In 2000, the first 'X-Men' movie was directed by a guy known for award-winning dramas (Bryan Singer). Mind you, this was three years after 1997's 'Batman and Robin', arguably the worst mainstream superhero movie ever made (Steel, Supergirl, Catwoman and Elektra were all spin-offs) and so the superhero movie genre needed a boost. Today, superhero movies are such a "thing" that a few bad ones can come out and people still realize that the next one might be cool. But back then, the Batman franchise was dead. No one had made a Superman movie in years and Marvel wasn't doing what they are today (through any studio or their own), so the first 'X-Men', with good actors, where the science fiction elements were taken seriously, was quite a breakthrough 14 years ago.
Of course, Bryan Singer directed the first X-Men and the brilliant sequel X2 before killing two franchises by directing 'Superman Returns' and letting Brett "Rush Hour" Ratner direct the 3rd X-Men, killing off a number of main characters, thinking it was going to be the last one and "curing" others of their powers. Yes, "death" in a sci-fi movie is reversible through cloning or time travel (as this movie proves) or transferring your consciousness into your twin brothers' body, but the thing that fans hated the most about the third one is the way the Phoenix storyline was handled. Instead of being an entity from space like in the comics, the Phoenix was a part of Jean's brain that Professor X tried to steal off and it got mad. Personally, I liked the "cure for mutation" storyline from X3, but they made the Phoenix lame.
So, now, the original director, the one that should have directed X3, is back. We have most of the original X-Men back in their roles and their younger versions from 'X-Men: First Class' in a time travelling X-Men story, one of the most acclaimed from the comic books 'Days of Future Past'. Since it's been a few years since X3, the actors look a little older, so seeing them in a futuristic landscape where everything has been wiped out by mutant-hunting Sentinel robots makes sense. Think the future flashbacks from 'Terminator' with cooler robots. The X-Men, including a few new characters you might remember from the comics or 1990's cartoon (Bishop has a small, but cool role) are at war with the Sentinels. Kitty Pryde has figured out a way to send people's consciousness back in time to their younger body, but she can only send people back a few days or a week at a time. She has been doing this to warn the X-Men's past selves about the Sentinels whenever they do attack. The Sentinels kill a bunch of X-Men, she sends someone back a few days and they can move somewhere else. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. (Iceman has a pretty cool "death" that is erased by time travel.)
Thing is, sending someone's mind back through time takes a toll on the body, which is why Kitty only does it a week at a time. Buuut, what if someone's body could heal super fast? Enter everyone's favorite X-Men, whether you think it's stupid that he's always the star when it's supposed to be a team effort or not, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is the one who can go back in time to the one event that started this dark future. 50 years in the past. 1973. Futire Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and future Magneto (Ian McKellen) are friends in the future and they tell Wolverine that he must get them to unite in a time where they couldn't have been further apart. This includes convincing a drugged-out 1970's Professor X that he is from the future, freeing Magneto from a prison many feet under the Pentagon (without Charles' powers, because he's taken a drug that allows him to walk again, but removes his mind powers) AND...stopping young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the man who built the Sentinels in the first place. Not only does seeing a mutant kill a public figure make normal people hate mutants even more (making the President employ the Sentinels), but when Mystique is captured, her shape-shifting DNA is used on future upgrades, making the Sentinels deadlier in the future. All the actors are great in their roles. And personally, I felt that the one thing that X3 did right was humanizing Charles Xavier by giving him an "edge", instead of him "just" being the wise mentor. This movie certainly does that with the young version (James McAvoy) by showing him at a low point in his life.
Ever since it was announced that Bryan Singer would be directing 'Days of Future Past', there was alot of fan talk online about whether he would acknowledge X3, which he did not direct, nor did fans like. Well, while this movie can be enjoyed by someone who has never seen an X-Men film before, but who enjoys dark sci-fi, it is also kind of like that speech in the 2009 Star Trek reboot on the bridge of the Enterprise where they talk about an alternate reality. Basically, the director's way of explaining why he changed a bunch of stuff. Well, without spoiling too much, this movie is like that. A combination of Bryan Singer trying to fix the effects of X3...or maybe just his own feelings about starting over and doing better. Either way, I would just watch this movie as a stand alone film and not try to tie in in to lore too much, but it does reboot somewhat.
Much has been made too about how Professor X being alive after being killed in X3 isn't really explained. I assume that those reviews did not watch the after-credits scene from X3, which plays off an earlier scene and in which Professor X has transferred his consciousness into another body with his powers. Comic book fans know that the other guy was his twin brother, so, yeah...Patrick Stewart is in this movie and he's great as always even though he got vaporized by lame Phoenix n X3. And ignore those goofy pictures of Quicksilver that you saw in EW magazine. His character and his small role is awesome, he helps to free Magneto from prison, steals the scenes he is in and yes, they do acknowledge (but do not elaborate on) "where he comes from". Oh, and we see him hugging his little sister at the end, so, um, yeah Scarlet Witch is in this movie too, but not really. (More on her when Avengers 2 comes out) Anyway, lots of nods to previous versions of the X-Men for longtime fans.
Bottom line, 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' is a great time travel movie with alot of great twists and turns along the way. I love the way they tied everything in to real history the way "First Class" talked about the Cuban Missile crisis and JFK. In this movie, we see mutants fighting in Vietnam, Richard Nixon is a character and we learn which ex-President (X-President) was really a mutant. All in all, a great movie with an after-credits scene that you will have to explain to non-comic book fans, but that makes you psyched for the (Bryan Singer's) next X-Men film. 4.5 Sentinels out of 5.
PARENTS GUIDE: Professor X repeats the line that Wolverine said to him during his cameo in 'X-Men: First Class'. So, yeah, one F-bomb that this movie could have done without. Just sayin'.