Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Villain, Stay Villainous.

Great heroes need great villains to triumph over. Lately, whether because of the thin pickings of stories remaining to be told, or modern fascination with the roots and psychological causes of "evil", entertainment is showing us more and more why villains are villains. Personally, I occasionally enjoy a semi-sympathetic villain, especially when the character's history significantly adds to the story. In this case, I'm not talking about situations where the transformation of the character is shown in the initial story (such as Loki in Thor, Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, etc.), but back-tracking and either illuminating or retelling (such as Wicked, Maleficent, etc.). But there are times when I have to ask why we need to know, when knowing the whys eliminates the chill that effectively makes the villain formidable. There are very specific cases in which the exposition works well, but I would posit that for the darkest and most iconic villains of cinema, the story is best left in darkness. 

For example, in The Silence of the Lambs Dr. Hannibal Lecter relishes his depraved enjoyment in cannibalism. Then, Hannibal Rising explained what traumatic event initially put him on this path. I didn't see the movie, but somehow knowing why Dr. Lecter became a cannibal lessens his impact. Not that the man isn't still horrifying, but part of what put me on edge for The Silence of the Lambs was his unpredictability mixed with what seemed to be plain and pure evil incarnate. The explanation of his traumatic and horrifying past dulls the unpredictability slightly, and suggests that Dr. Lecter wasn't simply born evil. This is disappointing for the simple reason that Dr. Lecter is the kind of villain I don't want to see redeemed, or made in any way sympathetic. The mystery of his origins fueled the hatred and fear of the character, and the illuminating of this mystery somewhat lessens the darkness. 

On the flip side however, Harry Potter's Lord Voldemort is thoroughly explained in the course of eight movies. The difference however, is that the movies (and books) hold that he was always that way. Therefore, going back to his childhood at the orphanage or his days at Hogwarts only increase his resume of evil deeds, and reflect that from the time of his birth, he only grew in evil, rather than hitting a turning point that changed a sweet boy into a Dark Lord.  

The current trend in prequels doesn't cause me significant concern just yet, but there are certain stories I beg not to be told, simply because sometimes evil needs to just be evil. What follows is a half-serious, half-comical list of iconic movie villains whose backgrounds I never want to see onscreen. 


I can hear the criticisms now, but this animal ranked #18 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Greatest Villains. 

And it should be noted that this movie has been giving beach-goers pause since 1975. 

So why don't I want to see the origins of this iconic villain? 

Because I have a strong suspicion it would go something like this: 
"Fish are friends, not food.
Still not eating fish." 

The great dragon of recent cinema hasn't made any official lists that I'm aware of, but this is another example of an antagonist that doesn't need to be explained. There is nothing, repeat nothing, about the old dragon that is remotely sympathetic, so exploring any background that would claim otherwise would be futile...

... and absurd. 
"Always resented being sent away"

Now getting a little more serious....

Captain Barbossa
It's true he's not the worst of villains, and most of the time he's really more comical than anything else. But I still don't want to know how he became a pirate, mostly because I don't want to see anyone but Geoffrey Rush play this role. 

Cruella DeVille
I can't imagine that any explanation for this woman's morbid obsession with dog fur would be appropriate for an animated character who debuted in a Disney movie. 

Borg Queen
This entry is here with the following caveat: I don't want to see this villain's backstory and know who she is at the get-go. I'd much rather the next Star Trek movie introduce a shady female character and then it be grandly revealed that she is destined to become the Borg Queen (in a manner similar to how Khan was introduced in Into Darkness). 

Shere Khan
I like that he hates man, and I don't need a reason. Man probably killed his wife and son or some such thing, but he's just as magnificent without a known reason. 

Okay, I've been messing around up to this point, but here is the big one; the entire reason I was inspired to write this post. Here is one villain I don't EVER want to know the story of: 

The Joker

I don't want to know how he got those scars. I really don't. Not because I'm afraid of how it happened, but because the Joker is exactly the kind of villain who works because of the irrationality of his actions. The Joker is terrifying precisely because he can't be explained, and any attempt to do so would be doing a great disservice to the Joker shown in The Dark Knight. Therefore, number one of all villains that I hope never get their own movie is this one. The Joker doesn't need a movie to explain him-- it would completely ruin him. The Joker, like Lecter is better shrouded in darkness than reduced to a psychological explanation. He is a great villain because he appears from the darkness without reason or warning. The mystery of his origins only add to the chill and terror that he brings. Leave him in the darkness and  mystery where he belongs; where he thrives. 

