Last week I saw the new X-Men movie. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen it yet.
X-Men: Days of Future Past was a spectacle. It was good fun that takes you into the future and the past and introduces you to new characters from the comics and old characters from the old-school trilogy before X-Men: First Class, like Bobby, and Kitty, and of course Hugh Jackman/Wolverine.
The effects were awesome. The soundtrack was awesome. The whole concept was pretty cool.
But if I’m honest, it was seriously lacking.
X-Men: First Class was so strong because it was creative in its storytelling and it thoroughly wove the complex plot in with complete character arcs. It was character driven as much as it was plot driven. And every character had an arc, every single one. The relationships were complex, developing separate from, but also influencing the larger plot with the Cuban missile crisis. Charles’ evolving relationship with his sister-friend Raven had to do with both of them growing as individuals, and that eventually culminated in their split on the beach at the end, which is as emotional as it is political for them and for the audience.
X-Men: Days of Future Past? Everyone but Charles was a plot device.
All of the character development that happened after the end of X-Men: First Class happens off screen and is explained to the audience in little monologues as it’s explained to other characters. What a cop-out.
Sure, there’s some crazy shock factor when we see Charles saunter down the mansion staircase, on his legs, long-haired and scruffy-looking in a paisley dressing gown looking like a first-rate 70’s drug dealer. Sure, it’s a fun shock to hear about his descent from optimistic intellect intent on helping future generations of mutants while rolling about in a mod-looking white wheelchair to the depressed, self-destructive, cynical addict before us. And then to watch, throughout the movie, as he puts himself back together, reaches back out to Raven, faces his pain. (James McAvoy’s performance, by the way, makes up for a lot of shoddy writing. Like whoa. He is as amazing as ever and made my gut clench feeling the pain Charles was feeling.)
But think about an arc. Or a valley, I suppose in this case. Because they rely so heavily on the development in First Class, he basically starts as the optimistic intellect, descends to his devastated position in Days of Future Past, then rises again back to an even more empathetic and more optimistic intellect.
But he doesn’t start that way, does he? Because we don’t get to see that descent. We only get to hear about it from Hank in a thirty second monologue when he explains ten years of turmoil to Wolverine. What??? It’s like that feeling when you only work out one side of your body, or only crack your back twisting one way instead of both.
And then there’s Raven/Mystique. The whole plot revolves around her choices, and undoing them and making her choose something else to save the world. She’s at the center of the storm of a time-twisted plot, basically. And the writers lean so completely on the damaged relationship between her and Charles. And it’s also obvious that they put her at the center of the plot because of Jennifer Lawrence’s rise to super stardom since the last movie came out. She’s a marketing gimmick, basically.
And yet she literally has zero character development. She is spiteful and wounded and angry through the whole film. And the only choice she does make, the whole CRUX of the movie as she points that stupid plastic gun, is hardly her choice at all! Charles gets in her head, does some guilt-tripping and psychological tom-foolery, and she lowers her gun with a face dripping with derision. NO CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT AT ALL!!! THEY TOOK ONE OF THE BEST YOUNG ACTRESSES IN HOLLYWOOD RIGHT NOW AND GAVE HER A SCRIPT ABOUT AS DEVELOPED AS A CARDBOARD CUTOUT!
They had Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy! There is so much they could have done! They took all the promise of X-Men: First Class, and used it all as a tool to leverage a big fat reset button. Now, they can launch a new X-Men franchise, bring back all the people they killed, and use some of spectacular actors as marketing tools.
I had so much hope for you, Marvel.