Sira delivered her immediate thoughts on X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST last week. Now it’s mine and David’s turn to chat about Bryan Singer’s latest tale of mutant woe, touching on a variety of topics.
Beware, this be as SPOILER-FILLED as X-MEN has continuity holes.
David: I was a very big fan of the movie. I thought it hit so many of the right notes, capturing both the bleakness of the future timeline and the urgency of the past. I didn’t like how the plot did some aggressive hand waving to get past the “how” of this time travel occurs — especially since giving Kitty these vague powers was such a departure from, well, any talent Kitty has ever displayed in any medium. But it didn’t impair my overall enjoyment; the mechanics were secondary to the characters themselves, and those were nailed better than perhaps any X-movie ever has.
Andy: I don’t know what it is, because I know Days of Future Past is probably the best X-Men movie to date, but something felt off. Maybe it’s because I had to sit in the front row, or maybe it’s because I’m never truly happy or satisfied. Maybe because it made all other X-movies obsolete. More on that later, but I will say that this felt more like an X-MEN movie than perhaps any of them to date, that Singer managed to juggle two franchises and very nearly tied them together into a bow. The movie had no downtime, was thrilling throughout, and felt epic without necessitating endless scenes of destruction porn normally accompanying such a grand scale in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Thoughts on retconning the entire original trilogy
David: I think I liked it. The various continuity errors that the cinematic X-universe has suffered (and there were many) were never super important to me; I just wanted good stories that made sense within that film; even if, for instance, Charles met Erik a little later in life in First Class than he had said in X-Men. But I still respected the effort this movie made to resolve it all. Most studios wouldn’t have given a shit if there was internal consistency throughout the movies, so at least trying is something I respect, even if I didn’t think it was necessary. And I will still enjoy watching X-Men and X2 even if they officially “never happened”; I might even rest a little easier knowing X3 didn’t.
Andy: It rubbed me the wrong way, even if it’s for the best, and I knew it was coming. It seemed pretty clear that the Days of Future Past time travel element would be used to create a new present and re-write whatever FOX and Brett Ratner did in X3, but I don’t know if I was prepared for how completely they did. The retcon’s execution felt perfectly in the realm of what Marvel would do, and has done, with X-MEN and their characters, so really, it’s one of the most comic book-y things that the franchise has ever done. And by doing so, FOX now has possibly two X-Men franchises going concurrently, with the past-Men starting the X-Men and the school and because the future has changed, a chance to redo the Phoenix Saga (in a way in which Jean survives), and meet a younger Storm (Lupita Nyong’o!), Jean Grey and Scott Summers that have emotional depth and dimension. And the future-men can do whatever the hell we want, should they so choose, giving a chance for Wolverine to lead Iceman, Shadowcat, Colossus, Rogue, Blink, Sunspot, Bishop, Warpath, and whomever to have their moments. I’m happy that X-MEN: THE LAST STAND never happened, but was it so bad that it needed to wipe away every other movie, including The Wolverine, which aside from a crappy ending, was actually a pretty good flick precisely because of the effect Jean Grey’s death had on Logan? In many ways, X-Men was one of the more important movies of my childhood (and in Hollywood history), and now, for all intents and purposes, it doesn’t really exist anymore.
Wolverine’s Expanded Role
David: I was among those who complained a little after the first X-Men that Wolverine had too large of a role at the expense of the rest of the team. But I’ve long since gotten over it. As Andy pointed out in his Autobiography in Movies, Hugh Jackman as Logan was one of the greatest, most inspired casting moves in superhero movie history. And we’re running out of chances to see him nail that role, so why not just accept and enjoy it? Besides, more so than in X-Men, I thought they balanced the movie with plenty of great moments for the supporting cast. There was only one thing that made me regret that Wolvy was the one sent back in time, which I’ll discuss later.
Andy: It would’ve been nice if Kitty could’ve somehow come along for the ride with Wolverine (because if we’re inventing powers, that would’ve been more fun), but since they hadn’t established much of a relationship at all in the movies, that might not have worked. But it could’ve mirrored the relationship between Rogue and Wolverine in the first X-MEN. If Rogue wasn’t so clearly out of the question for many reasons (she’s cured/sucks/it makes no sense), I might’ve wanted to see her make the trip with Wolvy, because their relationship was one of the best and most realistic things we saw in the original trilogy. Anyways, I don’t have any problem with Wolverine being the central focus of the action. That’s just how it’s going to be, and Wolverine is the most fully formed character the entire franchise has, thanks to Hugh Jackman being one of the few consistent elements. It would’ve been supremely effective/badass for him to have died as David mentions. At least him being forced to carry the burden of this alternate future, while not knowing the new past/present, is something that totally fits into the tragic element of Wolverine’s character. Of course Jean Grey is back…and of course Scott Summers is still in the way.
