Review – X-Men: Days of Future Past

x-men-days-of-future-past-official-trailer-2-01X-Men has cemented itself as the longest-standing comic book movie franchise yet to be rebooted. It’s a series that’s built a strong mythology for itself over the years, though with a few misfires along the way, the films plunged into mediocrity and convolution. Enter returning X-Men and X2 director Bryan Singer. After saving the superhero subgenre from extinction following Batman & Robin, he’s back to deliver the X-franchise’s finest installment yet, a film which is, in many ways, a culmination of everything the series has been building towards all these years.

We open on a desolate post-apocalyptic future, where humans are captured and mutants are killed on sight by the dreaded Sentinels. Our heroes, last seen in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, have banded together to fight these Sentinels – even Magneto (Ian McKellan) has joined forces with former rival Professor X (Patrick Stewart). The mutants agree the only way to win the war is to prevent it from ever happening to begin with, and send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to the 1970s to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from igniting the humans’ war against mutants, spurred by Sentinel creator Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Yet Wolverine must also unite the young, feuding Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to ensure a better future for both man and mutant-kind.

Days of Future Past is the sweet dessert after a mixed 6-course meal. It works as both a sequel to The Last Stand and last year’s The Wolverine and to 2011’s X-Men: First Class, paying off moments teased throughout the franchise while also telling its own story. It’s a rather brilliantly-woven yarn, using the beloved Chris Claremont/John Byrne comic series as its jumping-off point, and crafting a densely, yet smartly-plotted script that feels a fitting tribute to the whole of the mythology. The way it deftly juggles character after character, subplot after subplot, fan nod after fan nod, is nothing short of extraordinary. Everything, down to the design of the classic purple Sentinels themselves, is simply well thought-out.

And the time travel element isn’t just a clever plot device – it’s a way of cleaning up and uniting the cluttered, plot hole-ridden visions of the past into one, celebrating them while also altering their canon for the better. Credit director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg for crafting one big, beautiful retcon for the series that, for the first time, makes the X-universe feel whole and complete. And Singer himself directs with both the pathos of his first two films and with the genuine concern for character in First Class. These mutants finally feel like full-fledged personalities, thanks to the gravitas brought by each and every old and new returning cast member. And finally seeing Magneto in his purple armor taking control of the Sentinels? I’m flashing back to the old X-Men arcade game, and I want nothing more than for these guys to “GO…AND SAVE THE CITY!”

One of my biggest complaints with Singer’s first two films was that they lacked light, colorful backdrops for their inherently pulp-y icons to occupy. Because the comic book movie was an unproven property at the time, much of Singer’s work was exemplified by stiff, awkward exposition and dark, drab, joyless color schemes. This was finally addressed in the more fun, vibrant First Class, and Days of Future Past looks to continue the trend; now that Hollywood loves the comic book movie, filmmakers are finally allowed to take a bit more joy in the proceedings. Best of all, Days of Future Past bears no distracting homosexual subtext to my eye. Where past films often included groan-inducing parallels firmly limiting mutation to being a metaphor for homosexuality, Days of Future Past is content to let the metaphor speak for itself. And really, shouldn’t mutants stand for all minority groups, not just one?

The film’s continuity revisions aren’t seamless. What of the death of Professor X and the curing of Magneto in The Last Stand? How does Wolvie have his metal claws back after the end of The Wolverine? Why does Patrick Stewart’s Professor X speak passionately of growing up with Mystique when he never even mentioned her in the original trilogy? No matter; this is a gripping, entertaining, and most importantly, smart and fresh revision of the X-franchise. It’s already-announced sequel Apocalypse certainly has some high expectations to live up to.

 

8/10

 

Advertisements

Ryan’s Most Anticipated of 2014

So excited was I for 2014’s potential slate of films that I’d actually had a draft of this list written up back in July. Several release date changes, new additions, and comprehensive rewrites later, and here we are at my final list of eagerly-awaiteds. And I haven’t settled for just ten.

