X-Men: Days of Future Past
Director: Bryan Singer
Stars: Peter Dinklage, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and a shit ton of others
Year Released: 2014
I really need to write two reviews for X-Men: Days of Future Past; one that looks at it as simply a high budget, summer action film with characters from previous Fox movies based on Marvel characters and then another that explores the movie as Fox’s adaptation of the classic X-Men story from which the movie derives its name: Days of Future Past.
I am not going to do that though, there are more than enough reviews praising the movie for its awesome effects, great acting and clever writing that enables Fox to retcon their property without having to consider the future movies a “reboot” of the X-Men. I will say that the 4 star rating I am giving this movie is based on those facts, and those facts alone. The asterisk refers to the rest of my review of the movie, basically everything that follows.
Okay, let me start by saying that I am a Marvel fan, they were my comics of choice growing up. I am also a huge X-Men fan, aside from Punisher and Ghost Rider, the X-Men (in all variants) were the comics I read first as a kid. Finally, the Days of Future Past story line was (and remains) one of my favorite pieces of story telling. The time travel, the post-apocalyptic world, the exploration of good intent turned in on itself, the death of Wolverine… All of these things stuck with me after first reading those two issues. So much so, that I had such high hopes going into the movie despite being determined to watch it simply as another Fox (which I personally feel has exponentially failed Marvel fans more and more with each movie they release) comic action movie. I was pretty sure I was going to be disappointed if I expected anything more.
At the end of the movie I was still basking in the awesomeness of the imagery on screen, the action that flooded my retinas and the excellent acting (for the most part) of the people perfectly cast in their roles. I will say that Fox has done an amazing job of casting the most critical roles in their version of the Marvel universe (Juggernaut, Sabertooth and Cyclops being the most notable exceptions), giving credit where it is due. It wouldn’t be until a few hours later, once the Hollywood haze had lifted, that I began to think about how wildly the movie drifted from the original story. Before feeling comfortable writing my thoughts down I decided that I needed to reread the original (I wish I could say inspirational) story, so I loaded the TPB onto my Kindle and did just that.
So, having read the source material and debated my major points with a few people I feel pretty qualified to voice my (admittedly in the minority) opinion, here it is:
I really feel as if Fox handed Stephanie Meyer and copy of a spec script along with the two original issues of Days of Future past, told her that Michael Bay was going to be directing the movie and gave her three months to come up with something shootable. Then, without reviewing the results they began production. Which makes sense, for a major summer tent-pole movie, it is basically formulaic: easily identifiable characters + big name actors + fantasy/sci-fi story + lots of action = massive money for the studio. Now, Fox hasn’t exactly invested a lot of time in making the Marvel characters have depth, and the built in depth the characters should have has been summarily dismissed by ruined plots (Dark Phoenix, anyone?). But that is okay, the characters don’t need depth, they need catch-phrases and “a look”, which Fox focuses on. As for story, well Fox seems to enjoy putting their stamp on the Marvel universe and are treating it (as often happens in comics) as if the source material is an alternate dimension.
A friend (and constant counterpoint taker) of mine believes that Fox can do pretty much whatever they want as long as the continuity within their version of the Marvel universe is maintained, if they can keep their shit in line let them take artistic freedoms. Well, that is well and fine and I can totally accept that, but they should re-title half their Marvel movies “Inspired by Marvel’s X-Men” or “Inspired by Marvel’s Wolverine”, because absent that caveat the viewer can only assume that the movies are actual adaptations, this viewer at least.
Now on to my biggest points of contention ( I will do my best to keep them limited):
Wolverine never went back in time, end of story. Kitty Pryde’s mind (as Glitter, not even a nod to her original name) travels back in time (sent by Rachel Summers…) into her younger self. This allows her to take on a more important role as an X-Man (which becomes important later in the actual Marvel universe), as well as build on her relationship with Colossus. By not having Wolverine go back in time Fox could have shown future Wolverine have his organic body parts fried off by a Sentinel, which I feel would have been a MASSIVE opportunity to allow the viewer to emotionally connect with Wolverine, in a way that Fox failed to in the past, while still allowing the continuation of the character by rewriting the future. Instead, Wolverine goes back in time and Kitty Pride remains a supporting character in a story that should have elevated her. Maybe because Fox felt adding another character (Rachel) would be too confusing? Yeah…
It was great seeing Bishop, I remember when he first came on the comic scene and was all bad ass and from an alternate dimension with cool weapons (I do enjoy my anti-heroes) but that was about ten years later, and I mean publication years not comic book timeline years. So, why the hell was he in this movie? Probably the same reason Sunspot (who it seems did not deserve to be named) and Blink are there in the future that never happens…because Fox can do whatever they want, they own the rights and have the money, even if genuine opportunities for continuity are now gone for these characters. Okay, moving on.
