Review of X-Men: Days of Future Past

This film review’s a week late, so chances are good that you’ve seen the movie…but in case you haven’t, I will be writing about plot points that you might not want spoiled.

Apropos of this movie’s time-travel story, I am suffering a big, ol’ case of déjà-vu after watching X-Men: Days of Future Past. When the original X-Men movie was released in 2000, I had access to a lot of fellow comic geeks who anticipated the movie. Same with X-Men 2: X-Men United in 2003. I’d ask the X-Men fans what they thought of the movie, and it was nearly unanimous: Awesome! Loved it! Couldn’t be more pleased!

I was disappointed because I thought the X-Men movies were so awful. An hour-long debate would usually commence with the film admirers (not that debates over the nuances of the various elements of comic book worlds was uncommon). I had plenty of ammunition: “What happens to a toad when it’s struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else…” Come on…and why does Wolverine have to throw in swear words at the climax? What, to show he’s tough! Unnecesary! Why does Jean Grey have to leave the Blackbird in order to lift it out of the path of the deluge? Just stay on the plane! It’s a formulaic movie conclusion, just like in the first movie, when we’re supposed to hold onto our seats while Cyclops lines up a shot with his optic blast for heightened tension…unnecessarily! Why do the X-Men movies conclude with such lousy planning and loose plot points?

X-Men: The Last Stand was released in 2006, and I was pleasantly surprised. Imagine my shock when X-Men fans nearly revolted, trashing the movie. To me, it seemed to bring the X-Men movie universe back to the roots of what made the comic so excellent: for instance, the tension between homo sapiens and homo superior, with the Mutant Registration Act, and the X-Men’s mission to show human beings that they would stand for them against the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. This was one of the most interesting themes of Chris Claremont’s lengthy run on Uncanny X-Men. The Last Stand included elements of the Dark Phoenix saga, arguably the best storyline from the comic, and the movie did a fine job of incorporating Jean Grey’s dark alter-ego into the fold (considering that incorporating the alien components of the Shi’ar universe into the plot might have been too much for movie-goers). The special effects were so much better in The Last Stand than the previous movies, and I finally felt there was an excellent visual representation of what a battle with mutants should look like on the big screen. The conclusion was satisfactory, also, for a change. Yet, my interviews with comic book fans yielded the same conclusion: Brett Ratner RUINED it! (IT RUINS IT!! Why does it ruin it, precious?)

I finally reached karmic satisfaction with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class in 2011. The fans loved it. I loved it. All was good in the world because there was consensus of what a well-wrought X-Men film should look like. Kumbaya, X-Fans…

…which brings us to this week’s release. I’ve talked to a few comic fans. I visited my local comic shop. I’ve scoured the internet for feedback.

Awesome! Loved it! Couldn’t be more pleased!

Whoa. Déjà vu.

When I left the theater, I could only utter one word to my wife (who enjoyed the movie and probably wanted to kick me out of the car while it was moving): SUCK!

SUCK! SUCK! SUCK! SUUUCCCKKK!!!

X-Men: Days of Future Past did indeed suck, and I’m right back where I was with the first two movies. I spent an hour debating the finer points of suckitude with my comic-book dealer, my brother-in-law, and a few internet buddies. I’ve accumulated quite an arsenal of reasons why the movie sucked, all of which are summarily dismissed by the seemingly brain-washed masses that so badly need this movie to be cool. I fail to understand why they had to yet again incorporate a formulaic conclusion, with unnecessary tension, lousy planning, and loose plot points.

There is one consistent factor on the timeline of my disappointment, and his name is Bryan Singer.

I will quote John Scalzi, writer-extraordinaire and critic I respect, from his review of X2: X-Men United: “The X-Men movies are fairly dour as far as superhero films go, and you have director Bryan Singer to thank for that.” I couldn’t have said it better myself, and it applies to X-Men: Days of Future Past, also.