15. Exodus

exodus-christian-baleAs an atheist, formerly a COFC (Child of Forced Christianity), biblical films have often rubbed me the wrong way. In part, it’s people’s cultish fanaticism, the outdated lies the church feeds to gullible geriatrics, and the sick way it lends its “seal of approval” to certain films dealing in its scripture. It’s also why I’ll likely be skipping Darren Aronofsky’s Noah – the director spoon-fed me enough Christian tripe in The Fountain to last a lifetime.

Yes, I am an atheist. Happily, so is Ridley Scott.

So it seems Exodus is aiming for something a bit deeper than propaganda. The smartest religion-based films all have a sense of spirituality about them, not in a pandering sense, but to appeal to the similarities we share as a species. Our fears, our hopes, our desires, these emotions transcend organized religion and speak to each of us on a personal level. Scott, who handled even the most heavy-handed Christian themes in last year’s Prometheus admirably, should be able to strike that cord with a more universal tone. On top of that, Christian Bale will almost certainly prove a fantastic casting choice as Moses.

14. Maps to the Stars

file_177163_1_map-of-the-stars1I prefer director David Cronenberg when he’s making hard-edged mystery movies like A History of Violence over winking, meta works like eXistenZ, but the director’s latest film dealing with, according to star Julianne Moore, “the pursuit of fame at any cost,” has me intrigued. And already the signs of Cronenberg’s trademark meta-ness are there – this is the first film the 70-year old Canadian filmmaker has ever shot in Los Angeles, a film being produced by the very people he’ll be criticizing.

Maps to the Stars began as a screenplay by Bruce Wagner, who turned it into the novel “Dead Stars” after the project fell through, then re-adapted it into a screenplay when it was picked up again. The New York Times described Wagner’s novel as, “Stomach-turning, sick-making, rancid, repugnant, repellent, squalid, odious, fetid, disgusting.” Sounds right up Cronenberg’s alley.

13. 22 Jump Street

16-22-jump-streetI’d forgotten just how much I loved last year’s 21 Jump Street until I bought and re-watched the film on a whim during Black Friday. It is a truly hilarious movie, one of the funniest I’ve seen in a while, with its self-aware sending-up of the action genre. The film also did some really clever stuff portraying the generational gap between this and last decade’s high schoolers, which spoke to my funny bone more than even the passing years ever could.

Its sequel presents a similar premise, with Schmidt and Jenko (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill) heading to college to find and bust up a new drug ring. I love the fact that the film unabashedly revels in the absurdity of its new title, being named as such simply because the cops now occupy the church across the street. My only concern is that the original screenwriters aren’t present, but luckily its directors are, so hopefully 22 Jump Street won’t fall victim to the typical comedy sequel pitfall of, you know, completely tarnishing the original film (ahem, Hangover).

12. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Andy-Serkis-as-Caesar-in-Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was easily the best Apes film since the 1968 original, effectively relaunching the dormant franchise by going back and telling the backstory behind the simians’ takeover of Earth. It was smart about paying homage to the series’ legacy, while doing enough of its own thing to justify its own existence. One of the best surprises of the year was hearing the familiar, “Get your stinking paws off me you damned dirty ape!” followed by Caesar’s bellow of, “NO!” All I remember thinking was, “oh shit!”

Now it’s four years later, and the hyper-intelligent apes have been training and populating the forest where James Franco left them. The humans are now contemplating war against the apes to take back their land. How will the apes continue developing their speech? Will they start using obscenities? Have they perfected their British accents yet? Either way, with some likely incredible effects work from WETA and a motion-captured Andy Cerkis, let’s hope newbie Apes director Matt Reeves can keep this fire stoked.

11. The Expendables 3

expendables-2-logoTo call the Expendables films a guilty pleasure would imply some sort of guilt. I am completely, totally, unabashedly in support of Stallone’s biennial teaming of the best and boldest action stars for one big, fun ass-kicking session. And this time around the roster additions are even more impressive: Wesley Snipes, Jackie Chan, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, and Antonio Banderas round out an already outstanding ensemble of action veterans.

