(Bryan Singer, 2014)
With their thunder well and truly stolen by the Avengers franchise, the X-Men films reach a seventh instalment, needing a reinvigoration. So they return to basic principles: Bryan Singer, director of the first two films, returns, as does most of his cast, joining forces with the cast of the prequel X-Men: First Class to create an Epic, time-travel superhero story based on one of the most beloved stories from over 50 years of X-Men comics.
And Singer brings some quality back with him; this is the best X-Men film since X2, and feels the most closely related to the comics in the entire series, filled as it is with geek references and easter eggs, its ragged, messy plotting fusing a few outstanding set-pieces together by leaning on the familiarity of its strongest characters.
The plot kicks off decades in the future, when shape-shifting, seeming unbeatable robots known as sentinels have ravaged the earth, killing mutants or anybody whose genes might produce a mutant somewhere down the line. X-Men fight them in little bands. At this point, an elderly Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) come up with a plan to use the phasing power of Shadowcat (Ellen Page) to send the consciousness of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to drop into his younger body in the early 1970s, before the pivotal act which would kick off the sentinel programme can take place.
When he gets there, Wolverine must find the younger versions of the Professor (James McEvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) in order to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), creator of the sentinels. Along for the ride is Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and briefly - and thrillingly - Quicksilver (Evan Peters), whose slo-mo super-speed decimation of some security guards set to Jim Croce may be the best and wittiest action scene in this entire series.
The plot flits from New York to Paris to Washington, and from present to past to future, but Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg keep it all surprisingly comprehensible and the sheer amount of incident means that it never gets dull. Indeed, it fairly whips along without pause from the opening battle with sentinels to Wolverine's fight with Beast to the climactic cross-cutting of Magneto taking down the White House with a last stand in the future.
The fact that audiences know these characters so well helps immeasurably - the story just kicks in and rolls along without many introductions. The cast are probably a bit better than this material deserves; Fassbender and Lawrence, particularly, make their characters terrifyingly, believably intense. Exposition is nicely done, and Singer retains the ability to shoot big actions scenes stylishly. Oh, it can be terribly clunky, and the political and moral allegories of the first two films are now a distant memory, but as a blockbuster spectacle, X-Men: Days of Future Past succeeds splendidly.