With the release of the first X-Men film in 2000, audiences not only witnessed the dawn of the modern day superhero film boom, but also the beginning of a complicated franchise that would span sixteen years and nine films. With X-Men: Apocalypse on the horizon, Kayleigh Hearn and a rotating cast of merry mutants are revisiting the X-Men films from the very beginning, and examining the comic book storylines that inspired them. What would you prefer, yellow spandex?
X-Men: Days of Future Past: The Rogue Cut (2014)
Directed by Bryan Singer
Kayleigh: X-Men: Days of Future Past marked Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise he began fourteen years earlier, and fittingly enough, DoFP was the biggest X-Men movie yet (at least until Apocalypse). Not only is it an adaptation of a classic Claremont/Byrne story, but it joined the casts of the original and prequel trilogies for the first time. (Come on, who didn’t get chills when we saw McAvoy and Stewart face-to-face in the trailer?) In a post-apocalyptic future, the remnants of the X-Men send Wolverine’s mind back in time to his past self in 1970s to stop Mystique from carrying out a fateful assassination. Dylan and I are reviewing the expanded version of the film, released as the Rogue Cut, because neither of us had seen it before.
Dylan: First Class was a crucial course correction for the film franchise, but with DoFP it finally felt like the X-Men were going to be able to stand toe-to-toe with the Avengers in theaters. This was the big epic X-travaganza that we were promised back in The Last Stand, brought to us by that earlier film’s most crucial missing ingredient in Bryan Singer. And while it’s not without its flaws, Days of Future Past really delivers a huge X-Men experience on screen in the way we’d never seen before. This film is so enormous and cluttered that it’s kind of surprising but very fulfilling when it comes together. (Well, the theatrical cut comes together, anyway. I’m sure we’ll get there.)
Kayleigh: After the obligatory holocaust imagery, Days of Future Past begins with a fight scene in post-apocalyptic Moscow that pits the future X-Men against Sentinels, and it’s a stunning sequence. One of Bryan Singer’s greatest strengths as a director are his action sequences that show off mutant powers at their spectacular best. Iceman sliding through one of Blink’s portals to blast Sentinels is just pure fun. The future X-Men (Blink, Sunspot, Warpath, Bishop) all look amazing, but alas they’re mostly cool power sets in search of personalities. Bryan Singer brought his strengths back to the franchise, but also some glaring weaknesses, and a lot of characters are shortchanged. Oh hey, Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde is back! My dream of seeing her in a good X-Men movie came true, even if she inexplicably has psychic time travel powers.
Dylan: I remember being put off when, early in the film’s production, it became apparent that Kitty Pryde would not be the principal character in Days of Future Past, since it’s Kitty, not Logan, who does the actual time traveling in the original story. In the comics, the mind of an adult Kitty is projected from the far-flung future of 2013 into her girlish 1983 body, but the conceit of the film is for one of the X-Men from 202X to do the same mental time trip back to 1973, and Ellen Page was born in 1987. So I understand why sending Wolverine is the safest bet both in and out of universe. The circumstances are set up by the storytellers’ choices, so it’s still kinda irksome, but yeah, at least they gave her a role in the film and something to do. (RIP film universe Rachel Grey, we literally never knew you because you were probably never born.)
Kayleigh: On one hand, replacing Kitty with Wolverine is, like X-Men: The Last Stand before it, an example of a female character being sidelined when they should have a starring role. On the other hand, using Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine as a bridge between the timelines makes thematic sense. He’s been present in the series since the very first X-Men film, and he’s the only character who would be played by the same actor in the past and the future scenes. It’s frustrating, but I honestly never expected to see Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde in another movie again, so I’m grateful even for her limited screentime. It would all be a smidge more frustrating if Hugh Jackman phoned in his performance, but amazingly enough, fourteen years later he’s still revealing new depth to Wolverine. The 70s setting is used well, giving us scenes of Wolverine waking up in a water bed and, of course, that legendary ass shot.
Dylan: I agree that this is probably Jackman’s best performance as Wolverine, but the whole cast really brings it here despite no individual actor really getting all that much screen time. Sirs Ian and Patrick portray their weathered friendship effortlessly (no doubt informed by their real-life bromance), while their younger counterparts make the most of their own limited time together. Evan Peters is super fun as The Better Quicksilver and he’s only in about ten minutes of the film.
Kayleigh: Ah, the Quicksilver Wars of 2014. I remember people really not liking the first pics of Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, but then he literally and figuratively ran circles around the bland, doomed Quicksilver who showed up in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Imagined here as a young kleptomaniac with hummingbird-levels of energy, Quicksilver steals the show. The “Time in a Bottle” sequence, showing the world from his super-fast point of view, doesn’t look like anything you’ve seen in a superhero movie before.
Dylan: It’s really just Oscar-Winner Jennifer Lawrence who doesn’t bring her A-game, and I don’t even know if it’s really her fault. The script doesn’t do her many favors, in my opinion.
Kayleigh: My favorite performance in the film is James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier, who in the 1970s has been reduced to a burnt out, shaggy-haired wreck after the loss of
his boyfriend Magneto, Raven, and his students. I never in my life thought I’d see junkie Professor X tell Wolverine to “fuck off” in an X-Men movie, but it happens, and it’s beautiful.
