X-Men: Days of Future Past

Maj. William Stryker (Josh Helman) and Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter
Dinklage) working together to create a fiendishly complicated movie plot.

Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 3 out of 5
Yeah, but: Like its actors, the franchise is showing its age.
The Long Version:

I know I said I was about movied out after viewing Godzilla 2014 last weekend. The key word here is "about." This weekend I hit the early morning $6 matinee to see the latest X-Install of X-Men, "X-Men: Days of Future Past."

It was a better film than Godzilla 2014, but that's not a very high bar at all for success. What you should compare it to are all the other X-Men movies that have been produced in the series so far:
  1. X-Men - 2000
  2. X2 - X-Men United - 2003
  3. X-Men: The Last Stand - 2006
  4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine - 2009
  5. X-Men: First Class - 2011
  6. The Wolverine - 2013
  7. X-Men: Days of Future Past - 2014
If you're paying close attention you'll note the general two-to-three year release pattern in the X-Men movies, as well as a love for colons in titles. "The Wolverine" was an odd-ball, essentially released to "correct" 2009's poorly received "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." Of course that fits another pattern in the Marvel movie universe, the release of movies to correct for prior poor releases (the most classic example being "Hulk" in 2003 followed by the corrective film "The Incredible Hulk" in 2008, then again with a third corrective Hulk interpretation with "The Avengers" in 2012).

I have few regrets in life, but one of them is knowing I've seen all the movies I've just catalogued.

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" is an attempt to correct the so-called damage caused to the franchise by "X-Men: The Last Stand," in which we see Jean Grey, Scott Summers/Cyclops, and Professor Xavier all killed. The franchise had really gone off the rails at that point, not that I really cared, mind you. This is, after all, a movie franchise based on comic books. It ain't Shakespeare.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) wondering how much he can drink before he blissfully forgets all of this.
So what do you do with what appears to be a movie franchise storyline that's headed over the cliff? Follow it down to the bottom and then write another movie plot attempting to correct it. And this time, wrap the whole thing up with a happy ending. That's precisely what DoFP did.

The movie opens on a dark and stormy dystopian future. Using the NSA's three hops of mass surveillance rule, just about everyone in the U.S. who's a mutant or not and hasn't been killed by a lawful drone strike is rounded up into the year 2023's version of GitMo in New York's Central Park. Next we cut to a frantic battle in Moscow between B-list mutants we've mostly never seen before, mixed with some we have. We get a quick and violent demonstration of what future Sentinels are capable of, those robotic overlords who contain weaponized mutant DNA allowing them to "adapt to any mutant threat."

However (there's always a however), using one of the Good Mutant's ability to warn them in the immediate past (a few days before) when they're getting their asses handed to them by these super Sentinels, we see the rag-tag Good Mutant remnants avoid destruction in Moscow and arrive next up at a mountainside monastery in China. There, along with a really old Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian "Gandalf" McKellan) they conceive of an audacious and barely coherent plot to send the 2023 consciousness of Wolverine back to his 1973 physical self so that his 1973 self can somehow stop the key event that led to their current dire predicament; the killing of Tyrion Lannister in 1973 by Mystique.

The same Tyrion Lannister who would never live to write Game of Thrones, leaving Dr. Bolivar Trask so bored that instead of reading all those Game of Thrones books he would instead create the very first Sentinel. And the rest, as they say, became history.

Mystique's (Jennifer Lawrence) reaction to the dialog she's not been paid enough to deliver for this film.
The throwback works, and the next thing we know we're back with Wolverine's 2023 consciousness in his 1973 body, which conveniently happens to be naked in a water bed next to a not-quite-naked beautiful woman (thus fulfilling every old guy's fantasy), who he's not actually supposed to be canoodling with. As he's trying to dress his naked ass, three big guys burst in and threaten to kick Wolverine's partially dressed ass because they didn't get to canoodle with said girl. We've seen more than enough Wolverine movies at this point, so we all know how this is going to work out. Sure enough, in the next scene we see Wolverine, now in full 1970's denim and polyester regalia, swaggering out into the street with another man's car keys, ready for the big times of 1973.

