Tag Archives: X-Men

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

x_men_days_of_future_past_

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.

X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-magneto

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.

 

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Ranking the Marvel movies

Avengers assemble

Here’s a pointless exercise but maybe a fun one.

I decided to rank, in order of how much I enjoyed them/how good I thought they were, the big-screen Marvel movies.

It’s not too hard to tell that I prefer the official Marvel Cinematic Universe movies over the random Fox and Sony movies, I know.

A few provisos:

I’m not dipping back into pre-history far enough to drag “Howard the Duck” into this. And I haven’t seen it in a couple decades.

And I’m not including the 1994 “Fantastic Four” movie because it wasn’t released – I’ve only seen it on a bootleg DVD bought at a convention – and it doesn’t belong on this list any more than the awful “Captain America” TV movies do. Same for the “Blade” movies, which had their moments but seem as remote as the 1944 “Captain America” serial now.

Be aware, I’ve only glimpsed moments of the “Ghost Rider” movies on TV. And I’ve never seen the “Punisher” movies at all.

Two lists: First, just the “official” Marvel movies, then the list with the non-Marvel-overseen movies mixed in.

The Avengers

Captain America: The First Avenger

Iron Man

Thor

Thor: The Dark World

The Incredible Hulk

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 2

If you add the other post-2000 Marvel movies that aren’t part  of the official Marvel Cinematic Universe into the mix, it’s still weighted pretty heavy toward the official Marvel canon.

The Avengers

Captain America: The First Avenger

Iron Man

Thor

Thor: The Dark World

X-Men 2

Spider-Man 2

X-Men

X-Men: First Class

The Incredible Hulk

Spider-Man

Iron Man 3

The Wolverine

The Amazing Spider-Man

Daredevil

Iron Man 2

X-Men 3

Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Spider-Man 3

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

Hulk

Elektra

Looking at that list, it seems like “Iron Man 3” is way too far down. But maybe not. I need to see it again.

Something tells me my list will see a big shake-up next month, when “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” opens.

‘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.

captain america winter soldier poster

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.

black widow nick fury winter soldier

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.

 

Unrealistic comic book drawings? Ridiculous!

storm new x-men

So there’s some Internet buzz about the new comic book X-Men team being made up of all women.

And here’s Storm, leader of the group.

Nobody ever said comic book superheroes and superheroines were realistically drawn. And i enjoy some fanboy objectification as much as the next geek.

But really.

So I think we know this Storm’s mutant power: An extra strong spine to deal with that figure.

Professor X shaggy in ‘X-Men’

james mcavoy new x-men

“X-Men First Class” was a really fun movie and had some sport with its 1960s setting, particularly in the boots and “groovy” threads worn by its cast.

It looks like “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which apparently straddles several time periods in uniting the largest “X” cast ever, is going for a similarly authentic look.

So here’s James McAvoy as the younger Professor X. Patrick Stewart also plays Charles Xavier in the movie.

Director Bryan Singer tweeted this picture of McAvoy in the past day or so.

He dubbed it “Serpico,” and McAvoy does look a bit like the undercover cop played by Al Pacino … good lord … four decades ago.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” opens July 2014.

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ – What we want to see

xmen first class

New developments for the next “X-Men” movie just keep coming, it seems.

First we learned that the follow-up to the quite successful – in many senses of the word – “X-Men: First Class” would be “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and would be based on a popular 1981 storyline from the comics that found the mutant superheroes living in – and trying to prevent – an apocalyptic future in which mutants are held in concentration camps guarded by robotic Sentinels.

Then we learned that director Matthew Vaughn would not be returning, but director Bryan Singer, who helmed the first two “X-Men” movies in the 2000s, would instead.

And in the past few days we learned that in addition to returning “First Class” cast members like Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence, the actors who played longtime antagonists Magneto and Xavier in the original trilogy, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, would return.

And we learned that Hugh Jackman, who had a fun, two-word cameo in “First Class,” might be returning after filming his solo film “The Wolverine.”

Of course, with a story featuring time travel and alternate realities, it’s not impossible to imagine multiple actors playing the same characters and it’s not impossible to imagine characters from widely divergent “X-Men” eras clashing and teaming up.

So with a couple of years to go until we see the movie, what do we want to see from “X-Men: Days of Future Past?” A few thoughts:

Colorful costumes. This seems silly, almost, in the wake of the true-to-the-comics costumes in “First Class” and “The Avengers.” But remember that the last time Singer directed these characters, the conventional wisdom at the time was that moviegoers would only accept the X-Men in black leather with yellow accents. We know better now. Bring on the blue and yellow spandex!

