Category Archives: X-Men Days of Future Past

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ crosses the streams

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I’m not sure there is a stranger big-screen superhero franchise than the “X-Men” movies.

I’m not counting the new series of “Spider-Man” movies, which Sony is apparently trying to expand into an entire universe by basing movies on villains and second-string characters. You think the general public hadn’t heard of Iron Man before 2008? Try basing an entire movie on Black Cat or Venom.

And I’m also not talking about the “Fantastic Four” reboot, which seems alarmingly intent in removing everything “fantastic” from the story, characters and situations of Marvel’s First Family.

Heck, I’m not even talking about “Ghost Rider,” which is inherently weird.

It’s just that, since 2000, the “X-Men” movies have followed an oddball path. Director Bryan Singer made two good movies – I’d even say that the first sequel, “X-Men United,” was a great superhero movie – then left the series for the unfortunate “Superman Returns.” Some “Wolverine” spin-offs ensued which gave us charismatic Hugh Jackman and little more. Matthew Vaughn’s “X-Men: First Class” was a terrific return to form, showing the origins of Professor X and Magneto and Mystique and featuring a charismatic cast in a tale of the swinging 60s and the sudden appearance of mutants in the world.

So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with Singer’s return in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” He brings back nearly every character and actor from the earlier films, either through starring roles, cameos or flashbacks. He introduces others, most notably Peter Maximoff, the mutant known as Quicksilver. (Quicksilver is the only character so far appearing in both the mainstream Marvel Cinematic Universe and these offshoots, making appearances here and in the tag at the end of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and in next year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” He’s by a different actor in the MCU films.)

The story, loosely based on a classic tale from the comics, opens in a future time when a war between mutants and Sentinels – mutant-hunting robots created by Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) – has ravaged much of the globe. A few X-Men, including Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellan) and Wolverine (Jackman) come together with a plan to change history: If they can stop young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Trask back in 1973 – thus speeding up the Sentinels program – they can stop the war.

To stop Mystique, they task Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) with sending Wolverine’s mind back into his 1973-era body. There, he must find young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and young Eric Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) at a time they are decidedly not filling their fated roles as Professor X and Magneto and persuade them to help.

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The plot is reminiscent of how the older Spock sent Kirk on a mission to win over young Spock and become a team and at least offers a better explanation for why a simple sit-down between key players couldn’t have resolved matters much more easily.

The movie does a pretty good job in immersing its story and characters in 1973, with period-appropriate clothing and jokes about “all three” TV channels – and PBS – and events and figures from the day, including a healthy supporting role for Richard Nixon.

The movie is relatively light on the “future” sequences, where Storm (Halle Berry) joins some younger mutants in fighting off the Sentinels until Wolverine’s consciousness can complete its mission.

The light-hearted tone of “First Class” is mostly gone. There are moments of humor – most of them involving Wolverine – but the tone is one of urgency and distance, with Charles, Erik and Raven all blaming each other for the estranged relationships among them.

The movie’s got big battles and impressive special effects, but what stuck with me after seeing the movie is the ending, that’s full of warmth and hope and could certainly lead to more stories featuring the “classic X-Men” cast. But I have the feeling the future of the franchise rests with the younger actors.
On that count, we’re left with a much murkier picture of the future.

Random observations:

I was somewhat surprised by how much Wolverine seems like a spectator in this movie. The storyline really focuses on young Charles, Erik and Raven.

One thing the movie does not have: Any sense of an explanation as to how the storyline follows the tag at the end of “The Wolverine,” which had Xavier and Magneto meeting Logan at an airport with an urgent mission … that they apparently wait a few decades to dispatch him on.

The movie has some fun cameos from familiar faces and a post-credits scene that is mystifying but apparently points toward a sequel Singer has announced based on the “Apocalypse” storyline from the comics. Who will fill out the ranks of the mutants remains to be seen.

 

‘Arrow,’ ‘SHIELD’ look to finish strong

arrow ravager city of blood

I’m not one of those fans that has to declare a victor in the war between Marvel and DC. They’re both doing well – if very differently – in particular areas outside comics, including live-action movies and TV and animation.

Marvel’s big-screen universe is firing on all cylinders through a timetable that, if we’re to believe a recent interview with mastermind Kevin Feige, is loosely planned through 2028. The producers of Marvel movie outliers like the “Spider-Man” and “X-Men” series are trying to build their own universes, although that could be a challenge. I still wish we’d see the universes combined on screen someday.

As for DC, Warner Bros. is flat-out struggling to build a cohesive movie universe. The “Man of Steel” sequel featuring Batman – with Wonder Woman and Cyborg and possibly other characters in supporting roles – could be cool or it could fall as flat as “Green Lantern.” And DC has just announced that director Zach Snyder will follow the “Man of Steel” sequel with a “Justice League” movie.

