5.29.2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men Blues of Orange Past.
"His past. Our future."

Hello friends, neighbors and mutants from various eras that have time traveled to this moment so that they could read this post when it was first written! Today after an unexpected interruption in your movie commentary service, I will be offering my thoughts on the latest movie based on Marvel characters, though I am hesitant to say Marvel movie because really in this day and age that has a different meaning (and the production and distribution rights for X-Men movies are still both retained by 20th Century Fox). Anyway I am talking of course about X-Men: Days of Future Past, a film with a seriously huge cast, given that it takes place partially in two completely different time periods (or I guess three if you want to count the one at the end as a separate divergent timeline). This movie functions more or less as both a sequel to X-Men: First Class, and also to 2013's The Wolverine (in so much as this film also features Wolverine heavily). At the same time, this movie also functions as a sequel to X3, that blood soaked nightmare of movies past, because this franchise has steadfastly refused to actually just scrap everything and reboot. Somehow, despite the fumbling of X3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this franchise has managed to cobble back together something representing a coherent plotline, and now, with Days of Future Past it has perhaps done something even greater (I will get to that before the end of this post). First, perhaps appropriately, a little history lesson. In the comics, the Days of Future Past story arc involved Kitty Pryde going back in time from the dystopic future of 2013 (and let's be honest, it really is dystopic isn't it) and back to what was then the present day, of 1980, to prevent the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly by Mystique and her recently reformed Brotherhood of Mutants. This action (the assassination) sparks off a chain of events that leads to the future Kitty came back from, where mutants are hunted and the human race is threatened with complete destruction at the hands of the man-made robotic Sentinels. The plot of the movie is very similar to this original storyline, with some substantial changes for badassitude. Instead of Kitty herself going back (Ellen Paige reprises her role from X3, thankfully we don't have to see too much of her, which might remind me of the terrible things that happened), in the movie Wolverine is sent, because he is the only one with a mind capable of withstanding the trip or something (because of his regeneration, see a montage of him being shot in the head over and over). His job is to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence Mystique that is) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Who created the Sentinels so it's still pretty legit). Her assassinating him leads to his becoming a martyr, and catalyzes the creation of the Sentinels and ultimately the destruction of basically everyone, because after a while the Sentinels start getting less picky about who they're exploding. The other downside of the assassination involves the gummint capturing Mystique, and using her DNA to make the Sentinels better, and allow them to adapt to various mutant powers (we see them doing this to murder the X-Men at the beginning of the movie).



Back to the Batcave.
So the movie focuses on Wolverine's efforts in the 70s, and occasionally bounces back to the future, where the remaining X-Men are hiding in a mountain monestary and trying to buy Wolverine time, since if his body is disturbed (or he is killed in the present) he will snap back and then they'll all just be plain old-fashioned fucked by robots. Wolverine's mission into the past is of course complicated by the fallout from the end of First Class, as he really needs Professor X and Magneto together to convince Mystique not to kill everyone, and those two aren't exactly best buds at this point. Also I'm not sure why they decided to send Wolverine back to like practically the exact second Mystique was pulling the trigger, maybe convincing her to stop a little sooner could have been a good idea, just a thought there. Anyway we get to watch Wolverine, man of patience he is, try to convince James McAvoy to stop being a drunk who shoots up a serum to suppress his powers, and then get help from Evan Peters' Quicksilver so that they can bust Magneto out of his prison, where he's stuck because he killed JFK (or so everyone seems to think, everyone knows it was the cigarette smoking man). Hank "Beast" McCoy is also there to help (Nicholas Hoult, although Kelsey Grammer makes a cameo at the end of the film as future Beast).

Look at those adorable fan powered Sentinels.
So you've by now gathered that there is a lot of jumping around going on in this film, but despite the enormous scale of the film, and the number of things happening in the movie, it manages to pace itself very well. Even though the initial premise needs a bit of setting up, the movie does a deft job of streamlining the process, and jumps directly into the action. It also handles what could have been a really choppy point of view very well, and I was never jolted out of enjoying the story and characters by a sudden shift in perspective or something similar. It goes without saying that the performances are all great, as virtually all the main cast in the film are returning characters with a few notable exceptions. These include the aforementioned Evan Peters, and also Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask and I probably don't need to explain to any of you how talented he is, especially if you've seen Game of Thrones, but just in case, he is very talented, and really sells the role. I read a few reviews that had gripes about the movie because it lacks a central villain, but I think that is one of the most interesting things about this plot arc. There are certainly antagonists aplenty (the Sentinels, Trask, Magneto, a young William Stryker even) but all of these characters are simply playing part to a much larger, disaster that has common consequences for everyone. This makes the movie a much more nuanced character exploration than you might expect from a movie about robots exterminating mankind, but at the same time it is still a movie jam packed with action. I'm going to spoil some stuff in the next paragraph, so if you haven't seen the movie you are warned.

X-Men or That 70s Show? You be the judge.
My favorite thing the movie did though, really the greatest thing ANY film can aspire to, is that it managed to retcon X3 out of existence. In changing the disasters of the past, and altering its course, Wolverine also unexpectedly sets EVERYONE on a different path, and so the very very dumb events of X3 never happen in the first place. So when Logan wakes up in the future/present at Professor X's academy, everyone is there, including Cyclops and Jean Grey, who if you recall Wolverine was pretty upset about having to kill. I personally just thought it was a really clever way to write out some truly terrible bullshit, and it was impressive that they managed to collect together pretty much the full cast of X3, given that it was released about eight years ago. With this movie the unbelievable has been accomplished, and they have managed to completely rehabilitate a continuity that I think we all accepted as irredeemable after the release of the third movie. I was worried they wouldn't pull it off, but I'm happy to be proven wrong. With this movie already cruising towards highest gross for the franchise (thanks in no small part to Bingbing Fan being in it, she is a really big deal in China and that's helping the foreign gross over there) I'm already looking forward to what they decide to do with En Sabah Nur in the already announced X-Men: Apocalypse.

That's it for this week, join me again next week as I look forward to a strong early June lineup at the box office.

2 comments:

  1. I liked this movie a lot. It was very coherent and I thought there was a nice balance of action and character moments.

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