Thursday, January 8, 2015

X Post Facto

I still can't tell - was X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) the best comic book movie yet? It had a wild plot, great actors with Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr played by two actors each, nice superhero character dynamics, some humor, lots of great action. Plus a little something extra, a touch of visual class that pulled me right in.

It is set in the universe of X-Men: First Class but it starts in a dystopian future where all-powerful Sentinel robots dominate mankind and exterminate mutants. Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine and a small band make a last stand in a kind of Thai castle. Their only hope: Send Wolverine back in time to the 1970s to make sure the inventor of the Sentinels isn't assassinated. Oh, you thought they would kill the inventor? No, Mystique tried that and it just made him a martyr to the mutant menace.

And that's not even the beauty part - the inventor is played by Peter Dinklage. He wears a 70s pornstache and aviator-framed glasses and looks so right that it took me several scenes to notice his height and a few more to notice that it was Dinklage.

So Logan wakes up in the past with no knowledge of what is happening. Did he forget his past? Didn't Prof. X brief him? Was it an alternate past in some way? Anyway, ladies, watch for a serious Hugh Jackman naked butt scene. Man, that guy is built. Sorry, where was I?

He finds that Prof. X has been shooting up a mutation cure to stop the telepathic voices in his head (and to let him walk somehow? Not sure how that works), drinking a lot, growing a beard and just saying "fuck it". Magneto is in prison for killing JFK (which explains the magic bullet). So they get teenage Quicksilver to help break him out, and the game is on.

Quicksilver has a shortish part, but it's great, full of punk energy - every Pietro, although he's just Peter here. These scenes have some nice super-slo-mo effects, but we have a complaint. Nobody as punk as Quicksilver would be listening to "Time in a Bottle", even in 1972.

In fact, our main complaint was that they didn't have as much fun with the retro setting as they could have - there were 4-5 classic 70s hits, but only Roberta Flack's "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" stands out. And would an old groundskeeper really be listening to a radio station that played Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken" in 1972? It wasn't quite underground, but it was pretty hip. That song and Springsteen's "Rosalita" kind of defined my 1972, and I was a high-school hipster.

There's a lot of Mystique in this and her part is great. There's quite a bit of Hank "Beast" McCoy, one of my favorite original X-Men. Ororo still doesn't get a decent scene, oh well. Also, while I like James McAvoy's hippie junkie act, I still don't quite buy him as Charles Xavier. I think Michael Fassbender as the younger Magneto was more convincing.

And of course, Hugh Jackman is just so Wolverine, you almost don't notice how awesome he is.

There's the usual problems with too many things going on and too many characters. Rod Heath, in his encyclopedic year-end roundup, critiques these movies as random grab-bags of plot elements, which is very true. But, I ask you, isn't this a tribute to the serial nature of comic books? Each book stands alone and is part of a loose continuity only. When someone in this movie explains that Mystique killed Trask or Magneto assassinated the president, I can almost see the little footnote signed by Stan the Man or Marvelous Marv, letting us know what issue that was in. Maybe it was an issue we hadn't read, maybe we had read it but don't remember it that way, but that's the story now, get used to it - until the next time jump, or next story editor, or next movie.

In conclusion, Ms. Spenser thought the movie was a little slow. She might be right - maybe I'm just a pushover. But I loved it.

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