X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2014)

Rating: ****
Release Date: 5/23/14
Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Ellen Page, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Peter Dinklage, Shawn Ashmore, Josh Helman, Bingbing Fan, cameos by Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Kelsey Grammer, Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Chris Claremont

Let me just get this out up front. I HATE time travel stories, so this movie is a hard sell and will make your brain explode if you put any amount of thought into it. Fortunately, there's enough action to keep your mind off of the bigger picture, and the cast delivers some excellent and compelling performances. Sometime in the near future, the world is on the brink of annihilation as an army of unstoppable Sentinels is close to wiping out all of mutantkind along with any humans that might be capable of producing mutant offspring. It's a grim global holocaust in the name of security and survival, which is incidentally the exact same plot as "Captain America: Winter Soldier" which came out just a few weeks earlier. Desperate and quickly running out of time, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) decide to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into the past to try and prevent the war from happening, and hopefully set humanity on a more peaceful course. But it won't be easy, because he has to convince the younger versions of Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to work together towards this outlandish goal. Everything eventually works itself out, which effectively reboots the entire franchise and feels like a giant cop-out.

Fortunately, the acting is quite good and the action scenes are exciting and well executed. The film also manages to cram in cameos from nearly every character in the series, which is a notable feat and rather exasperating. Peter Dinklage brings a note of sympathy and sincerity to his megalomaniacal villain, who takes good intentions to brutal and horrifying extremes. Jennifer Lawrence is delightful as Mystique, and her fight choreography is mesmerizing. Watching her in action is definitely the highlight of the film. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender give riveting performances as bitter and heartbroken rivals, and Hugh Jackman is basically just the glue that binds everything and everyone together. It's a great looking film that hits all of the right emotional notes and maintains a constant sense of dread and doom, but I felt like something was missing and I can't quite put my finger on it. Regardless, the "X-Men" franchise is back on track and the next film is already in the works.