X-Men: Days of Future Past (Spoilers Ahead)
Even before going out to see X-Men: Days of Future Past, I had seen some rather mixed reviews. Some people called it one of the best superhero movies since Avengers. (And one reviewer described it as better than Avengers.) Others found it sexist, convoluted, and/or disappointing…
I’m thrilled that we’ve canonically erased the mess that was X-Men 3. It was very cool to finally see the sentinels on the screen. And I like that they took on a very ambitious storyline. But the movie didn’t work as well as it could have. I walked out of the theater feeling like I had seen a big, flashy film that was somehow … hollow. It didn’t make me feel very much.
Some of my thoughts:
Quicksilver: When I first saw photos of the character online, I winced. But his scenes were pretty much my favorite part of the movie, mostly for the fun and humor. I wish we’d seen more of him, but I can also understand why the writers didn’t go there. Given the way they portrayed his powers, he probably could have solved the whole thing himself. “Hey, would you mind flying out to Paris with us and stopping Mystique from killing Tyrion Lannister? And while we’re at it, why don’t you head into Trask Industries and destroy everything related to the sentinels project?”
Gratuitous X-Death: I get that the future is ugly, but I have very little interest in watching heroes get slaughtered in various gruesome ways. Yes, the fact that some of these mutants don’t look human means you can rip them in half or crush their heads underfoot and still keep your PG-13 rating. But what was the point? We all know those deaths are going to be reset anyway. It felt pointless and gratuitous.
Future Sentinels: Oh, look. The destroyer from Thor hooked up with the T-1000 from Terminator and had ugly babies.
Blink: I wasn’t familiar with the character before the film, but I liked her power and the various creative ways she used it. I wish there had been more moments that made me think, “Hey, that’s cool/clever/nifty!” the way most of her scenes did.
Professor X and Magneto: I’ve enjoyed the relationship between these two over the course of the franchise. But while I enjoyed what we saw of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, I found the younger Erik and Charles to be rather meh. There was nothing new to their relationship, nothing we hadn’t seen before.
Mystique: For the past ten years, Charles has been a grieving drug addict. (Perhaps not a literal addict, but that’s definitely how the movie was portraying him and his arc.) Erik has been locked away for trying to save JFK and managing to deflect the bullet right into the president instead. Smooth move, there. Meanwhile, Mystique has been running around, saving mutants, gathering info, and kicking ass. And the goal of the movie is to stop her? Topping things off, I’ll quote Jenn Reese here:
Despite the fact that the movie is literally about her decision to kill a man or not, the entire story is built around Charles Xavier anyway and framed as his decision to let her decide.
Short version: this movie needed less Charles-angst and more Mystique.
Magneto and the Stadium: What was cut out of this already-busy movie so that Magneto could carry a stadium around? And why???
The X-Men are a Team: The only real team we see is the future mutants fighting against the sentinels. Coincidentally, aside from the gratuitous slaughter of our heroes, those scenes were some of my favorite parts of the movie. I wish we’d seen more of that. Beast, Wolverine, Charles, and Magneto did not a team make. At least, not an interesting team. (Maybe next time try a mix that isn’t four angsty white dudes?)
Too Much Story, Too Little Time: I wish this had been two movies. Give us part one set in the future, showing the surviving X-Men and their battles against the sentinels. Show us who’s in charge instead of just hand-waving that the sentinels left the bad humans running things. Show us what it took to track down the turning point in time. Give us scenes of Storm, Kitty, Blink, Bishop, Iceman, and the rest kicking ass while the whole world comes crashing down around them. And then go into the past and set things up for the second movie.
In part two, take the time to show us more of what Mystique’s been up to. Make this her movie as much as Charles and Magneto. Turn the sentinels loose and show us some 70s mutant vs. sentinel action. Here’s an idea: show us a team of X-Men! And then, yes, wrap things up by showing us a better future. (I loved Professor X’s line “Welcome back,” and the way Patrick Stewart acted that scene when he realizes what’s happened and which Wolverine he’s speaking to.)
