By Bill Arceneaux
Anytime the subject of war is discussed, my history-loving older brother will bring up Vietnam. When someone mentions how President Kennedy would’ve gotten us out of it, he is quick to correct that opinion. “There is nothing significant to suggest that if he had lived,” he asserts, “JFK would’ve ended the war in Vietnam.” Despite his assertions, people will always think of President Kennedy as a saint (for the record, I liked him too).
The pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword. Film is an extension of this. When you reference William Randolph Hearst, Citizen Kane and Orson Welles’ portrayal is remembered. Tall tales meant to express the legend become woven into fact, altering things forever. Perhaps they get at a higher truth?
Filmmaker Bryan Singer is the man holding the pen, and X-Men: Days of Future Past is his parchment. For comic book fans all over, the first two movies in the franchise – which he helmed – are revered for kickstarting the explosion of superhero cinema AND for being decent. The third film, however, was derided almost by default of Singer not being behind the camera, not to mention the unpopular and inconsiderate creative decisions made in that and later movies in the series. Instead of just rebooting/remaking and starting from scratch, someone made the call to bring Singer back, revisit past storylines, reveal new ones and try to set things right.
Strangely enough, the time travel scenario of the movie directly reflects the process of making of the movie. Very interesting. Is this real life?
With a story ambitious enough to attempt what the Star Trek reboot did, AND to go farther, some things are expected to fall to the way side. The first half of the film, while getting necessary exposition across, is actually nothing but exposition. Footage I saw in trailers was missing, suggesting many a scene was trimmed and or excised to keep the run time as low as possible and the pace as quick as could be. A movie with such heavy implications deserves some extra length, and the expository dialogue some extra weight. Why should we care if we don’t know the full impact? Note to Hollywood: We are ready for the Once Upon a Time in America of superhero films. It is possible.
What keeps us engaged beyond the compromise in editing is the internal conflict within people not named Wolverine. Xavier and Mystique both have to overcome doubt and pain to ensure a peaceful future for the world and a peaceful soul for themselves. James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence, in a kind of yin-yang compare and contrast, carry the world on their shoulders well, but not without wincing a bit. Wincing would only be human under these circumstances, after all.
Everything comes full circle with Days of Future Past; the X-Men series, the characters within, the filmmakers behind it all and the fans in front. It’s not so much a retcon as it is an acknowledgement of mistakes and an olive branch of forgiveness. Hardcore fans alike will greatly appreciate what this film does, but some will wish it had more room to stretch its legs. Still, the mission of change and alteration is complete. History will most surely remember this with great admiration. Those who were there? Well, they’ll amend the books a tad, even if it’s pointless.