Beta decay: Rogue Cut a disappointment

*Nerd Stuff — There was a very good reason to include Rogue in Days of Future Past. The sentinels of the future can seemingly take any mutant power they encounter, and we are told this is because of breakthroughs made researching Mystique’s DNA. However, this doesn’t really hold up — Mystique cannot take other mutant’s powers, only their shape. To do this, the sentinels would also need Rogue’s power-absorbing abilities. The thinking was that’s what this plot would revolve around — the sentinels have captured Rogue and somehow need her alive to continue using her powers, and the group had to get her back in order to make the sentinels beatable. That’s not what happened. Photos courtesy 20th Century Fox.

X-Men: Days of Future Past, with its cyclone of conflicts and powerful, emotional rejection of violence quickly became one of my favorite superhero movies last May, but it is far from a perfect film. There are bad pacing problems in the first act, and the audience never really gets to see the holocaust the characters are fighting to prevent. Rumors swirled immediately after the film’s release of a longer cut that would be released on home media more prominently featuring Rogue (Anna Paquin), whose role was reduced to a brief cameo. The thought among fans was that this longer cut would solve some of the movie’s problems.

Well, The Rogue Cut arrived about half a month ago, and that’s not the case at all.

If you’re into Nerd Stuff*, there’s a pretty big plot hole in the theatrical release that Rogue solves, but her role in the actual cut is pretty far out of left field. In both cuts, Logan (Hugh Jackman) sees William Stryker (Josh Helman), the man who would later capture and mutilate him, in 1973, and, overcome with rage, his body in the future slashes about and deals a mortal wound to Kitty Pride (Ellen Page), who is projecting his consciousness into the past. Pride starts bleeding out, and in the theatrical release this is meant to put a time limit on Logan’s excursion into the past. In The Rogue Cut, the elder versions of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Erik Lehnsherr (Ian McKellan) and Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore) jet off to retrieve Rogue so she can absorb Pride’s powers and continue holding Logan in the ’70s.

The reasons given for Rogue not already being with them are that Xavier couldn’t sense her because she’s being held inside Cerebro where his mind can’t reach, which is dumb, and also that she’s too heavily guarded, which the film later shows is simply not true.

Strangely, this advertised sub-plot only accounts for about 10 of the 17 new minutes, and it all comes after the 100 minute mark, so Rogue’s actual footage has a smaller impact on the feel of the movie than other added scenes — namely, more reminders of that weird non-cannon relationship between Drake and Pride from The Last Stand and a big reminder of that weird non-cannon relationship between Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) and Raven Darkhölme (Jennifer Lawrence) from First Class.

For those of you who successfully put it out of your mind, a major subplot in X-Men: The Last Stand was Drake and Pride starting a romance, despite Drake’s ongoing relationship with Rogue. Drake’s wandering eye was driven by Rogue’s powers, which make it impossible for her to touch others without hurting them, and this knowledge in turn drove Rogue to accept the mutant cure. No one was comfortable with the movie in general because it was awful, but due to some Nerd Stuff**, this relationship was a particularly uncomfortable aspect.

The reminders of this in Days of Future Past were simply a shot of Drake and Pride holding hands, but The Rogue Cut adds in a couple of smooches and “I love yous,” emphasizing the point that this was a thing that happened. The discomfort hasn’t abated.

**Nerd Stuff — Kitty Pride and Bobby Drake getting together was awkward for comic fans because Pride’s love with Peter Rasputin, who was introduced in the very same movie, is one of the most storied in X-Men’s 50-year existence. The Last Stand introduced a Drake/Pride romance to exacerbate Rogue’s desire to be sexual with her boyfriend pitted against her pride as a mutant and sense of responsibility as an X-Man, but they easily could have done the same thing by having Pride and Rasputin get together, honoring the comics and not introducing uncomfortable infidelity issues into the mix. Image courtesy Marvel Comics.

The scene between McCoy and Darkhölme, however, is much better. This romance began in X-Men: First Class when writer/director Matthew Vaughn, in the last draft of the story, got hammered and decided the movie needed another love story that would go nowhere and settled on these two because, well, they’re both blue. The initial romance in that movie was tame and boring, but it ended when McCoy casually mentioned that no one would ever say Darkhölme is beautiful.

