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This is the seventh X-Men film (including two following Wolverine more exclusively), which makes it one of the largest franchises of comic books adapted to film. Featuring a large group of characters, the film allows for some all-star casting. Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Halle Berry, and Ellen Page appear, and there are brief cameos by Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, and James Marsden. This cast, along with a well-known fantasy world in which some people have been born “mutants” with eclectic “superpowers,” is enough to get most people into the theater.

But there are plenty of doubts about where this story can go, since most of the backstory has been told. And the last time we entered this world, the humans and “mutants” had made a fragile peace.

At the beginning of the film, in the near future, human pride has led to the building of robots called Sentinels. Designed with mutant DNA in the 1970s by Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), these robots have finally fully adapted to everything the mutant powers can throw at them. It will soon be an entirely robot future, unless the mutants can take drastic action. Lucky for them, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) has the ability to travel back in time. Using Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) as the vehicle, since he can heal quickly from the dangers of time travel, Kitty sends Wolverine’s consciousness to intervene before Trask can perfect his Sentinels.

The real heart of the story is the young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his nemesis, Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Humans see mutants as the enemy, but they disagree on the best approach for their self-preservation. Charles, once again, becomes the moral compass, arguing that more violence only begets more violence. For real peace and flourishing, another path must be possible.

Unlike other current superhero movies, this film stays with the plot, using only minimal destruction and CGI as needed rather than just because they can. Like all superhero films, it packs subtle metaphors. The major theme is finding one’s calling: the mutants are confronted with moving beyond themselves. They must summon the courage to understand that their future is wrapped up in the future of others. Simply eliminating those deemed evil will not lead to a more hopeful future. Although the film avoids the business of articulating this hopeful future, it provides a good case for the difficult work of resisting selfishness, despair, and cynicism. (20th Century Fox)

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