Favorite Character (Major)
David: Magneto, 1973 version. A few ways I could go there, as this was such an incredible, deep cast of actors who nailed their roles. But for the second time, Michael Fassbender just destroyed that role. I don’t think any superhero movie villain has ever so perfectly hit the note of destructive actions while believing himself to be acting justly. Meaning, in short, he WAS Magneto, making us *feel* why he’s one of the best villains in comics history.
Andy: I don’t want to be redundant, because Fassbender’s Magneto is the answer. In what might be the best cast ever, Fassbender delivers the best performance by far (I love that he altered his voice slightly knowing McKellan would be in the film). His decisions are infuriating, maddening and insane, but it’s so Magneto, and so scary to behold, because there’s no greater threat, even next to Sentinels that have wiped out the mutant race in the future. I will say that James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart’s Professor X had more synergy and impact together than the two Magneto’s, not only because they shared a scene together, but I felt like I was witnessing their journey. We didn’t really get to see enough of Ian McKellan’s older Magneto, beyond him watching Kitty Pryde at work (thrilling). I loved his sad and heroic death scene, and his final words regretting his actions…but I don’t know if they quite had the impact that I wanted them too, because I felt a slight disconnect between the two versions of the characters, or didn’t quite believe the transformation, since we hadn’t seen any evidence of it before his last moments.
Favorite Character (Minor)
David: A lot of fans are going Quicksilver here, and not without reason; they nailed him. But I have to say my girl BLINK. Honestly, I had forgotten how much I loved that character until I saw her in live action for the first time. Chinese actress Bingbing Fan had the perfect look, and her action scenes were visually stunning and thrilling.
Andy: Storm! Just kidding. I will go with PietroPeter/Quicksilver in lieu of other options. Most of the other secondary characters just sort of exist and look pretty, or are walking plot devices (Kitty Pryde), but Quicksilver stole the show for the brief few scenes he was in, and gave the festivities much needed brevity (“My Mom knew a guy who could control metal” was simultaneously the best and worst line of the entire movie). I will say that once they found Quicksilver and got him to help…it made no sense not to use him to do everything else in the movie. But I get why that’s not how it worked out, because it would’ve been far easier that way, and all urgency/tension would’ve dissipated. I expect a X-Men: Days of Future Past in the eyes of Quicksilver parody at some point.
Least Favorite Character (Minor)
Andy: Ink, because yes, he was in this movie (and he apparently exists), as the pale white bald dude with what looked like a Phoenix tattoo on his eye. Or it’d be Colossus, because he still looks super fake, and still never gets lines. Plus, I want this to happen at least once.
David: Havok. Not that his 17 seconds of screen time in this movie had anything wrong, but they reminded me how much I disliked him in First Class. The reason I didn’t like First Class as much as a lot of people is because I thought the supporting characters were almost all awful, and I didn’t love seeing any reminder of that.
Andy: While Blink was one of the most perfect translations from comic book to movie in terms of appearance and visuals (the portals were glorious), and Bishop was also high up there in those respects, the new mutants (Blink, Bishop, Sunspot and Warpath) were essentially CGI set dressing. Did Sunspot even have a line? They were there to die spectacularly at the beginning and the end. They looked beautiful in doing so, and I honestly have no real problem with it, since the movie was overstuffed as is, but I think it’s still the symptom of what doomed the X-MEN franchise in the first place. It’s so hard to say no to all the mutants, because there are so many awesome ones we want to see, but the impact is lost, or the result is several two dimensional mutants.
David: I can’t really think of any new characters I particularly disliked, or at least any significant ones (Ink was dumb, as you said, but he didn’t matter enough for me to care). I loved the New Mutants group in the future. They may not have been three-dimensional characters, but they weren’t needed/intended to be anything other than awesome action additions. And they looked GREAT. I don’t think the X-movies failings were ever about using too many characters. I think it was always as simple as losing the story at times or relying on two-dimensional characters to be something they weren’t. This movie balanced that better than any of the others by a decent margin.
David: Honestly, it’s fairly minor complaints for me, but there were two things missing from this movie that really would have kicked it up to 11 for me. One would have been a shot in the future of the infamous wall of mutant targets from the cover of X-Men #141 (above), the first part of “Days of Future Past.” Given that it might be the most homaged cover in comics history, I was disappointed it didn’t make it in the movie. Two, the downside of having Wolverine be the one to go back in time, with him waking up in the future being the end of the time travel, was that we didn’t get the most breath-taking moment of the comics story: his death by incineration by a Sentinel. The future deaths we did get were still incredible, but I think that one would have brought the house down.
Andy: The plot was heavy-handed and ridiculous (Kitty’s powers), but I got most of the reasoning behind the choices. 1973 Xavier couldn’t have his powers, because it would’ve been all too easy for him to stop Mystique, Trask or Magneto before the threat ever got out of hand/Magneto got his helmet. The handy serum from Beast didn’t make a ton of sense, but whatever, I dug the drug addiction parallels, and I liked that Xavier was sacrificing his gifts to walk again. It’s such an incredulous decision, but it shows how damaged and withdrawn he’s become.