Beefy roles for various generations of X-Men. I want to see the Fassbender version of Magneto go on the equivalent of the Nazi hunt he conducted in First Class, maybe abetted this time by Jackman as Wolverine. Who wouldn’t pay to see those two in unstoppable pursuit of some villain?

A “Spock meets Spock” moment. Or several of them. We want to see the two versions of Magneto and Xavier meet each other and we want to be able to relish it, like we did when Spock met Spock Prime in “Star Trek.”

Sentinels. Sentinels. Sentinels. We’ve only been teased with the giant robots so far. Hollywood special effects are more than ready to give us these menacing figures now.

Wolverine, yes, but more than that. Who doesn’t love Wolverine and his on-screen personification, Hugh Jackman? But even if Jackman does appear in “Days of Future Past,” he shouldn’t be the focus. He’s best when he’s the wild card, going on a berserker rampage and scaring the hell out of every bad guy in sight.

Above all else, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. It’ll be cool to see Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, the heart and sole of the original “X-Men” movies, together again. But Fassbender and McAvoy made the roles of Magneto and Xavier their own in “First Class.” They energized the roles. I wish the finale of the movie hadn’t so thoroughly put Xavier in a wheelchair and set him and Magneto at odds. It was the least subtle element of the movie. But there’s a lot more to told about these two characters early in their conflict and I hope that’s what drives the movie.

Top movies of 2011: Some thoughts

I’ve noted this before, but there was a period when I was in a movie theater every single weekend. I reviewed movies from 1978 to 1990 and saw almost everything that came to town.

More than a few years since then the majority of my movie-watching has been on home video. The demands of real life — particularly when nobody was paying me to review movies — meant I caught a lot of movies months later.

Accompanied by various enthusiastic family members and friends, I saw a lot more movies in the theater this year. I still haven’t seen the “Sherlock Holmes” sequel or “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” but I saw a lot of movies earlier in the year. Particularly the geeky, comic-booky ones.

I just ran across this list, on Box Office Mojo, of the top movie box office results of the year and thought I might make note of those movies that caught a few bucks from me this year.

1. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,” $381 million. How could I not go see the final big-screen outing for Harry and company? Maybe not my favorite of the movies — I think “Prisoner of Azkaban” takes that honor — but a fitting end to the series.

2. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” $352 million. Yeah, my attendance of this was kid-driven. But you know what? It was a pretty fun action movie. And who doesn’t like seeing Buzz Aldrin interacting with giant robots?

3. “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1,” $273 million. Haven’t seen it yet. Probably will on DVD. Not holding my breath.

4. “The Hangover Part II,” $254 million. I thought the first one was a hoot. Haven’t seen this yet. It just didn’t seem like a must-see-in-theaters to me. Obviously a few people disagreed.

5. “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” $241 million. I’ve never gotten these movies. Johnny Depp is fun in them but the stories are unfathomable. No ocean pun intended.

6. “Fast Five,” $209 million. Didn’t see it. I imagine I’ll watch it on TNT someday. Or the Speed channel.

7. “Cars 2,” $191 million. Another kid-driven movie and not as good as the original, but good, silly, fun. Can’t top other Pixar movies for heart, smarts and humor, however.

8. “Thor,” $181 million. If you told this Marvel Comics-loving kid back in the 1960s that someday somebody would make a multi-million-dollar blockbuster about Thor and that millions of people would go see it … well, I’d probably be so pathetically grateful that you knew who Thor was that I would have believed you.

9. “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” $176 million. Maybe the biggest surprise of all the movies on this list that I saw. Who knew it would be so good?

10. “Captain America,” $176 million. One of my favorite comic book characters in one of my favorite comic book movies. And I totally geeked out over the “Avengers” preview at the end. (Spoiler!)

Jumping down the list, a few observations:

I’m kind of surprised that “Bridesmaids” didn’t place higher than 12 with $169 million. “This is like lava coming out of me.” I laughed a lot.

At 14, “X-Men First Class” also deserved to make more than $146 million. Almost as much of a surprise as “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” A good Marvel movie from someone other than Marvel? An even bigger surprise.

Speaking of comic book movies, “Green Lantern” was 22nd with $116 million. If I could, I’d get my money back and the movie would have made $10 less.

“The Green Hornet” ($98 million) made more money than “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” with $84 million? Are there more Seth Rogen fans than Steve Carell fans?

“Real Steel” ($84 million) and “The Muppets” ($80 million) should have made more.