Friday, 4 July 2014

Review: X-Men - Days Of Future Past (second-pass)

World of Blackout Film Review

X-Men: Days Of Future Past (3D) Poster

X-Men: Days Of Future Past (2D) (second-pass / SPOILERS)
Cert: 12A / 131 mins / Dir. Bryan Singer
WoB Rating: 6/7

Fair warning: this isn't really a review, more just me rambling after having watched the film again (although that's largely my reviewing style anyway, I agree). I wrote some words about the actual film here; you'd be advised to read those first. There are also, as you've read above, some spoilers in here. The weight of the spoilers is debatable, but they're there nonetheless…

Time for Change.

So a few things became clearer the second time I watched Days Of Future Past. More things became fuzzier, but I'm pleased to say that I did get more out of it this time round. Whereas most time-travel movies place an emphasis on the dangers of changing past events, with DoFP, this is positively encouraged; that's the point of the story. So Logan travels back '50 years' (Kitty Pride's words) to 1973 to prevent a major event in mutant-history occurring, succeeds in achieving at least part of his mission, and pings back to the future to find that things are hunky-dory. But would this really be the case? In the old timeline, Magneto didn't drop the stadium on the White House lawn, leading to a standoff between the US Governmental leaders and a hotwired v1 Sentinel (this would be reported worldwide, remember). That's kind of a big change to make...

Causality is an unruly beast and individual paths can be decided with far smaller events. In the restored future, characters we'd seen die in X3 are walking around the halls of Xavier's school, Magneto's done the expected thing and buggered off in a huff, all is right with the world. But given that most of the mutants within the walls of the school are, well kids, surely there's a higher probability of some of them not ever having made it to the school in the renewed timeline (or even not having been born)? As a method of resurrecting Jean Grey, Scott Summers and Hank McCoy, it's as good as any and it leaves the long-term audience in a place which is both new yet reassuringly familiar (which, judging by McAvoy's closing narration, is precisely the idea). It just seems a little too neat for my liking. Implausible, almost (yes, I'm aware that I'm talking about time-travelling mutants, thank you).

Elsewhere in the newly created timeline, Sentinel creator Bolivar Trask is still alive, thanks to him not being assassinated by Mystique in 1973 Paris. Now although the manually reconfigured sentinels still had a minor ding-dong with President Nixon in Washington, that doesn't necessarily mean that Trask couldn't persuade the powers-that-be to use them again at a future date (although obviously Wolverine's mandate wasn't to "go back and kill Trask in a way which won't invoke the human apocalypse").

A Frosty Reception.

Although Mystique sees the mortuary photos of a few of the previous film's mutants in Bolivar Trasks's private office, in their 'heated conversation' on the private jet, Erik lists those, and other, casualties of the Brotherhood Of Mutants in the years between First Class and DoFP:
"Angel. Azazel. Emma. Banshee. Mutant brothers and sisters; all dead."

It's a neat enough explanation as to why they haven't been cast to appear in this film. And as Logan only arrived from the future very recently, it's a fairly safe bet to say that they were killed prior to his arrival, yes? The year is 1973, eleven years after the X-Men's involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis. But of course that wasn't the only film to take place in a specific time and place in 'real world' history. The Origins: Wolverine movie was set a few years later, in 1979, at the time of the Three Mile Island meltdown.

But hang on just a goshdarned minute… Wolverine's prison-break from Stryker's laboratory is assisted by Kayla Silverfox's sister… Emma Frost. Not withstanding the fact that she's a few years younger in 1979 than previously shown (hey, Moira McTaggart has it worse), how can she be alive in 1962, dead in 1973 and alive in 1979? Unless of course 20th Century Fox are trying not only to soft-reboot the entire series continuity, but actually write XMO:W out altogether?