Readers, what villains would you hope to not learn more about? 

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

Here is the short version of what follows: sever ALL Tolkien's written works and The Lord of the Rings movies from this film, and you'll have a decent fantasy flick with some writing flaws to get over. Skip to the concluding paragraph of this review for the summation.

Here is the long version (and this is condensed to the highlights):

Despite riding the success of the enormously successful Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit is not a series that was made for fans of Tolkien. At most, The Hobbit appeals to casual fans of The Lord of the Rings movies, or fans of large-scale fantasy movies in general. That is not to say that the final movie is dreadful, though as much could be said if weighed by its source material. Since going into all the ways that The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies fails to represent Tolkien's work would require about four hours of discussion with purists, today I choose the easy route and will only judge the movie as a movie. That being said, I can't promise that my knowledge of the book and companion literature will not pop out every now and then.

Battle of the Five Armies picks up at the exact moment that The Desolation of Smaug leaves off. As such, the first ten minutes of the movie are wrought with glorious moments that reach heights of cinematic greatness. In this introductory sequence, the great dragon unapologetically lays waste to Laketown, sending its citizens into a frenzy. While the great dragon could not have been more beautifully portrayed, most memorable is Smaug's satanic taunting of the bowman Bard. One of my movie companions described this moment as "chilling" before going on to point out the absurdity of launching a harpoon from a weak makeshift catapult. As much as it is possible for a dragon to smile, Smaug smiles with unadulterated malice behind his flashing amber eyes as he seethes to Bard "you cannot save your son. He will BURN!" All at once there is reverence and utter terror at the great beast. And then a few scant moments later, it's over. The great dragon has been slain, yet two hours of movie lie ahead.

What could fill the next installment of The Hobbit when the dragon, a centerpiece of conflict, is dead before the movie's title displays onscreen?

Sadly, politics.

Word of the dragon's demise spreads faster than dragonfire, and before long the inevitable scuffle for the rights to the mountain begins. Bard and the people of Laketown ask for the prize that Thorin promised them, which they now desperately need to rebuild their lives following the ruin of their hometown. The serpentine elvish king Thranduil desires to reclaim some Elvish jewels hidden within Smaug's glorious riches. The dwarves want to move back into what was once their home, and Thorin wants to hole up there forever until he finds the Arkenstone-- an heirloom of his dynasty. Thorin's old nemesis Azog the Defiler is marching an army of orcs/goblins right towards them, while his lieutenant Bolg brings yet another foul army from a far region. Meanwhile, Lady Galadriel, Lord Elrond, and Saruman launch a rescue mission to save Gandalf from a most unfortunate captivity. Amid all this, one of Thorin's dwarves has fallen in love with an elf. It's all a grand mess.

Where is Bilbo in all this? Really, this movie is less about the hobbit Bilbo, and more about the greater conflict. At times he almost seems relegated to the "best friend" category of relevance, relinquishing center stage to Thorin as the leading man. That is not to say that Bilbo is insignificant or that Thorin is not superb when in the spotlight. Quite the contrary, I would readily pronounce Martin Freeman's Bilbo and Richard Armitage's Thorin as the standout performances of this installment, along with Luke Evans as Bard and Smaug (at least for voice-acting). Freeman's impeccable portrayal of the quirky hobbit feels authentic and natural, true to Bilbo's somewhat comedic character, yet still leaves room for Bilbo's character development to be convincing. Thorin easily stands out for his perfect representation of consuming madness and obsession over the treasure. The movies grander moments come at the hands of one of these two characters. And make  no mistake, there are certainly striking moments in The Battle of the Five Armies, but...

...While there is no lack of good acting, it can't always cover weak writing. The "love story" emphasized here is born of a rather short conversation shown in The Desolation of Smaug. That exchange is truly the only foundation for what becomes a superfluous side-plot that distracts from the main conflict and stirs the sort of drama that echoes the worst sentiments of lesser literature (usually of the kind involving vampires). Kili, one of the youngest of the dwarves, has fallen hard for Tauriel, and is less than coy about it. Tauriel returns the sentiment, but due to racial issues instead chooses to go on a mission with Legolas, who has his own romantic inclinations towards Tauriel. In a strange and misguided effort to win her over through pity, he takes her to a desolate land where an evil army is gathering, and gives a dramatic line about his mother dying here. This pointless errand serves no purpose but to temporarily remove the pair from the central conflict so they can re-enter the story at the most convenient moment possible, and contribute to the saving of the day. Without giving away too much, suffice to say that the conclusion of this odd triangle merely confirms its irrelevance.