Behind the camera is Red Hill director Patrick Hughes, an interesting choice, one which matches Stallone’s desire to inflict the series with new blood. Let’s just hope the casting of several pretty-boy nobodies won’t take the focus off the more established actors who better deserve the pat on the back. Let’s also hope this isn’t the last we see of Stallone’s franchise; with stars like Nicolas Cage (sought out for this installment, eventually replaced by Kelsey Grammar due to scheduling issues), Kurt Russell, and several other action greats who’ve still yet to enter the fray, it’d be a damn shame for Stallone to retire the team without giving them their time to shine.

10. A Million Ways to Die in the West

amwtditw2Last year’s Ted proved Seth McFarlane wasn’t just a capable showrunner, but a capable film director as well, seamlessly translating his self-referential, gross-out, 80s-referencing, gut-bustingly funny brand of humor to the silver screen. I can’t wait to see what he does with his latest, a parody of the western genre featuring a mess of celebrities in either major roles or cameos (Liam Neeson!). It’ll be a true test of McFarlane’s abilities, seeing if he can’t handle the bigger budget and star-studded cast. But with the way he gracefully took it on the chin during his  unfairly reviled Oscar hosting gig, I have no doubt McFarlane can pull it off. And hey, it can’t be any worse than the current state of his familiar animated cartoon show, which has long outstayed its welcome.

9. Maleficent

maleficent-watch-first-trailer-movie-angelina-jolieWith Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland pushed back to 2015, I’ve turned to another film for my classic Disney fix – this retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of its antagonist, starring Angelina Jolie in a role she is absolutely perfect for.

The film should prove an intriguing re-invention of the timeless Disney mythology. The spindle, the thicket forest, it’s all there thanks to production designer-turned-director Robert Stromberg, who also worked on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, a film which certainly can’t be faulted for its design. There’s also Beauty and the Beast scribe Linda Woolverton and DC Animated writer Paul Dini on scripting duties, both of whom are sure to bring something special to the film.

On top of that, the character herself was the stuff of my childhood nightmares. There’s just something  innately terrifying about her appearance on a very primal level, and the film’s trailer already showcases a doozy of an exchange between her and Aurora:

“Don’t be afraid!”

“I am not afraid.”

“Then come out!”

“Then you will be afraid.”

*shivers*

8. Gone Girl

gone-girlLately I feel as though I’d been unfair to the subject of my first full blog-based review, David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I should’ve better appreciated the film’s atmosphere, its slick mystery plot and unique character portrayal. I very much hope to be better singing Fincher’s praises on his next novel adaptation.

Fincher, whose talents are probably better suited here than on Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea remake, will direct the story of a man searching for his lost bride from a script by the novel’s original author Gillian Flynn. I haven’t read the novel, but the promise of neo-noir-like themes of deception and paranoia between the couple intrigues me. It’ll prove interesting to see how Flynn chooses to adapt her novel’s way of revealing plot points entirely from the perspective of its leads (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike). And on a side note, Affleck himself has been making some very smart career choices lately (Runner Runner excluded), so I have to give him credit for really growing up in a big way. This is definitely a film I’m watching out for.

7. X-Men: Days of Future Past

xmdofpIt wasn’t until very recently that I began to truly appreciate what director Bryan Singer had done on X-Men. Yes, I’d reasoned, the 2000 film rejuvenated the comic book movie. Yes, it spurred studios to begin taking pulp properties seriously. Yes, it balanced an effective ensemble. It also spawned a series that still hasn’t quite mined the heart of its source material, a series filled with blaringly obvious metaphors and thinly-drawn characters (read: walking sets of powers) in its earliest installments.

Now, I see and appreciate what Singer was doing. His films aren’t about the script or the characters. They’re about the staging, the gravity he lends to the proceedings, the real-world application he brings to the pulp, and the spot-on casting of these actors. With that in mind, I’m even more excited for Days of Future Past, which will not only unite the cast of Singer’s films with their younger, equally brilliant counterparts from First Class, but also boast a script that’s been toiled over by First Class’ Matthew Vaughn and Simon Kinberg. It all feels like one big culmination of everything the series has been building up to.