The exchanges between Professor X and Magneto wanted to make me rip the hair out of my head…perhaps that is how Xavier became bald, after realizing the awful way his character “matures” in this movie. Attempting to show how a whiny, dejected Professor X became the wise mentor of the group was the downfall of this film (along with the myriad plot threads that consistently make no sense whatsoever). Having to suffer through the dialogue between Professor X and Magneto was too painful, and since it was the main gist of the character crisis of this film, you can see where my fury starts. What a waste of talent in James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender to deliver such rotten, vapid dialogue.

The most unnecessary scene involved Professor X when using Cerebro to find Mystique. The Professor just can’t find the gumption to make it work, and good ol’ Wolverine has to interject, giving him the go-get-‘em attitude. Let’s send you back to my body in the future so you can hear some empty platitudes from your future self, so you can come back with those useless, empty platitudes that will have no effect whatsoever until the culmination of the plot that will end up saving everybody at just the perfect moment! I found myself grumbling to myself at this point: Just get on Cerebro, find Mystique, collaborate a better strategy than just showing up and getting slaughtered by Magneto, and maybe we could have a better ending than the one I am positive will be dished to us…maybe some dignity could have been retained for Charles Xavier’s character, the rock-solid ethical cornerstone of the good-guy mutant agenda (until this rotten film representation).

Before I rip the conclusion of this movie apart, I’d like to mention some of the unbelievably stupid plot points that make no sense whatsoever:

• At the very beginning, Charles Xavier has to explain to the future Wolverine how difficult a man he was in the past when Magneto pipes up: “You’ll need me, too,” to which Xavier agrees! Do you think these wise, old men might have suspected a problem with involving Magneto, who was safely imprisoned anyway? Do you think they might have surmised that he might SCREW THE WHOLE DEAL UP, ya know, since he’s the most powerful mutant super-villian alive, intent on destroying humanity in grandiose fashion?! Do you think even a reformed Magneto himself might have known that maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea? I guess not, because they glossed over it pretty quickly at their preliminary planning session…

• So Beast manages to develop a serum in the 70s that allows him to change back and forth from beast-mode to human-form at will, like a werewolf…weird how that was always the one scientific concoction that eluded him throughout the entirety of his character’s history (including when he was introduced in The Last Stand, when a similar formula was developed, much to Beast’s surprise). The great thing about the serum also, is that it allows Professor X to walk again!…and oh yeah, it takes away the mental powers of the world’s most powerful telepath. Talk about convenience for the sake of writing a script that anticipates a faulty conclusion…

• And speaking of Beast, did they retain the make-up artists and choreographer from Jack Nicholson’s werewolf in Mike Nichols’ Wolf?…from twenty years ago. Archaic and hackneyed.

• So all Magneto has to do is study some tech-specs of the Sentinels, inject some railroad ties into the machinery, and he gets to control them completely. I wasn’t aware he had that ability. Why didn’t he do that in the future scenario?

• And speaking of the sentinels, Bryan Singer made a point about stressing the lack of technology from the 70s, but those Sentinels sure looked modern. In fact, I’m pretty sure if we marched giant robots on stage behind the President in 2014, a crowd of people wouldn’t start clapping, but instead would run away in terror at just the sight of them.

• And speaking of the President, wouldn’t the fact that Magneto had killed JFK (or might have…this didn’t make much sense either) with his mutant powers have been more impetus to declare mutants dangerous than the assassination of a scientist like Bolivar Trask? Just saying…

• I don’t mind them sending Wolverine back in time instead of Kitty Pryde (like in Uncanny X-Men 141 & 142). I understand there are going to be some concessions for the sake of movie goodness. But really, just the sight of William Stryker with a taser in him (did they have tasers in the 70s?) sends Wolverine into a psychic trauma at precisely the correct time that he is needed to thwart Magneto? The script just started falling apart at that moment…

• …and Magneto acts all chummy with the mutants until he decides he’s going to coldly kill Mystique to avoid future Armageddon. However, he later realizes that all they need is a DNA sample and realizes that killing her is unnecessary. Sorry, Mystique (and sorry for not saving the future, also!). The assumed assassination is thwarted, but events still transpire because Mystique AND Magneto are now both intent on creating a public show of terror that will instigate the start of human dominance and sentinel takeover…even though they are both aware of what will happen if they do! The pair even had a conversation about it! I thought these characters were supposed to be intelligent leaders of the mutant movement. How dumb and nonsensical.