Books and source material aside, The Battle of the Five Armies is difficult to judge well if weighed against the Lord of the Rings movies. While in fairness they are different stories, The Hobbit trilogy takes great pains to tie itself to Lord of the Rings and be taken just as seriously, while trying to be distinct to itself. Yet it would seem that a chronological viewing of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings would weaken the gravitas of the latter, rather than strengthen it. Early in The Fellowship of the Ring the audience learns that Saruman has turned evil, but The Battle of the Five Armies eliminates the possibility of that being a surprise. Strider in The Fellowship of the Ring is introduced as a mysterious and perhaps shadowy character at first, but The Battle of the Five Armies' completely gratuitous reference to him lessens that uncertainty as well. Certain events and relationships involving Legolas in The Battle of the Five Armies undermine his character in the Lord of the Rings movies, reducing the long-held racial issues between dwarves and elves to a juvenile bitterness over a crush gone wrong. All in all, The Hobbit trilogy creates multiple issues of continuity and various implications on plot for The Lord of the Rings if taken as a whole, and creates more questions than it ever answers.

If The Hobbit movies could be entirely separated from The Lord of the Rings movies, detached from writings of Tolkien, and made an entirely independent fantasy franchise, it wouldn't be half-bad, but would still fail to stand out beyond its genre the way that The Lord of the Rings or Pan's Labyrinth do. Rather than expand upon this point I'll just summarize it to this: depending on how you define fantasy, it could be well-argued that the genre in general has had a tumultuous relationship with quality, and has not commanded much respect or necessarily reached great heights of movie-making. Therefore, to say that The Hobbit succeeds as a fantasy movie is actually mediocre praise.

Assuming the audience hasn't read the book, The Battle of the Five Armies is no more or less than entertaining on a summer-blockbuster level. Those expecting the sobriety and pathos of Lord of the Rings will be disappointed, but those looking for something more on the level of The Chronicles of Narnia will be impressed. Those looking for an exciting family movie will enjoy it, but those wanting epic battle and struggle will probably yawn. As a fantasy movie, The Battle of the Five Armies is not necessarily a paragon of its genre, but with a willingness to overlook certain missteps in writing, and closing one's eyes to the constant insistence that The Hobbit movies are part of Lord of the Rings, it is hardly the blight of its genre either. It's okay, but not nearly as great as it thinks itself to be. I'm not sure I'd be eager to see it again, but I'm not sorry to have seen it once.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Maleficent is the sort of movie that counts on the audience either being invested in the original Disney Sleeping Beauty, or unable to resist Angelina Jolie. I grew up on Sleeping Beauty, so I was more than a little curious to see what what Wicked would do with the classic story from a different perspective. Wait, I mean Maleficent.

For a movie that is meant to tell the backstory of a character who famously proclaimed herself to be the Mistress of All Evil and called upon the powers of Hell, this movie is strangely saccharine with a distinct lack of darkness. I'm not suggesting a completely grim Snow White and the Huntsman retelling, but a little less sparkle and shine might have served this movie well considering how it managed to be less dark than the animated version. Really, other than the whole curse of eternal slumber that can only be broken by true love's kiss, Maleficent never seemed all that bad-- just a woman scorned, and we all know what they say about that as regards Hell's fury. Seriously though, at no point did she seem like she was really the Mistress of All Evil. She just seemed really bitter and emotionally scarred from a traumatic event in her past.

Speaking of a traumatic event in her past, Angelina Jolie calls the clipping of Maleficent's wings "metaphorical of rape." In context, it makes perfect sense because of how it happens, and how she reacts to it. The disfiguring of her body by the loss of her wings is really symbolic of how the event disfigures her soul, as it is this event that ruthlessly crushes her innocence and forces her to an intimate acquaintance with the world of pain and evil. But once again, seen as a woman who has been marred by the man she loved, she really doesn't seem demonic as in the animated version, nor is her quest for vengeance all that convincing. Maybe this is because of how easily she is turned from hatred to love by her maternal protection of young Aurora. Predictably, the true love that breaks the spell isn't from the dashing prince. If you've seen Frozen, this twist should really not come as a surprise at all.