A dystopian future spurs Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to travel back in time to fix the past and save the present; I like this idea that out of ultimate despair, out of complete hopelessness, comes hope for the future. I also like the idea of Professor X meeting himself at a very different time in his life (as in the above image), comparing and contrasting the two Xs. Days of Future Past’s trailer provides a dark gravity the series hasn’t seen since X2, and could easily wind up being the best of the series.

6. A Walk Among the Tombstones

liam-neeson-filming-a-walk-among-the-tombstones-3Two Liam Neeson-starrers will grace the silver screen in 2014. The first is February’s airplane heist thriller Non-Stop from Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra, which looks to be along the same silly, fun lines as the first Taken. The other is this, the long-gestating adaptation of Lawrence Block’s 10th Matthew Scudder detective novel about a retired cop investigating the rape and murder of a drug dealer’s wife. And while Taken sold me on the prospect of more action-centric Neeson vehicles (which even he doesn’t take seriously), it’s great to see such a talented dramatic actor bringing his considerable gravitas to something a bit more…well, serious.

The adaptation, to be helmed by writer/director Scott Frank (The Lookout) has been heavily praised by Block himself, who wrote, “I couldn’t be happier about either the star or the writer/director, both of them genuine artists and brilliant professionals. My book’s in good hands.” You rarely hear such a ringing endorsement from the author of an adapted novel these days, so I fully expect to enjoy my walk this Fall.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

capwsThe second Captain America faces an uphill battle. It must make up for time lost after the all-too-humble characterization seen in The First Avenger, better expanding on Cap’s authoritative voice as written in The Avengers. It must balance the blockbuster thrills of team-based conflict involving newcomers Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), while still depicting the more intimate inner turmoil of Rogers (Chris Evans), a man out of time who has lost both a lover and a best friend, forced to face a world he no longer recognizes. It must take audiences through the tragic arc of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), another sorely underdeveloped character in First Avenger. Most importantly, it must convince audiences that good-guy Rogers is as interesting a character as Batman or Iron Man. Indeed he is, in the comics anyway, which is why I’m happy to see the excellent Ed Brubaker-written Winter Soldier arc being translated to the silver screen. With “Community” directors Anthony and Joe Russo taking over for the safe, mechanical direction of Joe Johnston, Winter Soldier looks to be the smarter, edgier political/spy thriller to better tap into the heart of what Cap is all about. And finally, a suit that looks great and lets Cap’s ears breathe.

4. Interstellar

interstellar_lead-449006It’s a former Spielberg project back on track thanks to the Nolan brothers, and it’s just as shrouded in mystery as when it was last buzzing about. A 2008 draft of the script by Jonah Nolan suggests ties to black holes and alternate planes of existence, a fascinating prospect which should prove to be smart sci-fi material for director Christopher’s first venture into the genre.

I like Nolan as a filmmaker, but despite what Batman fanboys hailing him as god’s gift to cinema will tell you, he really isn’t at his best directing action. It’s the suspense, the intrigue, the sheer storytelling ability showcased in Memento and The Prestige that make Nolan special. Those abilities seem to have suffered a bit after the overwritten Inception and the underwritten Dark Knight Rises, both of which experienced overblown hype that may very well have gone to the director’s head. Still, with admitted influences in sci-fi greats Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick, Nolan’s own space odyssey has potential to be something truly special.

3. The Hobbit: There and Back Again

the-hobbit-there-and-back-again-postponed-until-december-2014-129368-a-1362124090-470-75There’s not much praise I haven’t already heaped on Peter Jackson and his team for their outstanding work bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit to life. The third and final installment of the trilogy will be their last-ever outing to Middle-Earth, making for all the more reason to be excited for the epic, bittersweet conclusion to Bilbo and the Dwarves’ saga.

