PTN CONCEPT CLASH: X-MEN LAST STAND vs. AVENGERS:ENDGAME
How could the X-Men franchise ever compare to the MCU? It’s a fair question. While the MCU has had some definite lows and is often criticized for being too safe and homogenous, none of their movies have received as much hatred as The Last Stand. And the financial success of the MCU far exceeds that of X-Men. But what if we look at the best that each franchise has to offer and see which produced the best single movie?
credit: 20th Century Fox
Of course “best” is a debatable term, but I think it’s fair to say that Endgame and Days of Future Past both contain a lot of the best that both franchises have to offer. Also, they both have plots that focus a lot on time traveling to bring dead characters back to life, and serve a function of ending one section of their respective sagas while allowing them to continue. This makes them probably the most readily comparable installments.
From the scores below, it seems Endgame has an advantage in terms of audience appeal. But don’t despair, X-Men fans. I wouldn’t put Days of Future Past up against the biggest movie ever if I didn’t think it had a legitimate shot at winning.
Days of Future Past: 8.0
Days of Future Past: 90%
Days of Future Past: 75
Endgame: $ 2,797,800,564
Days of Future Past: $ 746,045,700
Time travel plays a huge part in the plots of both movies, and I feel confident giving Days of Future Past the win for this category. Endgame spends a long time explaining how its methods of time travel won’t screw up anything and will only alter the past the way that the heroes want to alter it. The result is something that is essentially free of plot holes, but is weighed down with exposition.
Also, I thought it was a slightly weak choice to use the time travel element to take a detour into the 70’s and give Tony Stark and Steve Rogers character moments that felt kind of shoe-horned in. I don’t mind that that sequence was included, but it felt out of place and I think it would have been better if similar character moments had been included more organically. On the whole, I don’t fault the way that Endgame uses time travel because it had a lot of factors to deal with, but its time travel plot works out rather conveniently and is possibly the most grating part of watching the movie.
Conversely, I think the time travel element is one of the best aspects of Days of Future Past. There are some interesting restrictions and complications that are involved in the method of time travel, and all of these are explained concisely at the beginning. Even though the exact rules are a little confusing, they aren’t dwelt on, and, more importantly, they give the story excellent stakes and present compelling obstacles. I think the essential thing that makes the time travel element in Days work is that it is used in service of the story and the characters’ arcs instead of being used to fill plot holes.
credit: 20th Century Fox
It’s pretty hard to compete with the spectacle of the final battle in Endgame, so I think I have to give it the win here. However, Days of Future Past does a better job of using its characters powers in interesting ways. There are a lot of fun MCU action scenes, but something that frustrates me about many of them is that they often degenerate into little more than characters punching or blasting each other with energy.
X-Men tends to do a lot more with its fight scenes and makes them very character driven. Certain characters’ powers cancel other ones out, so the outcome is dependent upon loyalties rather than luck, physical strength, or even strategy. In Days, we get a couple intense Mutant vs Sentinel sequences and an awesome scene with Quicksilver taking down a bunch of guards in the Pentagon kitchen. I like how Days incorporates action scenes, and how it only includes them when and for as long as necessary, but it doesn’t really have that much action, and none of it can compare to the epicness of Endgame’s finale.
I’m giving Days of Future Past the win for this category, but Endgame does some good work with theme as well. The thing I appreciate most about Endgame is how much it focuses on the aftermath of the snap. It gives a lot of respect to the emotional impact the snap has on everyday people and the heroes as well. I especially like the contrast between Tony Stark and Clint Barton in their respective reasonings for not wanting to reverse the snap. Clint loses everything, but is resistant to altering the past because he doesn’t want to go through the grief of losing his family again. Inversely, Tony Stark is resistant to it because he escaped the snap relatively unscathed and has doesn’t want to lose what he has. These aren’t major through lines for the movie, but I thought it was good that both of their reactions were acknowledged and given some time. However, there aren’t really any other strong themes, certainly not ones that are developed throughout.
The most prominent theme in Days of Future Past is redemption, and I love the way that it is developed through Charles and Raven. The entire plot of the movie really depends on the redemption of Raven, which I think is the best designing choice that was made for this movie. The central drama is whether Raven can be changed in time for the past to be changed, which is much more compelling than just stopping her from killing Trask. The theme is directly tied into the external conflict so that the only way for Mutant-kind to be saved is for Raven to have a change of heart. This makes the last second victory more cathartic than the usual save-the-day-at-the-last-second ending.
