Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review, Part 2 of 2: X-Men: Days of Future Past: A hate so big it would burn the innocent to reach the guilty

Part Two of the review. Part One can be found here.


We have a brief intermission where "Trask" (so obviously Mystique that he might as well be wearing a "Hi, my name is Raven!" nametag) goes into his office to read his secret files. This is otherwise a great scene, with some nice moments like Trask's voice coming from Mystique's lips. She finds that he's killed and analyzed a number of her friends from the earlier movie, and asks his secretary to print up his itinerary at the Paris Peace Accords. The only minor complaint I have about this scene is that it's almost a beat for beat retread from the similar scene from Singer's X-Men II. "Hi, Sir, how are you?" "Fine, thanks, just getting some files from my office." Looking for files, oops, almost discovered, evade discovery through clever use of powers. I think I'll feel better if I call it an "homage".

We cut to the three amigos (Beast, Professor X, Wolverine) entering a house outside of DC. Pietro's (okay, fine, in the movie he's called Peter, but at least they kept Maximoff for his last name) mom asks them what he did now and offers to write a check to make them go away. They say they just want to speak to him, so she lets them in. They cross a very worn welcome mat, which was another of the minor details that really made the movie come alive, and head down to the basement.

Pietro is so much fun. Gloriously frenetic, zipping around, bouncing off the walls, playing Pong against himself, picking pockets at super-speed. There were so many ways for this to go wrong (and he really looked like such an astounding douchebag in the promotional material), but he's as entertaining as the filmmakers think he is. Our heroes convince him to help them break into the Pentagon in order to break out Magneto. 

Our heroes are in a tour group, and the guide mentions what happens to be my favorite bit of trivia about the Pentagon, that there are twice as many bathrooms as it needs, because it was built during Segregation. Beast arranges a distraction by piping in Sandford and Son into the security feed, and Pietro steals a security guard's uniform and breaks out Magneto by vibrating the glass at superspeed.

They encounter some security on their way out through the kitchen. Magneto is just going to stab everyone to death, but Quicksilver triggers his Long-Second watch (Again with the Trancers references, Josh? Really?) and super-speeds through the opposition.

It's astounding, one of the very best action sequences I've ever seen, perfect from concept to execution. 

And we have to part ways with Pietro, lest he steal the rest of the movie. While I think he was ultimately unnecessary to the narrative of the movie, his scenes were ridiculously entertaining. He also gets a great line: "They say you can manipulate metal. My mom used to know a guy who could do that." Magneto is Quicksilver's biological father in the comics, though he left their actual upbringing to a humanoid cow. (Comics, everybody!)

Together, Magneto, Wolverine, Beast and Professor X fly to Paris. Xavier asks him why he killed JFK and Magneto claims that JFK was actually a mutant and that he was trying to steer the bullet away from him. My first thought was that Magneto was playing Xavier, because he knew by then Xavier couldn't read his mind, but I think that the background material does imply that Magneto was actually framed.

He and Charles get an argument on the plane over the ocean, and Magneto's powers start tearing at the metal around him. My friend Frederick thought that Wolverine was going to cold cock him with the glass ashtray we'd been shown previously, but I'm glad he didn't. I think that's what I like about the series. The villains are never easily overcome. Magneto's own actions bring about his downfall. And, as sympathetic as he is, he is the villain of the piece. I described him in the earlier post as being possessed of "A hate so big it would burn the innocent to reach the guilty", and while he is acting to protect innocent people, he's perpetrating monstrous acts to do so, and at the end of the day, that makes him a villain.

They arrive in Paris and barge into the meeting where Mystique is going to kill Trask. She had arrived there impersonating a Vietnamese general, but unfortunately, her cover's already been blown, because Trask happened to be carrying a mutant detector. Mystique fights off the mundanes, but the good guys prevent her from killing Trask. Stryker, Trask's bodyguard is tased in the course of the fight, and as he lies convulsing, Wolverine recognizes him as the man who will graft the adamantium on his skeleton and is paralyzed by the flashback. Thus he's unable to act when Magneto tries to kill Mystique, because he knows it's her blood that will be used to create the invulnerable, adaptive Sentinels of the future.

He fires once (in a nice bit, he pulls the trigger with his powers after the gun has been knocked from his hand), but she leaps through the window to avoid it. He bends the bullet after her. There's a big fight as Magneto tries to kill her, Hank hulks out into the Beast and almost drowns Magneto in the nearby fountain and the whole clusterfuck is caught on hundreds of cameras.

The world reacts predictably, and Nixon approves the Sentinel program. (Another of the throwaway details that I liked was a picture of Nixon and his wife on his desk.)  Mystique's blood is recovered from the battle site in Paris.

Mystique tracks down Magneto, pulls him into an alcove in a subway station and threatens to shove a shiv of something plastic in his brain. He explains, quite reasonably in his mind, that he was trying to save the mutant race, but since they already have her blood, there's no reason to kill her. Mystique is, unsurprisingly, not entirely persuaded by this line of argument, but she's mollified enough not to kill him.

Magneto has seen the schematics for the Sentienels, and he knows that they would be immune to his powers, so he intercepts them en route to their demonstration in DC and laces them with steel torn from up from train tracks. This metal impregnation goes all the way to their electronic brains, allowing Magneto to control them.

