In 2011's X-Men: First Class, Jennifer Lawrence played a well-behaved do-gooder named Raven. Radicalized by the murder of her mutant friends (including January Jones's plot-haltingly wooden Emma Frost), Raven ditched her establishment name and rechristened herself Mystique. When we meet her again in 1973, the setting of most of X-Men: Days of Future Past, Mystique is plotting to assassinate anti-mutant activist Dr. Bolivar Trask (an eerily calm Peter Dinklage). That act will lead, 50 years later lead, to the total destruction of life on our planet.
That's where the film starts: a present-day apocalypse and piles of lime green corpses, some fresh and some already artistically mulched. The last of our aging X-Men — those actors happy to collect another X-check as long as it doesn't require anything strenuous — are days away from death.
With help from Ellen Page as pocket-size quantum physicist Kitty Pryde (I'm giving names because the film itself doesn't bother), the X-Men seize on a Hail Mary last hope: send Wolverine's (Hugh Jackman) consciousness back in time into his younger body so he can find Mystique before the pivotal murder and, you know, very nicely ask her not to.
You have to admire X-Men's audacious rejiggering of history. Even at their clangiest the films have never forgotten that these metal, ice, claw, and magma brawls are really metaphors for acceptance. Luckily for the franchise, we've marginalized so many groups that each generation can layer its own struggle over the mutants'. Still, all this good-intentioned selflessness means that the movies don't have room to enjoy themselves. Future Past starts fast and never slows down. There's not a line of dialogue that isn't exposition.