X-Men: Days Of Future Past is a return to form for the X-Men film franchise and it’s more than that. It rectifies the misfires made with the franchise since the film’s director Bryan Singer left it to do Superman Returns. But more significantly, Singer has delivered the best X-Men film to date, even eclipsing favorites like X2: X-Men United and X-Men: First Class.
The fifth X-Men film (not counting the Wolverine solo efforts) is a loose adaptation of the classic Chris Claremont/John Byrne comic book story arc in The Uncanny X-Men #141-142 where mutants are facing extinction in the future and one mutant’s consciousness is sent back in time to prevent the mutant holocaust at the hands of giant Sentinel robots. The opening scenes in X-Men: Days Of Future Past take place in the grim, dark future where mutants are being mercilessly hunted down by advanced, adaptive Sentinels. In a desperate move, the consciousness of the fast-healing mutant Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to the 1970s into the mind of his younger self, which begins a wild ride.
The film switches gears and has the audacity to introduce much-needed humor as Wolverine does a fish-out-of-water routine when adopting to the new timeline. In the 1970s, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) is a mutant-hating scientist who constructs the Sentinels. According to history, he is assassinated by the shape-shifting mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), which starts the chain reaction leading to the dystopian future seen in the film’s opening act. Wolverine has to find a younger version of his mentor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and convince the two men to put aside their differences and change history.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past is genuine epic spanning across time and places with an intricate, but fast-moving story that is never dull. It’s so perfectly paced with exciting and tense sequences interjected with pathos and wry humor. There’s a smile-inducing segment where Wolverine, Xavier and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) recruit the speedster Quicksilver (Evan Peters) to break Magneto out of prison and he just steals the show. The way Singer demonstrated Quicksilver’s super-fast powers was so incredible to behold and fresh. It would’ve been easy to just show him as a streak, but Singer went the extra mile and showed his POV where the world around him slows to a standstill as he speeds up. This shows why Quicksilver is one of the coolest mutants and it’s too bad more time isn’t spent with him. His actions erases any complaints from haters and trolls who moaned about how dumb he looked in publicity shots. Of course, what elevates Quicksilver’s presence is how Peters played him as an ADD-addled, fun-loving type. Hopefully, he’ll pop up again in a future X-Men film and one can only speculate at this point on how Joss Whedon will present him in next year’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
As with Peters, the rest of the cast elevate X-Men: Days Of Future Past by giving deeply emotional and captivating performances. This goes for major cast members like Jackman, McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence to those that had minor parts like Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Fan Bingbing, and Halle Berry. It was great to see the acting greats Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen returning to their roles as the older versions of Xavier and Magneto. Also, there are surprising and most welcome cameo appearances by other mutants, which enrich this film and shows how Singer cares about the franchise and pays attention to its details.
On the whole, unlike the other films, X-Men: First Class aside, this one felt like a true ensemble film and not just Wolverine And The X-Men. He does have a major part in the film, but he is not the only star, that is because the other actors get their moment to shine and Jackman portrays the famous superhero differently, he’s more in control of himself, more mature.
With this film, Bryan Singer takes firm control of the film series and heads it in a new and hopeful direction. It’s clear from watching the performances, the intricate storyline and all the Easter eggs with nods to other X-Men films that Singer is invested with the franchise. X-Men: Days Of Future Past can be seen as an apology of sorts from Singer for leaving the series. Thanks to his efforts, the film is at the same time a welcome superhero blockbuster that will leave many X-Men fans overjoyed.
Eager fans of Marvel Comics’ favorite mutant superhero have waited for quite some time for a look at the upcoming film The Wolverine. A sequel to the poorly received X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this new film promises to be better than that one. At least, that is what the people behind The Wolverine are claiming.
One thing going for the film is that it seems to be a loose adaptation of Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s comic book mini-series Wolverine, which takes the title character a.k.a. Logan, into an adventure in Japan.
