A Look Back at X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

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We all know that the 20th Century Fox franchise of X-Men movies has ended and everything cinematic about Marvel’s famous mutants are now in the hands of Marvel Studios. From the year 2000 to 2020, the original X-Men cinematic universe produced a whole bunch of movies (including spinoffs) which ultimately led to uneven results with regards to commercial success, critical feedback, artistry, production values and cultural impact. Even so, 20th Century Fox-produced X-Men movies generated more than $6 billion in ticket sales worldwide.

When it comes to the spinoff movies, I like Logan the best (sorry, Deadpool).

For the main X-Men movies, the one film that really delivered the great stuff and tons of fun for me was none other than X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). For one thing, the movie had two generations of X-Men cinematic performers (the original team led by Patrick Stewart and the newer ones from X-Men: First Class led by James McAvoy) and its story literally had them linked together with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine as the living bridge between them. To put it short, it was a cinematic crossover story made with X-Men fans in mind. That film scored highly with critics and most moviegoers, and it grossed almost $750 million worldwide which makes it the highest-grossing X-Men movie ever until now.

It has been years since X-Men: Days of Future Past made waves in the cinemas and through post-theater businesses like Blu-ray, cable TV, pay-per-view, streaming and the like. Along the way, movies like Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame collectively raised the standards of Hollywood superhero movies in varied ways. I should state that X-Men (2000), X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand did not age well.

To find out if the 2014 X-Men film aged well or not, here is my retro review of X-Men: Days of Future Past directed by Bryan Singer with a screenplay written by Simon Kinberg with a story done by Kinberg, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn.

A great image of the cinematic X-Men, both the old and newer cast.

Early story

The story begins in the dark future. Countless mutants and human allies have been caught and imprisoned by very sophisticated Sentinels (operating for an unnamed authority that also has armed human personnel as watchers) which continue to hunt more of them down along with any humans caught aiding them. In Russia, a small X-Men team composed of Colossus, Kitty Pryde, Iceman, Sunspot, Bishop, Warpath and Blink take action when they realized that the Sentinels found their hideout. Kitty Pryde, who by this time gained the new ability to send a person’s consciousness back through time, runs along with Bishop to hide in a vault to send his consciousness into the past. Fortunately for them, their teammates delayed the unstoppable Sentinels enough to succeed.

Some time later at another location, an aging Charles Xavier, Magneto, Wolverine and Storm arrive to meet with Kitty Pryde and her teammates. Xavier gives the team an in-depth history lesson about the Sentinels which were created decades earlier by the late Bolivar Trask who was assassinated by Mystique (who believed she could make a difference for her fellow mutants). After the assassination, Mystique got caught by the authorities and became a live experiment for scientists working for the government. Her DNA helped accelerate the development of the Sentinel program which made them able to adapt to most mutant attacks and powers.

A plan gets formed for Kitty Pryde to send Xavier back through time to his younger self in 1973 to prevent the assassination from happening. Kitty states it’s too risky for the old Xavier to go through time as it may kill him. Wolverine volunteers to take Xavier’s place as his healing factor (regeneration) will ensure his survival with the process. Xavier presses Wolverine to convince the 1973 Charles Xavier to help prevent the assassination given the fact that he was a broken man at the time.

Wolverine arrives in his younger self’s body in New York of 1973. He makes his way to the mansion of Charles Xavier. As it turns out, Xavier’s school has been closed for some time and has been decaying…   

Quality

Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Hugh Jackman as Beast, Charles Xavier and Wolverine respectively.

Considering what was made and what were presented through this movie, the creative team and the cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past literally scored a home run here resulting true greatness! Bryan Singer, whose previous X-Men directorial job was 2003’s X2, finally struck gold with regards to storytelling, directing and, finally, spectacle (previous his big weakness).  

In terms of storytelling, this movie, first and foremost, is not a faithful adaptation of the classic Days of Future Past storyline at all. In fact, there was no need for it to be faithful. What the screenwriters came up with was a loose adaptation which allowed them to craft a more original story that involved the established X-Men characters (from the early movies) and the other X-Men characters (who started in 2011’s X-Men: First Class) and have them set apart in terms of time periods (similar to what was done in 1994’s Star Trek: Generations, but much better and more compelling in writing). The result is a crossover tale with Wolverine being the traveler through time.

The Sentinels are clearly terrifying and unstoppable!

