Because the Future is Fun

View on the Blu: X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut (U.K. BD)

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81JIdQlSNAL_SL1500_Title:  X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut
Label:  20th Century Fox UK
Release date:  13th July 2015
Format:  Blu-ray
Video format:  1080p AVC MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio:  2.39:1 (16:9 compatible)
Soundtracks:  DTS-HD MA 7.1:  English
Subtitles:  English HOH
Runtime:  142 mins (Rogue cut)/126 mins (theatrical cut)
Rating:  BBFC 15
Buy here: Amazon UK
Official Synopsis:
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will take you back in time for an all new experience as X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST – THE ROGUE CUT hits Blu-ray and DVD on 13 July.

Fan-favourite mutant Rogue, played by Anna Paquin (True Blood), joins the all-star cast, including Hugh Jackman (Prisoners), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), James McAvoy (Trance), Halle Berry (Cloud Atlas), Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games), Ellen Page (Inception), Ian McKellen (The Lord of the Rings) and Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation), as they prepare to battle the Sentinels!

With a never-before-seen, alternate cut of the film – plus nearly 90 minutes of all-new, immersive special features – X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST – THE ROGUE CUT takes you deeper into the X-Men universe than ever before. Rogue makes her return as the all-star characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves, uniting to battle armies of murderous Sentinel robots who are hunting down mutants and humans alike!

Packed with an all new cut of X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and nearly 90 minutes of new content, X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST – THE ROGUE CUT is the ultimate fan collectible! Go behind-the-battle for Earth with the definitive documentary “Mutant vs Machine”, or look into the future with a sneak peek of the new Fantastic Four film.

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Review
Seen as a triumphant return to Fox’s most successful Marvel franchise of original director and ongoing producer Bryan Singer (while under a since-dissipated legal cloud no less), the big-screen adaptation of the classic Chris Claremont/John Byrne/Len Wein eighties arc proved a sizable summer hit with audiences, although divisive with critics. Despite being released after Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-man 2, audiences were clearly suffering little to no superhero movie fatigue last year, unlike some critics, although Guardians of the Galaxy was still to come but would also remain very clearly unaffected by the same.  However, while in the intervening years Singer has mastered something of this scale of film-making, he nevertheless prefers a smaller palette to previous franchise entry director Matthew Vaughn; the latter’s X-Men: First Class not only kicked off the new trilogy in style, it remains the high point of the entire series with its perfect blend of cinema and comic-book references, practical and CG VFX, and intimate character moments with large-scale multi-character action sequences.

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Fan blinkers aside, the strengths of this latest film include a smart adaptation of the original’s storyline (and the nineties’ cartoon adaptation of it) for the film series’ own mythology and characters by writer/producer Simon Kinberg (the man doing for Fox Marvel properties what Kevin Feige does at Marvel Studios, but more hands-on still) working from Vaughn & Jane Goldman’s story outline; a well-realised period setting (seventies America); bio-tech Sentinels in the future, wonderfully period versions in 1973; and some bravura action sequences on different scales.  Singer re-uniting most of his key production staff from the first two films with the kind of budget they never had back then leads to some epic sci-fi visions worthy of the comic, in particular FINALLY seeing Halle Berry’s Storm exercise the moral leadership and large-scale powers readers know and love.  As with many similar alt-continuity comics, the far-future “fight to the death” stuff is actually some of the best-looking, most emotionally-involving parts of the film, with barely-introduced X-Men given just enough room for really good actors to make an impact, notably Omar Sy as Bishop, Booboo Stewart as Warpath and Bingbing Fan as Blink.

DF-02072 - (from left): Sun Spot (Adan Canto), Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Colossus (Daniel Cudmore) prepare for an epic battle to save their kind.

Weaknesses include an emotional de-fanging of Jennifer Lawrence’s wonderful version of Raven Darkholme aka Mystique, reducing her from the emotional centre of the previous film to a plot fulcrum here, thus allowing Singer to foreground his male stars and their bonding as he did with his first two films.  (Look how much better Halle Berry’s work is as Storm in the first two when you can see all the deleted scenes Singer cut from those films in favour of Jackman’s pecs and Stewart and McKellen giving good gravitas.)  It’s no surprise that under his direction this version of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch reduces the latter to a non-speaking little girl (now with one line in this version) quickly edited off-stage in favour of a glam teenage version of the former, but at least he gets one of those aforementioned bravura sequences. (Compare with Whedon’s reversioning of them for the MCU, making them closer in age but also trimming his action scenes in order to favour the Witch’s dramatic arc.)  A version that had stuck to the original comic, sending back Kitty herself instead of Wolverine, would have given us the joy of seeing the wonderful Ellen Page breaking up the 70s sausagefest with her more mature take on the Prydester, but it was not to be. Still, all of the performers make the most of their moments in a very busy film, and few are left without anything to do; in fact, with half of his classmates shown to be dead from experimentation Nicholas Hoult has loads to do as Beast, and is great, butching him up a fair bit having played a heroic lead for Singer before.

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So how does this new cut stack up then? Rogue is a mainstay of the X-Men in any medium, an eighties villain turned hero, but the Fox-Marvel cinematic universe version effectively turns her into a combination of 80s Kitty Pryde and Jubilee, complete with the relationship to Wolverine and the almost passive schoolgirl approach to her powers. Anna Paquin, a fantastic actress from early on and one of the youngest Oscar winners ever, finds the strength within her in the early films, but doesn’t get to approach the strong mainstay of the combat team until X3, so knowing she was coming back for this instalment meant fans had high expectations, especially after years of Paquin on True Blood showing she could do so much more.  Sadly she and Berry received short shrift once more, both giving their all but with barely any final screentime, so when word before release that there was footage of the former excised, the petitions started in earnest to see those sequences, either as Deleted Scenes or in sequence as originally planned. Cue a year later and Fox, never one to miss an opportunity to cash in (see the feature version of Daredevil for example), have given us the opportunity to make the comparison ourselves.

