What’s wrong with a little magic trick? After all, that’s what a movie is, right? Movie magic?
Months ago I commented on how X-Men: Days of Future Past (DOFP) was a chance for Fox to get a handle on their franchise. To make changes for the better and improve upon their mistakes. I was hoping for an opportunity for good movies for the X-Men, my favorite comic franchise, along the lines of Amazing Spider-Man and Iron Man.
And according to Twitter this is the best X-Men movie. Oh, apparently it could even be better than The Avengers! It was so good and fixed all the problems that X-Men fans are just rejoicing!
I’m calling foul. Because honestly, all this movie was, was a magic trick. It literally tricked audiences into believing this was a fantastic movie, more importantly a fantastic X-Men movie. I believe mostly by the virtue of The Thing they did at the end of the movie.
There are other reasons, too.
Reason Number One being that it was directed by Bryan Singer, the director for X-Men and X-2 which started off the franchise and possibly this entire era of gritty, realistic superhero movies. Most fans of the movies still say that X-2 is by far the best of the movies. Simply by the virtue of his name being on this project, nostalgia kicked in and fans believed they would get to relive the amazement that was X-2.
Visually, Singer definitely came in and put his mark on this movie. Every scene was shot with care and many of the actors were definitely directed into giving emotion… possibly to some writing that didn’t quite warrant that quality of emoting. On top of that, the mutant powers felt natural and seamless much like they did in X-2, something missing from something like The Last Stand.
So, yes, under Singer’s directorial power the movie looked like a well put together, solid story. Much like the other two X-Men films he directed which showed decent cohesion throughout despite its other problems. Most of which seemed to be in the script.
And about that script… It was written by Simon Kinberg who also wrote the script for The Last Stand.
Let that sink in for a bit because I’m getting back to that.
Reason Number Two was the decision to hook the original trilogy cast together with the cast of X-Men: First Class. The latter of which is, to me, the best of the X-Men movies. It had a charm to it that felt straight out of the comics and while they screwed up some favorite character (Emma Frost, for example) there was some effort to give characters personalities and personal arcs outside of their powers. There was some real possibilities to be explored here.
So of course it makes absolute sense to kill off most of the characters from that movie and completely ruin the charm that was First Class here in DOFP. Instead of widening the possibilities, we got further Charles/Raven/Erik dynamic. While I enjoy this dynamic and even liked the ending that Charles and Raven got to their arc, the inclusion of Wolverine and the original trilogy cast really undercut it.
It felt as if there was half a movie missing from their storyline. What seemed like a better place to begin would be when The Xavier School is falling apart. Actually show Charles’ descent into hopelessness, adding more tension and more stakes. Also… dammit, all of those characters killed off screen! That just pissed me off. If it had to happen, make it part of the story. Show Raven dealing with the circumstances. Perhaps survivor’s guilt turns into rage, humanizing her more especially when paralleled with young Magneto who feels this further justifies his vendetta against the human race. Show Raven hesitant with the lengths Magneto goes to so it’s even more reasonable when she strikes out on her own.
Show, don’t tell! For the love of god, this is the first rule of Writing 101!! Even in scriptwriting. I took scriptwriting 101, I know!
Also gotta love how Professor X gets turned into Professor Exposition at the beginning of the movie. Poor use of your Patrick Stewart, guys!
Back to the reasons…
Oh yes, that Quicksilver scene.
This I’m going to compare to that opening scene in X-2 where Nightcrawler is trying to assassinate the President. It’s an awesome scene that really showcases a mutant’s unique capabilities in a way you can never get in the comics. This is a good use of your mutant powers meets cinematography!
But unlike Nightcrawler, Quicksilver is there for that scene only.
Just like Nightcrawler, Quicksilver’s relation to a more central character is hinted at but never explored (because that would be something, like, character development or something! Why do that when we can show nifty powers instead?)
Unlike Nightcrawler, Quicksilver could have been replaced with about half a dozen other characters and the story would have lost nothing. Nothing! And that half a dozen is just characters with similar powers. Far more relevant characters to the plot and the central cast could have been brought in.
Though, honestly, that ending sequence could have been far more dynamic with Quicksilver in the mix!
Certainly a lot less characters standing around telling us what’s going on… Wow, even the final battle was more tell than show. That… that is really sad… I only really realized this now…
Okay, so another reason this is apparently a spectacular movie… It’s based off a popular comic book arc?