It’s obvious that the script was designed to take the bare essentials of the comic-book storyline and make it work somehow on the big screen, adding convenient device after convenient device, so Singer could utilize his special tactic of having characters whine at each other about their character flaws (and Magneto picking up big structural pieces of architecture). But nothing was more disappointing and mind-numbing than how this movie ended this confusing time-travel fiasco. I’ve always suspected comic-book time-travel plots would not be a good thing to try on the big-screen, and I was more-than-right here.

We are supposed to believe that the events of the past align perfectly with the timeline of the future, so that we can enjoy a climatic finale where the future mutants might be killed if the past players don’t mess up their mission. This makes no sense in a time-travel story. It opens up to too many possibilities, like what moment they should have leapt to (like when Trask was born, instead of precisely before the assassination), how time physics work (how much time was needed for Kitty Pryde to hold steady about Wolverine’s head without sleeping, eating, or bleeding out?), and at what precise time the horrific future would have been avoided (and what does it matter if the future players die?! They will cease to exist anyways?!!).

And by the way, at what point was the apocalyptic future prevented? It was the point where Mystique changed her mind and lowered the gun that was to kill Trask in front of a public audience. We are supposed to believe that the world collectively gasped a sigh of relief, abandoned their fear of mutants, jailed Trask, abandoned the Sentinel program, and prevented the mutant genocide…AFTER Magneto and Mystique proved through terrifying fashion that there are all-powerful mutants that COULD easily assassinate the President and his cabinet on a whim. Yep, I’m not buying that crappy interpretation.

Then, Wolverine wakes up at some random moment in the future to discover all things X-Men are happy-go-lucky again. He and Professor X talk about it, wink at each other, content in the knowledge that Wolverine is in fact the mentor of the mutant race and responsible for making Professor X the leader that he is. Garbage conclusion. Awful, awful movie.

I’ve been told (and I have read) that I shouldn’t expect realism if I’m going to see an X-Men movie. I don’t expect realism; I expect some semblance of verisimilitude. I assumed that the intention of this movie was to wrap up the plot points of the previous movies. If that’s the case, then Wolverine would have to awaken sometime between the first X-Men and X-2: X-Men United, and any newer X-Men movies will carry on after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand. However, I suspect any newer sequels will retain the all-star cast accumulated, including Cyclops (Bryan Singer’s buddy, James Marsden), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), and Professor X (Patrick Stewart OR a clean-shaven James McAvoy…not sure how that would make sense). The final moment of Stryker revealing himself as Mystique makes me suspect that new X-Men movies will employ the comic-book standby of alternate timelines. Good luck getting casual movie fans to understand how that works, Marvel! Since you’ve overused it in the comic-book universe, why not start to work it into your movie plots? You’ve lost me, and as a life-long comic book reader, I actually understand how that works…it means that the events of Days of Future Past only represent one timeline, where the Sentinels destroy the remaining mutants, and the story in the movie becomes irrelevant because the apocalyptic future is still happening on other timelines. Only one timeline was saved, and there are infinite timelines where different conclusions occur. Try to run that idea past your movie-watchers, Marvel.

P.S. It wasn’t all bad. I really enjoyed the introduction of Quicksilver into the Marvel movie universe. The scene where he saves the day playfully while listening to Jim Croce’s “Time In a Bottle” was easily my favorite…even if Bryan Singer somewhat plagiarized it from Dreamworks’ Over the Hedge.

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3 comments

  1. Saw it tonight. Ouch. Your review is harsh. I’m gonna have to say that if you look around and discover that you’re the only one who hates something, maybe the issue is you. 🙂

    This was, hands down, the best of all of the X movies. HANDS. DOWN.

    1. Heh, yes I’m harsh…probably too much but dem’s the breaks when it needs to be said. I don’t mind being the only one who can point at the emperor and show he’s wearing no clothes…you’re right though…I have issues. I’m glad you enjoyed the movie, but I’m hoping that one fan could at least back up his praise with at least one reason why it’s so good…

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