Monday, May 26, 2014

My X-Love...

It is the movie I have been waiting three quarters of my life for. It is the ultimate storyline of my favorite comic book, and it finally has its day in the sun.

Please, allow me just a small digression.

It started in 1983. I was in 4th grade, and my best friend at the time was Robert Voss (we had met in 2nd grade, were best friends until 5th grade, inexplicably hated each other in 6th grade, and were friends again in 7th grade until we both graduated High School and somehow never saw each other again; if you're reading this, Rob, hey, and sorry about 1985-1986). Rob and I were part of the uncool group, the kids who routinely got picked on for being different. We both liked Star Wars, and we both liked similar cartoons, and we both liked drawing. One day in the fall of 1983, he brought a comic book into school. It was Uncanny X-Men #175, and it was my first time ever reading a comic book.

You always remember your first.
I knew what a super hero was; I had watched the Super Friends, Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, and some of those terrible Marvel Super Heroes cartoons ("When Captain America throws his mighty shiiiieeeeld..."). But I had yet to see them in their original medium.

Uncanny X-Men #175 was the start of something big for me. In the comic, Cyclops is tricked into believing that Madelyne Pryor was the reincarnation of Dark Phoenix, who had died a few years prior. The rest of the X-Men end up being deceived that Cyclops himself is actually Dark Phoenix, and they do their best to take him down. Turns out Mastermind was the one pulling their strings. Storm takes Mastermind out, Cyclops marries Madelyne, and all is well in the universe.

I read a few more of Rob's issues, and then started reading some of his other comics, many of which were DC, where I discovered my love of Green Lantern. But the X-Men were first, and best. It wasn't until Christmas of 1984 that I was given my very first comics; one was an issue of Tales of the Legion of SuperHeroes (#320, The Magpie Complex, an utterly forgettable story in a comic that held zero interest for me) but the other was Uncanny X-Men #195. It told the tale of the child-team Power Pack fighting in the Morlock tunnels, and the X-Men came to help them. It wasn't the strongest tale, but I will always remember it.
This is what Wertham was worried about!
I was hooked. I began to go to a local comic book shop, then another, and another, each one further and further out, expanding my radius as I expanded my collection, which grew in two directions; as I picked up the new ones at the local shop, I would also scour the back issue bins for the ones from before I began collecting. I was able to get every issue from #150 onward, with the previous issues being substituted by the reprint series Classic X-Men. Including Classic X-Men Issues, I had almost the entire run from #93 (the introduction of the All New, All Different X-Men) to the current issue at the time, with four exceptions in the issues that the creators of the Classic series chose not to reprint; #106, #110, and #'s 141-142: Days of Future Past.

I managed to pick up #106 and #110 at a later date. As far as Days goes, I read most of the story in flashbacks, but they were high priced rarity as far as back issues go, and I couldn't afford to buy them. It was the Holy Grail of X-Men stories for me; something legendary that was sought after with a longing that could not be described with mere words. It wasn't until 1989 that Marvel decided to print the trade paperback, and you better believe I pounced on it like a starving man on a Christmas ham.

My white whale.
Holy GOD, what a story. Well before Frank Miller launched the whole gritty reboot thing in Batman, before Alan Moore turned comics on its head with Watchmen, Claremont and Byrne told the dystopian clusterfuck for all mutants that was Days of Future Past. This was a dark comic in a time where dark comics were not really all that commonplace. It became a cultural touchstone for me. Whenever I see a story where there is a dystopian future affected by events in the past, I think of DOFP.

When I first heard there was going to be an X-Men movie, it was 2000. The last three superhero movies I had seen were Batman & Robin, Blade, and Mystery Men, so you could imagine how starved for quality I was (although Mystery Men DID have certain charms to it). I went to North Carolina to see X-Men on opening day with my best bud, Bill, who was living there at the time. We saw it twice that day. Right from the beginning, Bryan Singer captivated me with his take on Magneto's powers emerging in the camps. I was like, GOD DAMN, so THIS is what a comic book movie can be like?

The second one was even better. Then Singer and James Marsden had to go and sign on to that damned Superman Returns movie and ruin the trilogy by leaving it in the hands of Brett Ratner. It was not great. Disappointing, to say the least. A solo Wolverine offering did little to sate my palette, although the casting of Liev Schriber as Sabretooth was genius.

Then Matthew Vaughn gave us the fresh look of X-Men: First Class. I was intrigued by this movie, which seemed to separate itself from the previous entries. It is set in 1962. Professor Xavier is paralyzed, but he was previously shown standing as an older man in 1979 in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Moira MacTaggart was now an American Operative for the C.I.A., when she had formerly been shown as a middle aged Scottish scientist in X-Men: The Last Stand, set in "the not too distant future." So naturally, I figured this to be a reboot set in an earlier time frame, despite the fact that they used the opening of X-Men for the origin of Magneto.

When I first heard that Bryan Singer was interested in directing the sequel to First Class, I was a bit ambivalent about it. He had his chance, and chose that dud of a Superman movie (OK, maybe it wasn't that bad, but boy, was it LONG and anti-climactic). Then I heard he was bringing back the original cast, I was actually pissed. I felt bad for the new cast, as I felt this would be Singer shunting them aside to relive his glory days with his old pals. But when they revealed that this was to be Days of Future Past, all the pieces fell into place. Time travel. Old meets New. And at last, and long last, the story I have waited thirty years to see on the big screen.