Ignoring the They-Sent-Logan-Instead-Of-Kitty bit of that because Wolverine=Cash… This movie has been done before. And better. Movies like the Terminator have done the ‘go back in time to change the horrible future’ gag and other than the ‘Mystique attempts to assassinate important person’ that is the only detail really taken from the comic story line. The thing that made this comic book arc so popular was its obvious Holocaust allegory made stronger by making Kitty Pryde, a prominent Jew in the comics, the main protagonist.
And it felt so… so half assed!
The future that we’re trying to change? We get one glimpse of it during the obligatory Patrick Stewart opening narration. And it’s pretty dismal, thought provoking and heart string plucking.
But they never ground it in the movie. Nobody we know ever interacts with the idea of concentration camps for mutants (and humans that helped them or could potentially have mutants). Instead our future characters all interact in obscure, removed locations with no grounding in our everyday lives. How am I, the ordinary audience member, supposed to identify with that?
Also… they had an effing jet. Why weren’t they on that jet the entire time!? This is a nitpick, it really is… But it only would have required one line about how Kitty couldn’t be moving while she was sending Logan back in time. Because, honestly, it seems smarter to me that if you’re last hope is this plan to change the past you don’t want to be standing still! Mobile seems smarter and safer to me! I… just… ugh!
I seriously did not get through the first ten minutes of this movie without heavy frustration. Between the characters there to just be there and have no lines (Bishop, Colossus, Sunspot, and Storm), Professor Exposition, no explanation on Kitty’s powers, no grounding in this terrible future and, oh yeah, the things Logan is supposed to fix I was tearing my hair out. First ten minutes of the movie. Not a good sign, guys.
And here’s, apparently, where the conflict of this movie is supposed to be: Older Xavier wants Logan to go back in time to give his younger self a pep talk to get out of his funk.
My problem with this is… well, clearly Xavier got out of that funk. We have seen three movies of him out of his funk. He is right there in the future, in this movie, out of his funk. This conflict does not require time traveling back in time to fix! It require the regular type of time travel: forward in a straight line at the same speed as everything else!
Yes, I realize the conflict was “he needs to be out of his funk now and not later.” But the fact of the matter is still this: Logan was unnecessary. Especially in the capacity he ended up serving to get Charles out of his funk, which was to actually have Older Xavier get Charles out of his funk. Somehow…
So why didn’t Older Xavier just tell Logan what to say before he went back in time?
Oh, wait, that would take out the conflict. Damn! I guess that means it was never that great of a conflict to begin with!
I mean, it would have been without the time travel element because then the audience wouldn’t have seen a version of Charles who quite clearly got himself out of his own funk somehow in the supposedly same timeline.
Make this a true First Class sequel and act like it’s actually a reboot to the series and give me this same “Charles has given up on the school” conflict and I’d actually believe it. Because then, while I believe I know how it ends, I don’t actually already know.
I guess that makes the story of whether or not Mystique is going to become a killer the actual conflict. Which… it didn’t need to be that conflict at all. The real conflict was her not being captured and not causing anti-mutant hysteria. Nothing about that Time-Travel-Fix-It scenario requires a fight over Raven’s soul conflict.
My main problem with this conflict is mostly… it’s not set up in this movie! The idea that X-Men don’t kill, they find different ways (oh, and the idea of humans and mutants working together) is never set up in this movie. Except by word of mouth. Characters tell us, but it’s not shown.
It’s shown in First Class! Charles wants to stop Shaw, Eric wants to kill him. These differences causes a debate between two growing friends that eventually comes to a head in the final confrontation. Better yet, while Eric is clearly shown to be stepping into villainous shoes he’s not entirely shown to be wrong for permanently disposing of Shaw. The villain. The one that wanted to start World War III.
So DOFP assumes you remember this conflict of First Class. But doesn’t assume you remember that Charles thought of Raven as a sister. I mean, you remember Patrick Stewart showing such familial affection to Mystique, right guys!? Let me tell you about it!
At the same time this movie likes to assume you’ve seen all previous movies, it likes to rewrite history. By telling us about it.
Another thing I really liked about First Class, was that the X-Men were working with humans. The only humans in this movie are bad guys or hapless bystanders. And yet these Sentinels in the future are destroying humans too. Couldn’t it have added to this conflict if a human was involved? Show the other side? In the future, in the past… anywhere! A Moira-esque character could have added so much depth to this movie…
I’ve got a couple more notes to hit that require spoiling the end of the movie. I figured it was nicer if I let people know. If you want to skip this, I’ve marked where this section ends.
Lots of people like to poke holes at the Magneto thing. You know, where Ian McKellen tells Logan “It’ll take the two of us” and then they break Eric out of prison for him to pretty promptly screw up the plan and go villainy.