So, yeah. Not the worst of the X-Men franchise, in my opinion. But certainly not the best, either. And it could have been so much more.
What did you think?
May 27, 2014 @ 10:55 am
I think your line “I walked out of the theater feeling like I had seen a big, flashy film that was somehow … hollow. It didn’t make me feel very much.” is just about the most succinct description of how I felt. I enjoyed most of it while watching, but left and was like – yeah that was there, and I saw it.
I agree too that Blink was super fun and I really hope we get to see more of her in the next movie.
May 27, 2014 @ 12:00 pm
I disagree with some of your points here.
As I said to a friend of mine: Charles and Erik can’t change, much. Not really. Yes, Charles had to learn to hope again, and yes, Erik had his great Moment Of Epiphany there at the end, but I didn’t see that confrontational scene between Charles and Mystique as being about Charles’ allowing her to do anything. I saw it as for the first time in his life, Charles doing the one thing his power has taught him not to do: Giving up control. Giving up even the illusion of control. And, in making that choice to give up control, trusting Mystique on two levels: first, as an adult, and second, to “do the right thing”. Even knowing she could still choose to kill Trask (and the president, and others) because in her mind there was rightness in that action, too.
Whatever else is true, I can’t dismiss the fact that in this film a man (whose mutant power, not incidentally, is predicated on control both of himself and over others) stepped back and let a woman choose, and trusted her choice to be the right one. Was he still trying to manipulate her? Well, yes, particularly by interposing himself on Trask — but in his shoes, I suspect I might do the same thing to sway the odds.
(Yes, given the set-up of the movie and the franchise it was a safe bet she was going to choose Charles’ way — but it wasn’t actually guaranteed. I thought JLaw did an excellent job of portraying just how torn Raven/Mystique is in that moment: she’s faced with a man who wanted to kill her, and a second man who wanted to torture her and who had killed her friends, her family. She’s in a hard place, with a hard decision to make. And I, as an audience member, was right there with her: how do you choose between the pain of now and a future that you might not even live to see?)
Would I have liked more Mystique and less Charles-angst? Yes, of course. Would I rather Kitty had gone back in time than Wolvie? Yes, of course. Would I have liked to see more of Storm as leader of the X-men? Considering that’s what started me reading X-men comics in the first place, well, I think my answer’s obvious there.
But I liked the movie. It resonated with me, a lot.
Oh, and the stadium thing WAS ridiculous, but it’s exactly the kind of over-the-top thing I could see Erik doing to a) keep the normals out and b) make a point about his own powers.
I had the same thoughts about Quicksilver, though: he was fun, but I think also there was enough lack of trust between the four (five) principles that bringing a total stranger in would have thrown off the (already, admittedly confused and problematic) dynamic in a bad way. (That said, though, I laughed at “So, you can control metal? My mom knew a guy once who could do that.”)
May 27, 2014 @ 12:17 pm
I saw it this weekend. You make some good comments about how the whole thing was framed as Charles’ decision to let Mystique decide her own life rather than a story about her and her choices. I guess you could frame that in a Mad Men kind of context where they grew up in an era where a man was supposed to decide everything for women and this is Charles learning to let a woman make her own choices rather than trying to protect her from herself. Not having seen First Class, I don’t know what their relationship was like in that movie so I might be totally off.
Quicksilver was one of the most fun characters in the movie, but yeah, he represents a total plothole in that he could have solved the whole thing for them, or at least made things ten times easier. It will be interesting to see whether this also becomes a problem with Age of Ultron.
Upon observing how Blink used her powers throughout the movie, at one point about 3/4th of the way through I turned to my boyfriend and said, “Whoever made this movie must love Portal.” They even used the gimmick of falling through portals multiple times to build up momentum.