Back on point, I find that the backstory involving Maleficent and Stephan creates more inconsistency and weakness of plot than it adds any strength at all. For example, Maleficent casts a curse upon young Aurora to punish Stephan, but is unwavering in her kindness to Aurora throughout the girl's life. Considering the level of offense that initially transformed Maleficent from fairy to specter, her immediate attachment to Aurora undermines her alleged wickedness significantly, which then weakens the idea that her love for the girl had any real impact on Maleficent's renouncement of "evil." Basically, Maleficent comes off more as a woman playing evil rather than actually being evil.

In all reality, Jolie's version of the character Maleficent is so far removed from the villainess of Sleeping Beauty that had it not been for the references and imagery that tie the movies together, they could have passed for completely different stories. The backstory of Maleficent was clearly meant to add layers to her character and explain what is more or less the untold story from her perspective. Unfortunately, this movie's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: Angelina Jolie. Certainly Jolie has the acting skills to make the character work, and she does this extremely well given what she had to work with. However, the movie focuses so exclusively on her without any development to other characters, yet doesn't really deepen her character at all. I can only conclude that the film-makers assumed that her presence alone would negate the need for further development, or that she could somehow make something spectacular out of mediocre material. This turns out to be a loss all the way around, because the young audiences most likely to be entertained by the glimmering world of fantasy and nitwit fairies are least likely to care what actress plays Maleficent, while the more mature audiences aware of Jolie's acting capabilities won't walk away impressed.

In the end it's not a terrible movie, but really not all that great, and certainly unlikely to affect the opinion of any kid who was scared during Sleeping Beauty. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

If you leave this movie without an 80's anthem stuck in your head, you're doing something wrong. The key to enjoying this movie is to not take it too seriously, brush up on your 80's pop culture, and embrace the cheese as fully as you can.

When we first meet Peter Quill, aka Star-lord, he is mysteriously abducted by alien spacecraft after watching his mother quietly pass away. Fast forward a few yeas, Quill is a music-loving, sacred grounds-desecrating artifact thief. Think of him as a cross between Han Solo and Captain Jack Sparrow, with a dash of Indiana Jones, and you'll have it about right. Despite having been abducted by aliens in the middle of his grief from losing his mother, and then raised by a rogue band of miscreants who reportedly wanted to eat him, Quill isn't a tortured hero with deep emotional baggage, which I found extremely refreshing. Not only would such an archetype be painfully out of place in this movie's tone, it would have rendered Quill's entire devil-may-care attitude a complete farce. Did Han Solo mope about his life as a smuggler and the enemies out to get him? Of course not. Quill is a welcome return to that Han Solo style of anti-hero: scoundrel, but not without a heart (as shown by his attachment to his walk-man with the cassette of classic oldies. Yes, you read that right-- a guy who flies spaceships and steals artifacts from distant planets does so with a walk-man and a cassette tape).

Among the rest of the crew eventually dubbed "Guardians of the Galaxy" are Rocket and Groot-- arguably the most obscure members of this ragtag band. Rocket is a quick-talking, mischievous bounty-hunter of a raccoon with a tall pet tree as a bodyguard. Said tree can only say "I am Groot" with different inflections and expressions to communicate emotion. This is oddly more effective than you might think, actually. Meanwhile, Rocket has enough words for the both of them, and never holds back what he's thinking, no matter how tactless it may be. They're unlikely yet perfect partners, just like the team as a whole really.

Next up is the shapely Gamora-- the adopted daughter of Thanos. It turns out however, that she actually resents Thanos wiping out her entire family and then adopting her to be an assassin. For a big bad guy like Thanos, I'm not sure how that didn't cross his mind, but it's not that important. She's working for Ronan, but she's out to double-cross him too and make sure he never gets his hands on the infinity stone that Quill is carrying around. Meanwhile, teammate Drax is out for revenge on Ronan for the murder of his wife and daughter, which is a legitimate vendetta. What Drax lacks in quick smarts (or comprehension of sarcasm and metaphors), he makes up for in brute strength.

