Thursday, June 5, 2014

Haze of Continuity Past

I am sorry this is late. Between a much needed change in jobs, and countless car problems my time has been pretty strained. I know I have been very irregular about this blog, and even more so with the videos on You Tube, and I do apologize. I appreciate your patronage, and your patience.

In the meantime, I did manage to see X-Men’s Days of Future Past, in 3D, recently and I must confess, I am very happy with it! Days of Future Past is among my favorite stories from the eighties. I am glad to see it committed to celluloid, albeit with significant creative license, because a magic eraser of this magnitude was needed to correct the course the X-Men franchise has been on. Of the four X-Men movies, only two have been reasonably good, First Class, and The Wolverine. And now, of the last four films, only one remains cannon.

While I immensely enjoyed The Wolverine, it’s a small price to pay for the erasing of X-Men III and the nightmare that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but now, Wolverine does not have Mariko as a part of his life. I guess we knew it had to happen, because the continuity of the series had become so convoluted and nightmarish, and each new director that touched the franchise made even more messes than there were from the beginning.

Frankly, I am surprised that the returning actors involved allowed the directors to make such a mess of things. Why didn’t Hugh Jackman say something about how inconsistent the Weapon X imagery was from the first two X-Men movies to X-Men Origins? Heck, why didn’t they just use the same set? It couldn’t have been that hard! Not to mention the terrible things that were done with Deadpool… but alas, I digress. Thanks to the latest X-Men outing, those horrid, horrid events are gone.

Days of Future Past is the best X-Men movie in a very long time. It benefits by limiting it’s focus to a very small handful of characters, mostly Xavier and Magneto, even Wolverine takes a step backward, having surprisingly little to do. But as Jackman ages, action sequences will be getting harder for him, so this is a smart move for those who do not want to give him up as Wolverine, but acknowledge reality: Kicking butt is a lot easier in your 30s than it is when you are pushing 50. The irony is that Jackman looks more the part than ever before, because Logan was always drawn as a man pushing 50, but frozen there. Still, Logan has taken on a mentor role in the comics, and it looks like he will be doing likewise in the films going forward, and I am just fine with that.

The future is being torn apart by mutant hunting morphing robots called Sentinels, that are able to absorb and adapt to Mutant powers. Recognizing the futility of fighting, Xavier decides to have Shadowcat (Ellen Page) send Wolverine back to 1973 to help a younger Xavier and Magneto stop Mystique from assassinating Bolivar Trask and setting the sentinel program in motion in the process.  It is these future sequences that are actually the film’s weakest. Although visually arresting in some ways, Ice-Man, Colossus and Sunspot still look pretty fake, which is disappointing, and they all have little to do but fight. I was leaping for joy when I learned Bishop would be in this move, and heart broken when he had only moments on screen. Also, much of the future world is explored through expositional dialogue, which I hate. I like to see why things are the way they are, not be told. I understood there was a sequence which involved a jail break and Rogue, one that could have lead to some on screen tragedy after Wolverine (spoiler alert) accidentally injures Shadowcat, and she was bleeding out, but tragically, they spent little time in the future world, and the bulk of the time in the past where only four or five mutants drive our story.

The past element of this movie is great. We get to see 70s style sentinels attack Richard Nixon, who could have been portrayed in a hyper partisan way, but wasn’t. Brian Singer despises Republicans, some of his past work reflects this, but he resisted the urge to make a cartoon character out of Nixon, and I appreciate it. Not that Nixon wasn’t a villain, it’s just that if the Obama era has taught us anything it’s that you can be a villain president, but only if you’re a Republican. If you’re a Democrat, those self-professed “heroes” in the news industry look the other way… Nixon was not vilified, not portrayed as a racist, but someone who was genuinely afraid of people with terrifyingly destructive powers, and in that way, we see the anti-mutants in a new and human light, something previous X-Men films have failed to do.

It isn’t that the Mutants are born different that makes people afraid in this movie, it’s that there is very real danger from being in the same place a mutant is, things break, people get hurt. Unlike the fear and hatred Mutants under go in past films, the fear of ordinary humans is rational, making Xavier’s vision achievable because the humans are not just mindless haters here, and the right person (Xavier) can lead them out of that fear toward a brighter tomorrow, and for that sympathetic view both sides of the conflict get in this film, I have to applaud Brian Singer. The only villain who is not at least somewhat sympathetic is Trask, who manipulates, and fans the flames of fear to push his own agenda forward. There’s always at least one person like this in spheres of influence. In real life, we have George Soros.

After Days of Future Past, Fatal Attractions is my next favorite X-Men Story!
Then there’s the all too brief appearance by Quicksilver (Evan Peters), who literally steals the show. His scene is so great, so funny, and so entertaining, that the rest of the movie is literally downhill from there. I would have loved for Pietro Maximoff (Peter in the movie) to have joined the team on the rest of this journey. Evan Peters portrays this character so well, it’s hard to imagine how Aaron Taylor will upstage him. I love Joss Whedon, he is great at comedic moments, but Evan Peter’s performance will be near impossible to outshine. Likely, Peters knew he would have competition for being the face of this character from Taylor, so he chewed the scenery big time, and I loved every ultra-fast second of it. Also the reference to his mom knowing a guy who could control metal, and the horrified look on Magnet’s face was a nice touch. Yeah, we all know what that’s about. (Spoiler from the comics!)

Still the best part of this movie was its ending. (SPOILER) Logan finally, finally gets the happy ending he deserves. This is how his journey should end in the comics, instead they are killing him this year… again… Logan deserved this happy ending, one that was a reunion for just about everybody, except Nightcrawler, but it was nice to see Kelsey Grammer as Beast again, and although I’d have liked to have seen Rogue not get screwed out of being relevant again, it was nice to see her back, and happy with Ice Man. Even Kitty and Colossus seem to have found each other… And Jean and Cyclops are back as well. All the stupid and unnecessary deaths of yore are undone. Good riddance.

All in all, I love this movie, but I am more excited about what comes next. As Hugh Jackman himself said, it feels fresher than ever, and while I normally detest reboots, Hollywood take note, if you’re going to do it, Days of Future Past is now the official guide book on how to do it right. Still... the next movie will be an Apocalyptic event to be sure...
En Saba Nur! En Saba Nur! En Saba Nur!

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