In The Future Past

I could, in actual fact, not have been anymore excited for X-Men: Days of Future Past than I was. It could have been fucking killer. I don't care for the X-Men films as entertainment or art. No one should. They're neither. We all know what we go to those movies for. Names. Endless slews of the silliest names ever written down delivered with gravitas usually reserved for announcing the death toll following a natural disaster. "There's a very powerful mutant named Erik Lensherr, known as Magneto." "This is Doctor Jean Grey." "Logan!" "Scott, don't." "Jean" "Logan, meet Hank McCoy." "Jean?" "Jean." Can't get enough names. For years now I've cracked up in public at the mere thought of Patrick Stewart looking into a camera and saying "Dr. Jean Grey."  No one says "Dr. Jean Grey" better than Patrick Stewart. Sadly he doesn't say it in Days of Future Past. No one does. That's problem number one. There are a bunch more. The biggest issue I have with the X-Men movies is that they want to be taken seriously. What's that they say about people who are always quick to invoke Hitler and the Holocaust? Well Bryan Singer does it right out of the gate in the first X-Men, announcing to everyone that Marvel Movies were serious art and needed to be considered so. And they're called Graphic Novels! While he was doing this he was also evidently molesting teenage boys on an island. I believe the victims who've come forward and said this. Why? Because the man who made X-Men: Days of Future Past quite plainly suffers from arrested development of the sort that cop shows always tell me is endemic to child rapists. In fairness I might wake up tomorrow and find that Singer's innocent, but he'll still be a terrible director. He'll always be a terrible director. I used to think his success was harmless enough. Those days are over. You might say they're in the future past, if you were a stupid asshole. 

It bears repeating that this movie is called Days of Future Past. Adults, many of them, said, "yeah, great." In college my friend and Apocalypse Now's TV critic Tucker Johnson made a short movie called Time Cops. It's still on youtube if you're curious. In that dumb fucking bullshit, I say the words "Future Past" in a voice strongly redolent of Roger Rabbit's cousin from the Bronx. Let's call him Salvatore Rabbit. That, like "Future Past" was a bad joke. One that I came up with as soon as Tucker said "I'm rolling." The whole film took five minutes to write and shoot. What excuse do the makers of this movie have? I'd like to know. And can we talk about Dawn of Justice? But seriously folks. I had a fine enough time giggling like a dickhead at the first twenty-five minutes of dumb shit and there are good performances buried in here, but let's not lose sight of what a fundamentally lazy and awful movie this is. 

Open on characters wearing fetish gear with painted faces. Capes are used a lot. Some of them are half-capes. You know, like in Schindler's List. They run around and get properly murdered and then we're reintroduced to characters we all know because we're sitting in the audience. We've seen the X-Men movies because we can't get enough of the rapid fire name-dropping of fictional characters. That was established above but I'm restating it for you in case you skipped to this paragraph. The same way Singer assumes at random that we don't know what the fuck is going on. Rather than explain his rip-off apocalypse, the one he stole from the even more boring Matrix movies, right down to the name of his evil drones, he proceeds to tell us a lot of stuff we already know. 

"The apocalypse starts in 1973. 1973. You've got to go back to 1973." says Patrick Stewart. Then he says it again. Then again. And once more. And then again. It's no "This is Doctor Jean Gray," but I still laughed like an idiot everytime he said it. "Hi, I'm Wolverine, you might not know this but I regenerate after being wounded." He doesn't say this to us, which, might have actually been helpful to newbie audience members, he says this to the people he's spent every day of the last ten years with. That's just smart writing. These mutants, who were ok the last time we saw them, are now being hunted by drones who were never a thing before now. Why? Because Singer's liberal enough to invoke the holocaust, piss on Obama's leg about drones, and then sexually assault young men. Don't get me wrong, every filmmaker who's made a movie about the evils of drones was right to do so. Where were y'all during the Bush administration? If you're Bryan Singer I guess you were sexually assaulting young men on your private island and making holocaust movies starring Tom Cruise. And how dare this guy make movies whose message is: "it's ok to be different" when you were ensuring that kids had to walk around with secrets like one of your mutants. For a culture that treats women like an afterthought most of the time, we still made a huge deal out of Woody Allen's rape scandal. As we should have. Why aren't we making a bigger deal out of Singer's? Because this country has even less time for gay men than it does women? Great. 

