I'm not quite why sure there's been such a huge reaction to the film version of X-Men: Days of Future Past (DoFP). As of this writing, the movie has a 91% aggregate score from critics on rottentomatoes.com and an absurdly high 95% from audiences. That's better than Captain America: Winter Soldier (89% and 94% respectively)!
Now don't get me wrong, I enjoyed DoFP and thought it was entertaining enough. However, it is nowhere near as good as Winter Soldier. That movie had everything going for it. A great tone, script, pace, acting, direction, humor, choreography, effects, continuity, fan service, respect for the source material, respect for the audience, respect for the filmmaking art... hell, it even had Robert Redford!
While DoFP does have some good things going for it, it's not the complete package that Winter Soldier was and while I realize it's a subjective thing, I don't feel it deserves to be called the "best" X-Men movie.
Here are some of the reasons why.
Still Too Many Mutants!Why can't Hollywood get it into it's head that more isn't better?
We've had so many movies in recent years that think in order to keep people's attention, there has to be something going on every second of your run time, and in order to do that, they cram in more characters, more subplots, more action sequences. After Spider-Man 3, you'd think Sony would have learned their lesson, but no. We got Amazing Spider-Man 2, which pulled the exact same bullshit. You'd think Fox would have learned their lesson with X-Men: The Last Stand, but no! We again get a film that has too many characters with nothing to do but posture.
The thing of it is, I'd have been okay with it if it was just little Easter eggs like Rouge, Storm, Cyclops, and Jean popping up at the end; little cameos that make you say, "Awww, I'm glad he wasn't disintegrated." But in DoFP they drop you into the future world where you see all these B-list (in the movies anyway) characters that have never been anything but bit players with one or two lines and then ask you to care about them as they're dismembered, run through, barbecued, frozen and shattered, etc.
I love Colossus. He's always been my favorite X-Man. In the comics. The movie version resembles the comic version as much as I resemble Ryan Gosling. The filmmakers have never spent any time developing his character in the series, so why should I care when the sentinels tear him in half?
It's Still a Wolverine Movie!Look, Wolverine is cool. You make a lot of money off films with him in it. We get it... but come on! This is the SIXTH film that has had Wolverine as it's star and he had a cameo in the seventh. Guess how many movies there have been in this franchise?
There are quite literally hundreds of X-Men available for Fox's writers to use:
|Cover artwork by Marko Djurdjevic|
The movie has my two of my favorite X-Men characters, the aforementioned Colossus and Blink, and I don't remember them having any lines in the film despite featuring in the movie's marketing.
And how about Magneto? How many times is this doughnut going show up? He's was the bad guy in X-Men and in X-Men: The Last Stand. He shows up in both X2 and X-Men: First Class. Now he's in DoFP, playing the good guy... no wait, he's the bad guy. Oh, wait, he switch sides again.
At least the comics are decent enough to wait a few hundred issues before bringing him back. I am so thankful that the next one's going to feature Apocalypse as the villain.
How much do you want to bet they choose to run with Wolverine and Magneto as two of the Horsemen?
Why Is It So Bleak?Look, not all superheroes are Batman, and not all superhero movies need to be dark and brooding. The tone of Nolan's trilogy worked so well because it's Batman. He's a loner (except for the occasional little boy to keep him company) with some very serious psychological problems. The gritty, realistic tack they took with those films fit with both his character and the fact that he really doesn't have any fantastic powers except having an above average intelligence and a hell of a lot of money.
The X-Men, while they are ostracized and persecuted from time to time by humans, are a family. They are not loners. They do not live in a cave. They in fact live in a mansion and from time to time play baseball and watch movies, and have a beer. I'm sure there have been round table discussions about who Daenerys Targaryen will eventually end up with once she gets back to Westeros (my money's on Tyrion) and shouting matches about who's the better boxer, Manny Pacquio or Floyd Mayweather Jr.
We got a nice glimpse of the teamwork that's been lacking in the films for the entire franchise at the beginning of DoFP, but it wasn't the X-Men that we came to see, and it wasn't the familial relationships that show up in the comics. Where are Wolverine's Lolis? What about the big sister, little brother relationship between Storm and Colossus? The class clown routine of Iceman? We got to see a little of the Colossus/Kitty Pryde relationship, but it's too little too late.
And why is Professor Xavier CRYING ALL THE TIME in this movie?
About the only time the movie lifts itself out of the suffocating sense of despair is when Quicksilver is on screen. The sequence when he's breaking out Magneto is simultaneously the best and worst in the movie.
Because it feels like it's from another movie.
