Friday, May 23, 2014

Spoiler-Free Diet: X-Men: Days of Future Past

Solid cast, all around.
The most recent entry into the sometimes decent, sometimes awful X-men movie franchise is, fortunately, from the former category. I went with a group and most everyone liked it. The Wife fell asleep, but she ended work late and starts early, so that's understandable. Oh, and the movie doesn't try to engage folks not interested in the series already, which is a bit of a weakness.

Oh, and no spoilers below, so feel free to glut yourself on some nerdy review goodness.

The Good

Acting - The cast for this movie was pretty stellar, an
Future Sunspot, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, and Colossus
d no one dropped the ball. Moreover, everyone was somewhat interesting and had a place/purpose, even the folks set in the future, which we only see for a few scenes. This is in direct contrast to X-Men: Last Stand, which wasted talent, characters, storylines, and was just generally unwieldy. This was a decent sized cast, but it was handled well.

Story - Many movies that try, fail to make sense of time travel, or leave large plot holes. This movie didn't have any issues with it -- technically it was time travel lite, with simple rules and simple, well-defined consequences, but it helped in that it didn't detract from the story. I've read reviews online that say it were confusing -- they either watched a different movie than I did, or simply weren't paying attention.

This is a story about characters. Yes, there's obviously a big-bad event that causes the future to go awry, but the solution doesn't lie in stopping the event, rather in changing the players involved. It's a different take on a super hero movie and not done completely well -- without a major focus, the movie does seem to drift a bit from time to time and, scaled against super hero movies, even runs a bit on the boring side. It's never bad, and it ends well and with interesting results, it just wasn't quite as focused as it could have been.

Action - Early on, there are two amazing action scenes. The rest of the movie moves away from them and there isn't too much fighting until the very end, and it doesn't really compare to the beginning sets. Either way, it was worth it (and still had more fighting than Godzilla... heh).

Correcting wrongs - The X-Men movies have been full of plot holes and errors, especially since X-Men: First Class, which tried to set itself apart from having to correct the wrongs of Last Stand. This movie, using a bit of time travel, does fix some of these issues, which is nice. It also more-or-less gives Last Stand the middle finger, which is very good. There are still some issues, which I could go into but won't, but they're not quite as glaring as they had been. Sort of. Hey, at least they're making an effort. And, really, it's consistent with the X-Men comics in the '90s -- overly convoluted with too many writers and no real cohesion.

The Bad

Mystique - This is definitely a personal issue, but I hate Mystique. I've never liked the comic or movie character, and I think the movie version looks stupid. Jennifer Lawrence was fine, but the fact that the movie focuses on her so much (figuratively and literally, those close-ups, man) annoyed me. I'm very much on the side of "there are so many MORE interesting X-Men characters....", and it does sometimes impact my ability to see past things such as "movie rights" and silly things like that. The plot device she's used for makes some sort of sense (kind of, and was worked in from First Class), but there are several other mutants that would have made more sense and been much more interesting. The focus on Charles' relationship with her always annoys me, though conceptually I understand a need to tie characters together on a deeper emotional level.

But still, Mystique. Ugh.

First Class - The "back in time" portion takes place ten years after the events in First Class, but the intervening ten years are only briefly mentioned and hardly seem to fit. I didn't see a reason for that particular time jump (heh), and it grated for me whenever they mentioned it in passing.

Comics - The "future" portion was a mash-up of the comic arcs "Days of Future Past," the issues that introduced Bishop/Apocalypse's dark future, and the "Age of Apocalypse" (thanks to Blink's presence) arcs. This, to me, was a waste. Bishop's future, in the comics, was so much more interesting than the briefly touched upon "Days of Future Past," timeline. It was nice seeing him in the film, but I'm a bit bummed that, should he appear in the next one, it will lesson the normal impact of his character on the X-Men universe.

Also, the future wasn't used nearly enough. A couple snapshots of an apocalyptic wasteland are really all we see, then it focuses very closely on the Future group, never straying far from their hideout. I wanted to see more of why the future was rubbish -- it's my favorite setting.

Sentinels - The future ones look too similar the The Destroyer from Thor. The past ones don't do much. These are iconic X-Men enemies in the comics, but they were under-utilized in the extreme here.
Future sentinel. It's face opens in a familiar manner...

Focus - The story, lacking a major, stand out villain, loses focus. Is Trask the target? Is Magneto the true enemy? Can the future even be changed? Etc... This wasn't assisted by an unnecessary scene or two in the future, which dragged our attention further away, without adding the intended suspense.

The focus on characters wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be either. The most interesting character in the entire film was introduced and cast aside fairly early. And the comic arc had followed Kitty Pryde back to the past, not Wolverine. True, I think Wolverine worked in this aspect, but super hero movies in general need stronger female leads, and the writers of this missed a great opportunity to use a wonderful actress (Ellen Page) to her fullest extent.
Wasted opportunity, not having this shot somewhere in the film.

... Despite my constant gripes, I liked the movie. I also liked it a TON better than I expected. But I do have my gripes. Arbitrary rating of 7/10. I'm now fairly excited for the next movie (stay after the credits!).

... I hadn't bothered to post about it, but my rating for Godzilla is an 8/10 and am super excited to see what they do next with the series.

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