The X-Franchise Films are generally not very good. That there are so many of them is due to two things. The first is that they started coming out before the Avengers era of Marvel filmmaking. In those dark, difficult times you could go for years without a sniff of spandex on-screen and superhero movies had become the sort of thing people like Ben Stiller would parody in films like 'Mystery Men'. So 'X-Men 1' was pretty rubbish but we let it slide because it was an honest-to-Hitchens superhero movie and was live-action. The second reason was it had good actors. Those good actors were Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman. On the downside it had some terrible actors as well, such as Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and James Marsden but hey-ho.
If Fox hadn't grabbed the rights to X-Men back in Marvel's bankruptcy 'everything must go!' Nineties firesale then we might not still be having X-Men films cluttering up the screen any more or, if we did, they'd look a hell of a lot different and probably not involve Bryan Singer. Fox are so desperate that they seem to keep whipping this corpse of a property long after other companies would have realised they could still get something by selling the body to a glue factory. Every film in the franchise has been awful except 'X-Men 2' which hinted that the production company may be interested in trying to tell better stories and 'X-Men: First Class' which gave us the James McAvoy/Michael Fassbender unlikely bromance comedy of 2011. It was still not wonderful but it was nice to have an X-Men film without Hugh Jackman prominent in it, which I presume is why in this film they have him travel back in time to help Professor X set-up the X-Men. I'm only slightly exaggerating.
It is the space year never-entirely-specified. Skynet has gone online and sent the Terminators out to kill everyone. Whilst most of the humans and mutants still alive had been plugged into The Matrix with hands-free headsets the half-a-dozen free mutants move from not-very-safe-house to not-very-safe-house around the world. The films one decent action sequence is got out of the way right at the start, presumably so anyone over the age of eighteen can then go to sleep secure in the knowledge they were missing nothing good while their annoying A.D.D. children start throwing popcorn at one another. The Terminators, referred to in this film as 'Sentinels', for copyright reasons presumably, track down the mutants whereever they are hiding. As this is a film involving time travel the sentinels proceed to slaughter the cast for the first of two times. As this is a film involving time travel it of course does not stick.
One of the main problems I've had with all the X-Men films is that they rarely think of anything interesting to do with people's powers. You occasionally have Nightcrawler teleport-fighting his way around the White House or that red knock-off from the 'First Class' movie doing the same. But then you have Cyclops, whose given fighting style is to stand very still and fire an optic blast once every half an hour or so, or Storm, who preferred to levitate very slowly, say something that made no sense whatsoever and then hope that an unaimed lightning bolt would solve the problem for her. In this film we have Blink who is fucking awesome but is played by a person of colour so doesn't get many lines. The character was introduced in the comics in a period when I wasn't reading them so I've no idea how 'accurate' she is in this film but she rocks. She is able to open portals from one place to another rather like Chell in the Steam games so defeats everyone by using science! until she is killed, in both cases, because The Computer is a Cheating Bastard.
It turns out that this happens all the time. However, Kitty Pryde, due to her mutant power of making herself and anyone she touches intangible is able, of course, to send people's consciousnesses back through time so whenever the Sentinels attack they simply use this power to warm themselves a couple of days in the past of the attack and then move on, ignoring the paradox they leave behind them. Professor X, somehow back to normal after 'X-Men 3', Magneto, likewise, Storm, sadly not disintegrated in 'X-Men 3' and Wolverine turn up to explain the plot. It turns out that in 1973 Mystique killed inventor Tyrion Lannister, creator of the Sentinels and therefore the nail whose loss led to the destruction of humanity's collective horse-shoe. Because Wolverines mind has its own healing factor (despite the fact that the entire rest of the film canon demonstrates that it doesn't) they will send his mind back in time so that he can prevent Tyrion from being killed by Mystique. So, they send his mind back to the middle of 'X-Men: First Class', when Professor X knows exactly where Mystique is, he uses his mental powers to stop her from ever wanting to kill anybody, and the film is over in thirty minutes and we're on to the wrapup. No, of course not. He's sent back to 1973, only about a week or two before the murder is supposed to happen when the X-Men school is closed and Professor X is a junkie with no telepathic powers.
I am not joking.
Wolverine tells Professor X that winners don't do drugs and they decide to bust Magneto out of prison where he's been since somehow being caught assassinating JFK.
I am still not joking.
In fact, this synopsis would go a lot quicker if you just assume that I write 'I am not joking' between every sentence.
