To those with just a casual interest in the “X-Men” franchise, the reason for the creative direction of “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” opening Friday, might seem fairly transparent. In this latest installment — the series’ fifth, not including Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine spinoffs — mutant characters from the initial 2000-06 X-trilogy are thrown into the same dystopian time-travel storyline with the group featured in the 2011 prequel/soft relaunch, “X-Men: First Class.” It’s a shrewd device for leveraging the drawing power and fan cred of two casts at once. You’ve got returning longtimers like Jackman, Halle Berry (Storm), Patrick Stewart (Professor Xavier), and Ian McKellen (Magneto), plus newer, of-the-moment additions like Jennifer Lawrence (cobalt-skinned Mystique — in “American Hustle” fashions!) and Michael Fassbender (Magneto’s younger counterpart).
It’s a heaping helping of more, more, more from a franchise whose break-even grosses on “First Class” were certainly somewhat less than 20th Century Fox was eyeing. Clearly, Fox, which produces “X-Men” under license from Marvel, is eager to keep pace in the interconnecting mega-franchise race that Marvel and Disney started with “The Avengers.”