I rarely do any shopping on Black Friday anymore, with one exception: movies. I’ll typically head out to Best Buy and then Target late-morning after the crowds have mostly subsided, searching for a few specific titles that were in their ads, but also eager to find out what hidden treasures lie in wait on the shelves. Mad Max: Fury Road on blu-ray for eight bucks?!? Yes, please!
Last week, I added seven new movies to my collection, most of them costing eight dollars or less: five movies I wanted to see, plus one each for the wife and the kid for Christmas. That probably sounds more selfish than it actually is; my wife and I typically enjoy the same types of movies, so even when I buy one I’m interested in seeing, we will almost invariably watch it together. The other two movies are ones that we’ll watch as a family, but they’re not ones that I have any personal interest in seeing.
The most recent one my wife and I watched from my Black Friday excursion is the “Rogue Cut” of X-Men: Days of Future Past. I’m assuming that if you’re reading my thoughts on a re-cut of a movie that’s already been available to own for over a year, there’s not much left to spoil for you, so I’m going to speak freely.
I don’t usually don’t get terribly excited about director’s cuts of films, but I like DOFP so much that I thought it would be worth it for the Black Friday price. “Rogue Cut” turns out to be quite a clever play on words. Rogue does have more screen time in this version, appearing in the dystopian future, not just in the redeemed future at the end. But there are several other features that make this a “rogue” version of the theatrical release. For example, there are tweaks and changes to many scenes, oftentimes several seconds of additional footage where the scene previously ended, and a few instances where brief snippets of dialogue were seamlessly spliced into the middle of already existing dialogue.
Most of the time, it was clear why the additional footage was originally cut; there was only one instance where I felt that any of it enhanced the scene (although I can’t recall it at the moment, so maybe the improvement wasn’t that significant). None of the extra footage was bad, per se, but it almost always felt unnecessary, slowing the pace and dulling the crispness of the scenes as presented in their theatrical version. And what’s with the lingering shot of the World Trade Center? We already know that Wolverine went back to 1973; showing the towers doesn’t do anything to reinforce that knowledge or have anything to do with the plot or characters and only serves to focus the viewer’s attention on something unrelated to the movie.
In addition to the new and altered sequences involving Rogue (more on this later), another significant change in the action involves Mystique’s return to the mansion. Rather than breaking in, this time she knocks on the front door, seemingly having taken Charles’ words to heart and deciding not to go through with killing Trask after all. She takes some time to reconnect with and seduce Beast before proceeding to sabotage Cerebro. Extending this sequence adds little to the story except to make it feel clumsier and more bloated than the theatrical cut which managed to keep things moving here at a brisk pace with a few lines of dialogue instead.
Rogue’s increased presence (if it can honestly be called “presence” and not merely “screen time”) in the film unfortunately carries about the same amount of weight as the added footage involving Mystique. It’s fun to see Rogue in the future (even a dystopian one) alongside the futuristic versions of the other characters, but does her presence actually contribute anything meaningful to the story? Plotwise, she was rescued in order to stand in for Kitty Pryde by absorbing her time-traveling/projecting powers after Wolverine accidentally wounded Kitty. But it all seems shoehorned and shallow, as if the true purpose of including her was for the sake of her having a larger role in the story, not because the story needed her.
As with “presence,” it is probably generous to describe her as having a “role” in the story due to how passive she was; she exists more as a plot device than as a character. To top it off, Bobby’s (Iceman’s) death during her rescue seemed more of a means of ticking boxes on the storytelling checklist than a moment that evoked much pathos. (“The stakes are too high and this mission is too dangerous to have the heroes escape without paying some sort of price; we have to kill at least one of them to make it believable!”)
The juxtaposition of Magneto breaking into the mansion to rescue Rogue with the scene set in the past where he breaks into the facility to retrieve his helmet is well-executed on a technical level, but this does not alleviate the fact that Rogue’s presence doesn’t add much to the story. It was a wise decision to forego her inclusion in the theatrical release, having a wounded Kitty endure instead. The one possible improvement this sequence makes to the movie is that it shows how the sentinels were able to locate the mutants’ hideout. However, it didn’t seem like they ever had any problems finding them before, so again, unnecessary.
Additionally, introducing a future-Rogue who still has her powers raises a question about the continuity from the first films to DOFP: why does Rogue have her powers in the future when she chose to receive the mutation vaccine at the end of X3? Of course, one could argue that there are other questions about continuity that exist (even in the theatrical version), the most obvious one being what Professor X and Magneto are doing in the future, alive and with their powers at full strength, again, given the events of X3. A possible counterargument is that the post-denouement in that film suggests that even some of the most – ahem—, shattering events that took place in that movie could be undone. However, the real explanation might simply be that Brian Singer and company decided to undo the worst parts of X3, which is accomplished quite nicely by the rapturous ending of DOFP.
Releasing another version of a movie allows the creators another shot at making their film even better. A studio can certainly use it as nothing more than as a callous means to double-dip from their fans’ wallets; but if done right, it can be worth the double-dipping – or worth the wait if you’re like me and don’t buy the first release of a movie if you know there’s an extended edition coming. The extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films remain the gold standard by which to measure extended editions/director’s cuts of movies. Very little of the additional footage was superfluous, a great deal of it enhanced the story, and it wasn’t until the extended edition of Return of the King that any of the new material noticeably detracted from their quality – and these editions added about a half hour running time each to films that were already pushing three hours or more! Sadly, in the case of the “Rogue Cut,” more does not equate with better.
So, is the “Rogue Cut” is worth owning? Well, the blu-ray package includes both versions of the film, not to mention a director’s commentary which the original release lacks. So, if you don’t own DOFP yet, there’s no reason to opt for the original over the “Rogue Cut”. If you already have the original, it would be hard to justify an additional purchase, especially since the theatrical version is superior. Maybe if you’re a real die-hard X-Men fan and want to see everything there is, or if you really, really, like commentaries (as I do). As for myself, seeing DOFP in the theater was the tipping point for me finally getting a blu-ray player (yeah, I tend to lag a few years behind with technology). I thought the “Rogue Cut” sounded interesting when I first heard about it, but as much as I like DOFP, I had not intended on buying a copy of the “Rogue Cut” until the moment I found it on a store shelf at a bargain price on Black Friday.