What differentiates First Class, and by extension Days of Future Past, from the other five X-Men films is the emphasis on relationships. Of course, other films (especially The Wolverine) focus on specific relationships. But First Class examines a myriad of relationships that seamlessly power the story it wants to tell. Days of Future Past eloquently builds off of the primary relationships that defined First Class: Raven/Charles and Charles/Erik. By extension, we also have cursory follow-ups to Raven/Erik, Raven/Hank, and Wolverine/Charles, among others. We also have the relationships between younger mutants in the future (which carries over from The Last Stand), unspoken relationships (Erik/Quicksilver), and relationships that will occur in the future but haven’t yet in the past (Stryker/Wolverine, Wolverine/Jean). The sequel, by nature of its narrative conceit, also allows the viewer to examine the relationship between past and future iterations of the same character and how these might differ given a change in circumstance.
X-Men hinges (and wants to hinge) on the relationship between Charles and Erik. Their friendship, while often extremely estranged, is an emotional counterweight to the drama they face in the main story of any given film. They must continually navigate how to maintain a relationship with no trust but complete understanding of each other’s motivations. The future indicates that these men, despite these differences, find a way to come together and regain a complete friendship. Another core relationship, that First Class fostered and Days of Future Past capitalized on, is that of Raven and Charles. Their bond is showcased in First Class, but under the new influence of Erik, Raven leaves Charles to pursue the more radical side of mutant advocacy. Ten years later, they are out of touch. Raven is radicalized, even by Erik’s estimation, and Charles is desperate to rekindle their lost connection. After repeatedly appealing to her throughout the film, the ending rewards both Charles and the audience by his words finally reaching through to Raven. It’s a powerful moment and the film earns it by crafting the building blocks throughout the story. Days of Future Past ends with little clues on how these events affected future Charles/Erik and Charles/Raven, but I imagine it will be an important component of the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse.
Other things I enjoyed about Days of Future Past:
A heavy reliance on First Class plot lines and characters, primarily because it is obviously the future of the franchise. It is the gateway between the camp of the original trilogy and the kind of comic book films being made today. As the relationships deepen, so too does actual plot from First Class: Raven’s blood is integral to both stories. In First Class, her blood is the key to suppressing obvious mutant traits (or at least that is what Hank deduces before injecting himself and completing the transition to Beast) and in Days of Future Past, her blood is the key to the destruction that the Sentinels will eventually unleash on mutants and humans alike.
Subversion of genre tropes: A downside to being any kind of genre buff is the recognition of the reliance on certain tropes. Some tropes define genres and are necessary as well as expected. (Why else do you think we still learn about the hero’s journey in English class?) The dominance of good and bad comic book movies prepare us for the typical narrative arc we are likely to encounter: origin, transformation, conflict/challenge/threat, resolution. The cleverer scripts will tweak various stages of the formula to offer up a fresh, compelling take on a familiar story. While it is impossible to shake off the skeleton of a coherent narrative (unless you are aiming for confusion), I prefer for films to allow for dynamism. Multiple times during Days of Future Past I found myself assuming where the story was going to go (and was proved wrong) and by the end, I wasn’t sure how it was going to wrap up. That’s exciting and rare for today’s Hollywood climate. For instance, while we can expect Erik to double-cross and/or use his reunion with Charles to his own ends, it happens very quickly — he attempts to kill Raven to “secure the future.” This seems destined to set up a Raven vs. Erik dynamic for the rest of the film, but only a few scenes pass before their first confrontation and it ends more “amicably” than I would ever expect. The overall plot moves with rational purpose but leaves the viewer unclear of what, where, and how the climax of the film will occur.
Parallel storytelling: Whenever you have stories taking place in different time periods or locations, you have an opportunity to use the difference in space to examine and mirror the same themes in both narratives. It can be underutilized or a crutch, but Days of Future Past finds a nice balance that doesn’t draw too much attention to this device. In fact, I wish they would have used it a bit more. There are parallels in action: the Sentinels go on the attack in both 1973 and in the future, at the same time; Wolverine’s consciousness momentarily jumps back to the future at a time of heightened activity in both times. There are relationship parallels: an examination of Erik and Charles’ relationship in 1973 and in the future, as well as Charles’ relationship to his older self.