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Except that for over an hour and a half there’s almost nothing to distinguish this cut from the earlier one. Then the big change kicks in, and small though they are they help (along with the many small touches added in throughout the runtime) make this the superior version of the film. Seeing the future Professor X and Magneto do one last mission with Ice Man to rescue Rogue in order to have her take over from Kitty is so well cut together with 1973 Magneto’s return to the Pentagon that both sequences gain in weight, McKellen getting to exercise that Holocaust-fuelled anger one more time when faced with what’s happening to Rogue. Paquin is regal in her moments here, grown up and capable, though sadly still not given an action beat of her own now she looks ready for one (and she really does finally look like the badass flying fighting Rogue we comic-book fans know and love), but moments are all they are.

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Of huge interest however is an additional sequence between Mystique and Beast that restores some emotional independence and narrative agency to Lawrence’s brilliant version of Rebeca Romijin’s original fantastic incarnation of one of the great 4-colour characters. It also continues arcs for both her and Hoult’s terrific Beast from First Class, helping make this film more of a proper sequel to that film rather than just the original trilogy, which is what it often felt like in the cinema. Frankly this new version is worth it just for this sequence alone, even if Singer & Ottman disagree in the commentary.

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That said, Singer and Ottman’s control of the parallel final sequences is superb, now naturally following on from the parallel editing of the Rogue mission, increasing the build-up of suspense and audience involvement in the rising tide of emotion fuelling the action. This makes everything in the final act much more satisfying, rewarding us with a truly moving finale that includes several surprise cameos which were thankfully kept under wraps by the press last year. Now an additional beat completes an antagonist’s arc, and the emotional tenor crescendos perfectly with Ottman’s score over the final credits and the teaser for the next film shooting now, Age of Apocalypse, which will complete this second X trilogy in the 80s where so much of what makes the film versions was first created.

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Video & Audio Quality
It’s been a long time since we saw a bad-looking & -sounding disc from Fox UK, and this is no exception. The first disc carries both the original theatrical cut and the new Rogue cut (no 3D version) and there is no difference between the two for quality purposes. While what constitutes reference material shifts as the tech on which we view changes, this disc is pretty much just that, unless viewing on a 4k and Dolby Atmos system. We say “pretty much” as a couple of 70s-set action scenes where digital and practical effects combine had slight smearing for the briefest of moments, but many won’t notice even those. Colours, detail, textures are all excellent, as is the choice modern 7.1 mix (the film did have an Atmos mix in equipped theatres), which rarely for a blockbuster doesn’t favour the action over the dialogue when both are present.

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Extras
Disc 1 carries the original director & writer/producer commentary on the theatrical cut and a new director & composer/editor commentary on the Rogue Cut. Singer was at the forefront of commentaries on DVD, with his commentary with writer (and now blockbuster director himself) Christopher McQuarrie on their breakout smash The Usual Suspects still one of the most memorable of its kind. For someone reportedly quiet on set he remains an excellent guide through his films and always worth a listen for budding film-makers, whether paired with producer Kinberg or in more jocular mode with old friend and collaborator Ottman.

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Disc 2 carries everything else, and is frankly what fans expected from the first release. The hour of short featurettes is here replaced by an excellent, detailed hour-long Making-of Doc Mutants vs. Machine that interviews just about everybody worth talking to. The scale and complexity of the shoot given the timeframe it had to be made in, the loss of its original director, accommodating all the actors’ schedules, and figuring out the effects work all give a viewer a new appreciation for the achievement realised by Singer and the rest.  X-Men Unguarded is a too-short half-hour group interview with pretty much all the cast, director and producer in one room, a comic yet informative joy to watch.  It’s also a terrific reminder that before Marvel Studios this century Blade and X-Men kicked off the era of comic book movies partly by casting great actors who the public would take seriously; have comic-book fans ever had it so good as with a cast as good as this bringing beloved characters to life? Finally, 15 galleries grouped under 3 categories cover storyboards, costumes and concept art in manual or auto-advance viewing modes; under the latter they add up to over 80 minutes of content containing over 900 images (yes, we counted!).  Completists will want to retain last year’s disc for the 3D version and the extras, but there is no question that on the latter front this is the superior edition (make your own 3-disc set folks!). (There’s also a Sneak Peek at this year’s lambasted Fantastic Four movie from the same producer, which frankly looks visually of a piece with this and previous X-Men films; having missed it in cinemas we await the disc of that film to assess its worth.)

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Conclusion
While not our favourite 2014 superhero big-screen experience (that honour goes to the one-two punch from Marvel of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy), we did enjoy a lot of what Days of Future Past had to offer the first time around. There’s no doubt in our minds however that The Rogue Cut is the superior and definitive version of the film, and elevates it to the level of the experience of those other movies. As the perfect blend of the old and new X-Men movies built on a clever restructuring of a classic storyline it exemplifies much of what made the original comics so great in the eighties while also reinforcing something that both First Class and Captain America made abundantly clear: no studio should shy away from making superhero films period pieces, as they often benefit immensely from being set in such times. (Still a lesson no-one has quite learnt with regards to the Fantastic Four it seems.) We wholeheartedly endorse this particular release as well; if you only intend to own one copy of the film then this is the release to buy, unless the lack of the 3D version is a dealbreaker; for us that is most definitely not the case.  See you back here next year for the 80s-set trilogy finale Age of Apocalypse, which we are now looking forward to far more than we did last year.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST – THE ROGUE CUT is avilable on Digital HD, Blu-ray and DVD now. 

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