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Can X-Men: Days of Future Past Live up to the Hype?
With last month’s The Wolverine winding down its tenure in theaters, hype for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past is arguably at its highest point yet. Pinning in a mid-credits teaser to the end of an otherwise unrelated film (aside from Wolverine’s presence in both), Fox whetted fans’ appetites for the ambitious sequel to both 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand and 2011’s X-Men: First Class. The film has all the elements to make for a great blockbuster: an awesome cast, a fan-favorite storyline, the promise of explosive action sequences, etc., etc. And yet, I can’t help but ask the question: “Will it work?”
Now, I am a lifelong fan of the X-Men. I read the comics as a kid, I loved the 90s cartoon, and, with the exception of the stinkers that were The Last Stand and Wolverine’s Origins film, I thought the movies were great and captured much of what renders X-Men such a beloved franchise in our hearts. Perhaps my sentiment toward X-Men is precisely why I’m skeptical, but regardless of reasons, I think it is fair to question whether director Bryan Singer and co. are in over their heads with the latest installment in the X-Men film series.
Before I continue with my pessimism, allow me to express my excitement for this film. Yes, I am excited about the Days of Future Past film. I think it’s a great opportunity for the studio to regain its focus and tie together the plethora of horrid and all-too-obvious inconsistencies between the films (namely, Origins and First Class juxtaposed to the original trilogy). Seriously, the continuity errors render the films so incompatible that it would probably be better if Fox just said, “Okay, these films take place in their own timelines.”
Well, they’re doing something similar. For the uninitiated, the Days of Future Past comic told the story of a bleak future where Magneto and his Brotherhood had assassinated Senator Kelly, bolstering his anti-mutant efforts through uproarious support. This resulted in mutant internment camps and the creation of Sentinels, which were basically mutant executioners. Basically, mutantkind was screwed. That’s why Kitty Pryde (who will once again be depicted by Ellen Page in the film) sent her consciousness back in time to warn the X-Men of the dire consequences of Magneto’s scheme. Though the X-Men succeeded in stopping Magneto, the result instead was a rift in realities, bringing about two separate timelines, one in which Magneto had Kelly assassinated and one in which he failed.
You can see now just what purpose the Days of Future Past film might serve, though instead of creating two separate timelines, it may morph the films into a new continuity. It could just as easily provide an explanation of why First Class doesn’t follow the original X-Men by accepting they’re separate realities. As for Origins, I doubt anyone’s even looking at that film as canon anymore. Like The Last Stand, it’s better to forget it happened; unlike The Last Stand, it can fortunately be ignored and branded a standalone “what-if” film.
For fans that are really picky (like me), using an entire film to address continuity issues is wonderful. It shows the fans that they do share our passion and meticulous (read: ridiculous) attention to detail, and that they care as much as us about preserving the integrity of the X-Men universe, and that they aren’t just money-grabbing (which I maintain is exactly what Origins was, given it made no effort to follow the backstory already established in X2: X-Men United). Add to that the return of a great cast from both the original trilogy and First Class, and you’ve got a lot to be excited about in another sequel.
All that being said, there is also plenty to be worried about. With such a large ensemble cast, characterization is one of the most immediate concerns to address. As revealed in a casting call, the majority of the film will take place in 1973, which means most of the screen time will be reserved for the newer cast of First Class. That can be good or bad. While the First Class characters have had substantially less time to develop on screen, it might be a bummer to some to see their fan favorites from the original trilogy taking a back seat in the latest outing. On the other side of the coin, given that there’s still plenty to learn about the younger Professor X, Magneto, and X-Men/Brotherhood teams, seeing some of their time given to characters that have already had their share of screen time is also a bit of a shame.
For me, however, the biggest letdown of all is the lack of a true First Class follow-up. While Days of Future Past acts as a direct sequel to First Class, it serves a different purpose than simply continuing the newer film’s story. Add in the fact that the First Class portion of the film jumps eleven years forward, you lose a ton of vital development of these characters. Instead of seeing how Xavier and Magneto cope with their personal blows–going separate ways and, for Xavier, paralysis–we are going to be introduced to further evolved versions of these characters, which I fear will demand the need for another explanation of backstory during that gap.
Along the same lines, Matthew Vaughn has acquiesced the helm to Bryan Singer. While this is by no means a bad thing, as I feel Singer to be a excellent director for this franchise, Vaughn clearly had a vision for how the First Class story would unfold, and had even shared thoughts on specific plot points for a sequel. And while we’re hovering around the topic, most of the First Class villains have not been recast, which puts another gap between the new film and First Class, which ended with Magneto having recruited a formidable team. Given that team had quite a bit of substance to offer (Riptide notwithstanding), it’s a real shame to see their story come to such an abrupt end.
Another concern in the return of Singer as director is the style differences. You need look no further than both directors’ takes on Magneto to see how far removed their visions are. While Singer opted for the more realistic approach with his films, Vaughn went all-out comic book. This is no better exemplified than the closing shot of Magneto in First Class, with him donning a reminiscent outfit and a stylized version of his helmet. Seeing as how the two directors have vastly different approaches, it’s somewhat difficult to imagine the First Class universe even co-existing with the original trilogy’s.
The final point of concern I’ll mention is the sheer scope of the project. As shown with the myriad points covered above, there is a lot of ground this film needs to cover. None of the X-Men films have not been exorbitant in length for good reason, but this film sorely needs a good two and a half hours to cover everything necessary for a gratifying and comprehensive film. I can’t help but feel Singer may not want to do this, in which case something will likely suffer, whether its action, characterization, or exposition.
All that being said, Days of Future Past still has a lot going for it. Despite my reservations about switching directors, Singer has proven he can deliver stellar X-Men films, and I’ll opine he can get the job done until I see otherwise. One of the best elements of the X-Men films, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, was absent from First Class (barring his hilarious cameo), and it’ll be great to see him back in action with the rest of the cast in this film. Still, I can’t help but wonder whether Singer and Fox will be able to pull off a film worthy of the title “Days of Future Past” or if the movie will deliver another devastating blow to the film franchise.
How about you? Are you excited about Days of Future Past? Do you share these concerns or have any worries of your own? Let us hear them in the comments!