Sunday, May 25, 2014

FF Film Review | X-Men: Days of Future Past (5/5)

Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, and James McAvoy
I proudly boast that I have seen every single X-Men film and I thoroughly enjoyed them all, especially the much aligned X-Men: Last Stand. But with Days of Future Past, I think this may just have become my favorite. You see, when it comes to science fiction, one of my most favorite movie plots deal with time travel. So when I first heard that DOFP would merge the future XMen with XMen of the past, my interest was immediately piqued. The time travel theme was developed in a very creative way, a believable way, and if I didn't know that the franchise was dependent on the survival of key X-Men, I would have been very sad it all didn't pan out right.

Without giving away too much of the plot, DOFP involved having Wolverine go back in time to prevent a very pissed off and determined Mystique from assassinating the scientist who would go on to create the Sentinel machines which were designed to destroy all mutants. But what she could not possibly know is that through her actions, her DNA, her very existence would be used to improve and further develop the Sentinel program which would ensure that program's success in destroying her kind. Prof X and Magneto in the future realize the role they both played in having all mutants be on the rapidly developing and devastating path towards complete extinction.

Because young Charles was an emotional wreck in 1973, and with Magneto incarcerated a hundred floors beneath the Pentagon, only Wolverine could go back and recruit their help to stop Mystique. The special effects, and the sometimes crowded but effective action packed scenes with multiple mutants and their special powers were amazing. The Sentinels were so powerful, you wondered just how could the mutants change their future. The introduction of Quick Silver (Magneto's son that he didn't know existed) was short and brilliant and provided just the right amount of laughs in an otherwise very dark and pessimistic story.

I think that the primary reason why so many people like the X-Men is because there are times when we all feel like an outsider or different from the others. The X-Men magnifies this feeling by ten because we see laid out right in front of our eyes, the outcome of systematic mistrust and mistreatment of other people and other species, simply because they are different than us. And what is different than the majority tends to cause fear, judgments, anxieties, and persecution in the minds of the weaker people. Just when you thought Magneto was being a selfish ass, even through his dramatic actions and regardless of who gets hurt, he has a point. If only the reality in X-Men could become the reality in our reality, which is, don't judge a person by their appearance and their abilities - the world would be a much happier place.

Considering how crowded the film was of X-Men, I felt that the usage of Michael Fassbender was fair, and he got third billing behind Hugh and James, with Jennifer coming in fourth. Going into fan girl mode, Michael as Magneto was exquisite at times, especially during the scene where he was tending to a flesh wound. And unlike in First Class, I think Bryan Singer made a wise decision in wanting Michael's Magneto to sound more European to blend better with the established speech pattern of the older Magneto played by Ian McKellan. As the end of DOFP has served, future X-Men films will be quite interesting and I hope Singer is able to continue to direct them because I really like his style and vision for this franchise.

Score: 5

3 comments:

Snootiegirl said...

1/2 **Spoilers for X-Men: Days of Future Past**

I read an article about X-Men: Days of Future Past on Yahoo! movies (after all of their promotion of the movie on premiere nights--ha!) outlining the the continuity issues in the seven X-Men movies. And, yes, I thought about a bunch of them as I watched the movies over the years. Some of them I was willing to shrug off. I thought of the 'Magneto helped me build Cerebro' line from X2 when I watched First Class. But then the first Cerebro was destroyed by Shaw, so I figured maybe the Cerebro at the school was Cerebro II. Striker built another one, why not Charles and Erik?

Then First Class ended with Erik leaving Charles paralyzed on a beach in Cuba, followed by a denouement of Charles and Moira placidly wheeling around the grounds of the manor once again. Stoic was the word I applied to Charles; he accepted what had happened because that's Charles. He has infinite patience and optimism. That, and I had an inkling that his erasure of Moira's mind might lead to a second movie where he and Erik make up a bit--at least enough to get the school going (continuity issue #2: in X3, they recruit Jean Grey together in the 80s). I thought that 80s recruiting scene fit better in with the opening scene of the very first movie when Charles and Erik speak in D.C. They refer to each other as 'old friend' in a way that didn't say 'we haven't spoken in 50 years' to me.

So you see, I was willing to rationalize quite a bit between different movies and directors and storylines. I will cop to not liking comic books. I don't like comic books. I don't like having to get half of my story from the pictures. I'm a writer. I like words. That doesn't mean that I don't like the stories and themes in comic books. But it does frustrate me when some of the stories I want to know about are only covered in comic books.

And the reason for the comic book tirade is to say, I'm not a hard-core X-Men fan who needs the movies to serve some greater universe of fandom. I am willing to take the movies on their own.

Take Batman Begins for instance. My husband dragged me to that movie, and I fell in love with a comic book movie for the first time. Then I saw The Dark Knight, and it was put up there with Star Wars in my pantheon of films. Christopher Nolan has ruined me for all lesser comic book movies. I need a depth and gravitas to the characters and the story. I need a complicated plot with complicated motives. But I also need my questions answered at least to the point where I'm not sitting there thinking, 'Huh?"

Let's look at another franchise closer to home for X-Men. Iron Man. Again, dragged to see the movie by the husband. Again, superb acting, deep characters, complicated plots, and I'm a goner. Then Joss Whedon took the helm of The Avengers and all of my latent Buffy the Vampire Slayer love was revived. That man can write some snappy dialog.

And Captain America: The Winter Soldier was more political intrigue and mystery movie than comic book. I liked that one a lot as well.

But my top two: The Avengers is a different breed of story from The Dark Knight. Yes, yes, they are Marvel and DC. But beyond that, there is a darkness to the Batman story that even the Hulk doesn't reach. The Avengers is more about teamwork and finding the best within you. Batman is about the will of a man to change the world. I'm willing to put them side-by-side and say that they are both in my top 5 movies of all time (with Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and a fifth movie to be determined).