The Stryker addition was very effective if only for the Wolverine scene and the ending with Mystique, but his involvement with the franchise is so confusing at this point, that I had no idea why he was there, why he was so anti-mutant, etc. We know his motivations have to do with his son, and it also doesn’t really matter in the scheme of Days of Future Past, but I kinda just am over Stryker.
I LOVED everything we got with Jennifer Lawrence and Mystique…and think she’s done wonders in this role. I get that she’s the female Wolverine/Hugh Jackman, in that Mystique has become a huge character because an Oscar winning global phenomenon plays her, but Singer and company have done such a great job of justifying why. It makes so much sense that her DNA is what was used to make the Sentinels so damn formidable (although I guess Morph’s DNA would’ve been more apt), and she was the assassin who killed Senator Kelly in the comics and propelled the alternate future forward. I hated how Xavier treats Mystique in the first film; he deserved to be abandoned, because he treated Raven like a child and lumped her with Havok, Angel and the rest, despite Xavier GROWING UP WITH HER. The second film serves up some retribution to Xavier, while he also finally realizes how big of a dick he was. I love how mercurial Mystique is, that she’s not Magneto’s sex slave or #2, that she’s on her own, with her own motives, making her own decisions, and how dangerous they’ve made her, even as an misunderstood anti-hero. BUT, and this is where the complaint comes in: while Mystique is such an important character in this movie, we get that from Xavier and Magneto’s perspective, and not really her own. Perhaps that’s due to the nature of her powers. After all, it’s really hard to get scenes from her POV; even when she’s the central focus, she primarily looks like someone else. The Magneto/Xavier relationship dynamic is the boon of First Class and this film, and the explosive addition of Mystique into that triangle is brilliant/interesting, especially since she’s not merely a love interest…but I don’t know if her character really stands on her own. We see everyone trying to reach her, trying to get her to do things, and never really get inside her head, or get a moment to see her for who she really is. That’s the mystique of her character, I suppose, but I also think more screen time and focus on her character could’ve made it incredible, and give her heroic choice at the end even more emotional resonance.
Where does the film rank in the X-Men franchise canon?
David: It’s close between X2 and Days of Future Past, and I’ll need to see the latter more than once to say it definitively, but right now, I’m going with Days of Future Past as the best one of all. It so captured the desperation of the X-Men when they’re at their best, the darkness of that world and the greatness of its characters.
Andy: TBD. It could be anywhere from #1 or #4. I don’t even know how I’d rank the other films beside it, but I’m thinking I’d rank it #2 after X2.
How about that post-credits scene?
David: Given that we already knew the title of the next movie is X-Men: Apocalypse, it shouldn’t have had so much effect on me, but my god did it get me excited. Apocalypse, despite some missteps in stories over the years, is still my second-favorite X-villain, and I just cannot freaking wait to see him in action. I thought it was smart to show him as a boy (though he was older in the comics when he came into his own) so we could get a glimpse at our Big Bad while still leaving the real casting open.
Andy: I loved this. It looked rushed CGI-wise, but hearing the En Sabuh Nur chant, and seeing the four horsemen, got me tingly. Before it happened, I joked that perhaps it’d end like Avengers, with a blue guy the general public doesn’t know grinning to the camera. I would’ve laughed, but thankfully that didn’t happen. I can’t wait to see the Apocalypse story set in the 1980’s, and whatever my thoughts on Days of Future Past, there’s no denying that the X-franchise is in as good a position as it’s been since after the first movie. Most of the baggage is jettisoned, and now creativity (and hopefully characterization) can flow. Of course, given the bright X-future we’ve seen and knowing Apocalypse takes place in the 80’s, does that lessen the stakes?
Four Horseman of the Apocalypse Predictions
Andy: Four of the following: Archangel, Mystique, Mr. Sinister, Dark Beast, Banshee (I don’t think we saw his death certificate in Trask’s lair), Havok, Psylocke, Caliban and Domino, in order of likelihood. As long as Toad is nowhere near the running. Hell, maybe young Storm, Jean and Scott will make up three quarters of it (and maybe we’ll figure out how Havok exists). It’d be a helluva way to introduce them.
David: When Apocalypse debuted in the 1980s in X-Factor, he just had four original horsemen without using any prior characters. I think trying to get four “name” horsemen might make things too crowded, or cause the impact to be lessened when Apocalypse does try/force one X-Men to become a Horseman. So I predict we get three generics, with an X-Man becoming Death. And that X-Man will be…well, probably Wolverine, since Jackman is softening on the next Wolvy movie being his last appearance as the character.
Mutant You Most Want to See
David: In order: Young Storm, Mister Sinister, Cable, Shadow King, Nightcrawler (somehow)
Andy: We need a Storm spin-off (again, starring Lupita) in which she takes on Calypso and the Morlocks. Mostly because of that mohawk.