The great news here is that the script has very strong structuring done and even had enough space to briefly acknowledge events and characters from the first three X-Men films plus 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine as canon. All of these add to the narrative very well and when the stakes were raised, the overall plot made sense. Let me add that it was a smart move for the writers to raise the stakes in the two time periods during the final act of the movie, which really made the story more engaging to viewers. I should state that having two conflicts happening simultaneously on screen in this X-Men movie was done efficiently and without ever becoming confusing nor messy.

Apart from the narrative, the portrayal of the X-Men was, indeed, spot-on. Noticeably, the major characters here were Charles Xavier (both old and young), Wolverine (both old and young), Mystique, Magneto (specifically the young version), Beast and Bolivar Trask. Strong writing was evident in the dialogue of the mentioned characters, as well as in those with minor roles. Through dialogue alone, I easily recognized these cinematic characters.

Michael Fassbender delivered his best performance as young Magneto.

Given his strength in telling stories, I should say that Bryan Singer succeeded in executing the script into cinematic narrative. Not only that, he succeeded in getting really good performances from the cast. James McAvoy (young Xavier), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Michael Fassbender (young Magneto) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast) were evidently more confident and more comfortable in reprising their characters (note: they debuted together in X-Men: First Class).

The old cast composed of Patrick Stewart (old Xavier), Ian McKellen (old Magneto), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde), Halle Berry (Storm), Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) and Daniel Cudmore (Colossus) all made a very welcome return. To be specific, it was only Patrick Stewart among them who had the most engaging dialogue with Ian McKellen being a distant second to him. As most of the film was set in the past, it was understandable that the old cast’s dialogue would not be that rich which translates to limited performance. The filmmakers tried bouncing back with mutant variety by having Bingbing Fan as Blink, Adan Canto as Sunspot and Booboo Stewart as Warpath, who all provided nicely in the action scenes and special effects use.

Bingbing Fan and Booboo Stewart as Blink and Warpath.

Hugh Jackman’s performance as Wolverine in this movie is the most unique of them all. Not only does he have to play TWO versions of his character, he as the only member of the old X-Men cast spent a great deal of time interacting with the newer X-Men players. The great news here is that Jackman has great chemistry with James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult and Michael Fassbender, which ultimately justified the crossover! Speaking of McAvoy, his scene with the older version of his character is very memorable and a highlight! Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask is excellent but to my surprise, he is not exactly villainous nor did he express cruelty. He’s more of an obsessed scientist and as such, Michael Fassbender’s Magneto easily overshadows him when it comes to being the main antagonist. This is surprising but not exactly a problem.

More on the anti-hero factor of the movie, I should say that the Sentinels in this movie are the most dangerous and the most intimidating non-sentient, scientific antagonists since the Terminator. Being programmed to deal with mutants, the Sentinels are unrelenting and often used violence to complete their objectives. The futuristic Sentinels, which are evolved versions thanks to Mystique’s DNA, are so formidable the mutants cannot simply defeat them. Even the 1970s Sentinels are quite formidable.

As mentioned earlier, I do confirm that Bryan Singer really outdid himself on delivering the spectacle back with support from the special effects team, the stunt team and the like. The action scenes involving the X-Men are top-notch, in fact they make the action in Singer’s previous X-Men films look minor in terms of creativity, quality and fun! The computer-generated effects in this movie still look great by today’s standard, although some CGI used in the floating stadium sequence looked rushed. Also it was quite a marvel to see Wolverine and Beast face-off with a 1970s Sentinel in the final act. I should mention that the slow-motion sequence involving Quicksilver (played by Evan Peters) is one great and funny spectacle to watch, well worth replaying!

Conclusion

Jennifer Lawrence in her best-ever performance as Mystique.

I declare that X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) is the best-ever X-Men movie I have seen and it has aged very well! Its overall quality is very great and the combined talents of director Singer, the cast, the writers and all the technical teams justified it all. By today’s standards, this X-Men movie still stands very high among all superhero movies of Hollywood ever released! As an X-Men film, this one is truly epic and the true highlight of all X-Men movies under 20th Century Fox. As a time-travel film, this one has a very unique approach and it should be noted that director Bryan Singer approached James Cameron to talk about time travel, parallel universes and the like.

More on personal viewing, I can say that this film greatly entertained me in the cinema back in 2014, and it still succeeds in doing so whenever I replayed it on Blu-ray in the comfort of home. If there is anything I regret, it’s the fact that I never saw this movie in the IMAX cinema.

