This might just be the most beautiful film I’ve seen so far this year. I don’t say that because I felt that it had a beautifully written story, or fantastic acting, or any of the other things that great films have. No, I say that because it is a watershed moment in the presentation of a long-running popular film series. Finally, the guys in charge of these things have figured it out. Finally, they have recognized the faults and labored to right the course. Finally, we have a film that admits to all the bullshit and allows us to move on.
Since this is opening weekend, I’ll put a SPOILER warning at the beginning here. Really, though, if you’ve read my other reviews, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t give a fuck about such things. Anyway, I don’t want to hear any whining, though this next paragraph just might sell you on checking this movie out at some point if you’re still on the fence.
X-Men: Days of Future Past completely eradicates X-Men 3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine from the series. That’s right: after all of these years, it’s finally over. They’ve killed them. We can move on!
I guess they technically wiped out everything except X-Men: First Class, though given Bryan Singer’s involvement, I presume that X-Men and most of X2: X-Men United are going to be preserved. That leaves The Wolverine caught in the crossfire, though the finale to that film was pretty damned embarrassing, so maybe it’s not that much of a loss. Overall, the end result of this film is that most of the bullshit is completely erased, and they can finally make the X3 and X4 that Singer originally envisioned before everything went to Hell. Better late than never, I guess!
Now, I’m not the biggest fan of this series. It’s never really felt like the X-Men to me, primarily because my exposure to X-Men as a kid involved the various video games of the 90s along with X-Men: The Animated Series. I actually re-watched the first season of that recently after I learned of the impending release of this film. Yes, it’s still awesome, and yes, it blows all 7 of these X-Men movies out of the water. I mean, just check out its opening sequence:
Look at how cool that is! Look at it!
That, right there, is the X-Men, and none of these films over the past 14 years have managed to get it. That opening sequence by itself fully encapsulates what the X-Men are to me. Everything about it is awesome, and the theme song is probably the best TV show theme song of all time. I know, most people are going to cite the theme song from Cheers or Small Wonder or something. Whatever. X-Men: The Animated Series was the high point of television as an artistic medium. It’s all been downhill from there, and only Curb Your Enthusiasm has come close (Disclaimer: I don’t own a TV, so I probably don’t know what I’m talking about).
None of the live-action movies have captured the magic of that 90s cartoon. I know this because I watched all 6 of the preceding X-Men films a second time over the last two weeks in preparation for this one. That’s an entire day of my life spent watching this nonsense. I’m sure you could point to all sorts of more constructive things I could have been doing with that time, like having sex, but that’s not the point. The point is that they fucked up the X-Men, and I’m still mad about it. I can’t be the only one upset about this!
Anyway, let me summarize the previous 6 films for those in the readership that wisely avoided them:
X-Men: BORING, and a poor adaptation of Rogue’s Ass. Jean Grey is hot, though.
X2: X-Men United: Lady Deathstrike! Nightcrawler! Kekekekeke
X3: The Last Stand: What is this shit?
X-Men Origins: Wolverine: What is this shit? Part 2.
X-Men: First Class: Havok? Banshee? Are you kidding me, guys? Wait, Darwin? Who? Well, at least Xavier, Moira, and Magneto were pretty cool.
The Wolverine: I kind of liked this one up until the Silver Samurai appears as a killer robot suit at the end. No, seriously.
In short, all of these movies have had their problems, and none of them have really felt like X-Men movies to me. So where does X-Men: Days of Future Past come in? Bizarrely enough, it is both a direct sequel and an indirect prequel to the previous film in the series, The Wolverine. Yes, it’s full of time travel shenanigans, retcon-overdrive, and that most American of ingredients: bullshit. In case you’re confused, I made up this handy chart for us. Hopefully it explains where this film sits within this clusterfuck of a film series:
For maximum hilarity, though, X-Men: Days of Future Past does not even try to care about what happened in X-Men 3, Wolverine, or Wolverine 2 at any point in its two hour runtime. I guess there’s a brief flash of Jean Grey’s death from X-Men 3, but that’s about it. Professor X was blown up in X-Men 3, and while he successfully transferred his consciousness to another body in the post-credits scene, he appears in this film in his normal body. Wolverine lost his adamantium in the finale to The Wolverine, but his future self still has it in this one. In other words, they really don’t give a fuck anymore. This is a movie that is all about moving on. It is about ignoring the stupidity of previous entries in the series and passing over it in silence. It is about forgiving bad movies for what they are and not letting them control your life.
So, if you’re a movie fan, and you’ve watched all of the other movies in this series because you just can’t help yourself and watch just about everything, then this film is for you. It’s a mega-budget bitchslap to some of the worst superhero movies of the past 10 years. Yes, we get to watch as some of the worst superhero films of all time next to Batman & Robin and Catwoman get called out on Memorial Day Weekend and then get blown to Hell. Again: finally!