As such, the storied Battle of Five Armies of the novel is sure to be the most epic of Jackson’s entire Middle-Earth saga. It’s a lofty expectation, given that these Hobbit films haven’t quite taken the world by storm in the same way the Lord of the Rings trilogy did. But they are a nice throwback to those films, showcasing a great mythology worthy of praise for WETA’s brilliant design work alone. Something tells me Jackson’s Tintin sequel and whatever other New Zealand-based projects the director has planned after ending his tenure with Tolkien just won’t compare.

2. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

josh-brolin-sin-city-a-dame-to-kill-forDéjà vu…Robert Rodriguez’s highly-anticipated follow-up to 2005’s Sin City teased us with an official 2013 release date before the director revealed it was all a ruse to hold that date for Machete Kills. The film, which will take another year for its effects to be completed, will now see release in August, yet the delay has done little to dampen my enthusiasm for the sequel to one of my all-time favorite films. Everything I said in last year’s Most Anticipated post still applies, so there’s little I have to add to what will hopefully jump-start Sin City into a full-blown franchise. And I can’t be the only one who’s praying for Clive Owen to make a surprise reprisal of post-face-operation Dwight for the climax of the film’s title segment.

1. Knight of Cups

knight-of-cups-stillIt’s rare these days for any one film to completely blow me away, but what Terrence Malick achieved in To the Wonder was nothing short of spellbinding. I’m expecting equally big things from his next, a story of Hollywood excess starring two of my favorite working actors, Christian Bale and Natalie Portman, among a cast of equally impressive players.

As is sadly the standard with Malick’s work, the question of whether or not these actors will actually make the final cut is another matter entirely. Malick is notorious for shooting hundreds of hours of footage and constantly changing the focus of the final cut during his films’ lengthy post-production period.

Malick shot Cups simultaneously with his next, an as-yet untitled film about the music industry which starred, among others, Michael Fassbender, who recently expressed doubt he would make it into the final cut. Yet to read Fassbender talk of what a privilege it was to work with Malick regardless is telling enough. Truly, Malick’s meticulousness is the work of a master director, one who has spawned some of the most profound, intensely detailed, meticulously crafted films of the past half-century. As far as I’m concerned, he can take all the time he needs.

Happy New Year all! Expect my 2013 Top Ten list very soon.

Marvelous Offerings: San Diego Comic-Con 2013 (Day Three)

ccBursting at the seams with new and exciting announcements, Saturday is always the big day for Comic-Con…which makes for a lot to cover today. Videos and/or liveblogs of each panel are provided.

Warner/Legendary

With Legendary moving to Universal, I can’t imagine organizing this panel with Warner was anything short of awkward. Followed via CS.net, the panel began with Seventh Son, a film seemingly steeped in unoriginality. At least Jeff Bridges proved a fun presence, pumping up the crowd with talk of the film’s mythology.

Next came Godzilla, with director Gareth Edwards and his cast taking the stage. The movie just started shooting, and Edwards talked about how amazed he was at the freedom he’s been granted on the film. He also shared a funny story about how the crew was crossing the border to film in Canada, when they got stopped by border patrol, who immediately realized what the film was and told them, “don’t fuck it up!” Sound advice indeed.

After that came a surprise announcement from Source Code director Duncan Jones, who took the stage to show some brief test footage, described as a “mood piece,” for the upcoming live-action Warcraft, and to announce the adaptation would begin shooting early next year. A nice touch; I’ll be seeing the final film because of Jones, not the actual property.

300: Rise of an Empire was next, which I all but tuned out for. I disliked the first film and it’s unlikely I’ll get much out of its entirely unnecessary follow-up, which stands as further proof of author Frank Miller’s growing senility.

Following that was Gravity by Children of Men director Alfonso Cuaron, also joined by star Sandra Bullock onstage. Seems as though Cuaron is getting a lot more continuous shots this time around, an exciting prospect for film fans. Bullock said she was encased in a glass cube in her space suit while the camera moved around her to get the space shots, which look brilliant. The film comes out this October in 3D.