DC’s plans feel a little rushed, with none of the universe-building that Marvel has engaged in with its “Avengers” lead-ins and follow-ups. But maybe it’ll turn out nifty.

On TV, there’s no question that “Arrow,” the second-season CW adaptation of Green Arrow, is the best superhero series ever.

And over on ABC, “Agents of SHIELD” – after a first half of this debut season that felt like wheel-spinning or slow burn, depending on how charitable you might be – is building to what might be a genuinely thrilling climax.

Both series have three episodes left this season. Here are some thoughts:

“Arrow”: After setting up Slade (Deathstroke) Wilson as the good-guy-turned-bad-guy this season, the series has let Slade run rampant on Oliver Queen and his city, family and team. Last week’s episode ended with Slade killing Oliver’s mother, Moira, in a cruel mirror to the “choice” Oliver was given by Ivo on the island.

What we want to see: More DC characters – including Ravager, pictured above, who appears in “City of Blood,” the next episode – more twists, more peril, more return visits from past favorites and more triumph for Team Arrow.

What we don’t want to see: An easy way out for anybody.

agents of shield nothing personal

“SHIELD”: Spinning off events in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “SHIELD” finds itself in a world where SHIELD itself is in shambles. The agents are on the run, striking back at enemy organization HYDRA and building alliances. All the while, they’re dealing with the treacherous Agent Ward, who has turned out to be a HYDRA agent and has been killing SHIELD agents right and left.

What we want to see: Well, we already know Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) returns in this week’s episode, “Nothing Personal,” and Samuel L. Jackson is supposed to return as Nick Fury in “Beginning of the End,” the season finale set for May 13. So we’re getting return visits from some favorites. We also want more revelations, including more big-picture tie-ins to the movie universe.

What we don’t want to see: The redemption of Agent Ward. We want him and Agent Garrett (the great Bill Paxton) to continue as our favorite HYDRA turncoats into the second season.

The longterm big picture for both series – if “SHIELD” returns for a second season – could be fantastic. “SHIELD” will be building toward the May 2015 premiere of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

And although it’s unlikely, it’s possible Warners will tie “Arrow” to its big-screen franchise in some way. Warners could do a whole lot worse – and likely will – if it ignores the universe created for the small screen.

 

‘Winter Soldier’ and ‘X-Men’ marketing 101

empire covers xmen

Apparently someone at Fox believes the old saying that any publicity is good publicity.

That must be the idea behind the 25 different covers released by Empire magazine featuring 25 different characters (including a non-character, director Bryan Singer) for “X-Men Days of Future Past.”

Some of them aren’t bad, like the ones above featuring Magneto, Professor X and Wolverine.

Some are just inexplicable, including the one showcasing the movie’s version of Quicksilver.

In the comics, if you’re not familiar with the character, Quicksilver (along with his sister, Scarlet Witch) was part of the second wave of Avengers recruits back in the 1960s, serving under Captain America and replacing Iron Man, Hulk and Thor.

It was a plot point that the new Avengers, including Hawkeye, were drastically less powerful than the original team.

And I’m wondering if when Joss Whedon has Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch join the Avengers in the 2015 sequel, there won’t be some similar storylines playing out.

But in “Days of Future Past,” it appears that Quicksilver is … what, would you say, a punk kid with really bad hair and an outfit that’s even worse?

quicksilver comic and empire cover xmen

Here he is, side by side with the comic-book version.

The X-Men Quicksilver is a look that was certain to – and did – inspire derision.

Then there’s the latest marketing from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” due out in April.

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There’s this great poster featuring Cap and the main cast, including Robert Redford as SHIELD honcho Alexander Pierce. It’s right out of the Marvel marketing playbook and is reminiscent of posters for “The Avengers” and others in the Marvel cinematic universe.

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And then there are the character posters, including those for Nick Fury and Black Widow (photoshopping aside).

That’s how you market characters. And I’m looking forward to one featuring Falcon. Please.

 

Late to the party: ‘The Wolverine’ good mutant action

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I didn’t expect to like “The Wolverine” as much as I did.

I grew up loving “The X-Men” and other Marvel comics, although I had mostly exited before Wolverine made his entrance. Of course, the “X-Men” movies put the antagonistic outsider front and center and made him a leading man and household name.

Of course, with the charismatic Hugh Jackman in the role, who could argue that approach?

After “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” though, I wasn’t sure I needed to see another Wolverine movie. Jackman redeemed the character with one line, however, in “X-Men: First Class.”

So with Jackman returning to the screen next summer, with much of the cast from the original “X-Men” trilogy as well as “First Class,” “The Wolverine” seemed like a natural intermediate chapter in the story.

Since the movie came out a couple of weeks ago – and I just got around to seeing it today thanks to vacation time and work demands – I’ll skip most of the plot recitation. Suffice it to say that Wolverine goes to Japan, accompanied by a winsome and deadly young mutant named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) sent to fetch him by a man whom we see Logan saving at the time of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in World War II.