I know it sounds like a crazy concept, but think of Wolverine's flashbacks (or more properly flashforwards) during the scene when Mystique was about to assassinate Trask. Looking at the tasered Stryker on the floor, Logan has hallucinogenic phantom-memories of his adamantium implantation operation, as depicted for the first time in X2, and later fully in XMO:W. But the older Stryker he sees in his mind is Brian Cox from X2's flashbacks, not the Danny Huston incarnation we meet in Origins. Bearing in mind that the procedure is set to take place six years after the events of DoFP, Huston is a far closer physical match to how the character would (indeed, did) look at the time, and as we see the full operation in the 2009 film, there's a lot more footage of equal or greater purpose to use in the DoFP scene.

Could it be that director Bryan Singer just wanted to tip the hat to his old mucker from 2002, or is it a concerted effort to remove an oft-derided film from a continuity that DoFP retcons anyway? (for the record, I firmly believe that Origins is a better film than The Wolverine, but there you go) But that would be silly wouldn't it? After all, Wolverine has his ridiculous bone-claws throughout the 1973-era, introduced to the cinematic continuity in XMO:W, and if they wanted to dump that film, they wouldn't have left that reminder in, would they?

Ah yeah, the bone claws

A Bone To Pick.

Given that, as mentioned above, cinematic Wolverine doesn't have his adamantium skeleton in 1973, it makes sense (I suppose) for him to use his bone claws as the hugely inadequate weapons they are, for the main segment of the film. Except that during that flashforward sequence, we cut back to the future-era of the old timeline to see Wolverine thrashing about on the table with his shiny, shiny claws out. Cast your mind back to last year's Wolverine movie, and he gets them cut off by Darth Yashida, leaving him with his newly-regenerated bone-claws. Although this movie takes place in the vague-future that X-Men movies inhabit when they're not depicting global crises, we know it occurs after X3 because of Logan's dreams of Jean Grey. But "two years" have passed by the time of the after-credits scene where Logan is accosted by Erik and Charles in an airport, and he's still got his bone-claws (although that scene also teases "Trask Industries", and at that point in the cinematic Canon, Trask would have been assassinated in 1973, so that makes no sense either. We can only assume the sentinels are being manufactured in their deceased progenitor's name?).

During the scene on the jet, Erik mentions Logan's claws, quipping "imagine if they were made of metal?", foreshadowing that once the timeline is properly reset, the events of 1979 in an Alaskan military base won't happen either. While I'm fairly sure that Wolverine's next appearance will have him with his trademark slashers, the film completely fails to explain how he has them in the first place.

So are we to believe that Xavier and Magneto find the time and method - between trying to avoid the rise of, and their capture by, Trask's super-sentinels - to give Wolverine his claws back? At some point between the busy, if domestic-looking airport of The Wolverine, to the perma-dark dystopia of DoFP, Wolverine will find a way to regain his claws which he couldn't do in the two years prior to that, travelling the world?

I've got another theory: 'Days Of Future Past' starts in an alternate timeline to begin with. One which isn't bound by the continuity of previous films (although are they ever?), and since it's going to be restarted after 130 minutes, it also doesn't need to be adequately explained. It explains most of the bumps and potholes I've outlined above, and if the timeline is reset anyway, it makes little real difference, right?

Is the trailer representative of the film?

Did I laugh, cry, gasp and sigh when I was supposed to?

Does it achieve what it sets out to do?

Pay at the cinema, Rent on DVD or just wait for it to be on the telly?
Cinema if it's your thing; if it's not then you won't be watching it.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Will I watch it again?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream?
Unless it's been worked into the sound-effect for the future-era Sentinels, I don't think there is, no.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

And my question for YOU is…
Other than being impaled with steel rods encased in concrete, drowning in a river and being rescued by Stryker/Mystique, it wasn't really made clear how Logan was going to 'come back' when his time-travelling mission was accomplished. Was he supposed to live out the next fifty years? There's a massive gap in Logan's memory when he wakes up in Xavier's school, that's going to be fun to deal with...

*1 Although while it's straightforward within the confines of this film, the ramifications by the end are headache-inducing, even for me.
*2 With the exception of The Wolverine, obviously.
*3 Yeah, I'm looking at you, Last Stand.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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