If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), visit Amazon for the Blu-ray release as well as the 4K Blu-ray combo release. There is also the Rogue Cut of the movie also on Blu-ray.

Overall, X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) is highly recommended!

+++++

Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

A Look Back At X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand is better than X-Men: Dark Phoenix? What a joke driven by hatred and uncontrolled emotions of negativity towards the latter.

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Ian McKellen as Magneto.

Released in 2006, X-Men: The Last Stand was the third movie of Marvel’s mutants which made $459,359,555 worldwide establishing new box office records at the time including the Memorial Day weekend opening and a single-day record for Friday openings. It was also the highest grossing X-Men movie until X-Men: Days of Future Past exceeded it in 2014.

While the first two flicks were directed by Bryan Singer (who literally abandoned this movie in favor of the big letdown Superman: Returns), this one was done by Brett Ratner who is best known for Rush Hour films. For the superhero concept of the film, Ratner clearly depended on the script by Simon Kinberg (who directed X-Men: Dark Phoenix) and Zak Pen (X2: X-Men United).

The story begins some time in the past with Charles Xavier and Magneto visiting the house of a little girl named Jean Grey whose power of telepathy and telekinesis make her dangerous. Her own father thinks she has an illness. In another scene, a young boy desperately tries shaving off something on his back which turned out to be a mutation. To put it short, the prologue establishes the two concepts this movie tried to emphasize – the Dark Phoenix (from the classic comic book storyline by Chris Claremont and John Byrne) and the Mutant Cure (in reference to one particular episode of the 1990s X-Men animated series).

The result? A rather unfocused narrative that bogged the movie throughout. In the present day, Charles Xavier and the X-Men are no longer hiding from the federal government (which in turn has Hank McCoy/Beast as part of the US President’s cabinet). A cure that can neutralize the mutant gene has been revealed and eventually Jean Grey suddenly returns back to life in front of Scott Summers/Cyclops. Then trouble in the story (and for this film in particular) sets in.

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Dark Phoenix and Professor X.

On storytelling, the lack of focus on a central concept really dragged this movie down even though the filmmakers made attempts to link them together. This is a very unfaithful adaptation of the Dark Phoenix Saga – instead of showing the Phoenix Force as a cosmic entity the filmmakers used the dual-personality concept in Jean Grey. There are no alien civilizations (read: no Lilandra) involved nor anything related to outer space (a key element in the comic book storyline). With regards to the cure concept, Rogue in this film makes a move to be cured loosely following what was shown in the animated series.

Having these two concepts connect to each other showed Magneto getting motivated to rally the mutants to oppose the humans. Jean Grey meanwhile gets controlled by the Phoenix personality and gets very destructive with power which makes her an asset to Magneto and his brotherhood of evil mutants.

As the filmmakers struggled to tell the story, the social relevance and symbolism emphasized in the first two films got weakened. The core concept of mutants getting isolated and discriminated by humanity simply because they are so different became much less relevant here.

As if that was not bad enough, the characterization also changed for the worse. Magneto here became one-dimensional as a villain and the way he reacted to Charles Xavier’s destruction in front of him and Jean Grey reflected bad screen writing. Any true X-Men fan would know that even though he and Xavier were adversaries with a past friendship, Magneto should have been outraged over his old rival’s destruction and strike at Jean Grey (even if it is suicidal for him to fight a more powerful entity, the Phoenix).

For his part, Charles Xavier turned out to be a manipulator of Jean Grey’s mind making him look as evil and manipulative as Magneto. Jean Grey, despite actress Famke Jansen getting more screen time than before, ended up as a visual tool and was clearly NOT the central figure of the story rather she ended up being a tool of power by Magneto. By today’s standards, Jansen’s portrayal of Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix pales in comparison with Sophie Turner’s performance in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

More on characterization, the triangle between Iceman, Rogue and Kitty Pryde was executed with no real depth and only served to show Anna Paquin’s character search for the means to be normal (because Rogue absorbs the power and life of people she touches) which ended up being not so meaningful for viewing. Young adult Angel’s (one of the original X-Men in the comics) minutes-long presence in the movie only served to showcase special effects. Storm’s prospect of succeeding Xavier as leader of the X-Men and the school was sloppily done. Oh yes, the showing of multiple mutants (in supporting roles, non-speaking roles or as mere background characters) that weakened the narrative of the first two films was even worse here. As a result, there’s quite a lot of fan service in this movie.

