Well, X-Men: Days of Future Past is out of the gate and (so far) tearing up the box office. So we thought we’d get a few people together and talk about it. Not the box office bit so much, but just some thoughts and reactions to the movie. It’s a little bit of a random assortment of musings, but hey, we’re just a bunch of film-lovin’ nerds. And if you are, too, perhaps you’ll drop us your thoughts in the comments. Beware – there are some spoilers for Days of Future Past in what follows.
So without further ado:
THE PANELISTS: Tim Falkenberg – Brett Harrison Davinger – Gabriel Urbina – Erik Paschall – Dylan Levy – John Wedemeyer
Tim: Welcome everyone. Let’s talk some X-Men. My thoughts already went up, but let’s start by throwing it around the horn – gut reaction from each of you, what did you think of Days of Future Past?
Brett: As someone fully expecting to hate it, I ended up really, really liking it.
Gabriel: I’m of two minds about it right now. As an X-Men fan and plain lover of action sequences, I had a ball. My inner screenwriter and logician was kind of whimpering in a corner throughout, though… Not sure which side will end up winning.
Dylan: I probably shouldn’t have looked at Rotten Tomatoes first, but since I did my expectations were somewhat high. Not disappointed with the experience, but definitely not as impressed as the hype would suggest.
Brett: I think what surprised me most about the movie was that I was fully ready to count the X-Men franchise out. I thought X-Men: First Class was the best of the X-Men movies by far, and I was hoping that Fox would use that more as a reboot than as a prequel. X-Men: The Last Stand was a gigantic misfire and neither of the two Wolverine movies (X-Men Origins: Wolverine or The Wolverine) were any good. The humor, look, and style of First Class made it stand above the other films. A return to the old cast seemed more an attempt to capture the Avengers mega-franchise fever, and it took away from what could have been a solid start of a new series. The loss of Matthew Vaughn (the director of First Class) also dampened my expectations.
Erik: Well this wasn’t really an X-Men movie, it was an Xavier, Magneto, Wolverine, sort of Mystique movie. It was fine, it did its jobestablishing a new universe for Bryan Singer to play around in. The acting was fine. The action was fine. Nothing we haven’t seen before. So…. it wasn’t as bad as The Last Stand or Origins. Peter Dinklage was underused though.
John: In a way it was a reboot, because Jean Grey is back and all that nonsense in the last five minutes. I like the idea of creating a new universe for Singer to play around in, but we’re left wondering what the consequences of this whole movie were, and whether or not the first three films are entirely irrelevent now. Since we basically just retconned the whole damn series.
Dylan: Honestly it’s hard to think of any other reason of the original X-Men cast being there except to draw in the now older crowd who saw the first three X-Men films. Not much character development at all with the original cast. It actually reminds me of the Spider-Man reboots after Spider-Man 3 fell flat with critics and audiences. 5 years later and Sony says, “Well, let’s start over.” Except here, of course, they’re sort-of doing it in the sequel to the prequel.
Gabriel: I think that’s part of what’s so fascinating about this experiment. The X-Men film series had a set of films that had worked with audiences, then some that had fallen flat, and then one that had worked, and this really felt like the mad scientist Frankenstein monster that was trying to take the pieces out of all the ones that DID work and just discard all of the excess baggage from the Ratner film and the others.
Tim: Complete with a mad scientist and giant monsters.
Gabriel: Right, absolutely.
Erik: Giant monsters?
Gabriel: Well, giant robots at any rate. The poor man’s monsters.
Tim: Cobbled together from spare mutant parts. Er, powers. Really both.
Dylan: Though this film felt like it was trying to reclaim all the good things from the original films, I think we agree that it also has A LOT of baggage of its own.
Erik: You mean like killing off established characters with a sentence? See: Azazel, Angel, Banshee
Gabriel: i.e. all of the First Class characters that were never part of the Singer-verse.
Tim: Except Havok, although just for a moment, which gets into (narratively speaking) one of the things I found most odd about this movie as a whole. You get these weird mini-plotlines, almost asides, throughout the film – the bit where Mystique goes and rescues the Vietnam vets from Stryker, the whole Quicksilver sequence.
Erik: It’s the same thing as Amazing Spider-Man 2, you put things in a film that normally would have no place in the narrative, except to build a sequel. And I’m not talking about post credit scenes.
Brett: With Days of Future Past, I thought the “asides” worked better than with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yes, the Vietnam sequence was kind of pointless and could have been excised, but at least it connected to the characters and featured characters from the film. Quicksilver wasn’t necessary, but he was fun.
Dylan: I’ll admit that Quicksilver sequence in the Pentagon was really funny and enjoyable. But I agree he was merely a means to an end.
Gabriel: I had a slightly different take on the Vietnam sequence. I thought it worked well to establish Mystique’s character and motivations, especially in contrast with where both Xavier and Magneto were while she was sticking her neck out to get other mutants out of harm’s way. If you can do that AND stick in Stryker and other familiar faces to help build the sense of the universe and people that populate it, why not do both?
Tim: Sure. Actually, can we talk about Stryker for just a moment? I spent a lot of this film trying to organize the overall timeline in my head, and I’m trying to figure out if the Stryker from X2 is the only one they acknowledge. Because I don’t think X2 and Origins fit together in continuity.
Erik: Well, I think starting with First Class, they were going out of their way to ignore Origins. How else could we have two Emma Frosts? Remember the crystal girl in Origins?
Dylan: I don’t remember Origins that well, and I didn’t see The Wolverine, but – and correct me if I’m wrong – similar to what Gabriel said – Days of Future Past seemed to ignore some of the ill-received films altogether and focus primarily on content from the first three X-men films and First Class. Unless I missed something from Days of Future Past that did allude specifically to the Wolverine films, it really is interesting how the filmmakers are trying to reconstruct everything.
