Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review: X-Men - Days of Future Past (Film)

X-Men Month concludes! I wanted to throw up one more post, which would have been a Nerd Rage about something, but I couldn’t get riled up enough to do it which is probably for the best: one less nerdy rant on the internet.

But in any event we have come to the X-Men: Days of Future Past. Is there anything left to be said at this point? It’s a sequel to X-Men: First Class, a movie I LOVED and consider it to be the best X-film. It’s being directed by Bryan Singer who directed X-Men and X2 which were both great but hasn’t directed a ton of great stuff since then (and Jack the Giant Slayer was actively terrible). It’s based on the very classic X-Men comic storyline of the same name. The plot was pretty much the same; the future has been conquered by the Sentinels, mutant hunting robots, and a small group of surviving X-Men use their resident super psychic Rachel Summers to send the consciousness of Kitty Pryde (or “Kate Pryde” as she prefers to be known in the future) through time to 1980 (or “the present” as it preferred to be known at the time) into the body of her teenage counterpart to stop Mystique and her Brotherhood of Evil Mutants from killing a specific dude which will cause a ripple effect that creates the terrible future. Of course this movie still takes place in the X-Men Movie Universe so the details would have to be drastically altered but the main crux of the story seems to be intact.

Anyway with two good movies, one awesome movie, one not terrible Wolverine movie and two absolute garbage flicks the X-Men Film Franchise has had its ups and downs over the years. BUT there’s been a lot of positive buzz about this movie where many people saying it’s the best X-flick to date. So it’s pretty clear that with so many people I like, trust or admire enjoyed it so clearly I’ll love this movie too, right? Right? Why are you just staring at me like that?

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: There are a few spoilers throughout this review, though I avoid the really big ones. Still, read at your own risk]

Hey, theses guys might make a good superhero team
Too bad that doesn't happen
In the future the mutant hunting robots known as “Sentinels” have conquered the world and killed huge numbers of not only mutants but humans as well. What remains of the X-Men just barely managed to stay one step ahead of their robotic assailants but they’ve have lost many of their numbers over the years. However they have one slim chance left to save the world; Shadowcat (Ellen Page) has the power to send another person’s consciousness back in time (…somehow) to take control of its younger counterpart and it is proposed that she send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), the only person who might be able to survive the trip, back to 1973 so he can stop Mystique (Jenifer Lawrence) from assassinating Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) which should undo their horrible reality. In order to do so Wolverine will need the assistance of that era’s version of Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) but unfortunately both men are in their own dire straits and may not be able, or willing, to aide him.

Days of Future Past is another superhero movie where technology seems to have finally caught up with the premise as the effects look fantastic. The depiction of some of these powers, particularly the flashier ones, are so well done and look so good that I would argue the price of the ticket may be worth it for the special effects alone. Blink, played Fan Bingbing who’s a huge star in China, was used tremendously is this regard as her powers (basically teleportation, though here she seems to primarily makes teleportation portals) are used very creatively making her the most useful future X-Man in terms of offensive, defensive and supporting capabilities. Now Blink is already one of my favorite X-Men (though honestly these days I’d rank her #2) so it was damn cool to see her depicted so well. Weirdly Bingbing says she signed a five picture deal for the X-Men franchise which seems incredibly excessive for a relatively minor character, especially as the supposedly sequels will follow the First Class cast. But anyway everything looks good. In the same way that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 featured the best version of Spider-Man in film so does this film feature the best looking X-Men…well, mostly.

Pretty much all the actors you guessed would do well in this film live up to it. Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman are all as good as they’ve ever been (though Stewart and McKellen aren’t around all that much but they do well with what little they have). Fassbender and McAvoy are good as Magneto and Xavier in all the same ways they were in the previous film and reminded me why I’m dying for these two to take the franchise into the future (especially McAvoy). But perhaps the biggest surprise however came from the unlikely source of Evan Peters as Quicksilver as he absolutely stole the show from the minute he appeared on the screen. The character was so well done was so charismatic and his powers were pulled off so well that the whole dam movie changed tone for the better when he’s introduced. The director, or writers, made a HUGE miscalculation with the guy as even though he’s pretty much the most enjoyable part of the film he’s actually not around for very long. Shockingly he IS NOT recruited by Wolverine and Young Xavier to help them stop Mystique and so he’s just pretty much gone maybe halfway through the movie and the film is much, much worse off for it.