Time travel conundrums: No time travel movie is complete without addressing the consequences of time travel. This can come in many flavors: what happens when you change something in the past? Can you change the past or will the universe course correct? What happens if you die/get injured/kill someone else who wasn’t supposed to die? Every story approaches these ideas differently and more often than not, the principles of time travel often contradict, even in the same narrative. Days of Future Past keeps it simple and only briefly touches on the idea that you cannot change the past. The public spectacle that Raven, Erik, and Hank put on in Paris ramps up the demand for Sentinels and exposes the “mutant threat” decades before it happened in the original timeline. This leads Hank to question whether they can actually prevent the future. Of course, they can change it — leaving that time travel potential a mere thought experiment. Even Wolverine seems to be confused about the consequences of his own mission: when trying to convince Charles to join him, he focuses on what Charles will tell him in the future (when Charles says he’s never told anyone about his childhood fears, Wolverine replies, “You will.”). He fails to consider that if he fails in the past, that might not happen in the new timeline.
The Star Trek approach: The resolution effectively erases the arc of the original X-Men trilogy, allowing future films to tell the stories of Erik, Charles, Raven and other X-Men however the new writers wish. They are no longer constrained by what those films depict as the future for these characters. Just as J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek creates an alternate timeline to seal off the original series and give itself narrative space to tell new stories, Days of Future Past changes the timeline. Of course, in this case, the alteration to the main timeline indicates that every event in the original X-Men trilogy is now erased. (Not that it seems like many people will complain about this revision.)
These are the aspects that I keep coming back to when I examine the merits of Days of Future Past. As my title indicates, I find the relationships to be the essential part of the story. The actors (namely James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence) all elevate the material by their heartfelt performances. As I rematch these films, and look toward Apocalypse, the relationships between these three characters remain the biggest draw for me. Mutant or superhero, when you acknowledge your powerful characters are emotional as any human, you strike gold.
For seeing they saw not, and hearing they understood not, but like shapes in a dream they wrought all the days of their lives in confusion. (Prometheus Bound)
Prometheus certainly has people talking. How this talk bends and weaves from one person to the next has been interesting to watch. I think it boils down to expectations and audience knowledge and sometimes a combination of the two. Some went in for a good science fiction space flick; some saw Alien waaaay back in 1979 and find it to be a sacred film; some probably saw Michael Fassbender or Charlize Theron or Idris Elba and didn’t really care much about the premise. Except for the last reason, in which no one left unhappy I hope (unless *spoilers from here and throughout* you were excited to see Guy Pearce), I think love for sci-fi and your feelings, expectations, hopes and dreams from the Alien franchise all framed what you got out of Prometheus. In particular, the whole experience hinges on expectations, and going in the expectations were undoubtedly diverse and myriad. And it is fascinating. I’ve seen it twice now and I walked away both times completely satisfied. Personal bio: saw Alien as a kid, saw Alien Resurrection in theaters, and just revisited all four films. I also love sci-fi horror and Michael Fassbender (with a growing appreciation for Ridley Scott…er…at least when it comes to Blade Runner).
I have seen that some people are upset that Prometheus explains away the great mystery of Alien. Or does so inadequately. Or was filled with so many plot holes they couldn’t possibly enjoy it. Red Letter Media has done an excellent job of highlighting the most talked about plot holes; it’s hilarious but none of these issues bother me. Among the most fascinating ways to look at the film is through its sexual imagery. Like Alien, many scenes are akin to men being raped. In Prometheus, when biologist Millborn makes contact with the hammerpedes, he says they are female (and they are very…vaginal in nature). And some see Shaw’s invasive surgery to remove the trilobite as illustrating a woman’s right to choose.
