Unwieldy. Slow. And worst of all, boring.
I was really looking forward to Days of Future Past. I thought the X-Men relaunch was terrific, the mix of actors, going back to the 1960s. It was note perfect, a way to keep the familiar characters of the previous three X-Men films while charting a new course for the re-launch.
I felt the same way about The Incredible Spider-Man. The movie wasn’t quite as awesome as the X-Men relaunch, but the Andrew Garfield-Emma Stone chemistry was terrific, and the film really set itself apart from the disappointing/overrated Sam Raimi trilogy.
Then I watched the second movie in each of these series. This was the question in my mind the entire time I viewed both: What the hell happened?
With The Incredible Spider-Man 2, some of it was greed. They tried to jam too much in, mostly hoping to set up a Sinister Six spin-off. Apparently movie execs have short memories, forgetting that too many villains didn’t work in Spider-Man 3 and contributed to the need to reboot the franchise in the first place. Plus, the whole Peter probing into his parents past thing dragged … actually, I’m not even sure “dragged” is harsh enough to describe how slow and dull that slog was. A great ending tied it all together, but it wasn’t enough to save the film.
Watching X-Men: Days of Future Past last night, all I could wonder was “why”? Why is there a need to tie the new franchise to the old? To me, that was the brilliance of the re-boot. If the franchise just stayed in the 1960s and 1970s, that would have been a lot of fun. But I’m not sure why anyone behind the film thought that everything had to be tied together from the two different eras. We were introduced to a number of characters – Bishop and Blink, to name two – who we didn’t get to know at all, just flat, cardboard mutant soldiers to feed to the Sentinels. Then a great character is introduced – Quicksilver – who subsequently disappears for the latter two-thirds of the movie. We get Kitty Pride spending the entire movie with her hands on either side of Wolverine’s temple, plus Iceman, Professor X and Magneto standing there watching her do it. Plus, the interplay of Charles, Erik and Raven – which was the centering relationship in the first film – is portrayed as fractured but in reality is nearly non-existent in the sequel. Days of Future Past somehow managed to accomplish the feat of doing way too much while not accomplishing nearly enough.
This isn’t just to pick on these two movies. The Matrix, The Hangover, Dumb and Dumber, Jaws … the list of overwhelming follow-ups is overwhelming. It’s not that it can’t be done – Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight and Halloween II, to name a few – but that second film is the true creative test, and too many flunk. Can you extend this story? Is there enough there to merit moving ahead? How can you challenge familiar characters in new ways? Maybe I’m naive to think any of this matters when compared to the profit motive of the companies financing the films, but it should matter. A good story doesn’t just make for a quality film, it also sells. A bad story sells some, but it damages the opportunities down the road.