31 May 2014

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" Review

I don't worry much about film adaptations staying loyal to their literary origins. Resemblance is one thing, but too literal translations strike me as boring and somewhat pointless. However, I do have a strange obsession with internal continuity.

Last November I reacted to a Days of Future Past announcement by listing ten (or X -- get it?) X-Men film franchise continuity problems and how they might try to fix them. My anticipation continued to build until the movie's release, and all the positive reviews that came out last week led me to believe my expectations would be fulfilled. Was I right? See the updated tables below (which contain spoilers).

But in the spirit of not obsessing over little things like continuity, here are the things I really liked about Days of Future Past (again, beware of spoilers):
  1. Singer's signature style (opening and closing monologues, Magneto prison break, Mystique being awesome, etc.).
  2. Quicksilver.
  3. The joke implying Magneto is Quicksilver's father (per the comics).
  4. The homage to Magneto ripping out Wolverine's adamantium in the comics.
  5. The futuristic frame story as a "ticking clock" device for conflict and tension.
  6. Blink. Well, pretty much all the future team members who die twice. But especially Blink.
  7. The fact that Anna Paquin's Rogue has only a very small cameo. (She was my favorite character as a kid but the movie version doesn't do her justice.)
  8. The return of James Marsden's Cyclops! (I'll admit I like the actor more than the character.)
A few things I didn't like:
  1. No return of Moira from First Class.
  2. We wait seven films for an actual fight with the Sentinels (the homage in Last Stand doesn't count) and Wolverine is stuck with lousy bone claws!
  3. The strange ending with Mystique as Stryker. What in the world was that about?
  4. The disappointingly cryptic post-credits Apocalypse teaser.
  5. And, of course, the continuity stuff...

X-Men Film Continuity Problems
DOFP Explanations
The Last Stand and First Class depict Beast as an early member of the team, transformed in his youth. This is contrary to X2, where he is briefly shown in a television interview, pre-transformation.
None, although he is shown using a mutant power-suppressing drug. I suppose he could still be using this during X2, but that doesn't explain why he a) isn't using it in Last Stand, or b) seems so shocked and tempted by the Cure in the same movie. Fail.
Mystique and Xavier's brother/sister relationship as shown in First Class has no basis in the other films, where Mystique is coldly antagonistic toward Xavier (poisoning him via Cerebro in X-Men).
It's proven that Mystique is actually pretty annoyed at Xavier for always trying to control her, and w/o Wolverine coming back in time to reunite them, it's easy to see an increasing polarization between them. Success!
In First Class, Hank creates Cerebro, but in X-Men, Xavier says that he and Magneto built it.
The mansion Cerebro is shown fully completed, even though Xavier and Magneto haven't reconciled yet and the latter has been in prison. Fail.
Magneto acquires his telepathy-canceling helmet in First Class and uses it against Xavier, but in X-Men, Xavier claims he's unfamiliar with it.
This one's probably unfixable, though at least pretty minor. Fail.
Being portrayed by different actors is one thing, but Sabretooth in Origins is far more interesting, witty, and dangerous than in X-Men, where he doesn't even seem to know who Wolverine is.
I don't know why I thought this could be fixed by DOFP. Sabretooth isn't even mentioned. In fact, while Last Stand is clearly still part of this film's background, it's possible they are ignoring Origins entirely. Then again, the film assumes we know why Wolverine has bone claws in the 70s timeline, which is only explained by Origins. Fail.
Last Stand and Origins depict a bald, standing Xavier older than James McAvoy in First Class, who is paralyzed and put in a wheel chair (with hair!).
Ignoring Origins would resolve 1/2 of these scenes, but the Last Stand scene is still problematic. It shows both Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in their respective roles, recruiting like their younger counterparts did in First Class. Fail.
Emma Frost—or a character very much like her—is depicted in Origins as a teenager, yet she appears in First Class as an adult.
The character was never named, so maybe I can let this one go. N/A.
Moira MacTaggert is appropriately depicted as Scottish in Last Stand but American in First Class (and too close in age). Also, she’s a doctor in the former and a CIA agent in the latter.
Unfortunately, Moira isn't even mentioned. Fail.
The experiment that gives Wolverine his adamantium skeleton is depicted differently between X2 and Origins.
DOFP includes flashbacks of Weapon X, and these are pulled from X2 instead of Origins. Again, this is more like selectively ignoring than fixing. Fail.
When Jean Grey “dies” at the end of X2, her flaming Phoenix figure is foreshadowed. However, the same flaming figure is completely absent from Phoenix in Last Stand.
Another small complaint that couldn't really be fixed. Fail.

1 out of 10 (9?). Maybe my nerdy comic book fan feels were too hard to live up to. Worse, Days of Future Past actually introduces even more continuity errors:

DOFP Continuity Problems
Possible Explanations
Xavier was disintegrated by Jean in Last Stand. He shows up alive in The Wolverine end credits scene and Logan asks how that's possible. The scene is a teaser for DOFP, so the assumption is that we'll get an explanation. Nope.
A stinger at the end of Last Stand shows Xavier reawakening in the body of Moira's comatose patient, but that still doesn't explain why he looks like himself or is still in a wheelchair in DOFP.
At the end of The Wolverine, Logan loses his adamantium claws. He has them back at the start of DOFP.
Magneto restored them by drawing from the adamantium still lacing the rest of Logan's skeleton.
Bolivar Trask is a primary villain in the 70s timeline, played by Peter Dinklage. However, there's a Trask in Last Stand played by Bill Duke.
They're different Trasks (pfft).
Kitty Pryde acquires the ability to send someone's consciousness into their past body, but there's no precedent for this in her mutant powers as depicted in previous films.
It's somehow an extension of her phasing ability that she figures out by the future timeline.

It seems like most of these could have been explained with a few simple lines, though I almost wish the intro was lengthier to bridge the gap between it and The Wolverine.

In the end, what most disappoints me is that the new installment is not an attempt to strengthen the franchise's credibility, but is in fact tearing it down. After all, Days of Future Past doesn't just retcon the films most people hated, namely Last Stand and Origins; it removes X-Men, X2, and The Wolverine, too. So if you want to re-watch those movies without thinking, "But who cares? These characters' choices have no consequences in the larger X-Men universe because they were all erased!", it's best to look at the individual films as separate retellings that are not necessarily related.

The good news is that the new continuity -- First Class, Days of Future Past, and the upcoming Apocalypse -- is made consistent by shedding those earlier films. So maybe the franchise's future is looking bright after all...an impressive achievement considering its long and sorted past.

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