During my second viewing, I found myself clarifying what I thought about events and finding sufficient explanations. They may be right or wrong but unless the film wants to flat out tell me the answers (it clearly doesn’t) I don’t see the harm in assuming. I just wanted to lay out a few thoughts after seeing it again, to add to the growing discussion.
David: Okay, I am fascinated by androids. And David did not let me down. An android can be used to comment on humanity, equality, and right to life; it can also be used to show what happens when our creations (artificial intelligence) realize they don’t need us anymore or what happens when they malfunction. David is an interesting case. He is a bit quirky (idolizing Lawrence Olivier in Lawrence of Arabia) but he easily fulfills his duty to “carry out directives that my future counterparts might find distressing or unethical.” Like when Weyland (presumably) tells David to infect Holloway. But the infection seems predicated on the answer to this question: “How far would you go to get your answers?” Obviously most people would reply very passionately but had Holloway voiced doubt, would David have stayed his hand? He also seems to have a particular fascination with Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw. He watches her dreams, keeps her cross in his pouch, and flies her off of LV-223. With Peter Weyland, his “father,” now dead, he believes himself to be free and I am anxious to see what his behavior might entail if we get a sequel. Because David seems to have some pretty complex emotions for a being with no emotions.
Charlie Holloway: There is no way around it: this guy is a dick. He irked me the entire time he was on screen. I can’t decipher whether he was meant to be as terrible as I viewed him. It would have helped had Logan Marshall-Green and Noomi Rapace had any chemistry. They didn’t and it made his scenes even worse. He treated David negatively (and was the only crew member to seem biased towards him for no reason; Charlize had plenty of reasons) and started a thirty minute temper tantrum when the Engineers weren’t there to roll out the red carpet and answer his questions about creation. Granted, his treatment of David is made interesting by the turn of events: did David infect him because of his incessant condescension or did Weyland make the call and the added benefit in both scenarios was Holloway’s intimate relationship with Shaw?
Connections to Alien: I thought people might be assured knowing that Prometheus takes place on the planet LV-223 and Alien takes place on LV-426. Therefore, we are not even seeing events directly setting up what the Nostromo crew finds — at least if you don’t look at the facts. This has not seemed to quell the fire of anger from some crowds though; oh well. The events of that lead up to the xenomorphs overrunning the derelict ship on LV-426 and the original space jockey are still unknown but can be discerned. The fact that space jockeys are now “Engineers” who created humans does not ruin Alien for me. Then again, I haven’t been obsessed with the mystery since 1979. Years make my head spin but the majority of Prometheus takes place in 2093; Alien takes place in 2122, thus leaving only a 28 year gap. But, when dealing with so much time, that is pretty relative when it comes to 2000 years no? The dead space jockey in Alien was carbon dated to having died 2000 years before 2122. The dead Engineers in Prometheus were also carbon dated as having died 2000 years ago. Perhaps the dead space jockeys on LV-233 and LV-426 are related by the unfortunate outbreak on LV-223.
Clunkiness: Whereas some of the so-called plot holes that left people confused didn’t affect me, the moments where I felt the writers pulling the strings did. Why did zombified Fifield return to the Prometheus? Obviously to get rid of some of the crew members we didn’t get to spend any time with. But my clunky award goes to the delivery of Charlize’s “father” like to Guy Pearce. It was clear at that point the reveal was going to be that Vickers was Peter Weyland’s daughter. Every line was alive with possibility. But nothing. Almost like an afterthought Vickers menacingly snarls “father” in her goodbye and it just didn’t hit for me.
Where do we go from here?: It already appears that we have much to look forward to when Prometheus hits Blu-ray and DVD. I’ve read rumors a certain scene was cut that, if included, would have made the overall plot and motivations much clearer. And the viral heritage of the film continues with the end credits pointing the audience to this website: http://www.whatis101112.com/. Speculation points to this as the release date as well as the date being New York Comic-Con. We can probably also expect this deleted scene: an image has appeared which shows an older Engineer participating in the film’s opening sequence. The scene appears to be a ritual whereby the younger Engineer is preparing to be used as the jumpstarter DNA for a new race.