Pictured: Underused potential
Everyone else is decent and do their jobs although the vast majority of the future X-Men are underused and have very little to do aside from gratuitous action sequences (that look great, I must add). So though I was happy to see X-Men from previous films back in action since they were glorified cameos and it left me wanting more. Ellen Page gets used the best, outside the older Xavier and Magneto, but as I’m still super sad about her coming out a few months ago I can’t talk about her for very long without tearing up so let’s move on. Anyway Halle Berry returns as Storm because justice and hope are lies we tell children and the worst things in life will always occur no matter what. Like all the future X-Men she’s not in this movie too much but goddamn it if I was still offended by her presence. F**k Halle Berry’s Storm!

Peter Dinklage is kind of wasted here. When you cast an actor as hot as Dinklage, who had become a critical darling thanks to his stint on Game of Thrones, the logic dictates that you use them to their fullest capabilities but sadly Bolivar Trask isn’t a very interesting character. He’s more of a plot point than anything else; the catalyst for the terrible future. However if there’s a character that gets completely screwed its Havok. He shows up once in the film early on and then we never see him again. That is complete bullshit. So many characters from First Class apparently died off screen between these two movies so I would think that they’d utilize the few that are still alive but it turns out that the filmmakers actually just didn’t give a shit. And in that one scene Havok demonstrates that he’s learned how to control his powers and I was super excited because I thought “oh man, when they X-Men fight the Sentinels that is going to look so goddamn cool”. Well…that didn’t happen. The worst thing about this was that Lucas Till is awesome when he’s actually given time. I mentioned in the Summer Movie Preview that I didn’t appreciate Till at first until I saw All Superheroes Must Die (aka "Vs"), which is a fantastic movie and he’s really good in it. But I guess no one making this film saw that flick, presumably because every single one of them are monsters. I will revisit the lack of Havok in a bit.

R.I.P. Beta's crush on Ellen Page
The plot is basically fine. Its main structure is not awful nor is it particularly memorable. However certain aspects of the plot really bugged me. For instance the science is this film is particularly soft. Now this might seem off coming from me since I’m all about soft science over hard science (because, you know, I like fantasy) even I found myself raising an eyebrow over some of the things floating around in this flick’s lore. Like how exactly does Beast make a drug that let’s Xavier walk at the expense of his mutant powers? The idea is that the drug messes with his genes (and Beast uses a version of it to not look like Cookie Monster all the time) but I do not understand how that fixes a bullet to the spine. I mean, it’s not like Xavier became paraplegic because of his genetic makeup so how would a drug that plays on genetics do anything for him? Also, and this really bugs me, how the shit does Shadowcat have the ability to send people through time? They don’t even try to explain it in the movie, it’s just how her powers work for some reason! In the comic book Shadowcat has the ability to phase through solid objects and he has a few extra side effects powers that justify how her main superpower can possibly work but never has “phasing through time” ever been demonstrated in the character’s 34 year history. Hell, even if one could justify that power I still wouldn’t understand why it somehow only works on people’s minds as she doesn’t just phase her consciousness through walls. Like I said in the intro in the original Days of Future Past comic Rachel Summers, using a machine that the remaining X-Men scrapped together, uses her telepathic powers to send a middle age Kitty Pryde into the body of her younger self in 1980. That’s not exactly the world’s hardest science but a powerful psychic mind and a mysterious "future machine" is vague yet specific enough to work in my opinion. The only logical reason to have Kitty involved with sending Wolverine back in time is pay homage to the original story, which is great I guess, but it just makes zero sense here especially as they don’t give any explanation for why she can do this suddenly having never demonstrated such a power previously. As it is you could also say “Wolverine uses his claws to slash through time” and it would make just as much sense as what they went with. Why would be so hard to replicate the comic’s explanation and just replace Rachel with Xavier?