My relief at retconning Last Stand is indescribable. I can finally enjoy X-men movies again. This movie could have been way worse than it was and I would have been satisfied only because Last Stand is no longer canon. It now remains to be seen whether Logan actually went through the Weapon X program or whether that part of his life remained unchanged.
May 27, 2014 @ 12:31 pm
I thought the implication there at the end was that Raven planned to put him through the Weapon X program — though why wasn’t clear. And I could be mistaken.
Jim C. Hines
May 27, 2014 @ 1:06 pm
I didn’t get that out of the ending. We saw that it was Raven impersonating Stryker, but what made you think she was going to adamantiumize him?
Jim C. Hines
May 27, 2014 @ 1:10 pm
I liked that throwaway line about Quicksilver’s father, too. Though I spent a few minutes trying to figure out how that would have worked, given the events of First Class and the timeline between that movie and this one.
I get that we see Charles letting go of his sense of control over Raven, and that’s a significant change for his character. But I guess for me, his big choice overshadowed Raven’s development and choice at the end, and I would have much preferred more of the latter, and seeing what brought her to make that choice aside from just Charles asking her not to and choosing to let her decide, if that makes sense?
May 27, 2014 @ 1:22 pm
I completely agree, with your take on the movie. I was really kind of upset that the trend of killing off the non-white mutants first continued on in the movie. Female characters, why didn’t we have more active female characters? The X-men universe literally has so many ladies they could have thrown in literally anyone into the 1970s, to help out the dude bros with finding Mystique.
What I did like, is it seems they have finally decided to chuck out the Evil Power Couple of Magneto and Mystique. She literally can now have her own backstory, and her own motives, as she has had in the comics for years. Sure she can work with the brotherhood if she wants, but she’s no longer Magneto’s sexy dangerous girlfriend.
Quicksilver was hilarious, he was like a strange combination of Wally West and Bart Allen. Which I liked, cause usually when her appears in the comics, I just roll my damn eyes. My one complaint was that headphones like he used, were not available until the late 80s, and I’m not sure if he was using a hand held radio (which would make more sense) or a walkman. If it was a Walkman, dude it was YEARS too early. If it was a hand held radio, I’ll let it slide but the headphones for those were single ear and not nearly so fancy looking.
I guess while I was entertained, I still felt like they could have done more with, as my friend has dubbed it, “Wolverine’s Magical Time Traveling Adventure”. More ladies, more ladies who got to talk, more ladies who didn’t die, ladies that didn’t have to bone one of the guys to be relevant or included in the movies.
May 27, 2014 @ 1:27 pm
I wonder if that’s writer-hood, or geek-hood, because I had the same exact question about Quicksilver! I have trouble, though, seeing Evan Peters as anyone other than his character in the first season of American Horror Story.
It does make sense, absolutely. But I thought we did get that development, and what brought her to that choice; the problem is that we the audience are kind of stuck with Wolverine as our primary POV character. But all of this does show up on-screen:
We’re shown the moment when she discovers what has happened to Azazel and Emma and Angel and the others (and I could swear the moment that leads up to that choice to investigate Trask Industries, though I’m utterly blanking on the first few minutes of the movie). We see her kidnap but not kill the North Korean general to break into Trask’s meeting at the peace conference. We’re shown her struggle to free herself after Erik shoots her in the leg and uses the metal to drag her back across the ground (clearly, Erik learned nothing from Charles’ shooting). We see her with Erik holding a gun to her head intending to kill her so Trask can’t use her (major betrayal, anyone?) She runs, because she can’t trust anyone, human or mutant. Erik wants to kill her himself, Charles still thinks of her as a child, she’s got no way of knowing what’s going on in Hank’s head or in Wolverine’s (and they’ve thrown themselves in with Charles, anyway). She’s left with one goal: To kill the man who hurt her family. Even after Erik tells her Trask is going to use her to kill all mutants, she doesn’t know she can trust him, or his information; after all, see above. Charles can plead with her all he wants, but he doesn’t treat her as an equal in the airport: Don’t do this, Raven, the *girl* I know wouldn’t do this. (Really, it’s the same argument they had at the Oxford bar when he’d just graduated.)
