"X-Men: Days of Future Past": Where Continuity Went "Rogue" Review

It's hard not to wonder what the X-Men franchise might have been had Bryan Singer not left following X2: X-Men United (reportedly, due to his frosty relationship with 20th Century Fox). His much-hailed return, Days of Future Past, is far stronger than any of the films produced in his absence (the less said about the Brett Ratner-helmed X3: The Last Stand, the better), but it is still suggestive of the confusion that plagued the series after his first two films. While many characters are now familiar, others feel shortchanged (particularly those who only appear in the future segments), and the apocalyptic prologue, while strikingly visualized, would have immensely benefited from set-up in a prior film; essentially, it'd all feel stronger if there was a better sense of how they got from there to here. The "Rogue Cut", with an additional 12 minutes of footage, would seem like an opportunity to correct that, but unfortunately it does not.

Though Chris Claremont's original comic preceded it by a solid three years, Days of Future Past plays much like a Terminator film here: a scrappy, grizzled protagonist must venture into the past to prevent a dark, killer robot-ruled future. This factors heavily into the screen time it gives its parallel segments, with the future timeline serving as little more than a framing device for the meat of the action taking place in 1973. For a series that has always centered its action around a few marquee characters (particularly Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto) at the expense of its ensemble, it's hard not to feel like Storm, Kitty Pryde, and even the ethos of teamwork have been shortchanged (Singer and company even changed the comic's protagonist from Pryde to Wolverine). Given that this is a film series whose opening moments took place in a Nazi concentration camp, it's also not hard to imagine that there was unmined potential in the Sentinel/internment camp scenario.

There are really only two major plot points that were left on the cutting room floor. Following the assassination attempt at the Paris Peace Accords, while Xavier and company are trying to determine where Mystique will go next, a sequence has been added in which Mystique shows up at the school in Westchester, seduces Beast, and then destroys Cerebro. To say the very least, this causes some problems. The idea of Beast being foolish enough to fall for such an obvious ploy is about as foolish as the risk that Mystique would be taking by going to the people who are following her (especially when smashing Cerebro has little to no effect on the events that follow), but both are enough to bring the film to a dead halt. The second, though poorly executed, had significantly more promise. Towards the end, as exhaustion is setting in on Kitty Pryde, Magneto, Iceman, and Professor X venture back to the school to rescue her from medical experimentation. Iceman is killed during the rescue, and their hasty escape leads the Sentinels to their mountain stronghold, but Rogue is able to take Kitty's place, allowing Wolverine's time travel to continue.

Had this storyline been expanded into something that ran the length of the entire film and integrated more principal characters, Days of Future Past would have been a very different film, and almost inarguably a superior one. What came out in the end was by no means a bad film (no small feat for a franchise’s seventh film), but it was one that merited revision and significantly more time that audiences almost certainly would have allowed it. The “Rogue Cut”, unfortunately, is not that film, but a hint of what it might have been.

SPECIAL FEATURES

The first disc has both cuts of the film, along with corresponding audio commentaries; Bryan Singer and John Ottman on the Rogue Cut, and Singer and Simon Kinberg on the theatrical. The second disc has most of the material, including Mutant vs. Machine, a series of featurettes, X-Men: Unguarded, a conversation with the cast and crew,  and a gallery of storyboards and concept art.

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" is on sale July 14, 2015 and is rated PG13. Action. Directed by Bryan Singer. Written by Simon Kinberg. Starring Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Evan Peters, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Helman, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Omar Sy, Patrick Stewart, Peter Dinklage, Shawn Ashmore.

Aug
22
2015
Anders Nelson • Associate Editor

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