Monday, May 26, 2014

Days of Future Past

The latest installment of the X-Men franchise is out and movie fans and critics alike are raving about Days of Future Past.

Then there's me - an almost-lone voice in the darkened theater spluttering into my popcorn about the mistakes, missteps, and overall misadventures of this film.  Let me say this upfront - it's not a terrible movie.  Quicksilver is a lot of fun.  Blink and Bishop are pretty cool.  Go see it, buy some popcorn and have a good time.  But it is not the Claremont/Byrne "Days of Future Past" and don't let anyone tell you different.  Quite frankly, this casual disregard for comics as source material, especially when served with a double scoop of "well, we have to do it this way; no one wants to see superhero pictures featuring chicks" is getting pretty darned old, so I'm just diving in to why I spent so much time over the last three days dissecting the movie and shaking my head at the results.

First - I despise and loathe putting real-life events in superhero movies.  I hated First Class for that very reason (well, that and poor January Jones who had no idea who Emma Frost was or should be and apparently there was no one on set to clear that up for her).  Just to be clear:  mutants were not involved in the Cuban missile crisis and when you set that up (or the Vietnam peace talks or the "bent bullet" theory of the Kennedy assassination), you're going to hear heavy sighing or outright groaning from me.  It yanks me out of the movie and (a far larger sin) it sets up a question that no American director or screenwriter wants to hear:  If the mutants could do that, then why didn't they stop 9/11?  Before you say it's a ridiculous question, go watch that scene in DoFP about Kennedy again. Don't foxtrot with history and then tell me not to take the situation you set up any further down that slippery slope, Singer & Co. (Also, I find it telling that Claremont does not have even a nod of a writing credit for the film - not even "inspired by."  Then again, I'd keep my name off of this, too.)

Second - I understand that changes will be made to the source material.  Again, I liked the portrayal of Bishop and Blink, two characters who aren't in the original story because they weren't introduced until the early 1990s.  That said - what in the name of Moira Kinross MacTaggert were they thinking by making this a Wolverine story?  Much less a Magneto/Prof. X frenemy tale?

Let me calm down and explain.

The Claremont/Byrne "Days of Future Past" is an extraordinary story.  I can easily see why Hollywood wanted to use it - you have a lot to work with here, including some amazing character studies.  But not the characters that you see in this film.  This is Kitty Pryde's story - both as middle-aged and war-hardened Kate and as her younger, unsure self.  It is this Kate who is sent back in time by powerful telepath Rachel Summers to prevent an assassination by Raven "Mystique" Darkholme that will eventually usher in the age of the Sentinels.  OK - how much of that did they keep?

Right.  I've said that watching this film for me was a little like going to see a movie called To Kill a Mockingbird and finding out that the story is being told through the eyes of Jem Finch.  Interesting, but not the story I read and loved and cherished.  And nothing - nothing - in the film version of Days of Future Past had the emotional resonance of this one single panel from the comic:

Instead of this - Kate's determination to do something so dangerous and hare-brained as attempt to change the present by altering the past to give the children she and Peter (Colossus) had together the slimmest chance of a future - I get two-plus hours of Kitty massaging Wolverine's temples.

Oh, and that's not all.  Rachel isn't even mentioned.  Charles Xavier, the world's most powerful telepath, isn't the one to send Wolverine back - it's Kitty, whose powers never worked that way!  (I'm told that there's a scene in the DVD that will explain that. No.  No, it won't. It wasn't on the screen this weekend, Singer, and you've retconned too much for me already.) Female characters in this version exist solely to aid the male characters (Kitty keeps up the psychic connection with Wolverine, despite being grievously injured by his claws, because, you know, that's what she's there to do.  Also, trust me, Storm is a much more powerful fighter and leader than this version would lead you to think) or to provide something for the male characters to argue over (Mystique).  Poor Mystique, who is only given the choice to be Erik's bad girl or Charles's good girl.  Won't they be surprised when she decides to be her own woman thankyouverymuch, only I doubt Singer will ever let that happen. After all, then she might decide she'd like to try wearing clothes. Egad, there's enough casual sexism in here to choke a goat.*

And also - Mystique's DNA is not what you want to incorporate into a Sentinel - she's a shapeshifter, which is indeed pretty darned cool, but she only takes on the appearance of a person, not their abilities.  Really - you want Rogue's DNA but then that would involve giving a woman a meatier role in this picture and that's just Not. Going. To. Happen.

Honestly - this movie was, for me, a disappointment and I'm saddened by that.  The X-Men have been quite important to me for decades.  I'm basically Kitty Pryde's age and I would have loved to have seen the "Days of Future Past" story, which is collected in Uncanny X-Men #141 and #142, on screen.  I went back and re-read it after watching the film and it is, I promise, a wonderful story.  The lead characters happen to mostly be women.  It's just a crying shame that makes it not good enough to film as is.

*Not a surprising attitude, unfortunately.  David Goyer, who's largely in charge of putting Wonder Woman on the big screen, has no clue about as major a character as She-Hulk.  At least Stan Lee slapped him down for his remarks.

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