Oh what a tangled, time-travelling web of intrigue these Marvel people weave.
This action-packed seventh movie in the X-Men superhero series plays with the past, the dystopian society of 2023 and a deeply uncertain future.
X now marks the knot, with the cast of the year twisting and turning every which way.
Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page, Halle Berry and Nicholas Hoult head the remarkable line-up.
While The Usual Suspects’ director Bryan Singer returns to the series he launched in 2000 and 2003 to direct for the third time.
To his credit, none of the stars showboat nor are they overshadowed by the mind-blowing special effects.
Best of all, Singer’s regular collaborator John Ottman again combines his two skills of film editing and composing to thrilling advantage.
The action begins with a prologue narrated slowly and comprehensively by Professor Xavier (Stewart).
The world has been at war with losses on both sides.
Dr Bolivar Trask’s (Peter Dinklage) Sentinel programme has almost wiped out the mutant population and any human sympathisers using an army of highly skilled automatons attuned to mutant DNA.
It’s only a matter of time before the Sentinels track Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and the surviving mutants to a mountaintop temple in China and complete the extermination.
One glimmer of hope remains: if Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) can harness her abilities and propel Wolverine’s consciousness back to 1973.
Once there, he seeks out the young Professor X (James McAvoy), Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and numerous battles commence for control of society to prevent the future from putting them all in danger.
While it’s one way of introducing topics like JFK’s assassination and President Richard Nixon to younger audiences, the essence of the story always rests on Wolverine’s determination and numerous attempts to stop the shapely shape-shifter Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from assassinating Trask.
The changed, older Magneto illustrates the virtues of maturity, while notable special effects include flying ball bearings and a remarkable new take on the idea of a big city concrete collar.
Neat Seventies ’ touches include the muscle-bound Wolverine struggling to get his multi-pack frame out of a wobbly waterbed.
While the script often puts exposition ahead of momentum, one unnecessarily explicit use of the F-word and drug taking by strapped-arm injection will spoil this for parents who take children under 12 along just to enjoy the spectacle.
Unsurprisingly an end credits’ teaser looks forward to X-Men: Apocalypse (2016).