Going back to storytelling, I should say that the early demise of Cyclops (played by James Marsden for too little screen time due to his work with Bryan Singer on Superman Returns) and Charles Xavier were attempts by the filmmakers to raise the stakes and even shock viewers. The problem is that the third act of the film became more of an action and CGI bonanza ultimately failing to justify the loss of Cyclops and Xavier. The story ended with not much impact on me as a viewer and the late scenes showing Magneto recovering a little of his power (plus the post-credit scene about Xavier’s survival) were unsatisfactory. By comparison, X-Men: Dark Phoenix concluded with satisfaction.

Performances? The actors did what they could with the weak screenplay. Patrick Stewart played Charles Xavier managing his school but gets burdened heavily as Jean Grey returns with the Phoenix in her (which makes Xavier feeling guilty over his past manipulation of Jean’s mind). Ian McKellen played a one-dimensional Magneto (forget about the reasonable fighter for mutants you saw in the first two films) and really had little room to flesh him out. Clearly this version of Magneto, even though he has a lot of screen time here, is rubbish when compared to the cinematic Magneto in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is clearly the hero of this movie and was given a lot to do showing a deeply concerned Wolverine as well as showing him with lots of action on-screen. His emotional reaction towards Jean Grey near the end of the movie was believable. Halle Berry meanwhile failed yet again to capture the leader in Storm from the comic books.

Another thing to mention regarding the weak script is the lame attempt at humor in the film. Just look at the exchanges of words between Wolverine and Beast which only made me frown instead of laughing.

Exchange 1

Dr. Hank McCoy: Wolverine. I hear you are quite an animal.

Logan: Look who’s talkin’.

Exchange 2

Logan: Well, for all we know, the government helped cook this up.

Dr. Hank McCoy: I can assure you, the government had nothing to do with this.

Logan: I’ve heard that before.

Dr. Hank McCoy: My boy, I have been fighting for mutant rights since before you had claws.

Logan: [to the Professor] Did he just call me boy?

If there is anything positive at all with this movie, it is the spectacle (action, stunts and special effects). If you want to watch an X-Men movie without thinking too much and just enjoy the spectacle, The Last Stand is heavily loaded! The scope of destruction (including the major showcase of Magneto’s power with the Golden Gate Bridge) is also great and helped this weak movie look epic (even more epic than the better film X-Men: Dark Phoenix). There is also a big battle of multiple members of Magneto’s brotherhood attacking the soldiers at the Alcatraz facility. Action is where director Brett Ratner is good at and it temporarily helped this film feel fun to watch. The visual design and special effects are of good quality as well.

 

One last positive thing to mention here is the casting of Kelsey Grammer as Hank McCoy/Beast and his performance was, indeed, superb. I really saw the scientist, the intellect and the fighter of Beast from the comics translated nicely in cinematic form.

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A striking shot as a result of Magneto’s power.

By today’s standards of superhero movies, X-Men: The Last Stand unsurprisingly went from big-budget disappointment to what is now an overall bad movie that just happens to have some fun action sequences. As far as adapting the Dark Phoenix Saga from the comics, this film is definitely inferior to X-Men: Dark Phoenix. X-Men: The Stand does look good when compared to the terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

If you are a true fan of the X-Men or if you are moviegoer who wants the best superhero cinematic experience, I won’t recommend watching X-Men: The Last Stand.

But then if you are a moviegoer who cannot do anything except hate and uncontrollably bash the new movie X-Men: Dark Phoenix, then maybe The Last Stand will be your bout of fun.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Look Back At X2: X-Men United

While I barely enjoyed the original X-Men movie back in 2000, I still had hope that its sequel would be better, more engaging and more entertaining. That hope of mine was realized on April 30, 2003 when I saw X2: X-Men United (or X-Men 2 in some countries around the world) in a cinema here in the Philippines.

Commercially X2 grossed $407,711,549 worldwide and that is 37.58% more than what its predecessor made. It also gathered several positive reviews from movie critics back then and its overall success proved that there was indeed more room for artistic and commercial growth for further superhero movies. I remember leaving the cinema happy and satisfied, looking forward to more X-Men films.

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Kelly Hu’s screen time as Lady Deathstrike was short but she really stood out in her fight with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

 So how did it all come to such an outcome in 2003? In my honest opinion, director Bryan Singer and his creative team learned from their shortcomings in the previous movie, create an engaging story without necessarily faithfully adapting elements of the graphic novel X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills (a rather unholy story) and ramp up the enjoyment factor.