And if you probably thought the ending definitely set up the sequel, you would be right. Ridley Scott hopes to explore the next chapter and confront notions of “God” and “paradise.” In the meantime, if you were super depressed by the lack of chestbursters, facehuggers, and xenomorphs, here is an equally detailed glossary to use in your discussions about Prometheus: like the article says, even if you didn’t like it, people will bring it up! So mark your vocabulary accordingly. And search the internet for more interviews! Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof have helped me refine my own interpretations via their cagey answers. Check out this email exchange with Damon at MTV and a more broad interview with him at Vulture (cool discussion about viral marketing, androids, rape imagery, Blade Runner, and even his Buffy spec script!).
Clocking in at a very neat two hours, the MTV Movie Awards are an easy watch (especially with the amount of re-broadcasts) but they never cease to be frustrating and largely inconsequential.
- I love how some “award shows” don’t even try to hide the fact that the winners know ahead of time that they’ve won, on the off chance that they decide to show up. Because, if you aren’t promoting anything, I can imagine how easy it is to pass up attending. For instance, I immediately spotted Jennifer Aniston. I thought, “Jen, why?!?” until I saw her nomination for Best Scumbag in the first category. She obviously won and vacated her seat next to Elizabeth Banks for the rest of the night. At least your award was first Jen! Also, the inexplicable presence of Alexander Ludwig was explained by his nomination in the Best Fight category, along with Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson.
- And unlike the Emmys or Oscars (where it is an honor to be asked to present or you present because you are a past winner) MTV sucks you in by offering you a platform to promote your upcoming summer movie, not only at the podium but also via trailers during commercial breaks. I guess the full stage decorations for The Amazing Spider-Man, Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises indicate that MTV is fully embracing how it whores itself out.
- Jennifer Lawrence should win all of the awards for being in PRAGUE shooting a movie instead of at the awards. She is a classy girl and must feel some modicum of responsibility to the audience of these awards, so she taped a special acceptance speech, but she definitely wins for having a great excuse.
- I have developed an (inaccurate) theory that Kristen Stewart continues to win awards just so the world can test her awkwardness levels. When she presented with Chris Hemsworth, I was practically covering my eyes at her behavior; her acceptance for Best Kiss was only a significant improvement. I got the impression she practiced that Best Kiss acceptance alone in front of a mirror…a lot.
- Never thought I would live in a world where I kind of love Chris Hemsworth and Channing Tatum but here we are.
- Russell Brand = completely meh. Not funny and mostly just annoying. Not exactly sure why this happened because Aziz was amazing last year. Too amazing I guess for these awards to get him again; back to the mediocre drawing board. I did love the camera shot of Elizabeth Banks and Jennifer Aniston as his Katy Perry joke bombed, illustrating the disgust I felt. Also, I guess no one told him the Michael Fassbender cock jokes are beyond old at this point? I suppose Russell gets a special pass though, since him and Michael go way back. I did enjoy that he was singled out as Russell’s potential new wife, if only because this seemed to be a truly playful moment and probably the only moment I enjoyed out of the monologue.
- The live performance selection: whether it is the movie or music awards, MTV tends to go for shock and awe over choices that make sense but this year they showcased the here and now, with relatively little gimmick. Fun. started off the show and since I love these guys and the look on Nate Ruess’ face whenever he looks around him and takes it all in, I was happy to see them front and center. If you would have told me Nate Ruess would be a main act at the MTV Movie Awards six years ago…yada yada you know what I mean. Then the show called on Wiz Khalifa to generate a moving concert collage on the theme of party movies we got this year; another up-and-comer to the “popular” music scene getting a chance at a wider audience. And finally, the show again catered to my library by inviting The Black Keys to perform (yes, with Johnny Depp). It really has been an amazing two years for The Black Keys, who skyrocketed from alternative favorites to a mainstream act, selling out major venues.