Since time is of the essence, Wolverine drives up to the dilapidated door of a young Professor Charles Xavier (played by Mr. Tumnus, a.k.a. James McAvoy), where he proceeds to punch out a young Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and magically convince a slobbering, self-pitying Xavier that he's there to rescue him and thus rescue all of them from a fate worse than death 50 years in the future. More or less.

Quicksilver (Evan Peters) showing what he can do after consuming way too many stolen Hostess Ding-Dongs and listening to bad 70's rock. Wolverine, Magneto, and Professor X just ignore the little snot.
With that taken care of they then they hop on a jet plane and head to Washington D.C. where another mutant named Quicksilver (Even Peters) lives, and convince him, in between product placement shots for Hostess Ding Dongs and severe ADHD episodes, to break into the Pentagon and break Magneto out of the bottom of the Pentagon. Because. And this so captivates young Quicksilver's attention that his severe ADHD episodes temporarily abate long enough for him to get into the same car with Beast and Wolverine so they can drive to the Pentagon, and then walk into the Pentagon on a tour with a funky electronic gizmo made from a Radio Shack electronics kit that nobody seems to notice, that causes Sanford and Sons to play on the Pentagon's security video.

They eventually break Magneto out, but not before Professor X knocks Magneto on his ass for stealing the Professor's girl, Mystique. You just knew this complication was coming.

Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Mystique sharing a quiet romantic moment together after Mystique grabbed him by his 70-styled lapels and threw him into a French phone booth with her.
Except, of course, Mystique isn't having any of it. She's a woman of the 70's, not just a feminist, but a Mutant Feminist with an agenda to free all her oppressed sisters around the world. She's not going to take crap from Magneto or Professor X or any inferior male, and shows at one point she's got more balls than both combined.

Magneto getting to the bottom of Watergate.
Since future peace is so dependent upon what Mystique does in 1973, and having been forewarned what will happen if she Chooses Poorly, she decides to do what any self respecting Mutant Feminist would do, and that's kill all the males, not just Dr. Bolivar Trask. Because, after all, Trask is just this guy, you know? But somehow, some way, she has a special plastic gun, and within range of this special plastic gun she conveniently has all the males who have caused a half century of political and cultural carnage, starting with Richard Nixon. If she can get rid of all those assholes, including Magneto, then what a happier, sunnier place the world will be going forward from 1973.

Mystique getting her revenge by drawing a bead on the writers and the director.
But no. Ain't havin' none of that. Young Professor Xavier, no longer high on drugs but instead high on life, is now miraculously sober enough to convince Mystique to just let the guys alone, and to trust him, they'll get it all worked out for the best. Honestly and truly. And so Nixon lives to be pardoned, Magneto floats off to be an asshole on another planet, Mystique swears off Mutant Feminism and limps off to hang out with Thor's brother in West Virginia, and everybody lives happily ever after. They even find Wolverine at the bottom of the Potomac and haul him back up so he's around for all those future X-Men movies.

Oh, yeah, I forgot this spoiler. Magneto drop-kicks Wolverine's ass into the Potomac. From the White House lawn. Trust me, Wolverine asked for that particular ass kicking.

In fact, the world becomes so bright in 2023 Wolverine nearly has to wear Cyclop-strength shades. He wakes up one last time in the movie, except this time he's alone (bummer) and in a regular bed. He stumbles out into the Charles Xavier School for the Gifted, where he finds a no-longer-dead Cyclops, a no-longer-dead Jean Grey, and everybody's busted relationships are all fixed again. Except for his relationship with Jean because Cyclops is alive again and Cyclops and Jean are an Item again, but hey, it's better than dying.

And in the last-last-last scene, after all the end credits, is a guy in some desert wearing an oversized IKEA bathrobe with skinny wrists and a skin complexion problem, with his hands up in the air, as special effects bricks fly in around him and magically create a pyramid in front of a cheering screen audience. Sort of like an Apple product release when Steve Jobs was alive. And in the magical bokeh background, there sit four indistinct dudes on their horses.

The End.

Update 26 June 2014

Box-Office Milestone: 'X-Men' Franchise Hits $3 Billion in Global Ticket Sales http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-milestone-x-men-715153

last updated 26 june 2014


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