Snootiegirl said...

2/3


So to come rushing back to DOFP, I present my review in the form of questions. These are the questions that I had during and after the film:

1.What the hell is Magneto trying to do anyway? What's the deal with the stadium? What's the point of killing Nixon? What's the point of hijacking the sentinels to destroy them? That was a big huh? moment for me. Erik is too smart ('genius intellect' all the promotional stuff said) to just recklessly effect violence for no specific gain.

2. Why is Beast essentially Charles' valet? Couldn't he have gotten a teaching post at a university or joined a think-tank or something? Why would he stick around and watch Charles destroy himself? And why would Charles let him? It was a waste of the character, I thought. I wonder what Nick Hoult thought about it.

3. How do these mutants in the future have time for fancy haircuts (e.g., Storm) and creating fancy, high-tech armor? Why are they not dirty and war torn? Why do they look like movie stars instead of refugees? And how did Magneto and Professor X find Kitty et al.? That isn't explained at all. They just show up.

4. Why is so much screen time wasted on the sentinel attacks in the future? Got it. They're coming. They are going to kill them all. Don't need the reminders of how powerful they are and how they eventually overpower all of the mutants. The dramatic tension was in the past--or it should have been--not in the one-note future (sentinels bad).

5. Which brings me to my next question: If there was so much time in the movie to show us the bad guys in the future over and over (hello sfx overkill), then why was there so little time spent in convincing Charles to believe Wolverine and especially to help him? He's been nursing his grudge and his addictions and his heartache for ten years. And after five minutes, he agrees to do something. Wolverine didn't even have to make two trips to the mansion. It wasn't believable.

6. The next question is why was Jennifer Lawrence even in this film? If she's as good an actress as people seem to think (and I've not seen her in much, actually), then why didn't they write her a part that actually demanded a lot more acting and a lot less ass-kicking in the nude? It seemed very misogynistic that she becomes this flat character who's more like an errant missile than a person. She's just a weapon that has to be disarmed before it's too late.

I saw an interview for DOFP where the journalist asked Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy what they thought about Mystique becoming a third leader in the mutant cause. That idea sounded like it had promise, but she's not leading anyone. She's a lone gunman, a terrorist, picking her own targets and firing. She's been without Erik and Charles for over ten years. She's lost.

7. And what I consider the million dollar question: Why has Wolverine been declawed? Not literally. I saw the second Wolverine movie so I know what happened to the adamantium. But he's become soft. Again, to the comic books, he's just an *sshole. He's crass and rough-around-the-edges and tough enough to get the job done. And that's what makes his character unique. Now, what's to separate him from Charles or Scott or Bobby or another rather innocuous mutant? He's lost his spark. If I were Hugh Jackman, I would wonder why I had to go through six months of training for a role where I don't really have to fight anyone, and I serve as a 'plot device' to get Charles to stop Mystique. The only reason Wolverine is the one sent to the past is because of his healing ability. That's the only reason.

Snootiegirl said...

3/3

X2 is still my favorite X-men movie. My favorite sequence is when Wolverine goes ape-shit on the Special Forces guys who invade the mansion. Hugh is brilliant in that sequence. It's classic Wolvie.

First Class is a second close favorite. There are quite a few sequences that I like mostly because Michael and James bring such talent and transcendency to the characters. Their insistence (at their own admission in many an interview) that the relationship between the two characters remain at the center of the story is the biggest redeeming quality of the film. The way the two of them work from each other's performances is just brilliant (to quote James).

And my third favorite would have to be the airplane sequence in DOFP. But only that part. When I saw it before the movie was released, I watched it repeatedly at least 5-6 times. It reached into my heart and squeezed. I thought, if the whole movie is this good, then this movie is going to be so amazing. But as good as James was as Charles (the best part of the movie throughout), the rest just failed. It just failed to do much.

Michael Fassbender was fantastic when onscreen with James. He's a great actor. I think he and James are right to aspire to be 'character lead' actors (another interview I've watched. Man, I need to step away for a while). Their talent shouldn't be boxed away in crappy parts that make millions of dollars. Michael did what he could with the Magneto part, but it was so small. And made so little sense. He and James crackle together onscreen because they bring the emotional realities of the characters into this story. But then they are buried in the CGI and the action and the unrealism of the rest of it.

All of the actors spent a lot of time during the junkets and premieres telling reporters over and over that the reason people love X-Men is that they represent people who are marginalized but fight back. But then DOFP minimized the 'people' aspect to the story and amped up the violence. WTF? Charles was able to get some character transformation into the film (the sequence with Patrick Stewart was great because of James, not because of Patrick). At the end of the day, our superhero stories, or myths or tales of gods, are about protagonists learning and changing. Otherwise, what's the point of telling the story? There has to be conflict resulting in change. That's how stories work.

So go ahead and disagree with me. No problem. I prefer that people bring different takes to the table. I'll just go ahead and throw out there that I'm a huge Trekkie and I hated (HATED) Star Trek: Into Darkness. Which makes me worry for Star Wars 7. But also makes me wonder why I disagree so often with the majority vote. I'm interested to see how much staying power DOFP has in the theaters once fan reviews get out more. Maybe I'm not in the minority. I don't know.

To finish, thank you Simone for the chance to vent and air my grievances on your lovely blog. No disrespect is meant to any of the actors who did their best, nor to the production peoples (director, writers, camera people, FX people, etc.). Not everyone is going to like everything. And thank goodness for that, or our stories would really be boring.