Now at the seventh film in the X-Men series, one might wonder how much more anticipation the X-Men franchise can draw out from its audience, but fans still dutifully buy movie tickets and buzz about it on social media. The latest installment, X-Men: Days of Future Past (rated PG- 13 for sequences of intense sci-fi violence and action, some suggestive material, nudity, and language), pulled a solid $8.1 million on its Thursday midnight opening, and packed a decent $90.7 million over the Memorial Day weekend, the fourth biggest weekend opener of the year.
With all the superhero flicks reliably zipping out every blockbuster season—oh, what are they: Spider-Man, Batman, Ironman, Captain America, and so on—the world is apparently not weary of yet another CGI-loaded story about supernatural strength, world destruction, and self-serious allegories.
Let’s tick off the basic predictable plots: The X-Men, a minority feared and hated for their unbelievable mutant powers, are in mortal danger of being wiped out. Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) are still butting heads over philosophical differences on how to solve this prejudice issue. Formidable adversaries arise, this time in the form of mutant-proof, mutant-hunting supermachines called the Sentinels, which were created by reverse-engineering the powers of a karate-kicking, shape-shifting blue mutant called Mystique, or Raven (Jennifer Lawrence).
In Days of Future Past, the X-Men live some time in the future. They realize that by preventing Mystique from killing the maker of the Sentinels, Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the Sentinels will never be successfully created, thus preventing a war against the mutants. So they time-teleport Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 to stop Mystique. The post–Vietnam War anachronism is delightful: We meet former President Richard Nixon (Mark Camacho), see a lot of leather blazers and midriffs, and recall lava lamps and waterbeds. Wolverine does not wear bell-bottoms, unfortunately.
Lots of anger sizzles in this film, mainly among the persecuted mutants, and mainly against each other. This anger is the central drive that electrifies the plot. The young, full-haired Professor X, or Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), is a broken drunk who hates everyone, and the young handsome Magneto, or Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), is still an icy militant who hates humans.
Those unfamiliar with The X-Men series may, by the end of the movie, be panting to catch up with who’s who and what’s happening. Days of Future Past can get overwhelming with its convoluted plot, the bonus parade of unintroduced X-Men characters, and the various background storylines from previous films. But director Bryan Singer—who also directed the first two X-Men movies—manages to make the whole messy process fun and highly entertaining. To get the most out of the movie, however, do a little research into the characters, particularly on Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique.
The self-healing, brooding Wolverine, of course, is the character favorite, so much so that some fans complain that “The X-Men” should be dubbed “The Wolverine Show” instead. But a (comparably) minor X-Men character, Quicksilver (Evan Peters), steals the best scene in the movie, a little comedic piece that will probably be replayed over and over once the DVD is released. It involves a prison break, the kitchen of the Pentagon, a spontaneous coffee tasting, and a rambunctious, blithely cheerful teenager with aviator goggles and headphones.
Lofty metaphors and humanistic themes still exist, but they’re faded into the background for those who care to grasp them. As a blockbuster movie, Days of Future Past is a bag of fun, kind of like a giant Christmas sock stuffed with surprise but classic toys. But it’s little more than an entertaining show.