The story opens with Nightcrawler cleverly breaking through the security in the White House in an attempt to attack the President of the United States. That opening clearly showed how clever and creative the filmmakers got to not only deliver the thrills but also emphasize visually the gap between humans and mutants. To put it short, that opening sequence is still awesome to watch.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) returns to the mansion and tells Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) he found nothing in Canada. Wolverine wanted to know more about his unknown past but Xavier refuses to help him even though he set the deadly loner on a path.

In Washington D.C., military scientist William Stryker meets with the President (along with a fake Senator Robert Kelly who is actually Mystique in disguise) and gets authority to launch a secret operation on the mutants. Along the way, Mystique learns about the location of not only the plastic prison containing Magneto but also that of a secret base. The secret attack on Xavier’s mansion and the escape of Magneto then sets of the crucial events for the rest of the movie.

X2 can be described as a film laced with lots of improvements over its predecessor technically and creatively. I see more of the literary Wolverine in Hugh Jackman this time around while Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen showed even more traits of the literary versions of Charles Xavier and Magneto respectively. Anna Paquin showed more confidence in playing Rogue while Halle Berry and Famke Jansen showed similar results with their characters. Allan Cumming and Brian Cox are solid additions as Nightcrawler and Stryker (who is not a military scientist in the present day of the graphic novel) and they mixed well with the returning cast members.

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Mystique and the soldiers.

Like its predecessor, symbolism was used to emphasize the gap between humans and mutants on the big screen. The scene wherein Bobby Drake/Iceman showed to his parents his uncanny ability to freeze emphasizes his reluctance to show the truth about himself…something that could potentially break the family. William Stryker, meanwhile, keeps mutants company for as long as he has control over them and combined with the fact that he bore a hatred for mutants (note: something unfortunate happened to his family), he can be compared to a slave owner from centuries ago.

When it comes to spectacle, X2 is definitely more thrilling and more action-packed. The filmmakers knew how to balance the screenplay’s exposition and dramatization with action when it is needed on the right time. The standout action sequence is undoubtedly the fight between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike (played by Kelly Hu).

The script is stronger this time. With key members of the X-Men separated during the first half of the film, character development sets in nicely. The link between Wolverine and Jean Grey got emphasized somewhat while Cyclops is away. Also Magneto delivered the film’s most memorable line: You should have killed me when you had the chance!!! That line is a nice throwback to the past friendship between Xavier and Magneto.

Like the 2000 movie, liberties from comics were implemented for “cinematic presentation.” Anyone who read Wolverine’s origin with Weapon X can tell that William Stryker was never part of it. As for adapting the 1982 graphic novel, this film is clearly unfaithful and the filmmakers decided to take the easy route on selecting certain elements to make a screenplay that can be deemed bankable by the movie studio.

Unsurprisingly there are flaws here and there. Freezing people’s movements done by Xavier is unbelievable. As a telepath he can read people’s minds, manipulate their perception, make himself invisible to others by warping their perception and even reprogram minds but freezing people is not one of those abilities. Also considering Xavier’s persistent use of his telepathy, he failed to detect before entering the plastic prison (to meet Magneto) that a trap was set up for them.

As for Jean Grey’s heroic sacrifice near the end of the film, that one took me out of the movie. She left the jet without anyone noticing, stands in front then uses her power to prevent the rushing water from touching them while slowly lifting the jet (which for some reason could not operate properly) to let X-Men survive. It sure is dramatic and it is one of Famke Jansen’s most notable moments in cinema (apart from her erotic acts in GoldenEye) but it goes against what X-Men fans know. Any X-Men fan can tell that Iceman could have used his power to freeze the water and Storm could have manipulated the weather to help out. Heck, Cyclops could have gone out and launch a massive optic blast at the water.

Another obvious flaw is the large cast of characters which prevented the film from further implementing anymore character development. The love triangle aspect continued from the previous movie barely moved forward as James Marsden’s Cyclops (a leader in the comics) was literally set aside. Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat in this movie was only used to emphasize a seconds-long chase and show off the filmmakers’ visual effects.

By today’s standards, X2: X-Men United is no longer the great superhero film it was in twenty-o-three. It is, overall, a good movie and clearly it is a major improvement over its predecessor. The many improvements on the overall quality, engagement and fun factor of X2 made 2000’s X-Men look more like a dress rehearsal.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more X-Men insight, check out my latest article about X-Men: Dark Phoenix and my review of Logan.