This crew of misfits make up the team Guardians of the Galaxy, and eventually they save an entire planet...on purpose! This is especially surprising when you consider that earlier in the movie they were about to hand over the infinity stone to The Collector--the sleezy pawnshop owner seen at the end of Thor 2. But in the inevitable moment when the team must decide to save their own skins, or fight an impossible foe, they do the right thing.

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the few movies that actually does a decent job of walking the line between a sci-fi action movie and a spoof. It has too much of both sides to succeed as a representative of either genre, but the result of the even balance is deliberately cheesy, highly amusing piece of entertainment that glories in celebrating its own overdone moments. The success of this attitude can be largely attributed to the somewhat unknown source material, and lack of any major-name movie stars except in supporting roles. Without any major stars in the leading roles, and not many people familiar with the source material, expectations were ambiguous if not low. Yet this actually works to the movie's advantage, because despite its stupidity, it feels thoroughly genuine rather than forced.

I can think of no better way to conclude than to recall a sequence that perfectly captures the quirky spirit of the movie. After an ambitious and thrown-together prison break full of explosions and narrow escapes, Quill doubles back to retrieve some personal items while the others board the ship. Once they are on board and leaving the bay, someone asks "where's Quill?" No sooner has the question has been completed, that Drax looks theatrically to the side to see Quill zooming towards them with his jet-boots, hair rippling in the slow-motion splendor of absurdity against a galactic backdrop, complete with the classic song "Escape" accompanying his moment. It is the most perfect embrace of absolute cheese that doesn't take itself seriously, and doesn't get lazy.

And for those of you who didn't catch it, it's Howard the Duck.
I know. WHAT?! 

X-men: Days of Future Past

This may be hard to believe, but the X-men movies have been appearing in theaters for fourteen years. The very first movie debuted in 2000, and moviegoers have been given installments of various characters and story arcs ever since. If you go all the way back to the first movie, you won't find it that hard to believe how old it is based on the graphics and the ages of the actors. In some ways, reviewing X-Men: Days of Future Past is reviewing the entire franchise because the events of this most recent installment both set up and unravel everything that has been previously established. The movie did what JJ Abram's essentially did to Star Trek: created a way to tell completely new stories that are neither influenced nor hindered by previous material, while still finding a way to allow the old stories to remain. Only sci-fi can do this, and X-men: Days of Future Past takes full advantage of this device. But be warned, screwing with time is always a messy affair.

Wolverine and Sabertooth with William Stryker circa Vietnam
William Stryker in 1973
First off, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a decidedly marked improvement from First Class, most notably by getting away from the 1960's spy thriller motif that plagued the first movie. The absence of Kevin Bacon's absurd James Bond style villiany furthers this departure. Secondly and most importantly, Days of Future Past operates with the hope that the audience will forget about X-Men 3: The Last Stand and certain events in Wolverine, or at least imaginatively fill in the plot holes themselves. No bueno. For example, in Wolverine, Logan meets William Stryker during the Vietnam War, where Stryker is about forty or so. From here the infamous Weapon X project ensues where Logan's skeleton is grafted with adamantium, changing his bone claws to steel blades. In this movie, the past timeline unfolds around 1973, and William Stryker is in his twenties. Therefore, Weapon X hasn't happened yet, so younger Logan has not been grafted with adamantium.Since Stryker didn't meet up with Logan and company in Vietnam, we have no idea where Sabertooth, Deadpool, or any of those guys are either. Another example is that at the end of First Class, Xavier and Eric part ways and Xavier establishes his school. But in X-Men 3: the Last Stand, the two are shown as older men visiting a young Jean Grey together to recruit her to their school. By the end of Days of Future Past, young Eric and Xavier have not reconciled, and they part ways again. So... did they make up again after Days of Future Past and become co-administrators of the school for a while? Or is this another detail that is presumably undone by the time reset?