There are other plot holes and continuity issues with this film. You might recall that when I reviewed X-Men: First Class I specifically said that it absolutely had to be a reboot because it simply doesn’t makes sense in conjunction with the previous films. The hope was that this film, which clearly connects First Class to the other films, would clear up the continuity glitches that occurred but sadly the film does nothing to really do that. The time travel mechanic does ultimately erase some of the problems ("erase" rather than "explain", which is a lazy way to handle things) but for the most part a lot of major ones remain. The film also produces new hiccups. Wolverine’s presence in 1973 doesn’t really jive with where we saw him in X-Men Origins: Wolverine where he was shown to be in fighting in Vietnam (though it’s hard to know exactly when XMO:W takes place exactly). The casting of Josh Helman as a young William Stryker makes is really strange as he appears at least twenty years younger than he did in the Wolverine film which takes place no more than maybe three years later (played by Danny Huston). Also why does Wolverine still have metal claws when he lost them in The Wolverine? I would have accepted just about any explanation but we're given none so it's a problem.

I never thought I'd see Blink onscreen. Not sure how they can top this
How much you care about those continuity problems will depend on how bit a stickler you are for that kind of thing. A far more tangible issue as the distribution of time between the future and 1973. By that I mean it feels like both timelines are spread sort of thin. On the one hand the stuff in the future is cool looking but so little of it contributes to the plot and so few characters do anything of any worth. Bishop looks cool but he does nothing to add to the film at all, except maybe a high budget due to the special effects of his powers. Ditto for Colossus, Sunspot, Storm and even Blink. Hell, even Iceman is superfluous despite the fact that I got to see an older Shawn Ashmore finally looking incredibly cool after years of basically being the X-Men’s sidekick. And it’s all very cool looking but it also all just fanservice. It’s not even subtle fanservice. It’s Fox throwing as many characters from the older movies and as many new, but pointless, characters to get the comic nerds (such as myself) and the fans of the first films all overly excited. But it’s a time waste. The time we spend there may have been time we could have used developing some characters in 1973 aside from the five main characters. Perhaps if we focused a little less on nostalgia we could have fit Quicksilver, again the best part of the movie, in the film more or even had Havok show up long enough to help fight the Sentinels. That final Sentinel fight ended up being a bit of a letdown as the whole thing devolved into “Xavier and Beast try to stop Magneto” rather than the “X-Men band together to fight giant robots” scenario we were hoping for, mostly due to the fact that THERE ARE NO X-MEN IN 1973 AT ANY POINT. Oh yeah, also Magneto is the real villain of this movie since, surprise, he turns the whole thing into a scheme against the human race which would be fine if I hadn’t seen it 6,976 times in previous X-films (that’s an approximate figure, of course).

Ah and my own personal nitpick: I hate the future costumes just like I hated the leather costumes from he first three films. It almost seems like Singer is allergic to bright colors but everything was dull or dark, a serious contrast to First Class which I greatly preferred. It doesn’t help that there are no costumes in 1973 aside from Magneto (which is way less bright than what he was wearing at the very end of First Class). In my opinion the bright color costumes are what add to the fun of superhero films and it bums me up that they were absent. Not really a huge problem but something I just personally was unhappy with.

Seriously, these costumes are boring as shit
I’ve ranted a bit but it’s important to note that I DID NOT dislike this movie. On the contrary there is a lot of stuff to like about this film and it does do a lot of things correctly. However there are so many aspects of this movie that either disappointing or simply make no sense that I was completely taken out of the film. That people are saying this is the best X-Men film is a bit surprising and that people are saying it’s the best superhero film of all time is flat out insane. With the plot holes, an incredible amount of missed opportunities with actors, and an over reliance on the original cast this is far from my favorite X-flick. That said it’s still 1000% more enjoyable than the worst X-films and erases the horrible taste of X-Men: The Last Stand out of my mouth and should be commended for that. It’s looks, feels, and sounds fantastic and thus makes a good, dumb summer blockbuster. So turn your brain off at the door and enjoy.

I give X-Men: Days of Future Past 3 Uncanny Xs out of 5.


-Special effects look great

-Great action

-Solid performances

-Good to see old faces


-Has a dump truck full of plot holes

-Many superfluous characters

-Underutilized characters (coughcoughQuicksilvercough)

-Disappointing climax 

-Peter Dinklage  plays an uninteresting character and it's a waste of Peter Dinklage

[Writer's Note: I apologize for the grammatical issues in this post. Apparently I proofread this while I was half asleep and am certainly half asleep as I'm looking at it now that it's been brought to my attention.]

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