Anyway, how is the movie itself? Well, it’s actually very well put together for a mega-budget summer blockbuster. I was honestly surprised by this movie, as I went to see it anticipating a whole bunch of idiocy that I would proceed to dismantle in this review. But this film does a lot of things right that most other summer blockbusters seem to forget about in their race to rattle our brains with endless explosions. This is a movie that actually focuses on the relationships between its characters and attempts to dive into the reasons behind why villains commit villainous acts. Sure, some people are just assholes, but the movie at least tries to paint things in shades of grey and add depth to the proceedings. It stands in stark contrast to bullshit like the Transformers movies. Obviously, I’m grading this movie on a curve because it’s a superhero movie, but I have to say that I wasn’t bored out of my mind at any point, and I wasn’t rolling my eyes at the non-stop stupidity like I was at The Amazing Spiderman 2 a few weeks ago. I guess that has to count for something.
One thing I really enjoyed was that the finale didn’t involve ten million things exploding for no reason. They cut back and forth between the finales of the two stories: one in the dystopian future timeline, and the other back in the 70s. The dystopian future ending has all sorts of X-Men powers being used against the Sentinels, but it is presented with the knowledge that all of them are going to die. It isn’t your normal superhero movie ending. Pretty much everyone dies (some in fairly brutal ways for PG-13), and the whole thing is just sort of depressing. The hope lies back in the 1970s, where the finale comes down to one character’s decision as to whether or not to pull the trigger and assassinate someone. It’s a hundred times more engaging than all the sound and fury of most summer blockbuster endings. It’s almost like someone actually read the script for this movie before they started filming. It’s incredible.
I was disappointed by the lack of Scarlet Witch, though. They put in (their version of) Quicksilver but appear to have forgotten her somehow. We can’t have everything, I guess! Maybe she can pop up in the next one. At least they slipped in a joke for the comic and cartoon fans with regard to Quicksilver’s relationship to another main character. I sat there waiting for it, wondering if they were just going to gloss over that part, but they didn’t. So let’s give them a golf clap for that. Wait, they called him “Peter” instead of “Pietro”, didn’t they? That’s it, guys. I’m taking back my golf clap.
At any rate, this isn’t the 90s cartoon. If you were a fan of that cartoon as a kid like I was, and you’ve never really gotten into these movies because of their completely different feel, then this one probably won’t change your mind. I will say, though, that this movie is a hell of a lot better than the last several X-Men movies. The Wolverine was alright until that whole Silver Samurai robot at the end, X-Men: First Class was alright until they revealed the lamest starting lineup ever, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men 3 were just complete disasters from frame one. X-Men: Days of Future Past somehow manages to not have anything that stupid in its two hour runtime. Sure, the Sentinels look pretty dumb, but whatever.
On the other hand, if you were a fan of the first two X-Men movies, then you should know that this one is basically the real X-Men 3, and it sets the stage for further movies with the original cast. Famke Janssen is still pretty hot, so carry on, gentlemen.
So despite my better judgment, I actually kind of liked this movie. It doesn’t have that classic cartoon cast of Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, Storm, Beast, Gambit, Jubilee, Jean Grey, and Professor X, and it’s not nearly as cool as the old cartoon, but if you take it for what it is, you might actually enjoy it. Maybe I’m just getting old, or maybe I’ve just had 14 years to mostly get over the changes in these movies. Really, this is the best live-action X-Men movie since X2 eleven years ago. Now they can fuck it all up again with the next one!
Before we close, I should say that my original idea for this review was to perform a line-by-line analysis of Harry Knowles’ completely incomprehensible review of this movie. In all honesty, I think it might just be one of the worst things he’s ever written, and that’s really saying something. At any rate, I’ve ended up rambling for far too long myself, so I’d just like to close by sharing one of his more colorful moments with all of you. Enjoy:
“The target year is 1973, instead of 1981… and they’re still sent back to prevent Mystique from assassinating someone, but not Senator Robert Kelly… so forget about DIE MUTIE SCUM graffiti and protestors… And that political scene… instead the person our sweet Jennifer Garner turned Mystique going to off that will skullfuck future mutant kind?”
Forget about the fact that Jennifer Lawrence is confused with Jennifer Garner. Forgive the usage of the word “skullfuck”. My question is: Can you figure out what this passage is trying to say? I think I’ve actually hurt my mind trying to discern the meaning of it. It’s just mindbendingly crazy, and unlike Wolverine, I can’t heal the damage as fast as it occurs.
Must think happy thoughts. Must think of better things…