ImageIn less than 15 years, the X-Men franchise has produced a grand total of seven films, which is nothing short of an impressive feat. These films have ranged from quite good (X-Men: First Class) to downright awful (X-Men: The Last Stand), but the franchise failed to have a truly great entry until now. X-Men: Days of Future Past takes the long running superhero franchise to new heights with a dark storyline, fantastic action, plenty of emotion and strong performances from a cast that we have grown to love. This is the X-Men movie that we’ve been waiting for.

Beginning in the future, sometime after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, mutants are being wiped out by an army of robots known as The Sentinels. Not only are these Sentinels targeting mutants, but they are also targeting humans who have helped mutants or may give birth to mutants in the future. Because of their ability to adapt to changing conditions, these enemies are far too powerful for mutants to defeat. In order to prevent this future from ever happening Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973. They tell Wolverine to find their younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender) and prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from murdering the creator of the Sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), an event that ultimately triggers the dystopian future that they currently inhabit.

Most time travel movies are bound to have plot holes and continuity errors when you really stop to think about the plot. Don’t dwell on this aspect too much; it’s inevitable. The story by Simon Kinberg, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman may be complicated, but screenwriter Kinberg pieces it together with minimal fallout. The opening fifteen minutes rely heavily on exposition to set up the plot, but this is mostly forgivable because time travel can be a pain to wrap one’s mind around. Once everything is set up and Wolverine travels back to the past, confusion is practically non-existent and only a few distracting time travel questions arise throughout the course of the film.

Returning to direct his first X-Men film since 2003’s X2, Bryan Singer successfully blends both the cast from the original series with the cast from X-Men: First Class, without the film feeling convoluted. The film could have easily felt like it was trying to throw in too many characters, but Singer negates this problem by spending ample time exploring each character and their current state before moving onto the action. Several mutants who were featured prominently in First Class are notably absent here and while their exclusion was almost certainly done to prevent the film from feeling overloaded, their absence is felt and the quick explanation as to why they are gone feels disappointing.

This isn’t a film of nonstop action, but a film of characters and story. The action sequences never feel forced, feeling instead like a natural continuation of the story, making them all the more satisfying. Singer knows that the most important aspect of action sequences is to fill them with characters that we care about, which makes them all the more engaging. Due to their impressive size and strength, every scene involving the Sentinels is extremely intense and the visual effects that make them come to life are quite convincing. A prison break sequence is one of the film’s highlights, effectively mixing action and humor into a very enjoyable scene. Finally, the film’s climactic moments are a sight to behold, mixing together multiple threats, characters and timelines into a battle that has to be seen to be believed.

Returning for a seventh time as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman continues to be great in the role. Wolverine’s sense of humor is always intact and a late scene showcases Wolverine at his most emotional and Jackman genuinely pulls it off. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to excel as the young Professor Xavier and Magneto. The two of them have great chemistry together, making every scene of theirs fascinating. Having much more to do this time around than in First Class, Jennifer Lawrence successfully turns Mystique into the sexy warrior that she was in the original trilogy. Because he is a man who threatens with words and ideas, Peter Dinklage steals practically every scene that he is in as Bolivar Trask. The returning cast from the original trilogy all do a fine job in their future scenes, although several new characters who are introduced in the future timeline aren’t given any development beyond their unique abilities.

With an incredibly emotional third act that showcases an enthralling and touching score by John Ottman, X-Men: Days of Future Past could serve as a fitting finale to the long running franchise. While this isn’t the case (X-Men: Apocalypse is already scheduled for a 2016 release date), it speaks to the effectiveness of this film. Days of Future Past has the characters, action, humor and sense of fun that combine to create one of the best superhero films in years.

X-Men: Days of Future Past receives 3.5/4