Monday, May 30, 2016

X-Men: Days of Future Past

I will keep up the theme of my random backlog movie of the month coinciding with the sequel just hitting theaters. In March I featured Man of Steel in time for Batman v Superman, in April it was Age of Ultron in time for Civil War and this month I am covering 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (trailer) just in time for X-Men Apocalypse.

The fact that FOX has kept the continuity going across all the X-Men films since the first one hit in 2000 is quite the feat. If my math is right, Apocalypse will be the ninth film in the X-Men universe. With so many films across so many years, just like actual comics, there are all kinds of moments where the cannon contradicts itself in later films or make convenient lines of dialogue to explain why some characters are in certain movies. This fan clip right here helps a lot in order to try and piece together all the various timelines on what is and is not relevant today.

Days of Future Past throws a lot more into the already overflowing X-Men canonical pot by introducing time travel. This film starts off in the not so distant future of 2023 where the mutant race is either extinct or imprisoned. A small remaining squad of X-Men is constantly on the run from the all-powerful Sentinels. Magneto (Ian McKellen) & Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) team up and send Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) present day conscience back into his 1973 body to prevent Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from pulling off an assassination that was the impetus for the Sentinel program. The bulk of this movie takes place in 1973 with occasional jumps to the present. That means this takes place 11 years after the events of the previous film, X-Men: First Class, and like that film we are treated to James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender’s excellent portrayals of the younger versions of Professor Xavier and Magneto, respectively.

Minus a brief cameo in First Class, Days of Future Past is the first movie of the franchise to have a major crossover of actors from the original trilogy of the first three X-Men films and the prequel trilogy that is wrapping up with Apocalypse. There are several new mutants making their debut here, and several past favorites returning in small supporting roles. The complete list of mutants featured is too long for me to run down here, so please check out this link with the cast list here to see if your favorite mutants made the cut, odds are they probably did. The film primarily follows around several key mutants in this film, so you do not really get to see a lot of these background players in featured roles. I am not the biggest fan of Halle Barry’s portrayal of Storm in the franchise, and while it was kind of nice to see her back in the series for the first time since 2006, I found myself surprised to see her limited to a handful of lines totaling 20 words of dialogue…yes, I counted.

Fans of Rogue (Anna Paquin) only get a small cameo from her in the theatrical version of the film I am covering here. It is worth noting that FOX re-released a director’s cut of Days of Future Past with the subtitle of The Rogue Cut. It features several extra minutes to the film that adds a supporting story for Rogue. I loved Rogue in the hit animated X-Men cartoon of the 90’s and just despised how the original films portrayed her in comparison so I made sure not to pick up that director’s cut release, but for diehard fans of the films wanting the complete experience just know that I am not covering The Rogue Cut here.

It goes without saying that it is quite easy to get lost in the X-Men cinematic cannon when it introduces time travel in Days of Future Past. Seriously, check out the aforementioned clip as a much needed primer before going into this. For example, I was a little caught off guard when 1973 Wolverine still has his natural bone claws until I remembered he does not get infused with Adamantium in the cannon until several years later as detailed in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This fact, along with others may or may not be rewritten because of the time traveling entailed in this film so expect a few tidbits in mutant film history to change accordingly. As much as I recommend prepping up going into this, I think I had more fun reliving this since I saw it last in the theater. I did my best to ignore any or all time paradoxes that occurred in the other films and it resulted in a much better experience. So yeah, I take it back, ignore watching that clip before the film and instead watch it after and be amazed at what all pieced together with the other films.

First Class had a tremendous cast and a lot of powerful moments that hit in a way unlike any of the previous films. I will tip my hat to director Matthew Vaughn with First Class being my favorite of all nine mutant films so far. Unfortunately he was unavailable for the sequel, but FOX was able to bring back Bryan Singer to the director’s chair after being away from the series since directing the very first two films. Vaughn somehow is capable of capturing the perfect mix of action, comedy and powerful dramatic moments in his film. Singer is just a notch or two below, but he is still pretty damn good in his own right. The action scenes are tremendous, with the clear cut standouts being Magneto levitating some heavy duty buildings in a CG spectacle and a slow motion kitchen scene showing off the powers of Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Where he lacks in comparison to Singer is that the big climatic moments hit, but just not as strong as they do in First Class. I still very much enjoyed this film and it was a very quick two hour and ten minute watch because so much is happening with all the time traveling and the jam-packed cast involved.

FOX has included several extra features totaling just over an hour on the BluRay of the theatrical release. There are about 10 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes that are fun quick watches on what did not make it into the film, including a surprising moment with Wolverine and Storm. The following four extras are all right around 10 minutes each, and worth checking out. Double Take and X-Men Reunited compares the past and present versions of the mutants and what their respective actors bring to the table. Lots of fun anecdotes here of the original cast getting nostalgic as they were part of the filming process again and being flattered/shocked when some new cast members told them how old they were when they saw the first films. Classification M profiles all the new mutants introduced and gives a very entertaining look at how they pulled off Quicksilver’s big scene in the film. Finally, Sentinels: Secure Future explains how they built the designs of the past and present versions of one of the X-Men’s most popular villains.

Yes, I would have preferred for Vaughn to come back and give us his version of Days of Future Past, but Singer did an admirable job filling in, especially considering the ambitious plot. I am still wrapping my head around how this relates to the rest of the films as I am pretty sure I missed connecting a few dots from beginning to end. If you do not mind spotting some inconsistencies with the other films and just enjoy Days of Future Past for what it is, then you will be in for a fun summer popcorn comic book flick and afterwards be ready for the final installment of this trilogy that is Apocalypse.

Other Random Backlog Movie Blogs

12 Angry Men (1957)
21 Jump Street
Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie
Atari: Game Over
The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Bounty Hunters
Cabin in the Woods
Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Clash of the Titans (1981)
Clint Eastwood 11-pack Special
Dirty Work
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
The Fighter
For Love of the Game
Good Will Hunting
Hercules: Reborn
Man of Steel
Marine 3 & 4
Mortal Kombat
The Replacements
Rocky I-VI
Running Films Part 1
Running Films Part 2
ScoobyDoo Wrestlemania Mystery
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Source Code
Star Trek I-XII
Take Me Home Tonight
The Tooth Fairy 1 & 2
Veronica Mars
The Wrestler (2008)

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