The comic and the movie have a bevy of differences. If I had to write a summary that could apply to both, it would read: In the dystopian future, Sentinels rule with an iron fist; the few X-Men that still survive stage a last-ditch effort to send a traveler back in time to prevent an assassination that began the world's decline. That's about where the similarities end. In the comics, it's Scott and Jean's daughter who sends someone back in time. In the comics, that someone is Kitty Pride, and the X-Men she meets in the past are the ones she knew in the future. In the comics, it's Senator Robert Kelly and Charles Xavier who are assassinated. In the comics, it's 1980, and the dystopian future is 2013.

None of it matters. This is the best X-Men movie of them all. My 30 year dream has come true.

The future scenes, featuring much of the original cast, are a balls out display of carnage and power. The interplay between the prequel cast is crisp and invigorating. Jennifer Lawrence is rapidly becoming one of the strongest leading ladies in Hollywood at such a young age, and she gives real gravitas to the character she plays, a second stringer in the comics universe that has become a real focal point of the cinematic one. It's exciting, emotional, powerful, and at times hilarious (I'll never hear "Time in a Bottle" the same ever again).

It is a solid offering that entertains even those who missed First Class (we went to another showing with my sister and her kids, only one of which has seen First Class). Highly recommended. Still not the PERFECT super hero movie (a few continuity questions arise, though NOTHING may ever unseat Avengers for the title, in my opinion), but the best X-Men movie we've seen to date.




A few notes about continuity as a whole struck me.

1.) Wolverine and Sabretooth were tried, convicted and they tried to execute them in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Their crime was Victor killing a superior officer while they were serving in Vietnam in 1973 (as noted in Origins). William Stryker (played by Danny Huston) recruited them right from the cell they were sitting in, getting them to join Team X. Wolverine then serves with the team as they search for Adamantium. Six years later (1979), Logan has left the team and is living a simpler life as a lumberjack. He then gets his adamantium and is rendered amnesiac. However, DOFP shows him in 1973 sleeping with "the boss' daughter," rather than guarding her, implying he is working for a criminal mob boss or something similar. The movie takes place at the end of the Vietnam war. So Logan should be, according to Origins, within in a cell, or working with Stryker's team, not working as a Mob Boss' enforcer in New York City. Either way, the Stryker who recruited him in Origins (Danny Huston) was an older man with a son who was frozen solid. The Stryker in DOFP (played by Josh Helman) was a younger man with a son that was just turning ten. Previously, Brian Cox played Stryker in X2 and stated that he was running black ops missions while (Bruce Davidson's Senator Robert Kelly) was sucking on his momma's tit at Woodstock (1969)." The Stryker played by Helman does not appear to have been old enough to be running black ops missions since 1969.

2.) The Charles Xavier that rescues the children at the end of Origins is standing. We see as of DOFP that the treatment that allows him to stand robs him of his telepathy, yet he displays both in that one Origins scene. Sure, maybe he could have adapted the formula, perfected it to allow both, but then why does he spend most of the time in the movies in a wheelchair?

3.) Speaking of which, it looks like we have an answer as to why Hank McCoy's first appearance (a television interview in the original X-Men) shows him as a normal looking human while we see his transformation into the Blue Furry Hank we know and love in First Class, some forty years earlier. That's some serum.

4.) The Emma Frost that is featured in First Class (played by the scrumptious January Jones) is dead by 1973, as reported by Magneto. Dead or alive, she is an older woman than Kayla Silverfox's sister who can transform into diamond and is suspiciously named Emma (played by Tahyna Tozzi) in the 1979 set Origins. Granted, they may be entirely different characters, but c'mon. Really?

5.) Wasn't that Quicksilver we saw ricocheting off the walls of his cell in Origins? Or is that another white-haired child speedster, not the Quicksilver portrayed by Evan Peters in DOFP?

6.) Wouldn't the kids remember the guy who liberated them from Stryker's prison camp? I guess that adamantium bullet wiped ALL their memories. LOL

7.) What happened between the end of The Wolverine (2013), which showed Wolverine being greeted by Charles Xavier and Magneto in the airport after having his adamantium removed from his claws, and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) in which he has his claws again? More importantly...

8.) HOW THE HELL IS CHARLES XAVIER ALIVE? Last we saw of him in X-Men: The Last Stand, he was being disintegrated by Jean Grey. Yes, he was able to transfer his consciousness to the comatose patient in Moira MacTaggart's lab (the Scottish scientist Moira, not the American CIA spy Moira) but shouldn't he look like some random dude, not Charles Xavier? Did he happen to transfer his consciousness to a his exact twin who also happened to be paralyzed? This is the biggest and most vexing of the questions that went unanswered.

Despite all this, I LOVED this movie! It was good enough for three showings, and probably a fourth and fifth.

The end credits scene shows us a young En Sabah Nur building the pyramids (complete with his four horsemen in the background) and promises the next installment to feature everybody's favorite ancient mutant: APOCALYPSE! 2016 cannot get here soon enough!