X-Men: Days of Future Past

Half a fraction

Yikes. Our current cinema is less feminist than Brent Ratner films of 2005.
Reported on 9th of August, 2014

Make a movie good and people might like it, or so said FW Murnau or Michel de Montaigne or some guy who did something. Fine. It was Mr. Howard Hawks, and something along the lines of, just make sure you have two or three good scenes, and no bad ones. At least I think it was Howard Hawks. That’s what I vaguely remember, and I can’t find it on google. The first stage was having a terrible memory, the second, gratitude that everything was available on google, the third the search engine being so clogged with paid ads and SEOs that it’s, that’s right, just like having a terrible memory. It was a golden time, those four months in 2007, wasn’t it though?

X-Men: Days of Future Past

22 May 2014 @ The Brighton Odeon

$4.50 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


Mr. Hawks did not let us in on the secret of what makes a good scene. We can’t explain it, but we know it when we see it…in front of a focus group saying I liked that guy, but not that guy. I disagree! But there’s that inexplicable sense of the cool, a gag, a bit, a new way to see something ordinary. It’s where the film and the real world collide, usually the films we’ve see before and the film we’re watching now playing a joke on that, that is if you count reality as a film.

Do you need to ask if I do?

It's using what's in the box, instead of thinking outside it.

If true, and given the way in which we recall films (‘remember that part where…’, someone might say. Now, in response to our current cinema, the phrase is being phased out in favor of ‘Part of what now?’), this is no more true than with our current spate of CGI, superhero and so on films. Story, consistent or even interesting characterization is out the window, so at least, at least have a few decent moments. Though vastly superior in other ways, The Matrix can be considered a success by having at least eight of those, T2 ten, and so on. You don’t remember that part in Godzilla, for example, because it doesn’t have any of those. It is nevertheless awesome.

And X-Men: Days After 4, but before 2, but in a universe where 3 never took place except the parts that did…Past has one and a half, and maybe it bears talking about what ineffable quality we’re talking about here, the thing that reduces you to talking like Beavis and Butthead. One such memorable sequence occurs when Mr. Evan Peters runs about as super fast guy wearing a Pink Floyd T-Shirt, slapping various gubment baddies about, the half both at the beginning and end, as the various X-Types defend themselves against rerberts frem the future. Like all literary discussion, it’s math, and we discuss the difference between one and a half. No, between one and a half. No, between one and…goddammit.

I did get to see the PG trailer for A million Ways to Die in the West. That's something.

I did get to see the PG trailer for A million Ways to Die in the West. That’s something.

Anyway, since it’s fractional, it must be about simplicity. The one works because its clear what they have to do. They’re breaking Magneto out of prison, for, it occurs to me now, for no real reason. It’s actually so that Ms. Lawrence can be the pawn between two men, which unfortunately means we have found a new way for women not to make choices in films: if their choices reflect the control of some dudes. Strange to think that a much more naked Ms. Romijn, as a nasty piece of work in the first three, is more her own character. Our current cinema is less feminist than Brent Ratner films of 2005.


But pushing that to the side, it’s an A to B question with X as an obstacle in between. And I think this is what distinguishes those scenes Mr. Wilder was talking about from trailer moments which are more about something you can show in a few seconds, something works within a cultural or film context or both. That character said ‘that’s outrageous’? That’s outrageous! There’s an annoying writing term called a ‘beat’, something as hard for me to say out loud as ‘blog’, but it’s actually something that I believe in. It means that someone wants something, and they try to get it. It’s elegantly using what’s in the box, instead of thinking outside it.

Let’s just call it a sequence, and it can be a sequence of dialog, as it was with Mr. Billy Bob Thorton in A Simple Plan or Mr. Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley or Mr. Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly, where they wanted some information, or somebody to do something, and they found a way to talk another character into it. For superpowers, there’s always the problem of being able to do anything, and just wait until they make Superman immune to Kryptonite in the next one, but in the case of X-Men, there’s a bit of specificity in their powers. My favorite example is the half scene that should have been a whole scene, and kinda was, but only in the background. There’s Portal Girl, who I don’t know her name, and who, like the fantastically great game of the same name, can make two shimmering windows through which you can pass, one to the other. This is the half, and me wishing it was a whole.

The problem with this scene is my tired diagnosis to many films today: that old surprise monster that hides in plain view relying now only on your sense of sportsmanship. For the opening scene, there’s an elaborate thing about time travel, which means everyone can die, and surprise, they’re alive again. The point being that we know A, and X (aforementioned reberts) and we even know Z (that’s the cool power), but we don’t know B. The specificity of where we are, or where we’re going, and the cool ways to get there aren’t thrown away, but they are muted.

Now I prefer the less mysterious film, as I think films where the audience is kept in the dark tend to be lazy, or rather, tend to attract lazy writers and directors. It’s a cheap and effective way of creating tension, but it does not repeat well. I like the surprise film as well, and usually don’t lie that I totally knew the end of Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects, because I totally didn’t know (The Crying Game doesn’t count. She had an Adam’s apple. Don’t you check? Either way?). This is not to say that you can’t have fun mysteries, which are possibly even harder to write that fun action (fun mysteries>fun action>boring action>boring mystery), but action scenes work only if you know the ins and out of the story.

And though I’m looking forward to the Damon Lindenhof penned romcom where we don’t see anyone’s face until the end (goddammit. Please don’t tell him that idea), you have to work within the genre. Give me those scenes. What would Mr. Wilder have to say about two or three good scenes, and the rest garbage…

Twister. He would have said Twister. If you get to have dinner with Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein and Selena Gomez, I get to see Twister with Howard Hawks. And then we’re totally sneaking into Executive Decision. What? He hasn’t seen the trailer. He’s a ghost. Don’t be stupid.

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