As with all X-Men films, there is an underlying theme of prejudice. Days is lighter on the prejudice theme than some installments, even though the Sentinels, the ultimate Mutant oppressors, are featured. However, the debate over whether Mutants should seek to live peacefully among humans or resist them is featured strongly here. At a moment in history when Mutants are about to be targeted more ruthlessly than ever, Raven has more than enough reasons to feel justified in killing Trask. The argument creates a constant point of conflict between Charles, Erik, and Raven that keeps the story engaging.
credit: 20th Century Fox
This category is somewhat dependent on one’s individual relationship to the characters. Personally, I resonate with Days of Future Past a lot more, but I will endeavor to separate my personal preferences from this section. I saw Endgame with 6 friends, and most if not all of them said they got choked up or cried during it. One of the first reactions that one of them stated was that it was a very satisfying movie, which I fully agree with. The couple of deaths in this movie hit hard, and Captain America’s happy ending feels kind of perfect. Also the portals scene coupled with the final battle is one of the most exhilarating sequences in film history.
Days of Future Past is not nearly as exciting as Endgame, but it does not lack for emotional resonance. The most powerful moments come from Charles’ arc, which I’ll get into more in the next topic. His struggle with his powers and journey of returning to his iconic hopeful perspectives give us some excellent scenes. The scene where old and young Charles meet via Logan’s mind is a profound moment, perhaps the most memorable in the movie. And the climax of Raven choosing not to kill Trask, while relatively quiet, has a strong catharsis that few other movies manage to equal.
I’m really torn on who to give this to, because they both do so well. However, I think the overwhelming popularity of Endgame proves that it deserves the win here, but it is a very close victory.
Characters and Arcs
Endgame obviously has a lot more characters than Days, and even if half of them are dead for the first 80% of the movie, they all get at least a small moment of attention. That is no small feat considering how iconic they have become. However, I have always been frustrated with how the MCU makes its characters simple to the point of being shallow, and Endgame is no exception. Most of the big players who have been around for a while are given sendoffs, and all these send-offs basically work… but there’s something lacking. Considering the amount of time that we have spent with these characters, it feels like there should be more substance to each of them.
As I mentioned earlier, many of their big character moments get shoe-horned into the story in what are essentially just flashbacks. As I mentioned, I like the choices that are made with Clint and Tony. They both are presented with a difficult choice: Tony when he is told that the snap could be reversed if he agrees to help, and Clint when he has to choose between sacrificing himself or Natasha. These are good moments for sure, but they exist largely in isolation and don’t lend too much meaning to the rest of the story or the characters’ arcs. On the whole, I was once again disappointed to find that the characters were being used to serve the plot rather than the other way around. So it’s a mixed bag for this category, since we have a ton of cool characters all together in one movie, but in terms of arcs, there are several missed opportunities.
Days features only a few major characters, and sidelines its remaining mutants to protect Logan from the approaching Sentinels. However, Days makes its plot revolve exclusively around its characters and fleshes them out a lot. What I love most about the way that Days deals with its characters is that the fate of the external plot is totally dependent on Charles’ and Raven’s internal arcs. If they do not change, Mutant-kind cannot be saved. Both Charles and Raven are presented with difficult choices and have their beliefs challenged in effective ways. We see Charles Xavier in a terrible state at a time when he has forsaken his powers and his trademark hopeful outlook. Raven is also at her darkest moment, and is fully convinced that she must kill Trask, making the other Mutants’ task nearly impossible. Erik does not have an arc in this movie, but he is used effectively as an opponent and counterpoint to both Charles and Raven. Even Logan, who is largely ignored considering that the movie is basically from his point of view, is able to use his experiences from the original trilogy to reverse roles with his mentor Charles.
This kind of character work is something we have never seen from an MCU movie. So despite Endgame’s quantity of iconic heroes, I feel I must give this category to Days of Future Past because it fleshes out its characters so much more and gives them excellent arcs.
credit: 20th Century Fox
Before I reveal the winner, I want to assure fans that this is the most contentious matchup I’ve done so far, and I almost declared it a tie. And the winner is… Days of Future Past! Yup, the underdog comes out on top. It may not be as memorable, quotable, or epic as Endgame, but its commitment to character and theme make it a better movie overall, whereas Endgame’s appeal is mostly limited to its final 30 minutes. I’m sure many of you disagree, so let me know what points I might have forgotten to mention, and remember to leave requests for other movies I should compare in the future. Thanks for reading.
credit: 20th Century Fox
About The Author:
Evan Wessman is a screenwriting and playwriting major at Drexel University and the creator of the screenplay analysis podcast “Interior Analysis.”
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