I've been looking forward to reading esteemed CNET colleague Roger Cheng's article explaining the personal meaning that "X-Men: First Class" has for him, and reviewing "Days of Future Past." I also had a romantic association with an X-Men movie, though for us -- me and my now-ex -- it was "X2" and our story didn't end as happily. But my hopes for the new movie were just as high.
This movie series has been pretty uneven, but this time, I wasn't let down at all. In several ways, it was smarter than I was expecting, and it had the humor, action, emotion, and sense of some kind of continuity that I want from an X-Men story. (I'm not particular about continuity. You've got your comics, your cartoon, your movies...you can't make them all fit. I just want to feel like something carried over from previous movies.)
Roger already did a great review of it, so I'm just going to give bullet points.
Things that were even better than I expected in "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (caution: spoilers ahead):
-- That the future mutants were so cool and so well-introduced. Much as I've enjoyed the Marvel Cinematic Universe and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.", I've really been missing that sense of superpowers being both natural and plentiful. That different is something a lot of people are, and don't need to be ashamed of.
This movie gave me just what I wanted from a comic-book-style fight, and the way it laid out the basics of the new group of mutants -- powers, costumes, names, evident bond to each other -- had me rooting for them before the end of the first scene. I loved that their powers were used so cooperatively, as they fought and ran from the Sentinels. It makes sense: to survive in a future that bleak, you'd need to either truly work together, or be really really good at hiding.
-- The usual sort of plot would have had a lot more of Wolverine struggling to convince Xavier and Magneto to work together, while they refused to listen. Instead, like the intelligent people they are, they saw the importance of the issue quickly -- then turned out to have different ideas about how to handle it. So right.
-- That the movie remembered that Magneto isn't just an extremely handsome, sensitive, misunderstood, handsome...where was I? That the movie remembered young Xavier isn't perfect -- getting him reinspired isn't enough to finish his arc.
-- The continuation of young Beast's characterization as the closeted one, eventually forced into his own personal hell of public exposure, and that Eric groups him with Xavier as the ones who hid instead of fighting. The X-Men series has used more than one outcast-minority metaphor, and this installment keeps them going instead of overwriting them.
-- That every other minute didn't have some big hacky LOOK WE'RE IN THE '70s joke, but it did remember how the era difference would have affected some of the characters, such as...oh...Wolverine.
Speaking of whom,
Weirdest moments: In a couple of scenes, exposition got immediately re-explained in full to Wolverine, who'd heard it the first time. Huh? Do they think most X-Men fans have short-term memory problems? Because none of the comics I read ever made Wolverine seem dumb.
Best new mutant in the series: Everyone's going to say Quicksilver. And yeah, he was the greatest. Not just because of the setups based on what he could do, but because of the organic combination of ADD teenager with his particular power, and because of the actor, who's both funny and has a thoughtful quality that reminds you that this kid is dealing with something very serious. For runner-up, though, I'm going to say Blink. How cool was she? That power wouldn't be nearly so useful if she didn't know how to use it so well -- and for me the actress conveyed each time that the character was planning and aiming something, not just striking a pose.
But yeah, Quicksilver stole all his scenes like boxes of Ding Dongs. Speaking of which,
Best joke in the movie: That thing Quicksilver says to Magneto in the elevator that gets him that uncomfortable side-eye. You know the one.
Least subtle moment: The boxcars rattling past Trask's office window (I've known people who were offended by "First Class" because of what they saw as the co-opting of the Holocaust experience for movie thrills. I'd tend to see it more as being that some of the original tellers of these stories had a right to draw on their own heritage for fictional expression, but it's not my story to decide on.)
Best choice to leave out from previous movies: Moira MacTaggart. A relief; that lady was so boring. If you saw anything in her, please tell me what it was.
Most surprising guest star: Jennifer Lawrence's full-frontal bluedity. Was that handled more discreetly in previous movies or am I just getting more uptight? Speaking of which,
Comic book thing I most want explained to me: Can Mystique change mass? Esteemed CNET colleague Caitlin Petrakovitz argues that she must be able to, because she can imitate people of different heights, including bulkier men. I'd always thought Mystique was just sort of a surface-level chameleon, that people didn't notice that she wasn't quite the right height of the people she was imitating because the physical appearance was so convincing.
But if she can be mistaken for Bolivar Trask as played by the dreamily charismatic Peter Dinklage, doesn't that mean she can change size as well? I mean, even if she could make the extra upper part of her "invisible" by matching the wall behind her, wouldn't people notice that his voice was coming from a point above his face? Can she create a mouth in her chest?? When she imitates wider men, is she, like, puffing out her skin and going hollow under it?? Can I stop thinking about this now please?
Over to you, X-Men experts.