Wednesday, June 4, 2014

X-Men Days of Future Past Review

I think we can all agree, X-Men: The Last Stand (X-Men 3, 2006) wasn't that great.  I might even go so far to say it sucked.  I think we can also agree, Wolverine: Origins (2009) sucked.  Of course you can disagree, and everyone is welcome to an opinion.  And my opinion is, if you enjoyed those movies, you are way too easily impressed by superhero movies... or maybe you just hate me. 

But not every X-related movie is horrible!  The original X-Men and X2, released by Twentieth Century Fox, were two of the more impressive superhero movies ever released... until Marvel Studios started producing their own comic book based movies.  So check your scorecard kids:

Marvel Studios  
Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk 

Twentieth Century Fox 
X-Men, Wolverine, Fantastic Four 
Anywhere from cool, to meh, to sucks.

Sony Pictures 
 ....don't get me started.

Now that we're on the same page in our comic books, where does this put X-Men Days of Future Past?

Starting in the future, we have giant creepy mechanical Sentinels pretty much destroying the world and wiping out everything they hate... and it seems they hate a lot of things, but mostly mutants.  So our heroes figure out a way to send Wolverine back to 1973 to convince younger versions of Professor X and Magneto to work together to stop all this from ever starting, even though they hate each other.

I used to read a lot of comic books, and I know someone talked me into collecting this particular storyline way back then.  At the time, I remember liking the idea, but was a bit confused by the details.  Maybe I didn't get it, because I wasn't a regular reader of X titles... or maybe because I'm not one of those 'smart' people.  So as confusing as the original concept may have been, DOFP made it all very cohesive and easy to follow for a simple guy like me.

As much as I appreciated this, I think many comic book purists might be offended by some of the changes... which is too bad, because it was presented very well.  And isn't putting out the best version of the story the most important aspect?

In the comics, I would expect them to follow every nuance of history they created, and stay loyal to the people who have collected this title for many years.  But in theaters, they are trying to reach a wider audience, and at the end of the day, they want to make money.  So taking a comic book frame by frame and making it into a movie is a great concept, but generally I don't think it works so well.  Why?  Because these might be new characters to some viewers.  Or maybe like me, they get easily confused.  Movies like Sin City and 300 are rare exceptions, partly because they don't have years of history and backstory to cover.  But even 300 needed to add a subplot with Leonidas's wife to give it more substance.  

In the end it's a simple equation:
Is your movie written well?  
If you answer yes, then those changes are acceptable and maybe even enjoyable.
If you answered no, then your movie really sucks AND you've made a lot of fans very angry. 

So thumbs up to Simon Kinberg, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn for making a pretty good story.  Not great... but pretty good.

Bryan Singer also did a pretty good job as director.  He directed the original X-Men movies, and it shows how much he appreciates working in this world.  He made action sequences I could see!  Which is always nice and appreciated in a world of shaky cameras and split second editing.  I loved the future Sentinels, as well as their 70's versions too.  There was nothing overly artistic about his style, but he did the job well enough and told a decent story visually. 

The entire cast did a great job too, from Hugh Jackman (Huge Assman?), to SIR Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and the mostly naked Jennifer Lawrence.  As much as I dislike Halle Berry being in this franchise, I'll even accept her here... barely.  EXTRA huge awesomeness to Evan Peters as Quicksilver I wanted more!

But I do have one small problem (no pun intended)...  Peter Dinklage.

Before everyone starts booing me and calling me a racist (or whatever I would be for not liking little people), I LOVE Peter Dinklage!  I think he is one of the best actors today, big or small.  I've loved him since the first episode of Game of Thrones and I really hope they don't kill him off any time soon.  I sincerely think his acting in DOFP was fantastic!  But... my problem is casting him as Trask.  The character from the comic is not 'height challenged'.  And the sad reality is, in 1973, I don't think someone with his height would have risen to such a powerful position.  In 2014, we are just beginning to accept people no matter their race, color, religion or physical appearance (and even today it seems like some still can't overlook those things).  So seeing him in this role, I needed more.  Maybe the writers dropped the ball here and needed to give us some background story.  Maybe more was written, but was unfortunately edited out for time.  I would have accepted him easier if we knew how and why he got to this position in the close-minded world of the 70's.

So after doing some fancy calculations and new math, I would put X-Men: Days of Future Past as pretty good.  In the ever increasing list of superhero movies, this goes above Thor 1, and Iron Man 3. Dare I say above Iron Man 2?  Although Iron Man 2 had Scarlett Johansson... DOFP had a mostly naked Jennifer Lawrence.