Days of Future Past takes place at an undisclosed time in the not-too-distant future wherein some of the youths from Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters are now constantly on the run from the Sentinels-- mutant-seeking and destroying war drones. Clearly, a lot has changed since the conclusion of The Last Stand where mutants were freely existing in society. The small band of rogue mutants has died several times already it would seem, but Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) has rewound time again and again to give them a chance to escape. Well, technically she transferred someone's consciousness into their past self so that the past self could warn them and they can all escape. Nevermind that she could only ever walk through walls before-- she has this power now, and how she came by it is apparently unimportant. There may have been a passing reference to her "evolving", which is awfully convenient if you ask me. Professor Charles Xavier's on-again off-again friendship with Eric Lensher (Magneto) is on again, and they are working together to save mutant humanity from genocidal annihilation. Try and forget that Xavier was disintegrated in The Last Stand and Eric lost his powers of magnetism. Yes, yes, I remember the end of credits scenes wherein it was implied that Eric's powers may return and that Xavier had successfully transferred his consciousness to a brain-dead patient. How he got his original body back is exactly what the film-makers hope you won't wonder about. To be fair, there is a post-credits scene at the end of The Wolverine (not to be confused with its predecessor Wolverine) that introduces the resurrected Xavier, but it still doesn't explain anything. Just as well.

Moving on, Wolverine essentially goes back in time to find a younger Xavier and Eric, to convince them to stop Mystique from doing something that will ultimately set in motion the demise of all mutants. At this juncture, a few years have passed since First Class. Xavier is in a constant drunken stupor, leaving Hank (Beast) to take care of him, and Eric is in maximum security prison for allegedly assassinating Kennedy. None of them are quite sure where Mystique is, but it is essential that they find her before she kills Dr. Trask-- the man ultimately responsible for the Sentinels. If they succeed, an unknown but presumably more optimistic future will write itself to replace the certain future that awaits them now. Yet herein lies another continuity problem. Eric explains that the catalyst to the Sentinel project was Mystique's botched murder attempt on Dr. Trask. She was captured, experimented on, and samples of her DNA, bone marrow, brain tissue, etc. were all used in the development of the Sentinel's ability to adapt against threat. If this had occurred in the way that Eric describes, Mystique wouldn't have been his sidekick in the original trilogy-- she would be either dead from experimentation, or at least in captivity. But beyond that, the idea that the Sentinel project was underway during the events of the original X-Men trilogy is completely incompatible with the legislative conflicts that are presented in those films. Why would there be a Mutant Registration Act, Stryker's raid on Xavier's school, or the entire war at Alcatraz if the Sentinel project was already functional? The conclusion of The Last Stand implied that mutants were free to live and operate in society. While I would understand that harmony turning sour after a few years, it makes no sense that the Sentinels have been operational and advancing in development since the 70's, but not used before the future events of Days of Future Past. 

Needless to say, this movie is laden with an extremely thick and ambitious plot that is only smooth for casual fans who won't stare at a blank wall when the movie is over, trying to wrap their minds around the implications of the conclusion (as I did). In many ways, Days of Future Past seemed to be director Bryan Singer's way of discrediting the events of all the movies he didn't direct. At the very least the movie made a very zealous attempt to undo various plot lines that may have written them into corners. My mind is still reeling over everything that was "undone" by this movie, and it really created more questions than it answered. Chief among these questions is, does the Logan shown at the end of the movie have adamantium? Aka, did Weapon X even happen? Least of these questions is, how did Bolivar Trask go from being a middle-aged dwarfed white guy in 1973, to an average height middle-aged black man in 2006 (as shown in The Last Stand)?

For a movie that exists in the same universe as previous X-Men movies, this one is riddled with plot holes large enough to run the whole thing through. The last two movies featuring younger versions of the cast are neither reboot nor retelling-- they are pieces that don't fit their own puzzle. To be entirely fair, as a movie, it's really pretty good as long as you either have minimal to no knowledge of previous movies and events. The younger and older versions of the characters are at least consistent with themselves, especially Michael Fassbender's supremely convincing performance as a young Magneto. James McAvoy's young Charles Xavier is not exactly the regal Professor X that we know and love, but then it is amusing to imagine that Professor X wasn't born a stalwart schoolmaster. As a comic book movie, the action sequences are stylish and entertaining, Easter eggs abound without being too blatant, and in the end all is well. In fact, in the end, all is arguably more well than it has ever been at the conclusion of any X-Men movie. As a movie by itself, it's fully satisfying. As part of a series... well clearly there are some problems.

The hardest thing to swallow about the whole movie is how much history has now been erased, and all the complications this creates. We don't know if Logan ever participated in Weapon X, if Dark Phoenix still lays dormant in Jean, what became of Magneto and Mystique, or any number of other things. And judging by current rumors about future movies, we won't know. Instead, we're asked to just accept that everything after 1973 was rewritten into a book we will never read, and be content that we've seen the last page.