- Joel McHale was funnier in three minutes than anything else in the entire show, making me simultaneously think: Joel McHale would be a great host for this/I don’t want Joel McHale to stoop to this level. And the mere fact that J.J. Abrams was involved in this piqued my curiosity: I may be the only person that remembers The Lonely Island’s “Cool Guys Don’t Look at Explosions” from the 2009 awards because I may or may not have spent my entire time in PRAGUE (post continuity!) humming it, but J.J. was a participant in that as well. Where’s the link, J.J.? WHERE’S THE LINK? 47?
- Emma Stone in general; I think she is great so focusing a lot on her by giving her the Trailblazer award was a good idea on someone’s part. She is game for comedy (her string of foul words that I think included the phrase beast mode) and brings a sincerity that most of these people lost a long time ago (“I’m a crier”). That so many people took part in a bit for her benefit (Steve Carell, Jason Sudeikis, Anna Faris, Mila Kunis, Octavia Spencer) must have been as touching as it was cute. She even concluded her acceptance speech by quoting Chris Farley from SNL! Yeah, she’s awesome.
- The primary reason to tune in (the new footage from The Dark Knight Rises) of course came at the very end, presented by Gary Oldman, Christian Bale, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I am always struck by how natural JGL is at these types of functions — actually in every hat he tries on. Mayhaps he should get a hosting gig? The clip started off with scenes from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and I was overcome by seeing Heath Ledger. It is definitely a hard memory for me, even as a mere fan, and I haven’t actually watched the film since I saw it in theaters. But I was really moved afterwards because Christian Bale got choked up by the images as well, giving an apt testament to Heath as an actor and as a friend.
- Well, then they just decided to bring Christopher Nolan out on stage and I fangirled for about five minutes straight. If I had my blinders fully on I would conclude this show a success: Nolan! J.J. Abrams!
- The brief clip from The Dark Knight Rises alerted me to the presence of Burn Gorman in the film and I quickly IMDb’d it to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks. Good thing I did because now I know the film includes AIDAN GILLEN! And Josh Stewart! Things are looking up and up.
- At some point the “DJ” played Nightcall from the Drive soundtrack, as if the majority of MTV’s audience considered Drive’s nominations as actually having a chance (ha!). But it is actually quite hilarious that for most of the categories Drive was one of the few movies actually worthy of the nomination. But still, great song.
Prometheus is doing a really good job of creating buzz while remaining fascinatingly opaque. The Cabin in the Woods experience has proven that in this spoiler-obsessed day and age you can still get away with surprises (hey, Joss Whedon has some good explanations on the dynamics of spoiler culture, of course) and I want to remain as in the dark as possible for the remaining months before its release. Ridley Scott wants me under a rock and there I will stay. Except when it comes to viral videos like this, which appeals both to my love of Michael Fassbender and dystopian androids that look like Michael Fassbender, available for purchase:
A friend pointed out that David is also Haley Joel Osment’s name in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. This viral video gave me the bug: cue my overwhelming desire to watch A.I. as well as the Alien Quadrilogy. Also, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Maybe Blade Runner as well. Who knows what other tangentially related movies I can find in my collection…Sorted: Alien blu-rays Amazon’d. I predict a long post on androids in my near future.
Hollywood is pretty full of itself this year: The Artist, Hugo, and My Week with Marilyn all harken back to the glory days of film. These choices are the epitome of conventional: no Shame, no Bridesmaids, no Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I feel wholly uninspired by this year’s best picture nominations. In years past I was excited by races like The King’s Speech (vs. The Social Network) and The Hurt Locker (vs. Avatar). I have no such drive or interest to see The Artist or Hugo.
