June 02, 2014 12:00 PM

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Hugh Jackman | PG-13 |

SCI-FI

Catching the mutants in a moment of real vulnerability, Days of Future Past tests the bonds of friendship – actually, never mind the mush. See X-Men because the high-concept plot fits together like a jigsaw; the action and special effects hit somewhere between cool and wow; and the performances couldn’t find a false note on karaoke night. See it because it’s fun. But be forewarned that you might find yourself with – I believe the clinical term is “feelings” – as the mutants turn back time to try to prevent a war they can’t win.

The enemy is destroying the X-Men. A merciless army known as the sentinels homes in on mutants, then uses suspiciously familiar morphing abilities to bring them an unfair fight. Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and her group try to hold out, but they won’t last forever. The only hope is to send Wolverine (Jackman) back to the ’70s to try to forestall what will be. That’s going to be tricky, because he first has to reunite bitter enemies Professor X (McAvoy) and Magneto (Fassbender) along with vigilante Mystique (Lawrence) while trying to stop the man behind the sentinels, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage, looking like Magnum P.I. by way of IBM).

The movie does have levity (one scene in the Pentagon is particularly cheeky). But take the laughs as they come, because even raging fights and thrilling effects can’t compete with the intensity of watching these characters come to terms with years of betrayal and resentment. That the future rests on their ability to do so puts real skin in the game, making X-Men not just a great popcorn movie but a substantial one.

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