Don't ask me what my favorite film is. It's like asking a parent which child is the favorite.

Welcome to my film blog. I strive for a synthesis of good/bad and theoretical criticism.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Watergate: Mutant Conspiracy?

A Review of X-Men: Days of Future Past

By Daniel Carstens

The most popular scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past, according to internet buzz, features young Xavier, Magneto, and Wolverine being shot at. The seemingly hopeless situation turns to super slow motion, and Quicksilver, moving super fast, changes bullet trajectory, steals hats, and positions the shooters' fists to punch themselves. The scene tainted the film for me, because from that point I realized Quicksilver could have taken care of the original problem, as well as each subsequent problem, and my mind was no longer entrenched in the film from that point on.

That aside, the scene illustrates the importance of a good director. After a hiatus, Brian Singer makes his return to the stale franchise. The Quicksilver scene is well crafted, the perfect combination of action, humor, suspense, and pacing that has people buzzing all over the internet. Brian Singer has returned X-Men to the high degree of cinematic creativity of the first two films.

The long-running series features the struggle of mutants vs. non-mutants, and in some cases, mutants vs. other mutants with more radical ideologies. The mutants are the vast minority, and face oppression and even violence from non-mutants. In Days of Future Past, Wolverine travels back in time to 1973 to prevent the complete eradication of mutants. 1973, the year of Watergate, and the height of blaxploitation and Black Power.

The struggle of mutants vs. non-mutants very much mirrors the struggle between blacks and whites in the era. While violence against blacks had decreased by 1973, discrimination was very much alive. The conflict within the mutant race mirrors that between non-violent blacks and the Black Power movement. Magneto, feeling that non-violent measures were ineffective, called for war against non-mutants, much similar to factions of the Black Power movement. In many ways, the X-Men film franchise is an allegory for the race struggle of the late mid-20th century.

Days of Future Past features a prominent role for Mystique. This prominence may be due to Jennifer Lawrence's casting in the role. At the very least, Lawrence's popularity influenced the filmmakers' decision to feature her physique on several occasions. Mystique changes form to any person, and often she changes to Jennifer Lawrence's blonde hair and light skin.

Mystique changes her appearance to any person she chooses, to hide her real self. Despite her seductive form, she morphs her blue exterior into Lawrence's blonde hair and light skin, or a middle aged woman, or a security guard. Mystique hides her dark skin, always taking the form of a white-skinned person. While changing her appearance usually serves to sneak her way into a highly secure area or to hide from a pursuer, perhaps turning white expresses a much deeper meaning, if not for Mystique, then for the film itself.

Though the franchise is about a struggle against racial oppression, almost everyone in the film is white. There are only a few non-white mutants, some of which are racial stereotypes, such as the martial artist Asian mutant. All non-white mutants are very minor characters. Storm (Halle Berry) was a major role in previous films, but despite several screen appearances, only has a few insignificant lines in Days of Future Past. Usually, she is silent. Paradoxically, in a film about a struggle against racial oppression, the minority roles are repressed by the filmmakers. It's an ideological flaw that few audience members will notice or care about, but in a way it contradicts the basic premise of the franchise.

The Quicksilver scene sums up the film: loved by audiences, problematic in my own opinion, but showing creativity that was lacking in the non-Brian Singer films. The highlight, in my opinion, is Nixon, particularly when he shuts off the tape recorder. Perhaps the film should have been centered around Watergate. Nixon could have been a mutant.

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