"X-Men: Days of Future Past" has been called an X-Men crossover, as "The Dissolve" critic Matt Singer says: "Like Days Of Future Past, crossovers in comics tend to be light on character development. But when they're good, the huge stakes and epic scale of the action make them hard to put down" -- and this is precisely that sort of "can't look away" crossover: one that's both entertaining and remarkably well acted. What else can you expect from a cast that includes two Sirs (and off-camera BFFs) Patrick Stewart as Professor X and Ian McKellen as Magneto; four Academy Award nominees, James McAvoy as young Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender as young Erik Lehnsherr, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and Ellen Page as Kitty; and let's not forget the two Oscar winners, Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique and Halle Berry as Storm; and the one and only Tyrion, Peter Dinklage as the film's entrepreneurial anti-mutant villain. Whether or not you take your offspring, or even usually care about X-Men films, definitely go see this memorable summer blockbuster.
But first, here are five questions to consider before taking the kids to see "X-Men: Days of Future Past."
1. How familiar is your kid with the X-Men? If you don't know what happened in "X-Men: First Class," this sequel that combines the prequel starring McAvoy and Fassbender with the original films starring Stewart and McKellen won't be as meaningful, but you'll still be able to figure out the story. Without a working knowledge of the "X-Men" characters and previous movies, the movie will still make sense, but you won't get the in-jokes, references to other mutants (like Quicksilver, whose name is never mentioned in the dialogue), or the palpable tension between key characters. "X-Men" fans will obviously need no explanations about Professor X's devoted followers and Magneto's "mutant power" believers, but here's our guide to the movie.
2. How sensitive is your child to violence? People die in X-Men movies, and this one's no exception. The difference is that because of the central plot point about time travel, the people (both mutants and humans) who die in one timeline don't necessarily die in another. Still, there are several battle sequences in both the future and the past (time travel plots are hard to describe!) between man-made mechanized assassins and various talented mutants -- or in one climactic scene, President Nixon, his Cabinet, and a host of civilians. In some of the fight scenes, mutants are killed in horrific ways (dismemberment, explosions, etc.). Mystique puts the hurt on several men, but she doesn't kill them.
3. Do you worry about sex/language? Unlike some comparable PG-13 action flicks, there's actually both suggestive material and strong language in this "X-Men" installment. Logan wakes up in 1973 in bed with a woman he clearly slept with the night before, and there's partial nudity of Jackman's backside as he gets out of bed and walks to a window. Later a couple of goons refer to him "screwing" their boss' daughter. Otherwise there's just perfectly appropriate handholding, kissing, and steamy chemistry (that last part is between Mystique and Magneto). As for language, there's the now "PG-13 acceptable" singular (and memorable) "f--k" ("f--k off" to be precise) and a few uses of "assh--e" and "s--t."
4. Who will enjoy the movie most? Obviously teens (and tweens) already fans of the "X-Men" comics or movies, or who are at least familiar with the "X-Men: First Class" story will definitely be interested in the movie. We saw parents with 6-8 year-olds at the press screening, and they seemed frightened and antsy (it's 2 hours, 14 minutes long). Since the rest of the movies releasing this Memorial Day weekend are comedies ("Blended") or dramas ("The Angriest Man in Brooklyn"), or expanding art-house films ("Belle"), this is the movie to see for families with older kids and teens. If you're kids aren't middle-schoolers yet, a good litmus test is whether they've seen the other "X-Men" movies and spinoffs. If they have, you're good to go; if they haven't you might want to start with those.
5. What are critics saying about "DOFP"? Reviews are overwhelmingly positive, with a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 72 on Metacritic. "This is the best, most entertaining and mature comic-book Hollywood franchise currently in existence," says Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald. Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post echoed the sentiment: "'Days of Future Past' is, in itself, as intoxicating as a shot of adrenaline. It's what summer movies are meant to be"; and Richard Roeper of The Chicago Sun-Times says: "Thanks to the first-class special effects, a star-packed cast, screenwriters who know just when to inject some self-aware comic relief without getting too jokey and director Bryan Singer's skilled and sometimes electrifying visuals, X-Men: Days of Future Past is flat-out big-time, big summer movie fun."