Best Picture Thoughts: This year I have seen precisely 2 of 9 nominated films—and I have no real desire to rush out and see any of the others. Why not just go ahead and have a 10th film if the voters are so divided? Hello, why not throw in Bridesmaids or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? Other than the two I have seen, the rest of the nominees are a pile-up of films that I had an excuse to pass on for one reason or another. The Artist: a celebration of old Hollywood that is notable for its nostalgia in this day and age but would be less of a sparkler in 1925. The Descendants: most comparisons likened it to a Lifetime movie. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: simply, got mixed to negative reviews. The Help: did not pique my interest. Hugo: thought it was a kid’s movie? Moneyball: sports movies are my kryptonite. The Tree of Life: history of the cosmos, what? With all the other stunning films of this year overlooked, I might make an attempt to watch those films already out, namely: The Help, Moneyball and The Tree of Life. That would put my count at 5, and I usually push for at least a majority. Right now I am placing bets on The Artist (and I generally make an exception to see what I believe will be Best Picture) but I feel so unmoved in this race. So disappointing. I have been on a streak of seeing and predicting Best Pictures since 2007. And last year was a banner year: I saw every contender except Toy Story 3; can it please be last year again?
The snubbed: Too Polarizing? Young Adult, Shame, We Need to Talk About Kevin and Drive, the darker and more groundbreaking films, were all snubbed.
Andy Serkis, Patton Oswalt, and Albert Brooks were all expected to be nominated. But Michael Fassbender wins for most shocking snub. I am still very dismayed over his exclusion. Peter Travers throws in Michael Shannon and Tilda Swinton as well.
Other Category Thoughts:
Best Actor: Seems like George Clooney has the momentum right now; even if Michael Fassbender failed to combat the might of Clooney, he deserved a nod for Shame. I do think Tinker Tailor deserves some love, so go Gary Oldman (in his first nom!). I resolve to check out A Better Life as soon as possible.
Best Actress: So far I have only seen Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but Michelle Williams is the darling in this category. However, I have a feeling that when Albert Nobbs finally reaches my eyeballs I will be very impressed with Glenn Close. Hell, I already am…she is a fellow alum!
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer all the way. I love me some Beginners. And Patton Oswalt (hooray for another alum!) wasn’t nominated. Sad face. But at least he has a good sense of humor about the situation.
Best Supporting Actress: The GGs seem to indicate Octavia Spencer, but this has been quite the year for Melissa McCarthy.
I don’t really know my stuff well enough to pass judgment on the other categories (how great would it be if Bridesmaids won Best Original Screenplay!? Or Midnight in Paris.) But as someone else pointed out, no Art Direction nod for Tinker Tailor? If I hadn’t watched the HBO First Look on TTSS, I wouldn’t know about how many meticulous ideas came together to create that stunning 1970s atmosphere of dread.
(Not actually the nominated song, but ya know, wanted Bret)
Best Song: Apparently only two songs were up to snuff this year. The day Bret McKenzie wins an Oscar will make this girl very happy; and I haven’t even seen The Muppets. Here is a glimpse at how insane the voting rules are for the Oscars (and why only two songs made the cut): Songs are watched in the context of their films (during scenes or even the credits) and academy voters rate them on a scale of 1-10. Those with an 8.5 or higher are nominated. So apparently out of the 39 eligible songs, only these two scored higher than an 8.5. Thanks, Entertainment Weekly!
I have already reached a state of denial: how can we fix this year’s Academy Awards? Seems like I am going to have to ride out this storm of disappointment.
This year, Ricky Gervais did not go for the jugular like he has in the past; that is a shame. If anything, the stars were prepared for it. Since he planned on this being his last time as host, why not take as many celebrities out as possible? And no, I don’t think Colin Firth even batted an eye at Ricky’s remarks about his evilness. George Clooney actually wins the award for comment of the night, remarking on Michael Fassbender’s…physical gifts, which elicited this wonderful reaction:
Some other thoughts:
People I feel should have been recognized: Amy Poehler, Bryan Cranston, Kelly Macdonald.
Salutes to those that I feel earned it:
Downton Abbey–Should Downton be in the mini-series category, no. But, this is the Globes. (And just for fun, this Tumblr mashes DA and Beyoncé lyrics and is awesome).
Homeland–Breaking Bad was the best drama but I think Homeland needed this extra push for public recognition; also Breaking Bad wasn’t nominated…um…okay? Claire Danes absolutely deserved that award for her amazing performance as Carrie Mathison.