From looking at the trailer, the film sets up Logan (Hugh Jackman) as being on his own and approached to go to Japan where an old, dying friend offers to cure Logan of his curse of regeneration, which has made him practically immortal. He undergoes medical treatments that makes him mortal, but vulnerable. It couldn’t come at a worse time, since in the film, Logan has to fight an army of ninjas and other killers.
Directed by James Mangold, The Wolverine looks intriguing and exciting. That scene at the end of the trailer where he’s fighting some guy on top of a speeding bullet train is an obvious green screen shot but wildly kinetic. More importantly The Wolverine, at least by looking at the trailer, seems to focus more on Logan and his emotional state. Hopefully it will be better than the last Wolverine solo film, leave out needless cameos of other X-Men characters, and stick to a pure Wolverine adventure.
Despite the success of the New 52 comic books from DC Entertainment’s DC Comics division, I’m still not seeing an ability by TPTB to consolidate their superhero properties into one source material. I’m a lifelong comic book fan, with a professional background in branding and licensing. I look at superhero properties not only as a fan but also as a brand manager. Here are a few problems I still see superhero companies like Marvel and DC struggling with:
1) Superhero properties must be cross referenced and cross compatible. There isn’t one clear, solid mass consolidation of the characters across all major media- film, TV, video games, animated series and their related merchandising ventures. This goes for DC, Marvel and, to a certain degree, other comic book companies who overextend their properties. I think they’re taking the wrong approach. This is brand management failure in the making. By that I mean that there are too many versions and variants of characters and their costumes and storylines and it dilutes the core characters. At DC, they have a big problem: Why isn’t Superman’s costume and storyline from the regular comic books seamlessly tied into the 90’s Superman Animated Series, the CW’s Smallvile, DC Universe Online game and the new upcoming Superman movie? BTW, the next Superman movie has no relation with the past films, and is being produced as a relaunch/remake because Superman Returns wasn’t a big hit. Noticing how The Dark Knight made more money, Warner Bros. want the new Superman movie to be “darker.” Unfortunately, they are all standalone, independent works with no consideration on how any one of these iterations relate to each other.
Footnote: DC Comics editorial, Superman writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank superbly consolidated elements of the Superman movies and his past comic book iterations. Frank was allowed to illustrate Superman in the likeness of the late Christopher Reeve; the crystalline Krypton- designed for director Richard Donner’s Superman by brilliant production designer John Barry, was incorporated into comic book Kyptonian architecture. The movie’s three Kryptonian villains (General Zod, Ursa and Non) finally appeared in the comic books. While General Zod originated in the ’50s comics, Ursa and Non were created for the movies. It was Johns’ inspired idea to suggest they include all Kryptonian costumes designed by all comic book artists from the ’40s to present time, explaining that Krypton’s fashion was as diverse as Earth’s and what Kryptonians wore depended on their guild. Kryptonian fashion illustrated by John Byrne, Curt Swan, Gene Ha and from the films were all finally intermixed successfully. With the relaunch it’s unknown if they’ll keep that Kryptonian integration.
2)Too many %^$#**&$@ iterations of one character. Marvel suffers from this with all their properties. How many Wolverine comics are out there? There’s a title called Dark Wolverine and it’s not even the regular version of the character. And Logan once a proud loner is now in a whole bunch of teams! (Previously, he joined only the X-Men, that was the charm of it!) My question is: How does the comic book relate to the ’90s X-Men animated series, or 20th Century Fox’s X-Men movies, multiple X-Men video games, and other animated series? And now that’s happened with Spider-Man (the underdog loner) and all his different costumes. And let’s not forget there are two different Marvel Universes- the mainstream Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe. I know the reason behind it- sales and profits. Spider-Man and Wolverine are fan favorites. Marketing execs must love these infinite variations of the popular Marvel character since they can sell more comic books and toys, but it is confusing and turns away new readers.
3)Cost prohibitive and time prohibitive story lines. I go across comic book aisles and see special event comics and multiple tie-ins and special issues (Blackest Night, Secret Invasion, DC’s numerous Crisis events and tie ins) and it turns me away. It’s unaffordable! It seems as if the larger companies are targeting upper middle class and upper class readers because the average fan cannot afford to buy so many comics just to get a complete story.