Next was The Lego Movie, directed by 21 Jump Street helmers Phil Lord and Chris Miller. Described as, “the weirdest kids movie ever,” the directors brought out some of their cast and showed some footage from the part stop-motion, part CGI film, which the pair exuded a wealth of passion about. I was pretty indifferent to the recently-released trailer, and I don’t see this being any more than a glorified toy commercial myself, and that’s from someone who was obsessed with Legos as a kid.

The last panel was Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, and Bill Paxton, and scripted by Christopher McQuarrie, all in attendance. Formerly titled All You Need is Kill, the film will follow Cruise’s character as a military operative stuck in some sort of time loop, reliving the same day over and over and learning new things each day. Cruise did a mini-duet with Blunt from Rock of Ages, and exchanged Aliens quotes with Paxton, after which footage from the film was screened. Also present was the original author of the comic which the film is based on.

Finally, in the panel’s most publicized event, director Zack Snyder took the stage to announce, “some shit’s going to happen here,” and brought out actor Harry Lennix to read a passage from The Dark Knight Returns, wherein Batman monologues about Superman remembering who put a stop to him. After which, this logo appeared onscreen, to insane screams from the crowd:

bs

Thanks to Outhousers

Despite the announcement being spoiled by several other sources just before the panel, I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ve seen how WB has mishandled the teaming of its DC characters in script form before, and I’m not quite certain they’ve learned their lesson yet. Not to mention, especially considering the recent dark, unpleasant, Batman-centric comic by Greg Pak teaming the two heroes, I can’t see the film going in the lighter, more optimistic, colorful direction that I’d hoped for the DC Universe on film. I guess, all things considered, it’s better than jumping headfirst into Justice League. The as-yet untitled Superman/Batman film will be written by Snyder and David S. Goyer, with a mind to start production next year.

Lionsgate – I, Frankenstein

Director Stuart Beattie and stars Aaron Eckhart and Yvonne Strahovski dropped in to show some footage of their new film, taking place after the original Mary Shelley novel ends and featuring a monster struggling to find himself. The sizzle reel was described by the CS liveblog team as, “Blade-like,” and I’ve also heard comparisons to the Underworld series. The panel was asked about Aaron Eckhart’s appearance in the film, which looks less like Frankenstein and more like a really ripped Aaron Eckhart:

i-frankenstein-hi-res

On his appearance, the panel joked that there’s, “only so much you can do to make Aaron look ugly,” further explaining that the scars and wounds on the monster at first heal over time into what you see above. Interesting, if a bit of a flimsy excuse to bring make the monster more appealing to the female demographic. Eckhart said it took him a year-and-a-half training 3-4 hours a day to get his body in shape for the role. Hopefully it pays off this February.

20th Century Fox

CS’ liveblog detailed Fox’s panel, which opened with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and featured director Matt Reeves and stars Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, and Andy Serkis. The team came onstage briefly to talk about how it’s eight years since the events of 2011’s Rise, and that the apes and humans are co-existing and slowly starting to war with each other. It takes 10-12 weeks to animate a single ape, according to the panel, but they were able to show a brief teaser featuring an older Caesar, with an army of apes behind him. Rise was surprisingly enjoyable and I’m looking forward to its sequel, but sadly this team’s MTV Live interview proved far more entertaining than their panel on my end.

After that came director James Mangold and star Hugh Jackman to talk about next week’s The Wolverine, a panel which you can watch for yourself here. Jackman promised that fans will finally get see the character’s trademark berserker rage, and Mangold stressed the inherent anger within the character that drove filming. Jackman even saluted Wolverine co-creator Len Wein onstage, a nice touch. Can’t wait to review the movie next week; Fox is positioning the film as their Iron Man, a launching pad for their rebuilt future of Marvel adaptations in competition with Marvel Studios themselves

Further targeting the company, the panel, which can be seen here, brought out its surprise guests – the entire headlining cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past, in a move mirroring Marvel’s own Avengers cast appearance at the Con three years ago. Director Bryan Singer first screened some reportedly “goosebump-inducing” 3D footage for the film, which reveals that the film will see all the old X-Men players facing a dark, mutant-outlawed future, and sending Wolverine back in time to his 70s-era body, where he meets the new X-Men from 2011’s First Class and must gain their trust to help prevent a future war from ever happening.

