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The seventh installment in the X-Men franchise may be the best. X-Men: Days of Future Past builds upon the films which preceded it to deliver high-stakes, exciting action, and rich character moments. It’s so good it even goes backward in time and improves the more rickety chapters.

In the future, an army of shapeshifting robots called Sentinels has exterminated all but a few mutants. Those remaining have run out of places to hide and have come up with a last, desperate plan. They’re going to send the mind of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) into his own body forty years in the past so they can prevent the Sentinel Program from being created. To accomplish this, he must convince a young Charles Xavier (James MacAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to work together. It won’t be easy after their bitter separation at the end of X-Men: First Class.

This series keeps finding ways to increase the stakes with its villains. You’d think that an all-out nuclear war (First Class), the corruption of Cerebro (X2) or a weapon that can remove a mutant’s powers (X-Men 3) would be the most epic threat our heroes could face, but you haven’t seen anything yet. It isn’t merely the Sentinels’ wide array of abilities and cool look which makes them a treat to watch; their creator Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) gives them a whole lot more dimension. You… like him and understand his rationale. He needs to be stopped but things are further complicated when you learn it’s his death at the hands of mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) which prompted governments to go ahead with their construction. Oh, and Wolverine has to stop her without his adamantium skeleton? They can’t catch ANY breaks!

Days of Future Past delivers in terms of action and excitement. It also finds time to spend with its characters. Not only are your favorites back, but they’ve also grown more complex. The drama gets more intense, the new characters add new dynamics. Having one foot set in the past and another in the future allows it to fill in gaps (most notably the many from X-Men 3: The Last Stand). It’s not airtight yet, but you’ll suddenly see characters or actions you were familiar with before in a whole new light.

We’ve hit rough spots along the way but this franchise just keeps getting better by coming up with new toys to play with. The whole time travel thing, for example. And what a terrific and exciting addition it is. The stakes are the direst they’ve ever been and the solution has just as much potential for success as it does disaster. It leads to an awesome double climax that’s everything you want to see in a superhero film.

Director Bryan Singer and screenplay writer Simon Kinberg have put a lot of care into this project to ensure the fans will be pleased. This isn’t a chapter you can jump into and it isn’t meant to be. X-Men: Days of Future Past gives you everything you want to see. It’s got eye-popping special effect sequences, drama, a lot of creative action scenes, revelations about the characters you thought you knew, friends old and new returning, twists on familiar ideas, great villains, great heroes too. (On Blu-ray, October 16, 2014)

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