Dylan: Xavier’s story in this movie is fun for its shock value, but it’s also the only legitimate character arc in the film. Charles goes from being as far from the Professor X of the original films as we can imagine—a shitty cynic who walks for plot contrivance purposes—to starting the path to being an arguably better man than the older Charles we know. This Charles learns to stop trying to make people’s (read: women’s) decisions for them and it probably saves the world. (Check out this very memorable article Tor published on this subject in 2014.) Charles plays the role of the fucked up Vietnam vet in this movie, a comparison that The Rogue Cut makes explicit. I’d count that as the best “seventies” thing this period piece pulls off.
Kayleigh: If X-Men: First Class was really Magneto’s origin story, then Days of Future Past is Professor Xavier’s. It’s great to see all four Xaviers and Magnetos bouncing off each other, as they really are that insufferable pair of exes who keep getting back together and then breaking up again. Old Magneto insists that his younger self will be needed to stop the assassination, which young Magneto takes to mean he should fuck everything up. Oh, the future is doomed if Dr. Trask acquires Mystique’s shapeshifting DNA? Then Magneto better shoot her so her DNA gets everywhere. Magneto acknowledges the “shooting Mystique and accidentally revealing mutants to the world” plan was flawed? Better drop a stadium on President Nixon! At least we have a touching scene of old, mortally wounded Future Magneto basically admitting “my bad” to Charles.
Dylan: Magneto gets into some very Magneto hijinks in DoFP, like easily seizing control of Trask’s Magneto-proof Mutant-hunting Sentinels. This film finally delivers the long-overdue giant robot action that fans have been praying for since the series kicked off, and in two time periods, no less! I couldn’t be happier with the way the classic purple Sentinels look, and I even like the weird Mystique-inspired future models.
Kayleigh: The Sentinels have been favorites of mine ever since they crashed through a mall bellowing, “SURRENDER, MUTANT!” at a terrified Jubilee in the first episode of the ‘90s X-Men cartoon. We’ve come a long way since the single decapitated robot head in X-Men: The Last Stand. As far as the human villains go, Peter Dinklage is excellent as Trask and he’s completely mesmerizing in what could have been a perfunctory “evil scientist” role. The guy playing Nixon is my second favorite Nixon in a 1970s-set superhero movie. And hey, in The Rogue Cut you get to hear Nixon drop an F-bomb.
Dylan: The Rogue Cut adds a handful of really sharp comedy beats (mostly in the form of expletives), but is best known for adding twenty minutes in the third act that grind the movie to an agonizing halt. It’s honestly astounding that any of the Rogue mini-arc even made it to the final draft of the screenplay, let alone that Anna Paquin actually showed up to film it and deliver her two lines of dialogue. It’s paired with a seventies-set sequence in which Mystique returns to the X-Mansion on the eve of the Washington D.C. climax to see Beast, and aside from showing us two blue people making out in front of a fireplace, doesn’t serve either character or the audience particularly well.
Kayleigh: The Rogue Cut takes its name from an added sequence where Magneto, Xavier, and Iceman go on one last ride to rescue Rogue from the Xavier Institute, which has been turned into a Weapon X-like facility. This is fan service for folks who want to see the older Magneto and Xavier working together, or for the two people who were really invested in the Kitty/Iceman/Rogue love triangle. There are interesting ideas here, like the perversion of the Xavier Institute, and Magneto saving Rogue fourteen years after he tried to kill her in X-Men. But if you are a Rogue fan crossing your fingers that this time—THIS TIME, GODDAMMIT—Rogue will actually stop being a damsel and kick some ass, I have bad news for you. How awesome would it have been to see Rogue absorbing the Future X-Men’s powers and single-handedly blowing up Sentinels? Alas and alack.Though this version of the film is named after her, Rogue is still a marginal presence. I did tear up a bit at “Hello, Logan” though, because I’m a human being with feelings.
Dylan: When I first saw DoFP in theaters, the ending choked me up. After decades of misery, Logan gets to wake up in a world where things don’t suck, where his friends are alive and he has a home and a purpose, and where neither he nor us had to suffer through X-Men: The Last Stand. This is the X-Men’s happy ending, the kind that the comic book version will never get to have, and it brought a big dumb smile to my face. Singer and the Donner Company really get to have their cake and eat it too by employing some marvelous J.J. Abrams Star Trek bullshit, and if Apocalypse and its sequels don’t satisfy, fans can just stop watching at Days of Future Past and feel like the series has a real conclusion.
Kayleigh: Days of Future Past ends on a remarkably positive note, as Mystique shooting Magneto in the neck instead of Nixon results in the type of utopian future where Kelsey Grammar returns in full Beast makeup for a cameo. The future of the X-Men movies is completely revitalized as Days of Future Past presents a new timeline where the worst X-Men movies never happened–and Famke Janssen and James Marsden are here to prove it. I had a big emotional reaction to this ending in the theater, as “Xavier Institute as sci-fi Hogwarts” and “Jean Grey is alive and happy” are two of my favorite things. X-Men: Days of Future Past would be a remarkably solid ending to the cinematic universe Bryan Singer created, even though it doesn’t fix all of the issues that plagued it (as Storm and Rogue fans can attest). But this isn’t the end, as X-Education still has two movies to go, and we have two weeks to find out if X-Men: Apocalypse will be a fitting end to the trilogy.
Tomorrow: Chris Claremont and John Byrne take us to the apocalyptic, far-flung future of…2013!