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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

X-Men: Days of Future Past.

X-Men: Days of Future Past. 

I actually still remember when the X-Men films were considered new and innovative, and were the big new thing on the cinema scene-thing. That was during the first two films - the lustre quickly wore off round about The Last Stand, which was unremittingly awful, and was thoroughly gone by the time shameless cash grab X-Men Origins: Wolverine came out. Does everyone remember that? Does everyone remember how awful that was? It was awful. 

Not as bad as The Wolverine, but still pretty bad.

The X-Men franchise will probably never regain the prestige it had when those first films came out, and a growing fan desire for Fox to give Marvel back the rights to film adaptations of X-Men related properties isn't helping that, but it has started to win back some kind of regard with the last two films, X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Taking audiences back to an entirely re-imagined version of the X-Men backstory, First Class saw a young Charles Xavier and Magneto gathering the first iteration of the X-Men

Which is what makes Days of Future Past a little strange, as in it it's made entirely clear that while some of the films are still canon (everything through The Last Stand, which directly contradicts this film and First Class), some definitely aren't (X-Men Origins: Wolverine is totally irreconcilable with this film), and some occupy a weird limbo space where they might be or might not be (The Wolverine, while it led directly into this film, is never referenced, not even when Charles is viewing Wolverine's memories).

Neat looking robot, though.

It's a really odd, haphazard approach to take to continuity, and not helped by the fact that Fox's regard for comics canon and continuity is noticeably lacking: Quicksilver is an active, modern day superhero? Nope, he's in the past. Emma Frost led the X-Men at one point? No, she's died offscreen. Havok is Cyclops' brother? Ha, watch as we never reference that ever. Kitty Pryde was the one who went back in time in the comics, you say? Nope, it's Wolverine now. 

That last is particularly odd, as having seen the film I'm still not sure what Wolverine actually does. In theory, he's the catalyst behind all the events in the past unfolding differently. In practice, apart from the occasional inspirational speech, he's possibly the most inactive character, and it's telling that neither of the final confrontations actually involve him. For the one in the future, he's asleep, and for the one in the past, he is very quickly thrown into the river, where he can't interfere. 

It's not really his story and, in fact, despite several of the original trilogy X-Men being in this (Storm, Colossus, Iceman and Shadowcat all show up, as do Patrick Stewart!Xavier and Ian McKellen!Magneto, and are joined by four newer X-Men), none of them really do much. Storm, Colossus and Iceman all have about three minutes screen time each, Shadowcat is reduced to a walking (or, more often, crouching) plot device, and Magneto and Xavier, while much more prominent, also hardly do anything, although we do get a nice scene of the two Xaviers talking through the magic of time travel and telepathy.

Which is a shame because, to be brutally honest, this would have been a much more interesting film if it had focused entirely on the future sections, which were prettier, more atmospheric, and had more interesting characters. I think, actually, you could have easily spun this out into two films: One focusing on the future X-Men fighting back against the Sentinels in the future, and scoring a major victory, but with the film still ending on a downer note; and then one which kept a reasonable amount of focus on the future X-Men, but also involved the 'let's go back in time' plot of this film.

Lose the beard, Bobby.

As it is, this film is almost entirely focused on the past sections, which might have made a little more sense if it hadn't slashed and burned the First Class cast. Most of them are dead, something established in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it line of dialogue from Erik. Of those who remain, one shows up for all of five minutes in an entirely unnecessary scene, leaving us with Erik, Mystique, Charles and Hank. The addition of Quicksilver for a brief portion of the film (before he vanishes off) feels a bit egregious when Fox couldn't even be bothered to keep most of the cast of its last film.

This really gets my goat, if you hadn't noticed.

The past sections also just aren't as good as the future settings. They aren't as striking to look at, they lack the same sense of danger, and the plotting isn't really coherent. 'You'll need to get Erik out of prison to stop Mystique,' oh, awesome. Why? Are you - ever going to explain why? I mean, if anything, he turns out to be a massive liability. 

How does Trask know immediately that he can revolutionise the Sentinels with Mystique's bone marrow and brain matter, but in the timeline in which the government actually gets samples of it, it takes them fifty years to do that? For the matter, why would the blood, bone marrow and brain matter of Mystique, whose ability is literally just transforming into other people, give the Sentinels the ability to counter and sometimes reproduce mutations, up to and including producing fire and ice blasts, when Mystique has absolutely no ability to reproduce mutations or counter them and, as you established in this very film, doesn't even have powers that extend as far as healing herself?

(Hey, you know who does have the ability to counter pretty much anything? Darwin. Remember who you killed off in First Class even though it made no sense and didn't serve the plot, Fox? Darwin!)

Not pictured here because he's dead: Darwin!

Why would Erik bother to make his presence known during his Sentinel hijack, when it would have been much more efficient and effective to remain hidden, thus giving the impression that the Sentinels were going berserk because of some fatal flaw in their design, which would basically kill the project forever and cast Trask's name into disrepute?

For that matter, why is the past-to-future time parity along the lines of hours to seconds or minutes at the beginning of the film, but suddenly lines up exactly towards the end?

It's not as if the past sections were terrible, especially when compared to other Fox offerings like The Wolverine - in fact, they were very enjoyable, with most of the cast putting in excellent performances. But you can't pair them with a parallel storyline that is consistently more striking, memorable, and coherent, and not expect them to come off worse in comparison.

But in spite of everything, this is a fun action flick. Fox has no chance in hell of ever getting one over on Marvel if it keeps making films like this, granted, but it's fun (almost fun enough to distract you from how Fox has basically been gutting X-Men canon for a decade now), and it will distract you well enough for two hours. So it does have my recommendation.

- Ugh, we're getting another one soon. About Apocalypse. Goody. 

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