After Patrick Stewart narrates us into the future, the film picks up a lot of stupid momentum and never lets go. This is good because it gets us away from Bryan Singer painting the faces of young people so they look like anime characters and giving everyone a cape. It also gets us to the real acting. Ellen Page is fine, nothing bad to say about her. There was once a time when Halle Berry was above this. Not anymore. She fits the milieu perfectly. Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen look shockingly like two men waiting to get back to the Cort and finish their run of Waiting For Godot. Hugh Jackman, wisely realizing that after The Wolverine he was never going to be in a better movie about this character, has thrown in the towel. He can't stop smirking at everything, he doesn't scowl anymore, he seems to have bought into the premise so deeply that he's currently in the mind of his younger self on a beach spending all that sweet, sweet X-Men money. Good for him. He just happens to look like a terrible actor because he's caught between James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender, both of them GOING FOR IT. Like Oliver Reed before them, neither man knows the meaning of phoning it in. McAvoy is all wet earnestness and Fassbender is absolutely terrifying as a man who knows he's capable of getting what he wants. Good on Matthew Vaughn for casting them. Singer gets no credit because he squeezes them into a film so fucking goofy it couldn't begin to earn them. The only thing I'm willing to give Singer credit for is a half-great sequence where silver-haired Whiplash or whatever his name is goes around a wet room changing minute details, set to Jim Croce. The problem with that is he's listening to the song on...what? A portable 8 track? I heard the word "1973" fifty eight hundred times before anyone went back in time, so how could you, the director, have possibly forgotten when your goddamn movie is set? And besides it's too shiny and plastic and safe, like the rest of the movie. Jennifer Lawrence is largely pretty awful, for which there's no excuse as she's a great actress. Singer didn't direct her performance, just her tits and ass in that blue body suit. Like any adult might. Who needs to make sure his lead actress doesn't look ridiculous when he can ensure that she looks like a perverse fanboy wetdream. It's Amy Adams in American Hustle all over again. At a certain point it's not filmmaking, it's just pointing a camera at a prop and fuck you. Also, she's the film's only female character other than Ellen Page, who gets maybe ten minutes of screentime. Awesome. 

How do you fall asleep at the wheel when your car cost a half a billion dollars? It's not just careless, it's fucking rude. McAvoy's young Professor X reads the thoughts of people gathered for fat, melty-faced president Nixon's address. One young woman's thoughts: "I'm Pregnant." To quote every critic on twitter: Are you? Are you pregnant? When the drones are revealed some marines salute them, including a headband wearing hippie who could be Ron Kovic. Fuck off. The drones themselves look like child-friendly versions of something out of Trigun, and in no way resemble anything from before 1985. They also see in MS-DOS. What year is it supposed to be again? I forget. He quotes Apocalypse Now (the gall), he rips off Terminator 2, he claims JFK's a mutant, he pays backhanded compliments to Nixon, he lets Fassbender exit by floating away and lifting his arms as if to say "I don't know anymore." Me fucking neither. 

I never liked Singer. I hate The Usual Suspects, which is approximately weird men in well-lit rooms talking up a plot that never shows. Forgettable doesn't even begin to cover the likes of Valkyrie and Superman Returns. Did anyone like Jack The Giant Killer? I guess someone must, right? One thing is clear throughout his work, the fetishization of handsome supermen. He was never good but he's been getting worse ever since X-Men, which truly does look like Schindler's List next to The Usual Suspects and Days of Future Past. The strongest scenes in Days that don't involve McAvoy and Fassbender involve well-dressed men standing in small groups. Not much to hang a film on. Singer is a man obsessed by a fantasy world he refuses to leave, both on and off screen. It just so happens that all this time his ineffable mediocrity was the least of his crimes. I'm sure those box office figures are going to seem like a comfort so allow me to be the first to say: You're not an artist, you deserve to go to jail, and your boring, sloppy movies will be forgotten long before your sexual assault charges. 

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