I don’t like being a bummer, but that’s just what I morphed into as soon as I finished watching the trailer for “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” If my mild Twitter rampage did anything to harsh the mutant high you were riding Tuesday morning, I apologize. I just have complicated emotions surrounding the X-Men, and impossible standards that become harder to reach.
It was going to be hard for anything “X-Men: Days of Future Past” trotted out to top the fist-pumping good time recently provided by the “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” trailer. That trailer was kinetic, packed with the Marvel mix of action shots, zingers and character moments. The Marvel movies continue to show that superhero films can be both dramatic and fun, which is a memo that the other companies churning out Marvel and DC movies just haven’t received yet. How glum does “Days of Future Past” look?
Now, I’m not saying that every superhero movie trailer has to have moments of levity in the grand Marvel manner, and I’ll even acknowledge that the X-Franchise is still in the middle of a course correction following the much-maligned “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” They’re hitting Christopher Nolan-level dramatic highs to prove to everyone turned off by the super-silliness of those two films that things are different now. But that course correction involves moody lightning, slow motion pain faces, and grandiosely somber music — three things that just don’t get me as excited as Anthony Mackie’s Falcon going head-to-head with a plane mid-air.
The older I get, though, the more I realize that I have very specific ideas of what I want from the X-Men. I find it hard to relate to what younger fans want, and I am not that enthralled with what director Bryan Singer wants to give me. At what point was it decided that the central characters of the entire X-Men film franchise would be Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto? The three oldest, whitest dudes in the entire canon? It feels like I’m 8 years old again and all I want are some X-Men action figures — but my parents bought me the old good guy who doesn’t fight, the bad guy who makes speeches and controls metal, and the angry guy that’s filled with metal. While I have to appreciate the fact that I have these toys, because otherwise I’d be a brat, I have to admit I wouldn’t mind having a few more, maybe Rogue or Storm or Gambit.
I get that the dynamic between Professor X and Magneto is fascinating and ripe with big screen potential. Plus they have four great actors bringing them to life in “Days of Future Past,” two of which are downright genre legends. But how many X-Men fans really root for Professor X? How many want to see that character get more screen time than favorites like Kitty Pryde or Nightcrawler? The trailer for “X-Men: Days of Future Past” makes me feel like Bryan Singer is the only person that wants that.
Don’t even get me started on Wolverine. Or, do, because I actually have to fill this column with content.
I get that Wolverine is popular. I get that Hugh Jackman is pretty much the biggest star in this movie (of course he’s only a star because he plays Wolverine, so… snake eats its own tail). It’s still a downright tragedy that the entire X-Men film franchise — save “X-Men: First Class” — is The Wolverine Saga. Wolverine’s our entry point character in “X-Men” and he saves the day at the Statue of Liberty. His origin takes up a big chunk of “X2” and he gets the two most epic fight scenes. And as if it wasn’t enough to give him two whole solo films, Fox had to take “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and “Days of Future Past” — the two most beloved X-Men stories — and make them about Wolverine and his emotional pain and not about Jean Grey and Kitty Pryde, respectively. The climax of “X-Men: The Last Stand” is presented in such a way that we’re supposed to feel sad for Wolverine for having to kill Jean Grey. Jean Grey’s the one dying! And instead of putting Ellen Page center stage as Kitty Pryde like the comic book version of “Days of Future Past,” we get even more Wolverine.
It’s frustrating. It undermines the true strength of the X-Men — their characters. I’ve written about this before and how the Fox films — even though I do enjoy almost all of them — have still not gotten the X-Men right. None of the films have come even close to capturing the friendship felt between characters like Storm, Colossus and Nightcrawler. They’ve not given us sufficient action sequences involving powerhouse characters like Rogue and Psylocke. They’ve given us six — and soon to be seven — films focusing on the same three characters and seem to be forever shipwrecked in the Wolverine/Magneto/Professor X Bermuda Triangle.
Just to not be totally negative, there is plenty to be excited about in “Days of Future Past.” We’re going to get Sentinels, even though we didn’t see any in the trailer. The mutant-as-minority metaphor will most likely play a large part in the film, and that’s incredibly essential to the X-Mythos. So many great actors are involved — even if they’re mostly relegated to looking super bummed in this trailer. Underused characters like Warpath and Bishop pop up, and I have my fingers crossed they’ll actually have some lines and not get killed off. Don’t forget that Singer makes great X-Men films.
I’m definitely not writing this movie off. I’m too big of an X-Men fan to do that. And even though this trailer was a bit of a letdown, I still trust Bryan Singer to craft something meaningful out of this massive mash-up mutant movie. I mean, there are some great shots in the trailer. I just wish those great shots were of a few other characters.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts the podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics and is a writer for the comedy podcast Left Handed Radio. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).