But she’s already chosen to walk away from both Charles and Erik (literally, as it happens), when Charles has his epiphany. I guess I didn’t see it as his giving her permission. I saw it as his acknowledging what she already knew: that she could trust herself. Could choose for herself.
I’m not sure we’re totally at odds, here, either. It would have been nice to have had an even more Mystique-focused film; not gonna lie.
I think the thing for me is, I see Charles and Erik (much as I love their characters and in particular the older versions) as the frame through which we the viewers see the events of the film. Which is kind of weird, given Wolvie’s the framing character in this film, but. So yes, whiny angsty white male pain, but it’s the glimpses we get of Raven and how she copes with all the awful the film throws at her and still reaches the conclusion she reaches at the end that resonated with me.
May 27, 2014 @ 1:28 pm
(Also, tl;dr, sorry about that. As I said to a friend of mine, I Will Go On.)
May 27, 2014 @ 1:28 pm
Something about her little smirk when she said she had plans for him.
I dunno. Were there ever little Wolverstique babies in the source material?
May 27, 2014 @ 1:34 pm
I haven’t seen it yet, but apparently one of the things that was cut was Rogue’s role, who had a “ten minute subplot” where she had her powers back and was rescued from prison by Prof X and Magneto, but in the end they reduced her role to a cameo. (She was even shown twice in the first trailer and was featured in early marketing campaigns)
May 27, 2014 @ 4:09 pm
I agree with you on the radio/walkman issue. YEARS too early. Another item that caught my eye (It wouldn’t for most people, but most people are not plane nuts like I am) was the private jet they take to Paris. It appears to be a Gulfstream III, with the blended winglets (bent-up tips like you see now a days on Southwest 737s). The III didn’t make it’s first flight until 1977, and to the best of my knowledge, the II never had winglets.
Over-all I liked the movie. I thought the new characters intro’d in the future (Bishop and Blink) could have used a little more establishment for me -I’ve not read the comics, so I didn’t really know who they were.
Quicksilver’s scenes were good -especially the prison kitchen scene, that was hilarious.
May 27, 2014 @ 9:07 pm
I had a better overall opinion of the movie, but I went in with seriously low expectations. I was expecting it to massively suck and it didn’t. But my inner eleven year old is still pissed that the focal time travel character is Wolverine and not Kitty.
May 28, 2014 @ 9:45 pm
I didn’t watch many of the trailers. So, when we went in today and sat down, and I saw how much it was going to focus on Mystique, I was excited! Maybe it will be better than I expected! And I just felt let down. As you say, Mystique was the interesting character in this movie. She DID stuff. She WAS STILL doing stuff. She might have been doing things in a way that weren’t ways other would have chosen, but so what? I spent most of the movie wondering why Charles didn’t just explain to her (or Wolvie, for that matter) what was going to happen if she went through with her plan. And the Quicksilver scenes were fantastic. Much of the movie was just… boring after that. It hit a high point way too early. And it could have been so much better! Not to mention I didn’t buy that Mystique not killing Trask would actually change things that much, when there was another mutant that had carried a stadium all the way over there and killed how many people and wrecked that much havoc. Maybe I’ve just gotten cynical.
June 6, 2014 @ 10:33 am
I guess that was their way to holding up on source. As I remember (I lost my old copies of Days of Future Past during the last year flood here in Czech Republic) i think all mutants who got to die during the future arc died the same way in comics (Storm for example, that was the exact same scene), they used some of New Mutants from the eighties (Sunspot and Warpath), but Kitty is still with Bobby and not with Colosus. Or do I have it mixed up?
I agree on some hollowness of the film, I was feeling it as well. I don’t know what it lacked, but there was something missing, some important element.