The Movie Scab Reviews: "X-Men: Days of Future Past."

"The scab you're picking at is called execution."

--American film producer Scott Rudin.

Monkey Boy picks the movies!
Monkey Boy picks the movies!

X-Men: Days of Future Past: Ack! Ack! Ack!

Monkey Boy gives X-Men Number Whatever 3 Acks! out of 5!

At long last, after fourteen years of watching pretty crappy X-Men movies, a well told, well acted, and entertaining X-Men movie has been made. It’s not perfect, to be sure, but it is better than all the others. Good. Now they can stop.

I kid! I joke! I tease! X-Men: Apocalypse is coming in 2016, yay! X-Force is in development (a spin-off of the X-Men universe)! The expected release date for Wolverine 3 is 2017!

Monkey Boy and I can see the past and the future just like super-sexy-mutant-X-Person Kitty Pryde (actress Ellen Page): To be continued.

What does that mean? Allow me to explain: In the 1930s, movie serials were the name of the game. They showed up every week with cliffhanger endings and continued whatever story arch they were telling (Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, Zorro Rides Again, The Lone Ranger, and on and on). The future of Hollywood movies is the same. We don’t call them serials anymore. It’s the movie franchise today, but it’s the exact same concept (X-Men, Star Trek, The Avengers, Iron Man, Avatar, Superman, Batman, Star Wars, and on and on).

And this means when I’m 86, Monkey Boy long dead by then (the lifespan of Monkey Boys is shorter than our species), I’ll step into a movie theatre that’s showing a film about the continuing adventures of the X-People-Persons-Mutants-whatever the hell they are, and that’s when I’ll put my head in a bucket of popcorn and take myself out. Euthanasia by unending movie franchise.

Can't wait.

I accept my fate, so I might as well continue talking about the latest in the X-Men movie franchise, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Let’s get the plot out of the way: In the future, human genetic mutants with powers that resemble high-tech weaponry, a.k.a., X-People-Persons-Mutants-whatever the hell you call them, are being killed off by evil robots that were designed in the 1970s by a well intentioned-but-soulless midget scientist. To ensure the survival of all humanity, normal human and mutant alike, a mutant named Wolverine, a cigar smoking Canadian with a bad attitude and metal claws that come out of his hands—the claws are kind of like the back paw claws on a kangaroo, funny enough—well, he goes back in time to change the past in order to save the future.

Pretty cool. But it has been done before. I think...

Like all the movies in the X-Men franchise, it is entertaining with lots of special effects, weird mutant freaks, and things that go boom! But it’s the storytelling that stands out this time and that's thanks to British screenwriter and lover of Marmite (not Vegemite) Simon Kinberg. It’s complex and smart, funny and poignant, and the characters are believable because they’re layered instead of being cardboard cutouts. (Godzilla anyone?) When faced with fantastic events and experiences, the X-People-Persons-Whatever--OK, fine, the X-Men--behave like real people—rare in movies like this. Again, just check out Godzilla and you’ll see what I mean. These superheroes struggle with personal issues and that struggle brings the fantastic and superhuman down to the believable human level. That’s called great screenwriting.

It helps that the acting is solid and the actors are serious about their craft. No one winks at the camera. No one overacts. They keep it real, or as real as they can in the unreal and fantastic X-Men universe: Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), James McAvoy (Professor X), Michael Fassbender (Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Peter Dinklage (Bolivar Trask). Again, if you compare it to Godzilla, it is self-evident which actors need to humble themselves and study Method. (And I’m not talking about the big-green-lizard-god. He did a great acting job and that's because he studied Stanislavski back in the ‘50s. It’s some of the human actors in Godzilla that need a little guidance.)

So it’s clear that the X-Men movie franchise has come a long way since 2000. The X-Men have grown up.

I should confess that I wasn't a fan of the comics. Not that I wouldn't have liked X-Men as a kid, but the entire X-Men comic book counterculture passed me right by. When Monkey Boy and I went to see X-Men back in 2000, we thought it was a movie about ten men making a living in the porno industry, that’s how out of the X-Men loop we were.

The thing that bugs me the most about the X-Men universe is just how dumb some of the mutants and their mutant abilities are—they may work in the comic book, but the transfer from comic to movie kills them dead and they go ker-splat! on that big, bright forty foot screen—even in 3D. For example, in X-Men: First Class, a girl flies around with faerie wings as she shoots fireballs of phlegm out of her mouth. Doesn’t get dumber than that. In the original X-Men, a mutant frog dude with a long tongue leapfrogs all over the place. Dumb, dumb, dumb. The only thing that saved the original X-Men from becoming one of the dumbest superhero movies ever made was Mystique, played by the hot-hot-hottie Rebecca Romjin-Stamos, and that’s because she showed up bare-ass naked but for blue paint and some well placed stick-ons. Oh. And Wolverine. The Canadian with the kangaroo claws saved the movie.

The good thing about this X-Men movie is that director Brian Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg keep the mutants with dumb superpowers to a minimum. Sure, it opens with a barrage of X-Men superpower dumbness--what you expect in any X-Men movie--but as soon as Wolverine travels into the past most of that dumbness is left behind in the future, allowing us to focus on story and character, the two things that matter most. X-Men: First Class failed to do that because there were too many mutants with too many dumb and distracting powers. Worse yet, Wolverine was nowhere to be found, other than in a cameo, and as I have already made clear, the Canadian with the kangaroo claws is the character that matters--if not in every X-Men comic book story, you can bet your bottom dollar he matters in every X-Men movie.

But breathe easy. Wolverine 3 is coming soon!

In the meantime, we've got the best of the X-Men bunch to see (and Wolverine and his kangaroo claws are central to the story), so check it out after you follow my rating advice.

My rating: Start with an Australian beer tour, a couple of pints of Aussie Watermelon Warhead and Hop Hog. After that, it’s time to go mutant, so order a Deadpool (Jagermeister and Red Bull), then a Cyclops (Cocaine energy drink, vodka, gin, and white rum, with your sunglasses on), a Gambit (rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine herbal liqueur, Peychaud’s bitters, and Angostura bitters), and then knock back a Mystique (Blue Curacao liqueur, OJ, 7-Up) and a Beast (whiskey, apple cider, cinnamon), finishing it off with a Wolverine (a can of Aussie VB beer, a shot of lemon rum, and Vegemite on buttered toast, cigar on the side). At that point, you should be where you need to be to enjoy the seventh X-Men movie in the X-Men franchise, X-Men: Days of Future Past!

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