X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Holt, Kelsey Grammer, and Peter Dinklage. Directed by Bryan Singer.
In some future time, mutants (and their supporters) are being exterminated by Sentinels, robot-like things that have Mystique’s powers of transformation. To combat this, Shadowcat has been sending other mutants’ consciousnesses back in time, to warn their recent past selves of the impending danger, so the mutants can go elsewhere. This affects their present so that they were never where the Sentinels show up, a kind of going back in time to prevent a bad present.
But it’s not enough; the Sentinels can’t be held off like this forever. So Charles Xavier’s plan is to send someone’s consciousness back to 1973 to prevent the murder Mystique committed that resulted in her being captured and experimented on, which gave the government the knowledge for the creation of the Sentinels. Shadowcat can’t go herself, because she didn’t exist in 1973, and the strain on even the formidable mind of Xavier would be too great to survive. So Wolverine of the self-healing mind* volunteers to convince Xavier and Eric Lensherr to help him stop Mystique. Xavier, remembering what he was like in 1973, warns Logan that he will “not be easy to convince.”
Wolverine’s present mind goes back to his 1973 self, which is a genius move for the writers, because rather than putting makeup on Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Romijn, Ian McKellen, and Kelsey Grammer to make them look decades younger, the film just uses the cast from X-Men: First Class. I love this.
The premise is so good that even a so-so realization would still have made this a pretty good film, but the writers and director have fun with the back-in-time bit, and they play with the suspense so it’s enjoyable without being manipulative. Jackman and McAvoy are excellent, loaded with all kinds of dark conflict—McAvoy’s Xavier manages to out-dark Logan in this film, and this is a very good thing. The continued friendship-rivalry between Xavier and Lehnsherr keeps working. It’s one of the best things about the X-Men series, and X-Men: Days of Future Past is possibly my favorite of the X-Men movies.
*I love the premise, but if I understand Wolverine correctly, it’s his body that recovers from injury, which means his brain regenerates, not necessarily his mind. If his mind heals itself, why can’t he heal the parts of his memory that Stryker has taken away from him?