I give this a pass! This I’m okay with. I think Older Magneto, who was now living with regret, truly believed his younger self would help. I don’t think it’s unfair that his hindsight would give himself much more credit for seeing the right path when things were dire. Don’t we all like to pin better motivations on our past selves and like to think that if things had gone slightly different, we might not have done better?
I think this was brilliant. I think this was the best connection between past and future storylines and a look at the complexity of time travel. We cannot predict what consequences changes in the past would make, we couldn’t even predict how we ourselves would react to changes!
It’s just… really, really sad this got so little screen time. Understandably, because Magneto has no arc (he used his up in First Class which is still very disappointing in that regard) and focus should be given to characters with arcs.
Then again… why did we waste so much time on Wolverine then? Because he had none. None of the future day characters had arcs. Hank didn’t even have an arc! Holy crap, this entire movie was lacking in arcs!
But! But the movie did a good job of tricking us into thinking we have a Wolverine arc! Why? How?
Time Travel! –throws confetti-
Because, double spoiler alert here, when Logan wakes back up in the future everything is different! Not just, no more concentration camps and sentinels. But Bobby and Rogue are back together! Kitty is a teacher. Beast is a teacher (and blue and furry full time again). But, best of all, Scott and Jean are alive! This means Last Stand never happened!
Because that was an awful movie that needed to be erased from the face of existence.
And DOFP is the greatest thing in the world! After all, it not only fixed The Last Stand it is absolutely nothing like it in the slightest!
After all, in The Last Stand the X-Men are fighting against humans wanting to wipe them out as well as Magneto, they move iconic landmarks, kill favorite characters off screen and don’t follow the original comic storyline(s) at all!
Whereas DOFP the X-Men are fighting against humans wanting to wipe them out as well as Magneto, they move iconic landmarks, kill favorite characters off screen and don’t follow the original comic storyline at all!*
Yeah, big improvement!
Though, tell me, what did that ending fix? What did it possibly fix and make better!? It was icing on a poorly made cake, people! Because Last Stand still happened. It did not disappear, proven by the flashes Charles picks up in Logan’s mind. This does nothing for the story, it does nothing for Logan’s character, and it has absolutely no effing bearing on the main character’s stories at all!
A better use of that ending would be if we were shown Logan losing somebody at the beginning of the movie. During that concentration camp scene. Have him lose something in this actual story so he has motivation. Then we have a sense that it worked and his efforts meant something when we see that person alive and well after the timeline is changed.
Plus! Plus, we already knew this was the end of the original cast. Before the movie came out, Singer said this was supposed to be a farewell to Patrick Stewart and the rest. The plan was always to continue on with the First Class cast. So they basically teased us with something we will never see. Why the hell was this necessary!?
NO MORE SPOILERS
Show, don’t tell and keep the story contained. Our emotional attachment to a movie should not require us to have watched half a dozen movies beforehand. The success of a script should not require homework, a good script will have the necessary components in the script!
I also have a problem with… what kind of message was this movie trying to sell? Clearly they didn’t want to do a Holocaust story because the concentration camps were completely swept over.
Is the message drugs are bad? Because… Hank survives at the end of the movie by taking “drugs.” So, no, clearly it’s not that.
Is it that whole Xavier’s “just because a person stumbles…” doesn’t mean they’re… whatever that was… It was a good message! It just didn’t exist in the script strongly enough. Just for Charles (adding onto the Logan wasn’t necessary for defunking angle) and Raven. But… did she ever feel like she stumbled? Yeah, that’s left really ambiguous… We just know that Charles think she has and will come to her senses… and do what he tells her to. You know what would have made this stronger, if Logan stumbled! If he made a mistake that hurt the mission. But, no, he doesn’t really make any mistakes (of his own making.)
So basically, I’ve got to believe that the message of the movie is “Don’t worry kids, if you make a mistake that dooms humanity (or a popular movie franchise) we’ll just send Wolverine back in time to fix it! Yay!”
Awesome magic tricks guys but… I’m going to continue giving Marvel my money… Because Joss Whedon is still greater than Bryan Singer, The Avengers is not the best thing since sliced bread but is better than this mess, and OMG Guardians of the Galaxy looks like it’s actually going to be good! (Oh, and Scarlet Witch who is a female that just might be getting a major role in Avenger 2. Fingers crossed…)
Now… can I get an X-Men movie? X-Men… and a movie. Both at the same time. This… this really doesn’t seem like too much to ask for.
*This observation credited to The Nostalgic Critic’s Bum Review of DOFP