  A bunch of mutants -- including Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Erik Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen), and Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) -- have been surviving by having Kitty Pryde send a mutant's mind back to before any Sentinel attack, allowing that mutant to warn the others and avoid the attack before it happens.  This gives the others an idea to stop the war.
According to the survivors, things went downhill in 1973 when Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, whose critical and popular success guarantee Rebecca Rominj won't be taking over the role she originated) killed Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), creator of the Sentinels.  Trask's death led the public to support the Sentinel program; and somehow Raven/Mystique's blood led to their adaptive abilities that made them so dangerous.  They decide to send the mind of Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973, to stop Mystique -- and to unite the younger Charles and Erik to help him do it.  But the future mutants have to do this before the Sentinels catch up to them -- and Logan has to stay calm to maintain the link.
Unfortunately, when Logan gets to 1973 things are pretty bad.  The younger Charles (James McAvoy) is a broken man.  He's lost all faith in his mission since losing a lot of mutant teachers and students to the Vietman war (plus the ones Trask tortured and killed in developing the Sentinels); he's also been drinking heavily and using a drug that lets him walk but suppresses his powers.  His student Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) also uses the drug to keep from transforming into a blue, furry creature.  Erik (Michael Fassbender) has been imprisoned for having a role in the Kennedy assassination, while Raven/Mystique seems more focused on killing Trask for what he's done to her fellow mutants.  And while the Sentinels provide a ticking clock in the future, the past has twists and betrayals of its own...
Days of Future Past is both a solid and flawed movie.  While the story in 1973 works well by focusing just on Charles, Erik, Logan and Mystique (plus a nice role by Evan Peters as Pietro/Quicksilver, the speedster who helps free Erik -- and whose character will be in The Avengers: Age of Ultron), the future has a large number of mutants who are defined by their powers and in the movie to make fans of the comics happy ("There's Colossus!  There's Blink!  There's Bishop!") and provide some action.  The conflict between young Charles and Erik is good (Charles blames Erik for killing to advance his cause; Erik blames Charles for hiding while Trask destroyed mutants), there are some nice bits of humor (a young Logan surprised he doesn't set off a metal detector, Quicksilver's super-speed scene set to the song "Time in a Bottle"), and most of the acting is quite good.  The future scenes often felt excessively violent -- including some deaths that could have been Fatalities out of Mortal Kombat -- and plenty of cameos were done to tie the movies together instead of adding to the story.  The acting is good, and the resolution revolves around ideas and hope more than using powers to attack each other.

X-Men: Days of Future Past ends with a potential reboot of the X-Men movie franchise.  While this movie had as many problems as strengths, I am curious to see what happens next.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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