Of course, they are only breaking Magneto out of prison because it's a fairly cool action scene and they've gone without one for all of ten minutes now but also because Michael Fassbender was the breakout star of 'First Class' because Professor X's given reason that they'll need Magneto's help to stop Mystique doesn't make any logical sense. He can no more stop her than junkie Professor X can. When they turn up on the given date at the given place they are able to stop Mystique from killing Tyrion but in the process he gets a sample of her blood mainly due to Magneto's great idea of trying to kill her to save everyone else and this is for some reason an important part of Tyrion's Sentinel-making plans. After that President Nixon gives the go-ahead to building Sentinels, Professor X finally gets his psychic powers back now that they wouldn't automatically end the story early, Mystique disguises herself as one of the President's bodyguards to wait for the dramatically best moment to kill him and Magneto sort of sabotages the sentinels and steals a baseball stadium.
Remember what I said a few paragraphs ago? Good.
And then went to the final reel which makes no fucking sense whatsoever. Magneto has the President at gunpoint but some reason doesn't kill him. Mystique has both the President and Tyrion at gunpoint but doesn't kill them. She and Magneto seem to be at cross-purposes despite both wanting to kill somebody. This makes absolutely no sense as she's put up with days of Professor X's passive aggressive psychic attempts to persuade her not to do it. Beast and Wolverine are useless and in the end Mystique shoots Magneto just because she has to shoot somebody I guess. The dark future is averted and Wolverine wakes up in the school with everything back to normal, with normal apparently being where it was at the start of 'X-Men 2', there are a couple of special cameos rounding off with old Professor X reminiscing with Wolverine about their wacky adventures in the past.
So… Continuity. The continuity of this story in the larger scheme of things makes no sense. I can understand them wanting to keep the actors but why they didn't reboot the franchise properly after breaking it in 'X-Men 3' is something that I just don't get. There are three characters that appear in this movie that didn't make it out of 'X-Men 3' and no explanation is given for why any of them still have their molecules in a recognisable order. Professor X survived that film but only in the body of an amnesiac who quite clearly didn't look like Patrick Stewart. Also, presumably movie universe continuity is that 'First Class' happened, then Professor X gave up teaching and became a junkie, Mystique killed a dude, the events of the first Wolverine movie happened, then the three X-Men movies, then the second Wolverine movie, then the world went to hell. So, without Wolverines encouragement, what happened to make young Professor X decide to reopen his school by the time of the first Wolverine movie which ends with Charles rescuing the other mutants locked up with Wolverine? How come Kitty Pryde suddenly has time-travelling psychic-projection powers? At the very least they could have had some heist scene with her getting some doohickey to help her do that. What kind of injectable drug cures having a broken back, even if it comes with the side-effect of cancelling your mutant powers? Why does young Professor X say they need to rescue Magneto when he so viscerally hates him? Wolverine knows where the attack will happen, all right Professor X won't be able to scan people and work out who is Mystique but then neither can Magneto. How is the problem solved by having Mystique NOT kill the inventor of Sentinels when Magneto has just very publicly attacked the White House and held the President of the United States at gunpoint in the name of mutant rights? It's Mystique's blood that is so important to why the Sentinels are so dangerous in the future and yet this film wants us to think that after being given a very vivid demonstration of what pissed off mutants can do the government decides not to follow its one plan for dealing with an attack. The U.S. Government has both the man behind the Sentinels and Mystique's blood. I suppose you could argue that the Sentinels are proven to be unreliable if they don't realise Magneto sabotaged them and maybe Stryker persuades them to follow his plan before the first Wolverine movie but it's just odd that shooting a scientist destroys the world and threatening the President of the U.S.A. is absolutely fine.
I went into this film expecting to hate it. The excellent first fifteen minutes converted me to thinking this would be a good movie. The rest of the film proved this wouldn't be the case. Sure the script was snappy and the performances all solid, even if Ian McKellen is now too old to do anything other than play Magneto in a stationary position only, but it would seem that the only important people in the X-Men franchise are just Hugh Jackman and Michael Fassbender who have to be fit into a film regardless of whether there's a need for them. The post-credit scene is a very vague teaser for Apocalypse. I wouldn't be surprised if the next film finds some way, either by cloning or time travel, to bring young Magneto to whatever present day the X-Men are currently in.
Still, the X-Franchise limps on, showing that when it comes to development of the property those behind the film show no signs of either evolution or intelligent design. And we've got Guardians of the Galaxy in a short while, hopefully showing how comics movies should be made, if we're lucky.
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