Early this July, X-Men: Days of Future Past (the Rogue Cut) was released on Blu-Ray and DVD. It is said to include fifteen minutes more re-inserted footage into the theatrical version. Also present is an extended making of, in which they discussed why the cuts were made, but also why they released the extended version. The primary reason given is run time and rhythm, although I dispute the rhythm part because the new footage supplements and improves the tone of the film, and the run time argument because, well, you’ll see below. In any case, it is a magnificent version of the film, which should have been the only version released at all.
For starters, I feel that the run time argument can be disputed based on a number of examples: no one would argue that The Godfather or The Godfather Part II suffers because of their three-hour plus running time (hell, Paramount Pictures made a three-plus hour run time a requirement for Part III; Michael Mann’s Heat clocks in at 2 hours 45 minutes before the final credits role, but you cannot cut any of the scenes, given that the film makes it a point, and succeeds, at giving every character, main and secondary, a full arc, with a starter scene, middle scene, and final scene (including a character who would normally be ignored aside from being a plot device); Ridley Scott’s Gladiator runs a little long, but it works. My point is that for good films, where the scenes integrate, are not gratuitous, and add to the film at large, be it emotionally, or character-wise, can run on the long side. When a film is handled properly by a good director (which Bryan Singer is, by the way), length shouldn’t be an issue; I’m not saying all films should adhere to this attitude (seriously, Bad Boys II is long enough).
Which brings me to why the Rogue Cut is so important: it adds proper drama and issues to not the past days, but the future days. In the theatrical cut, the Sentinels arrive, apparently inevitably, which in turn makes second viewing have an added sense of dread; however, ultimately, it wastes the talents of Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Shawn Ashmore, and of course Anna Paquin; the first three because they spend most of the movie just hanging around, and Paquin because her role gets reduced from a serious and vital part to a minor cameo (which is why, by the way, she retained such a prominent credit). The added drama of the Rogue Cut is that Kitty Pryde is mortally wounded by Wolverine during the Parisian fight (in the future tense of course), as opposed to being seriously wounded; it reaches a point where Iceman is desperate enough to discuss rescuing Rogue, who has been not only captured, but brutally experimented on by the humans running the Sentinels; furthermore, they hid her within Cerebro, where Professor X would not be able to find her.
The rescue sequence works because it is juxtaposed with the past tense Cerebro sequence; the cutting back and forth is about two senses of danger; young Charles needs to regain his powers to track Raven, and stop her from taking out Trask, just as the future of everybody is at stake if Magneto and Iceman cannot rescue Rogue so as to relieve Kitty and allow Wolverine more time. The other cute Easter Egg is one of revelation; the X-Men were fine in the monastery to that point; a Sentinel arm, left on the X-Jet, leads them right to the where all our heroes are hiding. The addition of Rogue not only brings back a popular (and original in terms of the film series) character, but also (a) shows us the human side of the otherwise Sentinel-dominated world, (b) allows us to see the cost of continued mutant survival through Iceman’s death, and (c) demonstrates Magneto’s humanity towards his former enemies. The other key additional scene is a near-love scene between Beast and Raven, where they talk about their real natures, what society thinks of them, and their feelings towards each other; it is a small scene, but significant, given that Hank really doesn’t have too many scenes for himself. Other nuggets are small insertions that add to the texture of the world, and make things better on the whole as a result.
The Rogue Cut would have been just as successful, in my opinion; I think that the producers were too worried about the studio and what they would say; if they had fought for it, they could have taken the best X-Men film yet, and made it a true masterpiece. There is real humanity in Kitty’s problem, and how it effects the future of mutants at large; we get a better look at Raven’s underlying humanity in her scene with Beast, as well as a look at the Rebecca Romijn’s future version in the original X-Men. In an era when most artistic films are indies, Days of Future Past has a poetry and elegance to it lacking in most blockbusters; even the best Marvel Cinematic Universe films have not achieved it at such a high level. Exempting the use of 3D, which doesn’t really add anything and only serves to bolster the price tag per ticket, Days of Future Past was one of the best cinema experiences I had last year, alongside Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The truth is that Hollywood needs to re-think what it wants from its films; The Avengers: Age of Ultron proved that two-and-a-half hours can work when you fill the space up correctly; on the other hand, Roman Polanski’s Carnage is an hour twenty minutes in length, which is perfect for that time; it seems like no one cares about the fact that James Cameron’s last two films (Titanic, Avatar) both run around three hours, which stinks considering how 20th Century Fox has shrunk other films. Let’s acknowledge that the people who appreciate artistry in film, who don’t mind holding it for an extra half an hour, and who would welcome a fully realized version of a director’s vision. How about we trust tried and true directors, and ensure that they have good editors to assist them in getting it right? (Not assembling a bunch of “yes” men, a la George Lucas in the Star Wars prequels.) The film industry needs to acknowledge that not every movie goer is an idiot; Doug Liman once mentioned he made creative decisions on his semi-independent film Go in 1998 that were meant for the half of the audience that got it, adding he didn’t mind the other half didn’t; notably, that film was expertly edited, but not up, rather down, to maintain his original vision of a high energy film from beginning to end.
In short, the Rogue Cut is, in my view, the definitive version of X-Men: Days of Future Past because it gives us the full story, characters, and elements which make the film even better; it’s even more annoying that we weren’t given it in the theater. Maybe we’ll see a change in Hollywood, although I doubt it. In any case, I like to think that eventually artistry and integrity will win out versus perceived commercial appeal.
Thanks for reading, see you next time.