‘X-men: Days of Future Past’ a nice knock-off in a lost franchise

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I’ll try to keep this short. The gist of it is: DoFP didn’t suck!
Yip. Surprise surprise, there you have it. For Terrence’s review, click HERE.

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But why all the hubbub, and was my incessant criticism of it since it was announced, warranted? – Oh definitely.
Has this film changed my opinion of this franchise? Not on you Nelly!
Would I see this film again? No.

Why is it still a good/decent film then?
Because they focussed on their 3 strongest onscreen characters (Wolverine, Professor X & Magneto)and 5 best actors (Jackman, Stewart, McKellan, McAvoy & Fassbender respectively) whilst utilising one of the most iconic comic book storylines of all time.
The rest of the mutants were just bit part cameos – which is what they’ve always been, except whereas usually the filmmakers focussed on action set pieces and CGI laden plot devices, here they allowed intrigue to drive the plot.

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Now allow me a moment to apply my scalpel and dissect… and in doing so outline why ‘Apocalypse’ (2016) is doomed…
DoFP is a nice film, but I still don’t like it – wait, let’s say I dislike it a lot less than all the other films. It’s an issue of trying to fix all the errors of the past in one film, whist still carrying their dead weight along for the ride.

“ Some of these I hope the audience will forget about but for the bulk of it I pay attention to the universe.” [Bryan Singer on continuity errors in the X-men universe]

Essentially they’ve built a good looking house on a flaky/sandy foundation. It looks nice from the road, but as you walk through, it’s easy to spot the holes and where they’ve wallpapered over the cracks. A number of characters are, as has been the tradition of this franchise, misrepresented and underplayed. This is what happens when you don’t focus on the story and characters in favour of making superpowered blockbusters with no emotional resonance and a cast mainly playing caricatures (speaking of the franchise in general but including the peripheral elements of DoFP). – I feel like a broken record saying all this.

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Can they do a film with fully fleshed out characters with such a big cast? – Of course. It’s simply a question of good writing, and using talented actors that live their parts.
You can do a simple five minute montage introducing characters (not their powers), and do it well. The thing about the source material is that it’s so rich because each character has a subplot that feeds the main story.
The sad thing about Days of Future Past – the original story – is that as iconic as it is, it has been reduced for the purposes of this film. Just like the ‘Batman is an outlaw’ sequence was reduced to 9 minutes of screen time in The Dark Knight Rises, here a story that spanned volumes and included segments in the animated series (although they gave Kitty Pryde’s time travel duties to Bishop in the animated TV show) to comprise the saga that it was, is diminished to be a tool to lift a tired and dying franchise off the mat. In short, it may be a decent film, but they certainly haven’t done this iconic storyline justice. What would it have been like to see Wolverine take down a Sentinel single-handedly (the original models not the modern morphing invulnerable ones). The Sentinel mutant purge was such a major strand in the Xmen narrative – seeing mutants killed, abducted, rounded up and branded (probably for the fictional mutant colony,  Genosha) – reminiscent of the Holocaust – as human’s looked to exterminate their physically superior counterparts.

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When you think of what was used as inspiration for Xmen – from, as mentioned, the treatment of Jews by Nazis, to basing Professor X and Magneto on Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, to the McCarthyism of the 50’s, all and more are felt within the themes of racism, segregation and prejudice – not to mention human rights – in the DNA of constructing this comic, and then toss it into a Sci-fi epic with genetics and evolution to boot… So, one can see that it automatically and easily inherits a darker tone.
And hence the reason for all the consternation and borderline hatred of this Xmen film franchise (by true fans) because it simply is nowhere near realizing the potential that’s ingrained within the source material. The films are a pale shadow of what they could be, with none of the richness and multifaceted layers of intricate stories paired with intriguing and colourful characters from all over the world.
There’s your meal ticket right there – from a business perspective, if you’re looking to pull in interest from all quarters, the comics provide it for you by already being globally orientated – if you honor the characters it’ll automatically generate interest as countries would flock to see ‘their’ heroes.
This is some of the greatest comic book material around – and I’m tired of people saying “It’s just a movie” – Treat it as a book-to-film adaptation, and yes there are various interpretations, but all the differences largely share a central essence that feels missing from the films (*see ‘Why Superhero films are Overrated‘). Instead Bryan Singer went on his own tangent and outwardly dismissed the faithful fans (without whom there’d be no comic) – now he’s saying we should forgive and forget when you’ve pissed us off for so long as you raped the material… (They chose to loosely adapt the source material, but the continuity errors illustrate that they also chose to ignore their own created ‘universe’– the problems with these films though is way deeper than just continuity)
x-men_mystique_marvel_comicsAll we want is a faithful film that we can call the definitive Xmen film – an intriguing, deep, character driven story that sticks close to or honours the source material (because its begging to be adapted as is) that’s not only fun to watch, but also greatly re-watchable. However, to do that we need a new cast, new writers, a new director and, in an ideal world, a different production company. Is that too much to ask? (Probably.)

What of Apocalypse then?
It is doomed, and not only because of the already broken universe. With DoFP, they simply rebooted the original and deeply flawed franchise. Now that emphasis has shifted, from McAvoy and Fassbender’s impressive showings, to the mediocre, flat and lame cardboard cut-outs of old, I can only predict a win for Apocalypse (whose post credit intro was nevertheless rather unspectacular).
The truth is I cannot like or enjoy any film in this franchise because it is such a soulless and un-organic adaptation that uses characters as furniture for their stories… such that nitpicking [at things like: Beast is such a wimp (in the comics he could pick up 50 tons, but here he couldn’t even lift a piece of scaffolding) and that Bishop actually went back in time to assassinate Gambit who’d been framed by Mystique for killing the president – and didn’t need Kitty Pryde’s powers; Havoc (one of the mutants in Vietnam) is Cyclops’ younger brother; not once have we seen Wolverine’s berserker rage in combat (let Logan be Logan) – and that the Sentinel war wasn’t averted…] all feels a little pointless.
We had a dense tapestry in the comics and even when immediate danger was averted, we sat with a type of Terminator: Judgement Day ‘inevitability complex’, where ultimate doom awaited in whichever timeline you found yourself in – death by mutant holocaust with Sentinels as the primary weapon/Age of Apocalypse and his mutant targeting disease/Onslaught/the list goes on. Point is there was a true sense of impending doom throughout, but as a fan you backed the heroes because of their undying will and noble stand of resistance…

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Word to the wise: if you want people on your side, try your best to lend something to their imagination, constructing something that can even set a new benchmark and rise above the source material and add to the experience — not to exploit it. Chances are you won’t  fully realize the extent of the dream, just patches, but you’ll earn respect, tell a good story and create a great film as well.
You can change stories yes, you can adapt and even create, but at least retain the essence of the source. It’s about these basic things called writing, filmmaking, storytelling and art (& entertainment)- and how we want it done, with something called respect, and if it’s not too much to ask for… because it’s pretty important from where I come from, another something called integrity.

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“So they could, if they really wanted to, invest in an epic X-men TV show along the scale of Game of Thrones, to adapt some of the best storylines.” – referring to Marvel still holding the TV rights to the Xmen, in my Amended article ‘X-men: Cover your Eyes!

At this rate I’d rather have a half animated motion-capture X-men movie…

(Steven – out)

  • JB

    Agreed