When Magneto shows up in the Days of Future past story, it is in the future and the role he plays is minimal but another awesome opportunity to create emotional attachment with the audience. A wheelchair bound Magneto stays behind to cover the escape of the Kitty and those protecting her while her mind is in the past. He doesn’t appear in the past and shows his ability to become reformed later in the Marvel universe. But, we need to have Fassbender back in the game, right? Fuck the story and making sense, people want to see familiar faces. That can be the only explanation because Magneto’s presence in the movie doesn’t even make sense continuity-wise. I mean, he gets broken out of prison and after that just fucks things up more than they already were. The story would have been far easier to conclude without deviations from canon if Magneto had not been around, but then I suppose we never would have gotten that awesome action scene with Quicksilver…
So, instead of Mystique’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants we get Mystique and Quicksilver, except Quicksilver in now a good guy and was never a member of the Brotherhood (he was a founding member in the comics) and Mystique is flying solo (despite her leading the Brotherhood at this time in the comics). Did I mention that Quicksilver’s TWIN sister, Wanda (Scarlet Witch) is nowhere to be found? Why do this? Why introduce a character totally absent from the source material and have him break out another character that actually detracts from the movie without justifying any of that with the bigger picture? I really liked the nod to Magneto possibly being Quicksilver’s father (if they don’t fuck that up too).
So, Wolverine has bone claws in this movie… I get it, in Fox’s version of the Marvel universe he has already gone through the events of The Wolverine and because of that has bone claws. Okay, I’ll play along. But why is he surprised when the metal detector doesn’t go off? He hasn’t had the adamantium bonded to his skeleton yet? But those events already happened, even within the Fox version of the Marvel universe, as long as time functions the same as reality. But, lets assume that he doesn’t and this is a pre-Weapon-X version of Wolverine, that brings up the final scene with past Wolverine in it, the one after they bring him up from the water (another issue I have, and a wasted opportunity to explore canon). He is still alive and Major Stryker is essentially in custody of him. Of course we see that Mystique is actually Major Stryker, which suggests (strongly) that she (as Stryker) will be running the Weapon-X program, which means she will be effectively responsible for Wolverine’s most heinous actions? Do you really want to do that Fox? And this is after the events that change the course of time saving the world from nuclear destruction. So, it has basically set the Fox version of the Marvel universe down that course, assuming what I saw is in fact what they end up doing and not having her become Wolverine’s savior or some shit, which would screw up Stryker’s character, the Weapon-X program, Mystique and/or Wolverine as far as continuity goes.
And I have one final thing to say before I feel that I covered the major points that I have issues with:
We see a scene where changed-future Professor X is talking to Wolverine and Wolverine thanks him for what he did for Wolverine, this has got to be the most annoying piece of deviation from canon for me. Wolverine is referencing a specific period of time when he says this and very specific events. What Wolverine is referring to is the false memories imprinted upon him by Team X in the ’60’s and the traumatic events that took place while he was held captive as part of the Weapon-X program in the ’70’s and his belief that Professor X cleared things up inside of his mind, the problem with that is that by this point in time Wolverine had already found out that Professor X had actually wiped Wolverine’s mind and made him join the X-Men, kind of mind raping him into being part of the team. Why would Wolverine thank him for that? He wouldn’t, he never does. Sure, he reconciles and everyone is friends but Wolverine does not take kindly to being controlled (considering all that has happened to him, can you blame the guy). The only possible explanations are that the writers do not know what actually happens in the comics or Fox just doesn’t care, they can do what they want.
Great movie, if you take it as nothing more than a spectacular summer action piece. I have more issues with the movie (Storm and Beast?) but I have surely bored you enough.