Logan gets an offer: If he’s tired of life – especially life alone – the young Japanese soldier he saved (now grown into Asian tech titan Yashida, played by Haruhiko Yamanouchi) promised he can make him a mortal man.

The rest of the movie finds Logan playing tag with an assortment of mutants and ninja warriors, in an effort to protect Yashia’s granddaughter, played by the lovely Tao Okamoto.

I think the movie benefits from being a fairly straightforward story punctuated by lots of cool action scenes. There’s not a lot of cross-cutting to other locations or storylines. Not even a lot of set-up for future movies (more on that later).

Random observations: I didn’t expect the end-credits scene, or “stinger,” to be so on-the-nose as far as its lead-in into “X-Men Days of Future Past.” (Spoilers if you haven’t seen it yet.) The scene takes place two years after the events of “The Wolverine,” and Logan is going through an airport, asking to be patted down rather than setting off ever metal detector in the place. Playing on a TV nearby is a commercial for Trask, the company that created the mutant-hunting robots the Sentinels in the comics and next summer’s movie. As Logan moves through the TSA checkpoint he realizes that coins and other metallic objects are moving around on the security tray. It’s Magneto (Ian McKellen) behind him in line. Wolverine pops his bone claws but Magneto tells him that “dark forces” are brewing and that he needs his help.

Why would I trust you? Logan asks, held in place by Magneto because of the remaining adamantium in his body. Magneto notes that he wouldn’t, but …. at that point, Patrick Stewart rolls up as Charles Xavier. Logan is startled to see Professor X alive. “You’re not the only one with gifts,” Xavier says.

Also about that end credits scene: Has anyone noticed that nobody is waiting until after the credits to play out their super-secret scene anymore? For most of the early Marvel movies, the scene (Nick Fury shows up in Tony Stark’s house, Agent Coulson finds Thor’s hammer in New Mexico) touting the coming of the next movie was after the credits. But beginning with “The Avengers” and the woeful version of DC’s “Green Lantern,” the scene has been partway into the end credits, usually right after the principal credits are done.

A couple of exceptions, of course: “Iron Man 3” and its love letter to the Stark/Banner bromance comes at the very end of the credits. And, as we know, “The Avengers” had two credits scenes.

Maybe filmmakers don’t have much faith that we’ve learned by now to stick around until after the last caterer, effects guy and music credit is listed.

Did anybody keep track of how many times Hugh Jackman gets knifed, sliced, skewered with swords and arrows and otherwise pierced in this movie? Surely that number is out there somewhere, Internet?

‘X-Men’ – Meet the Sentinels

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The Sentinels are finally ready for their close-up.

The three-story tall robots, in case you’re not familiar with them, are the hulking menaces used by the government to try to to exterminate mutants in the “X-Men” comics.

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They were introduced in “Uncanny X-Men” 14 in November 1965 and were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

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They’re nearly as much the archetypal villain for The X-Men as Hydra is for Captain America.

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The Sentinels were apparently on the “no-no” list at Fox during the years the “X-Men” movies were being made, although I’m not sure why. The only appearance of the robots in the initial round of movies is in a Danger Room practice in “X-Men: The Last Stand.” Wolverine beheads one in a training session after being thrown by Colossus.

They apparently figure prominently in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” the 2014 feature mixing the classic and new movie casts. Their creator, Bolivar Trask, is played in the movie by Peter Dinklage.

dinklage x-men days of future past

Could that ‘stache be any cooler or more 1970s period?

At top is a shot from the movie, featuring a Sentinel watching over the Reagan inauguration in the movie’s fractured timeline.

Coolness: ‘X-Men Days of Future Past’ teaser posters

xmen days of future past teaser posters

It really seems like when it comes to movie posters these days, a lot of studio marketing departments play it safe. Photoshopped images of characters staring off in different directions seem to dominate.

So teaser posters, especially those that focus on individual characters, can be a lot of fun.

Here are a couple of cool ones for “X-Men Days of Future Past.”

One features Patrick Stewart and a hairy James McAvoy as the two faces of Charles (Professor X) Xavier in the time-spanning movie, while the other features Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender as Eric Lehnsherr, the movies’ Magneto.

The effect is cool and kinda freaky.

The posters were released right around the time of Comic Con.

The movie opens in May 2014.

Magneto on the job in ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’

michael fassbender days future past

Michael Fassbender’s Magneto was one of the best things about “X-Men: First Class.” A few people opined online that they’d pay to watch him hunt Nazis for an entire movie.

So a little Fassbender is nothing but a good thing in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”

Director Bryan Singer is tweeting pictures of the cast and from the set, and today he released the Fassbender.

The movie comes out in July 2014.