4)DC needs to scale back the amount of comics even more per month. Until the New 52, each month DC put out 52 regular titles, plus many four- and twelve- issue miniseries, and event comics for the tie ins and TBPs. Now they relaunced the DC Universe and cut back the number of monthly comic books to just 52. But it’s still too many comics to afford at $2.99 or $3.99 for each comic book. To read the full interrelaed story, the average buyer needs to spend $150 a month, and that’s for the New 52 comics alone! What about your favorite comics from Marvel, Dark Horse, IDW, or Dynamite? But even if the prices were lower the bottom line is that the average fan doesn’t have time to read every single monthly comic book that comes out per month. It’s impossible. We have to pick and choose what we read and often it feels like we aren’t getting the full experience because no one is picking up every single tie-in. This was a problem when the comic book companies flooded the marketplace with too many titles and eventually everything imploded as a backlash from the speculator boom and the industry still hasn’t recovered from that. Back in the ’60s Marvel had a very manageable lineup with about twelve titles per month. It was easy for readers to jump aboard, experience the full Marvel Universe and not feel overwhelmed. Remember the adage, less is more!
5)Superhero costumes need to be consistent to maintain strong branding. Getting back to the New 52, one big example of this problem is the Superman outfit. In Zach Snyder’s upcoming film, the colors are way off; it looks bluish grey with red violet and no red trunks. In the New 52 comic books, the costume has the right red and blue colors, but no red trunks, just a red belt. And a collar, which seems to be a superhero prerequisite in DC’s New 52. Superman’s outfit is still not consistent from one medium to another. Unfortunately the producers of the new Superman movie, and DC Entertainment clearly didn’t want the classic costume meaning the costume differs from the one Supes wears in the New 52. The result is that already many fans aren’t happy. The same thing happened with Green Lantern. They made a choice with the film to have the costume appear organic and that was fine, it worked. But they should’ve used that costume when they rebooted the New 52 Green Lantern comic book. As a matter of fact, many fans expected they would do that, and were disappointed. DC had the perfect chance and pretext last month with the relaunches to do this but they didn’t. They need to realize that the movie medium is the strongest medium and should be the strongest point of reference.
6)Superhero Genre: We need to understand that superheroes aren’t a medium they are a genre that spans several media. This was proven back in the ’40s when Superman became a radio star and ceased to be confined to the comic book medium. What should be done is to just pick the version that is most popular, whether they be the movie version or the comic book version. In other words, all media should be cross-referenced to be compatible, with the highest priority given to the look of the costumes. This doesn’t mean that story isn’t important but comic books are more of a visual medium so the costume and visuals can’t be screwed up.
7)Executive-level decisionmass consolidation of the characters and stories across all major mediums. This has to come from the top execs of WB and Disney sending directives to DC Entertainment and Marvel respectively. For example, the likeness of an actor portraying the superhero or villain should be used in the comics, toys, etc. This can be expensive in terms of royalty but it just means they need to better negotiate this when coming up with the contract.
8 )Power to the (fans and consumer) people! Another thing the companies can do is have some kind of fan base council (with power and influence) that report to the big guns as to what is popular and what isn’t based on direct feedback from fans who can provide comments or answer polls. This will help bring about the highest level of consumer satisfaction.
9)Price and online incentives: The price of a paper copy New 52 comic is the same as it is with the digital copy. The digital copy has no enhanced features. Why not? DC is missing out on a huge online opportunity: Incentives for digital comics could be online content like official character websites, commentary, videos, etc. Senior level direction is needed to map out where everything is in terms of the characters’ bios. Online charts and maps should be provided to help new readers understand what is going on, draw them in and appreciate any character’s rich history.
There has to be one pure version of the property, and looking at this from a branding perspective, the property is still muddled. The standalone, independent business model that superhero companies are following is a bad idea. Their properties must be cross-referenced and cross compatible for all mediums, and whichever company has the guts to carry out this properly will win in the long run.