Christopher Plummer for Beginners!
Best Screenply for Midnight in Paris (I feel out of the options Woody Allen should have gotten Best Director as well).
The award for interview slyness (who I didn’t even know was there, sneaky monkey) goes to:
The actual interview is available here–in written and video form.
The person that needs some awards love too (and not just as a presenter for 50/50…am I missing his connection to that? or from Christopher Plummer, although that was very nice):
The GGs are always sure to handsomely reward past favorites as well: Laura Dern, Jessica Lange, Kelsey Grammer, Kate Winslet…
- What the hell is Hugo about? I get absolutely nothing from trailers or from the clips shown at the awards. I refuse to actually look up the synopsis.
- I officially need to go back to watching Luther, find a way to get my hands on Appropriate Adult (after missing it twice on television) and give Enlightened a watch on HBO GO.
- The Hugo thing may not be the film’s fault. Who compiled these reels? The one for Midnight in Paris is completely misleading and spoilery—it gave away what happens to the private detective!
I read a review that compared Shame to American Psycho…and yeah, I definitely got a Patrick Bateman vibe off of good ol’ Brandon. So I broke it down a little; gotta say, Patrick Batemen is a hell of a lot less depressing (and he is probably insane).
Similarities: People with PROBLEMS. Michael Fassbender’s Brandon is a hollow, shell of a human being filled with complex emotions that he drowns out with an endless succession of frivolous sexual encounters. Patrick Bateman is a corporate yuppie so bored with his existence he escapes into his own delusions where he kills his rivals and prostitutes (or maybe it is real–it is ambiguous…). We only realize his delusions once they are carried out to the extreme; leaving me with this thought: huh, I easily accepted his chainsaw pursuit of an unfortunate prostitute but only started to get alarmed when the ATM prompted Patrick to “Feed me a stray cat.”
New York is seedy, dark and grim. Prostitutes are really easy to come by, in a variety of places. Patrick occupies the ‘80s but with Blondie’s “Rapture” playing in the club Brandon goes to, it is clear he inhabits the same space. Lucky (or in most scenes, unlucky) for Brandon he has a sister that is damaged for the same reason he is—they came from a “bad place.” Patrick Bateman only has the world of the superficial, where somehow his brain no longer wants to play the game: the dance of superficiality, undercutting, and expectations. He has a rich fiancée but cares for her not at all.
Brandon tries to date but utterly fails; his addiction allows him to detach. He is not capable of true intimacy. This is what sticks for me still, in the few weeks since I saw it (well that, and the subway sequences; I am now on the hunt for potential Fassbenders whenever I am on the metro). It was heartbreaking to see how impossible it is for Brandon to form a connection. Both films keep the viewer at a distance; we are invited into their lives to observe for a while and draw our own conclusions.
Differences: The world of Patrick Bateman is entertaining. Watch Patrick as he kills you with a quip, and then literally kills you with an axe as he gives you a history lesson on Sussudio! From the very beginning, we are visiting an alien world, and Patrick serves as our guide to its rules and rituals. Patrick may be an unreliable narrator so we cannot even accept what we see as fact. Brandon’s world is laid bare for us to see: we see all of the blemishes. Brandon’s world is a shambles. A waking nightmare that neither he nor the viewer can escape; toward the end of the movie, I recalled the stray cat scene from American Psycho as a method of momentarily escaping from the misery on screen. There is nothing funny about the way Brandon moves throughout life; on this the film is unflinching.
Conclusion: Brandon, get some help! He may have hit rock bottom a long time ago, but I believe that time can heal him. The first step is seeking that help, though and I can imagine that he feels too much SHAME (har, har) to even admit his activities to a therapist. Unfortunately for dear Patrick, he has completely lost it. A product of an ultra-competitive world that has led him to insanity, whether it is through killing or believing himself to be a killer in his mind.
Even more good news: there is a Tumblr dedicated to the two of them.