“We forgot to bring the movie. Okay if we just act it out for ya?”
I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be perceived as a hater for not being gaga, over-the-moon about X-Men: Days of Future Past, but, y’know – not every movie has to be the best thing ever. It’s fun to see all these cast members together (though aside from Hugh Jackman and, very briefly, Patrick Stewart, none of the old interacts with the young), but is it too much to ask for a more complicated plot that would merit this all-star line-up coming together for an allegedly epic event?
In broad, spoiler-free strokes, the plot is simply this: Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) attempts to do a particular thing, and then she attempts to do it again. There’s a fair bit of window dressing, but that’s essentially it, and it’s spelled out in the first 15 minutes.
Were you hoping for inconsistencies in the previous films to be explained somehow by time-jumping? If so, tough luck; aside from explaining how Professor X can sometimes walk, that doesn’t happen, but what does is that any continuity depicted subsequent to 1973 is more or less hand-waved away, as it’s made clear right off the bat that Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), whose consciousness travels back to that year to prevent a Terminator-like future, will be changing the timestream by his very presence from the moment he gets there. From here on out, basically, the series can pick and choose what did or did not happen – it’s akin to JJ Abrams’ Star Trek timeline reset, but with more of the same actors returning.
“What do you mean, I’m not getting an action figure?”
The action begins in what is either the future or an alternate present – giant shape-shifting, mutant-power absorbing Sentinels are systematically killing off mutants and anyone with the potential to become one. A parental warning feels wise here: many characters, some loved and some less so, are killed both onscreen and off – that some of these deaths are later retroactively rewritten may not matter if your kid is easily upset by the initial shock, and those big black morphing voids are potentially quite frightening.
“I’ve got a hunger to play some games. Get it? Because I’m famous now.”
Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) turns out to not be just good at walking through walls, but also capable of sending peoples’ minds back in time, so they can warn of surprise attacks before they happen. Most minds can’t handle more than a day or so, but when Wolverine points out that his mind can heal from anything, they decide to send him all the way back to 1973, the year the Sentinels made their big debut. Now, you may be asking, if the Sentinels were built in the ’70s and they’ve been steadily evolving ever since, where exactly were they in the other movies, aside from that one time in the Danger Room? Also, how did the world not know about mutants prior to Senator Kelly crusading against them in the ’90s? If you are asking that question, and bothered by it, you may not enjoy the rest of the movie very much. [Rob will have a field day doing an FAQ on this, as would I, but preempting him on that one seems mean.] It really comes down to “Do I like this cast and crew enough to forgive the huge plot holes?” And since everyone reading this likes Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen (and to a lesser extent Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence), most of you will probably say yes. Though a lot of you did not forgive them X-Men: The Last Stand, so who knows?
(Just so you know – I’m more okay with X-Men 3 than most people are. I’m exactly as un-okay with X-Men Origins: Wolverine as everyone else is. I generally like the rest.)
“Clap along, if you feel, like a mutant without a cape”
To achieve the goal of preventing Mystique from possibly doing the thing that will lead to the dark future, Wolverine must find a way to convince both young Professor X (James McAvoy) and young Magneto (Fassbender) to work with him. In the comics, such attempts usually begin with a big battle that ends in something of a draw, after which everyone agrees to be pals for the time being. Not so much here – given all they’ve seen, Charles and Erik are surprisingly easy to convince. They just still can’t agree on how to get it done, with Magneto as usual being totally gung-ho for killing along the way.
Of the new characters introduced, I suspect Fan Bingbing’s Blink is likely to be the biggest hit with kids; essentially a human Portal gun, her abilities to totally mess with spatial distortion feel like exactly the sort of thing that would have sparked my imagination on the playground. Bishop (Omar Sy) is a bit of a disappointment – once a huge fan-favorite in the comics and cartoon, he does little here but fire his big gun, and if he has more than two lines, I don’t remember them. Peter Dinklage isn’t playing a mutant – he’s the creator of the Sentinels, with utopian Cold War motivations cribbed more from Watchmen‘s Adrian Veidt than the actual X-Men comics – but he delivers some of his lines in such an odd cadence that I really hope David Lynch works with him soon.
And then there’s Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who gets to be the key player in the movie’s best setpiece, a sequence involving breaking in to the Pentagon. He’s great…but he is also a crutch, brought in exclusively for that one scene only to just as quickly exit the narrative once it’s over. It’s as if writer Simon Kinberg simply couldn’t figure out a way for Professor X and Wolverine to do it alone, so he went scrambling through the X-Men archives for a deus ex machina (and one who will be in the Avengers sequel as well, played by Peters’ Kick-Ass costar Aaron Taylor-Johnson, so yay for bonus visibility). In any other movie – ANY one – don’t you think it would be a big deal if the illegitimate son of one of the main characters finally shows up? Not here; his relationship to Magneto is only alluded to in one passing line that the casual non-comics fan likely won’t even catch. Peters makes the character pop, but he’s written as a cheap device.
Unusually for me, I don’t recommend catching this in 3D Imax. It was great for Godzilla, and made the action scenes in Amazing Spdier-Man 2 quite palatable, but if X-Men: DOFP were any more obviously NOT shot with 3D considerations, it would be Man of Steel. Shallow depth of field, cityscape composites that look fake when blown up that large, incongruous mixes of 3D with pseudo 8mmm “found-footage” – it doesn’t work, and many of the bigger setpieces have that pop-up book look that plagued Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
At the very end of the credits – not halfway through, as is the norm for other studios that do Marvel movies – we get an exciting tease of what the next film will bring. I’m glad they’re going to start fresh without the burdens of needless continuity porn, and frankly First Class is still my favorite of the films, so the fact that it alone remains timeline-intact is also a plus. I just hope that the plot next time around boils down to more than “catch the blue chick who shows up in the most obvious places.”