It's lighthearted, it's fun, it's fast-paced. It's everything the rest of the movie really isn't. The character smiles a lot. He's kind of a dick, but he's having fun. Remember when Beast would make quips as funny as Spider-Man's? Or when Multiple Man made that un-open-able mayo jar? Or when Iceman would make snow so you could have a snowball fight in the middle of El Niño?
Those kinds of things just don't fly in Fox's X-Men universe. Which is why they unceremoniously kick Quicksilver to the curb as soon as he busts Magneto loose. Bye bye, Peter. Stay out of trouble and say hello to your mother for me.
WTF, Bad Guy?Why is it that none of the other bad guys in this movie feel like a real threat?
They've got some really great ones, too. Bolivar Trask creates the Sentinels, which are supposed to eradicate the mutant threat, but why? Why does he hate mutants? Why does Mystique want to kill him? Why, why, why, why, why?
I think there is some cursory exposition somewhere in the film where they actually tell you what everyone's motivation is, but when you hire awesome actors who can really sell shit like Dinklage and Lawrence, why the hell aren't you SHOWING IT.
Show us the death of those mutants you built up in First Class. Show us Mystique on her knees, crying over what's-her-face-with-the-wing's body. Show us whatever it was that made Tyrion want to create the Terminator. I didn't really like First Class all that much, but the Magneto there, and the Magneto in X-Men had real motivation. That opening scene in the first movie with the iron gate and all the screaming? That's the kind of stuff that draws you into a villain's story.
And a hero's for that matter.
But what about the Sentinels?
Sure we see them finishing off the remnants of the X-Men in the future, but I they never really earned the feels. They just handed us this new team with some old faces in some hodgepodge costumes and say, "these are the dudes that are about to croak." If they'd spent a little time showing us the real fear and desperation, the way the refugees are living, maybe I'd have drank the Kool-Aid.
Plus the adaptation protocols of the robots just doesn't seem to mesh well at all. They just assume the powers of the combatants? Oh, fire! Shoot ice! I'd have believed force fields, density manipulation, and regeneration more. Nimrod Sentinels would have been great. Imagine if they'd just wrapped Sunspot in a airtight force bubble and snuffed him out? Or laid a laser trap for Iceman like the corridor in Resident Evil. Ice cubes for everyone!
Just something that didn't feel so lazy.
Reboot vs. RetconLook, the movie is okay. Despite my ranting, it's not terrible. It just is not a great movie by any stretch. It's a decent summer movie that looks better due to the fact that X-Men: The Last Stand was so fucking awful.
And that's really why this film exists isn't it? They wanted some way to keep Hugh Jackman and the other bankable stars from First Class and dump all the rest. If they'd just rebooted the entire franchise, they'd have to recast Jackman and Fox would lose it's biggest draw. So they decided to compromise and retcon what they could of the old continuity.
This bothers me in so many ways.
For one thing, how many more Wolverine movies does Jackman have in him? He's got to be nearing 50 already. What do you do when you're getting ready for the movie after Apocalypse, and your main action star can no longer keep up with the younger guys?
Two, how are we going to move this into the future? Are we stuck with the 70's version of the X-Men for the foreseeable future? Unless the Fassbender and McAvoy are willing to wear old-man makeup, they're going to look awfully young if they ever move this forward to the present day. Are they going to use Stewart and McKellen? The same Jackman problems show up down that route.
And does it really matter that they salvaged the continuity anyway? At the end of DoFP, they've basically tossed out X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and The Wolverine. That leaves X-Men: First Class and this one. Most everyone from the first class are dead anyway, so... What was the point?
Sigh.I really thought I'd like this movie after the early reviews started hitting the Net. I mean how could anything with such high marks make me feel this depressed? I guess that the Marvel Films universe and the fantastic job they're doing over there has really spoiled me for other superhero films. Sony, Fox, and Warner Bros need to work their asses off to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it just doesn't look as if they have the stones to do it. They aren't willing to take chances with these licences so they end up feeling very much like the latest summer blockbuster rather than something I can watch over and over again.
I am so happy that despite opening on Memorial Day weekend, DoFP did not manage to beat Captain America: Winter Soldier's record breaking $95,023,721 box office. It just would have felt wrong if it ended up making more money than the superior film. but then it's domestic gross is tracking higher than Winter Soldier's was after a week, so it's probably too early to tell. (Source)
I will say that I am looking forward to the X-Men: Apocalypse. The fact that the overriding need to retcon the timeline won't be hanging over the story is a huge plus. And they've got some great storylines to cull material from when it comes to this adversary.
I just pray to jeebus that I'm wrong about them trying to make this another Wolverine/Magneto flick.