X-Men%20Days%20of%20Future%20Past%20cast%20SDCC%202013

Questions about the use of Quicksilver by both Fox and Marvel naturally came up – Singer maintained that the character was always part of the story, and will be present in the 70s portion of the film. Which begs the question…as Magneto’s son, why wasn’t he mentioned in the old movies if he was around in the 70s? I recommend watching the panel for yourself, there are quite a few funny moments of the cast interacting with one another.

Personally, for all the acclaim Singer gets for revitalizing the comic book movie with the first X-Men, I’ve never really been a fan of his take on the material. As noted in this excellent opinion piece,  I think my biggest issue is how Singer defines the characters by their powers, not by their actual character. In my mind, it’s far more important we see the mutant’s personalities over their powers, playing up their similarities rather than their differences to humanity, so that we might better relate to them. Really, when all the films show about Storm is that she can summon potentially fatal storms, is the mutant registration for security’s sake portrayed in the films really a bad thing after all?

But I digress. First Class was a step in the right direction for bringing a more colorful, team/character-driven experience to the fold, and with the Sentinels finally making their live-action debut, all I can hear is the old X-Men arcade song chanting “X-MEN!” over and over again. This is one of biggest and best X-Men stories finally being adapted for the big screen, and I can’t fucking wait.

 

Marvel Studios

In another parallel to 2010’s Con, Marvel Studios brought out their latest Thor and Captain America movies to talk about for their panel, which you can watch here. The panel surprised audience members when Tom Hiddleston in-character and in-costume as Loki, riled up the crowd by asking them over and over to, “say my name!” to ear-piercing screams, and finally introduced a new trailer for Thor: the Dark World.

Afterward, the cast of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and its directors Anthony and Joe Russo came onstage to discuss the April release. Apparently Cap (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) “share the movie in a big way” (read: sex). Anthony Mackie shared his enthusiasm for playing the Falcon, while Sebastian Stan talked about being back as the Winter Soldier. Producer Kevin Feige chimed in to stress the reveal that Cap’s old sidekick Bucky is the Winter Soldier, which by this point is a secret to no one, will be played as a surprise only to Cap, if not the audience. The panel also screened some early footage, which apparently looks fantastic, showing Cap fighting Crossbones (Frank Grillo) and his men in an elevator. The Russo brothers discussed their aim for a 70s political thriller-feel, and I have high hopes their movie will be better than the first.

Marvel also brought out its “surprise,” the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy and director James Gunn, who are two weeks into filming, but still nonetheless prepared some footage for the audience, which has been getting some pretty amazing buzz. The panel talked in very little detail about each of their characters, barred from revealing too much other than, “uh, they’re guys…in space.” One of the female cast members also revealed she was wearing a wig at the panel, taking it and throwing it into the audience. Weird.

I still really, really don’t see the appeal of this movie on a mainstream level. Talking raccoons in a semi-serious space thriller goes beyond suspension of disbelief, crossing into painful obscurity, of which director James Gunn, the man who had Ellen Page rape Rainn Wilson in Super, is certainly no stranger to. I fear for Marvel, as this is probably the worst possible box office climate to experiment in, with even solid movies like After Earth and The Lone Ranger tanking hard in earnings. The panel did nothing to convince me of seeing the final product come August, but perhaps some footage might change that.

And finally, Joss Whedon came onstage to announce the official title for the Avengers sequel:

PH6uY2wYohJxa6_1_m

That explains Vin Diesel’s Vision, who as fans know, was created by Ultron and later joined the superhero team. Still, Feige maintains that “there’s nothing to announce with Vin,” but come on, is anyone seriously doubting he’ll be the first newcomer to be announced when casting is officially underway?

To be concluded…