Starnger Things: What’s Next

So I finished Stranger Things Season Two this weekend.  Before I get into my thoughts on where the show goes from here, here’s your standard spoiler warning.  The article continues after the trailer.

Season two of Stranger things was a lot of fun.  Eight of the nine episodes were nearly flawless.  The other one introduced some interesting world-building that could be used to make season three something a bit different.  That’s what I’d like to write about, where the show goes from here.

While the last scene threatened another round of our heroes versus “the upside down,” I kind of hope that the seeds of season three are contained in episode seven of season two.  While some ink has been spilled by critics about why the “El/Jane goes to the Chicago” episode is the weakest of the season, I think that’s a function of the fact that it isn’t given the room to breathe that the rest of the series is granted.  It also occurs in the middle of a cliffhanger, which throws off the rhythm of other eight episodes.

As an aside, with some notable exceptions (Thor, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer) the most powerful characters in Marvel comics are typically X-Men and other “mutant” characters.  Arguably, the most powerful is Jean Grey – who among other things can manipulate all matter with her mind.    Sound familiar?

As we know from episode seven, El/Jane isn’t the only super-powered being out there.  At least one of her siblings is roaming the country dispensing vigilante justice.  There are at least nine others, whose powers and whereabouts haven’t been revealed.

Now, El/Jane with her Jean Grey powers might have an advantage over the others.  A well worn comic book trope, however, is that this power also makes her a target.  For season three I’d like to see her have to protect her friends against her rogue “siblings,” while the Mind Flayer licks its wounds and somehow returns for season 4.

(c) 2017 D.G. McCabe


X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Directed by Bryan Singer, U.S., 2014

Sometimes I wish that the creators of some bad movies would create sequels or remakes that would undo all of the damage those bad movies did to their respective franchises.  After all, how many of us have spent more time talking about how the Star Wars prequels could have been better if they just made a few changes?  Or wish the Indiana Jones series only had two movies in it?  Or wish a mad-with-power William Shatner had never made Star Trek V?  Enter X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Like its unfortunately botched predecessor,  2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand (which was loosely – extremely loosely – based on the Dark Phoenix Saga), Days of Future Past is based on a beloved classic X-Men story.  What Last Stand got wrong, Days of Future Past gets mostly right.

Days of Future Past is a sequel to Last Stand, but it is moreso a sequel to the far superior X-Men: First Class (2011).  The future part of “Days of Future Past” is a framing device only, as the future Professor X and Magneto (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time.  In the comics, it’s Shadowcat (Ellen Page) that goes back, which makes a lot more sense but hey, gotta have Wolverine as a central character in an X-Men movie!

Anyway, Wolverine has to take a burnt out 1973 Professor X (James McAvoy), and imprisoned 1973 Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and get them to stop 1973 Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from doing something that will result in horrible killbots destroying the world in 2013.

The movie relies upon the strong character foundations of First Class and The Wolverine (2013), so it doesn’t spend a lot of time on the background of its the characters.  That is actually okay in this circumstance – we already know these characters. This avoidance of repetitive background information allows the movie to indulge in some of the better action sequences in any comic book film.

Also, unlike some Spider-man related sequels, Days of Future Past avoids too-many-villain-syndrome.  Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) is interesting, and the evil robots he creates are devastating to the future X-Men, but the real villain in this film is time itself.

That touches a nerve I think.  The movie would be one of the better comic book films due to its indulgence in comic book action rather than filler, but its premise gives it an added dimension.  We all wish we could go back and change one or two things about the past after all, especially, I imagine, if a choice we make results in the destruction of our civilization.   Or even, if the choice we made to hire Brett Ratner and rush out a crappy sequel caused people to question whether this our lucrative franchise should just revert back to Marvel/Disney.

On that note, I like where Fox is headed with X-Men.  The Days of Future Past storyline in the comics put off the destruction of the world for a time, but it left a hanging question over the heads of the X-Men as to whether they weren’t ultimately doomed anyway.  Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out.

Finally, if Fox continues to produce quality X-Men films like Days of Future Past and First Class, I don’t think the franchise should revert back to Disney.  After all, the biggest problem I have with the Marvel comic book universe is that the X-Men work better as a stand alone universe.  Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense that the Fantastic Four and Avengers are revered while mutants are persecuted.  What makes the X-Men so special/reviled in a world where super powered beings are a dime a dozen?  Plus, it gives Marvel a lazy way of creating hero back-story because, when in doubt, they can just make someone a mutant.

Anyway, that’s a discussion for another time.  Back on topic – if you like the X-Men you should see this movie.

You might like X-Men: Days of Future Past if: You like the X-Men, and are sick of comic book movie sequels that contain repetitive characterization and endless, one-dimensional, villains.

You might not like X-Men: Days of Future Past if: You think comic book movies are silly.

(c) 2014 D.G. McCabe