A word on the Sentinels, since this review isn't long and meandering enough. I'm not entirely thrilled with the look of the movie Sentinels, either the the 70s robots or future version, but given the choice between this

or the purple and magenta monstrosities of the comics,


 I'll take what I can get.

Once they return to the mansion, Xavier kicks the junk and regains his powers, but loses the use of his legs. He's frustrated again, but after a pep talk from Wolverine and his future self, he tracks down Mystique in Washington, using Cerebro. I noticed that the helmet was the only thing with dust on it. Where did it come from? I always assumed that Cerebro was in some kind of clean room.

Xavier, Beast and Wolverine travel to DC. Xavier uses a mind trick to get them past security and Wolverine is pleasently surprised that he didn't set off the metal detector.

Nixon unveils the Sentinels on the White House lawn. They're loaded with live ammo, because apparently we have learned nothing from ED-209. Meanwhile, Xavier is scanning the crowd for Mystique. She's disguised as a Secret Service agent and just as she's about the assassinate Trask, we hear her thoughts, "This is for you, my mutant brothers and sisters." I just love that. It no longer makes sense to go after Trask. That ship has sailed and the Sentinel Program is going to go on without him. But she really believes that she's helping her fellow mutants, which reminds me of another line I really like: "His was the most dangerous morality of all. He was a misguided idealist."

Elsewhere, Magneto raises an entire stadium (Wikipedia tells me it's the the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium) and starts levitating it towards the White House.

When watching this, I didn't see how this worked into his plan, which I had assumed to be control the Sentinels into firing on the crowd and showing they couldn't be trusted.  But that's not gradiose enough for Magneto.

He drops the stadium around the White House as a barricade, then commandeers the Sentinels. Nixon and Trask are hustled off to a safe room, along with Mystique, still in her disguise, but she's betrayed again by Trask's mutant detector. Magneto tears the building apart, looking for the safe room. Mystique escapes the clutches of the secret service and grabs Stryker's plastic gun. (I really like that he had the foresight to bring one once they knew that facing Magneto would be a real possibility.)   The three amigos try to stop him, but they're bringing bone claws to a stadium fight, and it's no contest. Magneto orders a Sentinel to obey its original programming and it goes after Wolverine, but Beast draws it away. Then Magento throws some junk at Wolverine before deciding to stop dicking around, whereupon he crucifies him with rebar and chucks him into the Potomac.

Meanwhile (I think? Douglas Adams was right. Determining tense is difficult when time travel is involved) in the future, the Sentinels have located the X-Men at the monastery.  There are a zillion of them, and the best the X-Men are going to be able to do is hold them off as long as possible.

I don't know if this a better action sequence than Quicksilver's, but I'm a sucker for doomed last stands. One, by one, defenders are overwhelmed and killed.

Back in the present, Fassbender Magneto pulls the panic room out of the White House. With a gesture, he turns all the cameras towards himself, and gives a "You were right to fear us" speech and prepares to kill Nixon with the whole world watching.

Won't someone think of the children?!

Nixon comes out and offers to sacrifice himself if Magneto will spare the rest of the panic room. Before you can say "Hmmm...that seems rather uncharacteristic for Richard Nixon", he transforms into Mystique and shoots Magneto with Stryker's plastic gun.  It looks like Magneto's going to kill her, so Beast, who's still tussling with that Sentinel, spikes himself with a dose of his mutation-suppressing serum. He no longer registers as a mutant, so the Sentinel turns on the two other mutants in the area, Magneto and Mystique. Magneto sees it coming, and waves his hand at it with casual disdain, taking it apart with a gesture. This momentary distraction provides an opening for Mystique, who yanks off his helmet, allowing Xavier to shut him down. The whole sequence is very well done.

Xavier then manipulates Magneto into standing down,  and then allows him to flee, because he will certainly be executed otherwise. Public sentiment turns back against mutant genocide, because a mutant saved the president. I don't find that entirely convincing, because they were clearly, at least in part colluding with each other, and having one nice mutant on hand hardly offsets the presence of another mutant who is willing to destroy humanity and can pick up stadiums with his mind.  I'll buy into it, though, because I like what they're selling.  We see in a paper that Trask was arrested and the Sentinel program scrapped.

The dark future is overwritten with a bright new one, where everyone has found a job teaching at Xavier's school. Even Cyclops and Jean are there. I loved this ending. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a redeemed Magneto also teaching a class.

Xavier asks Wolverine the last thing he remembers, and Wolverine tells him, "Drowning". The next thing we see is a police boat dredging Wolverine out of the river back in the 70s.. The captain hands him over to Stryker, and it appears history will repeat itself, with the adamantium being bonded to his bones once again, but Stryker's eyes flash yellow and we see that he's Mystique.

For the obligatory post-credits scene, we see a horde gathered in the desert prostrating themselves, chanting. I couldn't make out what they were saying, but I assume it was "En Sabah Nur", which is what Apocalypse went by back in the day. He assembles a truly gargantuan pyramid with his telekinesis, while four horsemen watch from atop a dune.

I loved it. There are minor quibbles that come with any kind of project of this scope, but it's my new favorite superhero movie, because it captures the glory of what it means to be human, and to be superhuman.

1 comment:

  1. Why did they bring back Bryan Signer?. I'm not an X-Men fan per say but I enjoyed First Class headed by Mathew Vaughn. They could've picked up with the ending of First Class and not given in to years of fan boy whining for this story which is altered to appease Jackman's huge ego since Pryde's the focus of the actual story not Wolverine.