Thursday, 5 June 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Spoiler alert: Do not read the following paragraph until you have watched the film (jump down to the next paragraph instead). For a less sarcastic review, read my review at Media Matters:|X-Men%3A+Days+of+Future+Past

I don’t know what the writers of X-Men: Days of Future Past were thinking, but come on: Where’s the redemptive violence at the end? Where’s the bad guy getting killed at the end (indeed, did anyone at all end up getting killed)? I mean, not only is there no satisfying demise of the baddie, it’s not even clear who the baddie really is. Is it Erik (Magneto), who does very nasty things to Logan (Wolverine)? Or is it the weapons manufacturer (Trask) who is trying to save the world from Magneto? And what’s with Raven/Mystique? Like Erik, one minute she’s ‘good’, the next she’s ‘bad’ and then ‘good’ again and then ‘bad’ again and so on. Come on, we all know that people are either purely good (our superheroes) or purely evil (the baddies). And if all that craziness isn’t enough, there is the suggestion that the world can be saved through a nonviolent action! How absurd can you get? It’s bad enough when the protagonist of Looper (another attempt to save the future through actions taking place in the past) chooses to save the world through self-sacrifice instead of directing violence at others; but to do away with violence altogether? To suggest that the ripples of one nonviolent act can transform the world, undo countless acts of violence in the future and save millions of lives ? Utter madness! Let’s get real and bring in the AK47s, without which no real improvement of the future is possible. That’s so obvious that the ending of X-Men: Days of Future Past left me numb with befuddlement. Okay, take a deep breath; I’m sure I worry for nothing and that the inevitable sequel will put all this love and nonviolence behind us and get us back into the real world, where only an act of violence can save us from evil. 

Another side to the story: Someone brought their four-year-old daughter in to watch X-Men: Days of Future Past. I don’t get it. The film has so much terrifying and horrifying violence that I would not have been able to handle watching it at age fourteen, let alone age four.  What are parents thinking? The amount of violence allowed under a PG rating is criminal and this rating does not mean that it’s okay for a child to see the film if accompanied by an adult. In my opinion, no one under thirteen should be exposed to so much violence. 

This film’s violence-related issues are likely not as simplistic as I describe them above, but they are key to both my appreciation of the film as well as a concern that is bothering me more and more (namely, our ridiculous rating system).

X-Men: Days of Future Past: A dark, violent and very entertaining story about a dystopian future in which all mutants, and all people carrying mutant genes, are hunted down and terminated by powerful, almost invincible, robots. The only thing that can save the few mutants who remain is using Kitty Pride’s mutant power to send someone’s consciousness into the past to prevent these robots from being built in the first place. That means going back to 1973, when the X-Men still looked like they do in X-Men: First Class, which takes place in 1963. This is very convenient, but it does result in a very convoluted plot, especially when you try to fit all the time-lines together. Of course, if this last effort to save the mutants is successful, all of the future (i.e. post-1973) will change and none of the previous X-Men films (except First Class) will ever have happened (a trick used in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek). 

For me, the biggest flaw of X-Men: Days of Future Past was the way the convoluted plot tried to maximize opportunities for action and violence while still maintaining an intelligent story. So much of the action felt pointless and the story and characters could have been developed much more. 

Ah well, this time around I feel inclined to overlook the above flaws and express my appreciation for the fine group of young actors X-Men: Days of Future Past has managed to attract: James McAvoy (Professor Xavier); Michael Fassbender (Erik), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven), Nicholas Hoult (Hank/Beast) and Ellen Page (Kitty); in addition to the veterans Patrick Stewart (older Xavier), Ian McKellen (older Erik) and Hugh Jackman (Logan). And of course I can’t forget Peter Dinklage as Trask. All of the acting was excellent and fun to watch.

The most remarkable thing about the cinematography is that, unlike The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I never once thought about how X-Men: Days of Future Past was made for 3D. That’s a huge compliment! The score was more than adequate, as was Bryan Singer’s direction. 

I have always liked the X-Men films much more than the Avengers films and X-Men: Days of Future Past is the best X-Men film to date. If the story had been a little more satisfying and coherent, the ending might even have persuaded me to consider giving four stars to a superhero film, which is very rare. As it is, X-Men: Days of Future Past gets a solid ***+. My mug is up.

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