Erik: Actually, I’m not even sure if the “future” portions of Days of Future Past are supposed to be within the same universe as the first three X-Men films. They say the thing that caused the Super Sentinels (as I will forever be calling them) was Mystique’s capture. How was she in the first three films if she was captured, experimented on, and presumably killed?
Gabriel: I think that these sorts of questions are where madness lies for this film. Even its stance on The Last Stand is very weird. Most of the time it seems to pretend it never happened (Xavier is back in his pre-death body, among lots and lots of other things), but then in a flashback Wolverine remembers Jean Grey/Phoenix ripping off his flesh, so…. SOME version of that happened? Or something? My degree in quantum multiverse theory isn’t advanced enough to figure out the way this ties into the other films. I think the film really just expects you to realize that some things apply, some don’t, and just forget about all of these concerns. It contradicts itself in a million different ways if it wants anything other than that.
Dylan: So now that we’re on the subject of contradictions, can we actually nitpick now about the whole dual timelines and how the future isn’t altered until Wolverine’s consciousness or whatever changes the past? It reminds me of the multiple paradoxes in Looper.
Tim: Oh, god, that annoyed me way more than it should have. Mostly because it stuck a spotlight on how “sending a consciousness back” in no way explains how they can time travel. Like, is Wolverine just adventuring in his dreams when he’s in the ‘70s? Because later Kitty Pryde finds out that his claws are still very real. I was all ready to go with the consciousness thing until that point.
Gabriel: It’s very odd. It works in a completely arbitrary way, too. Like… if you change a certain number of things (unknown to the audience of the characters), THEN the future changes. But before you get there, everything stays exactly the same in the future). How? Who knows…
Brett: South Park actually had a good premise with that in an episode where Cartman goes to the future, he contacts the past and every contact slightly changes the thing in the future-present. Nevertheless, when did Kitty Pryde get that power? Does she phase through time now too?
Gabriel: I think it’s just a callback to the original comic, because in it she’s the one that goes back in time. They wanted to have Wolverine be the one that did it but still have her involved, I guess.
Erik: I repeat. This was not an X-Men movie, it was an Xavier, Wolverine, Magneto, kind of Mystique movie.
Brett: Maybe, but the intimacy of bringing it down to a few key characters (Beast as well) worked for me. In these massive team-up movies, trying to tie everyone into it often makes it feel bogged down and awkward, especially during the final action sequences. Keeping it about a few key characters and their personal relationships made it a stronger film to me.
Tim: That’s one of the most compelling parts of X-men as a property to me – the characters are perhaps the most like normal people, with problems outside saving/destroying the world, of any of the big-screen heroes we’ve had. They have complexity – Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, all of them.
Dylan: But the presence of the characters from the first 3 films – Kitty, Iceman, everyone that got killed in the beginning – are still only fodder, both for fans of the first films, for plot purposes, and literally for the sentinels. They still clutter the film; even the extent future Xavier and Magneto develop is rather thin.
Tim: Ok guys, before we get too long winded here, let’s start heading for a conclusion with this idea: we’ve all talked to some extent about how this feels like a reboot in a lot of ways. So let me pose this question: Was it a good choice to draw all the X-Men movies to this point up into a (kind of) whole, or should the franchise have just been rebooted? (Disclaimer – they might be doing this anyways with Apocalypse, but it’s too early to tell for sure.)
Erik: No, it was not a good choice. They were already ignoring the established continuity plenty. They just should have kept going with it (their make it up as they go along methodology). We would have gotten a much more focused film without superfluous future fluff.
Brett: I think they should have stuck with a reboot based on First Class. As much as I like what they did with this movie, I think for sake of the franchise it would have been better not to have the old baggage as well as the super new baggage with the brand new timeline. Yes, First Class had several references to the first three movies, but they weren’t so tied in that it couldn’t have gone down its own path. As much as I liked James Marsden and Famke Janssen, I would have much rather gotten a new Cyclops and Jean, and maybe we could have finally got the Phoenix story done right instead of feeling somewhat constrained by what came before.
Dylan: Depends who you’re asking: for Fox, box office numbers don’t lie (a $111 million opening weekend is a pretty big deal) so I think they knew they were going to get messy with this. To be serious, though, I agree that it wasn’t a good idea. A lot of contrivances to stitch up the story and at the expense of the development of future X-Men characters really puts a damper. But I also wonder, given the ending, if we’ve seen the last of the First Class cast X-Men characters. Is it back to Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and so on?
Brett: I hope not. Nothing against them as performers, but if they want this franchise to continue, a younger cast is essential for ongoing features. (I also doubt they’d give up Jennifer Lawrence so easily.)
Gabriel: I like the idea of bringing in the old cast and getting the worlds together in concept. I still like the first two X-Men films best, and I love the take that the old cast, especially McKellen and Stewart, bring to the characters. But the roles they had in this film were tiny and without traction, nothing more than extended cameos. I think that if you’re going to bring the two sets of films together you need to confront the full extent of the task, not reduce one side to cheerleaders for the others.
Tim: Well, I’m going to sit firmly on the fence of my own question with this: I wanted to see a more complete film following First Class with those characters, and I thought the future stuff had a lot of potential. Connecting the two maybe adds some weight to both, but isn’t necessary. Ok, maybe I’m not sitting on the fence after all. I had fun with both sides, and I guess I’d just rather have more movies. If they’re not going to do that, I’d still prefer a First Class sequel, but I can live with this compromise.
Erik: I just want the red and purple Magneto costume we saw at the end of First Class.