Days of Future Past — The Rogue Cut picks up the thread of this romance and plays with it in some really interesting ways. Where First Class stupidly went for a PG rating, Rogue Cut actually gives viewers the Smurf makeout scene, which is nice and sexy, but also dramatic and beautifully written and shot. The short scene addresses the shapeshifters’ unique body image issues, and in a lot of ways is much more intimate than the average Hollywood sex scene.

The intrigue of the scene is compounded by the fact that it’s Lawrence delivering these lines of insecurity. Since accepting the role of Mystique for First Class, which released in 2011, Lawrence has gone from that one girl who got nominated for Winter’s Bone to an international superstar with her own Young Adult franchise and one Oscar win out of three nominations, probably the most famous and desired woman in the world right now. Darkhölme’s insistence that McCoy be attracted to her base form, her true self, particularly when her most common human disguise is this curvy bombshell who pretty much everyone wants to have sex with, brings a lot of depth and vulnerability to the character, and is also a stark contrast from X2, when a much older Darkhölme (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) tries to seduce Logan by first disguising herself as his crush and then offering to appear however he wanted.

Long after these much more impactful additions, we get to the Rogue part of The Rogue Cut. The best part of the theatrical release was its climax, when the younger Lehnsherr’s (Michael Fassbender) drop-a-baseball-stadium-on-it scene is intercut with the mutant group in the future being wiped out by sentinels for the second time, both sewing and reaping the seeds of Magneto’s terrorism in one moving sequence. The part of The Rogue Cut that Rogue is actually in adds another scene of the film at its best, as the younger Lehnsherr retrieving his helmet so he can go through with the baseball scene without Xavier (James McAvoy) stopping him is intercut with the elder Xavier telepathically guiding the elder Lehnsherr through his mansion so they can continue their desperate mission to stop the younger Lehnsherr’s violence. This new, second best part of the movie, while satisfying, betrays the ultimate lack of ambition in Simon Kinberg’s script.

***Nerd Stuff — More cool rumors were that Rogue was guarded by Nimrod, an ultra-powerful sentinel created by sentinels in the Days of Future Past comic. Seeing the sentinels finally brought to life in what will most likely be their only movie was awesome, but Nimrod’s absence, from this story in particular, is a little heartbreaking. He does not appear in The Rogue Cut. Concept art by Maciej Kuciara.

Basically, since the best parts of the movie are where past and future are intercut, they should have come up with a way to have that be the entire movie. Creatives said the Rogue section felt like a tacked on way to get the older Xavier and Lehnsherr out and about, and that’s exactly how it feels, but maybe they should have gone back to the drawing board and given them a non-tacked on way to get out and about. Like, Pride and Logan do their thing, then Xavier says, “You do that, we’re gonna pop off and liberate a nearby death camp, ’cause we’re superheroes and that’s how we roll.”

Something like this would have solved all the theatrical release’s problems — viewers would get a glimpse of the human suffering the characters are so desperate to prevent, seen the future band of mutants doing something other than running away and seen them actually beating the future sentinels, which stomp on them in every encounter.

That, plus adding a few minutes to the early dialogue scenes so they don’t feel rushed, would bring Days of Future Past up several notches, and also close to a three hour runtime, but that would be OK. This is a special edition DVD meant for the people who saw an already 131 minute movie and said, “Yes, give me more.”

The Rogue Cut doesn’t really give more. This is not a special cut of the movie for avid fans. This is an initial cut that was deemed too long and weaker in the narrative than the eventual theatrical cut, and that was a correct judgment. The theatrical cut is a much better film. Fox had a chance to go back and add enough to turn The Rogue Cut into the better movie, and they didn’t take it.

Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. My eyebrows don’t work. I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@gmail.com.

I’m still not sure whether or not Iceman is supposed to be particularly badass in this movie. He gets a long entry shot, he’s the only one Xavier and Magneto take with them on their mission in The Rogue Cut and in the theatrical cut he waits with them as a last line of defense, all indicators that he’s more powerful than his compatriots, but he kills exactly as many sentinels as everyone else in the future — zero. There are three cool shots him him being decapitated, so I guess that’s something?

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One Response to Beta decay: Rogue Cut a disappointment

  1. Pingback: X-Men: Apocalypse a substandard addition to an otherwise improving franchise | Reel Entropy

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