I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past with my friend Rod (a birthday gift – thanks Rod!)
Now, we are both comic book fans, but to me the X-Men are simply another comic franchise–one which has given me a certain amount of enjoyment and has produced some good stories, but which overall isn’t any more special to me than any other. However, for Rod, the X-Men are his favorite comic. Seeing it “brought to life” in the movies like this is more aggravating for him than it is thrilling. The constant story changes, the strange casting choices, the random continuity adjustments – they all conspire to rob him of the enjoyment he’d like to have.
I actually agree with him in most cases, but it just doesn’t bother me in the same way. I’ve tried to think of something that I have comparable feelings about, but I haven’t found with anything. He suggested if it was the Legion of Super-Heroes. I don’t know – they were pretty dopey when they showed up that episode of Smallville, but I found it pretty easy to dismiss. I find it hard to recognize the recent Narnia films as being the same stories I have enjoyed so much, but that doesn’t produce a strong emotional reaction.
Anyway, all that said, I found this newest film to be enjoyable and fun, with an intriguing sci-fi story to undergird it. But at the same time, it’s sort of stupid.
Of course, as you’d know if you’ve been reading this blog at all, there are a lot of films that I think are kind of stupid that are out there. For many, the problem is the lack of any sort of structural integrity – where scenes and story beats seem out of place, or ideas or plotlines are set up but not followed through sufficiently. This would be some of the issues in, for example, Green Lantern, or Iron Man 2. This is not the problem with X-Men: Days of Future Past, not exactly. It’s a cool plot (Wolverine sent back in time from a dystopian future to enlist Xavier’s and Magneto’s help in stopping Mystique from doing something that will lead to the dystopia), and the structure of the film is there. It’s just that to get there, the film chooses to blaze its way past a variety of contrivances and inconsistencies in a manner that says, “We know this is a problem, but we don’t care. Please don’t care with us.”
I’m talking about things like why do the heroes have rescue Magneto in order to stop Raven / Mystique from killing Trask? Supposedly, it’s because having Eric and Charles working together will somehow convince her to stand down. This is glossed over because it’s not a very convincing motivation. In fact, we see that Raven was actually ready to listen to Charles on his own, and Eric almost immediately proves he is a heartless creep. The reality behind this of course is that it was done to put some story beats into the first third of the “past” segment of the film, including a fun prison break out bit, and to get past-Magneto into the story and in opposition to Mystique.
Another thing is the way that even after the mutants are revealed to the world in Paris, they continue to make everything about stopping Mystique from killing Trask, as if that one event is still what’s going to determine the future. Mutants have been openly revealed in 1973, and Trask knows that he was a target. It certainly seems that Trask living is going to be just as much an issue as Trask dying. And when Magneto drops a stadium on top of the White House, it seems to be even more the case.
More than that, why on earth is Magneto being kept in a top-secret plastic prison at the bottom of the Pentagon? Why go to all that trouble and the bazillions of dollars of expense? Why hasn’t he just been executed, or experimented on, or whatever? If the government is so aware of the threat that he poses, why aren’t they more ready to deal with it?
What sort of lame-brain security do they have on their new, expensive giant robots that nobody notices that Magneto has completely reprogrammed them? Nobody notices that the next time a train travels on the same line, that half a mile of track is missing? And what did Magneto do, anyway? At one point, it seemed like he actually reprogrammed the things (when their eyes light up and they fire on all the normal people), but other times it’s more that he is just controlling them magnetically.
Since when does Kitty Pryde have the power to send people back in time along their own consciousnesses? I know, that’s a fan question – anybody who didn’t know would just assume that it was part of her mutant power. (Because, you know, that’s how evolution works. You can just be born with the power to send people back in time along their own consciousnesses. But if you are, the human race will hate you and fear you and try to kill you with giant robots.)
And why did they not take young Quicksilver (as they never actually referred to him) along with them on their mission to stop Raven? It seems like that guy can do just about anything. With him, it’d have been no problem just to grab Raven and run her about 500 miles away from Trask before she could blink – problem solved. (As Rod pointed out, it could be the most obvious How It Should Have Ended ever).
So many things. But still, somehow, it was a good movie – enjoyable and watchable, with decent performances and a lot of fun treats for fans of the movies and the comics (my friend’s reaction notwithstanding). The time travel plot was imaginative without being annoying, and the story took some genuinely surprising turns – particularly when the Paris mission went so badly, with the mutants being exposed publicly, and so on. The effects were powerful and the future sequences with the battles with the Sentinels were impressively choreographed and lots of fun. And the Quicksilver scene with all the super-speed and the bullets – that was a highlight, and lots of fun. And the climax actually didn’t revolve entirely around Wolverine. So overall, a good flick (in spite of the adolescent attempts at being “adult” with a few swear words a small bit of nudity).
Oh, and I promised Spoilers! Of course, there are some already, but here are some other key ones I want to mention before I wrap-up:
Spoiler #1 – JFK was a mutant! Introduced in one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the movie, we also found out that Magneto wasn’t responsible for killing JFK with a magnetically controlled bullet, but rather only failing to save JFK…with a magnetically controlled bullet.
Spoiler #2 – Even in the future, Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde still looks like a teenager.
Spoiler #3 – If you are a particular fan of X-Men: First Class, you might be a bit disappointed here, as most of the mutant cast of that film (except for lead characters Charles, Eric, Raven and Beast) wind up as off-camera victims of Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome. Aside from those mentioned, I’m pretty sure that only Alex Summers survives into this movie as one of the many many cameos that we see.
Spoiler #4 – And speaking of cameos, the ending of the film features fan-pleasing appearances from Kelsey Grammar, Anna Paquin (who was largely cut out of the movie, but not out of the credits), Famke Jansen, and most surprisingly, James Marsden as Scott Summers (who, to my eyes, finally looks old enough to play the part).