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'X-Men' and Carl's Jr. Make for a Messy Marketing Mutation

Bryan Enk
Yahoo Movies
April 29, 2014

It's becoming something of a rocky road to the release of "X-Men: Days of Future Past."

There's all this unfortunate business with Bryan Singer, which led to the "X-Men" director removing himself from any press involving his return to the franchise he started back with the first two installments in 2000 and 2003.

And then there's these awkward, somewhat creepy and ultimately kinda gross character-based commercials for Carl's Jr./Hardee's, featuring some of your favorite mutants putting aside their pride and helping 20th Century Fox make a few more cross-promotional dollars.

There have been three of these ads so far, and with the new "X-Men" still over three weeks away from release, chances are there's going to be more.

[Related: Wolverine Burgers? Spidey Donuts? What’s the Deal With Unhealthy Hero Grub?]

The first one out of the gate featured a new recruit to the mutant mania, Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Using his super-speed, he's able to chow down an entire X-Tra Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit and gulp down a set PA's orange juice all before a rogue (ha!) piece of bacon hits the floor.

"Take your time with 2X the bacon," says the closing text, even though the speedsters doesn't.

Drew McWeeny at HitFix was especially up in arms about this ad, calling it a "huge tactical mistake" in introducing this new character — who's been missing from several of the film's trailers — via images of him eating a breakfast sandwich.

"The introduction of a character is really important, and now when I see Quicksilver in the film, I'm going to be thinking about him jamming a breakfast sandwich into his face," writes McWeeny.

Meanwhile, they couldn't get Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence to reprise her role of Mystique for the next ad, so they got some model to wear the blue body paint … before she transforms into some random dude after biting into the Western X-tra Bacon Thickburger, with the closing text saying "Man up for 2X the bacon."

[Photos: Unhealthiest Superhero Movie Food]

The most recent ad features Daniel Cudmore as Colossus, who is inspired to turn into all-metal mode after chowing down on the Western X-tra Bacon Thickburger. "Colossal amounts of bacon," says the text, before the sound of an alarm sends the mutant hero "Back to work" and he smashes through several walls a la Juggernaut in "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006).

The ads are heavy on the "food porn" imagery to an uncomfortable extreme, with the emphasis on mouths and tongues and dripping sauces and, of course, bacon. It's hyper-sexualized, as is often the Carl's Jr. way (remember their commercial featuring Paris Hilton?).

"Carl's Jr. is notorious for embarrassingly missing the zeitgeist year after year with their tone-deaf, sexist commercials, so it's not surprising that they can't even get a simple movie tie-in right," says K. Thor Jensen of A Short and Happy Life and the writer and artist of the upcoming graphic novel, "Cloud Stories." "It doesn't help that the commercials look to have been made on a public access TV budget and have a burger selfie Instagram contest attached to them.

"But how do you use a dystopian time travel story — one of the darkest in 'X-Men' history — to sell burgers in the first place?" Jensen adds. "'Every hero you knew and loved is dead - chow down on these big slabs of bacon! #EatLikeYouMeanIt' It just doesn't work."

[Related: How Jennifer Lawrence’s Easier 'X-Men' Costume Might Lead to Mystique Spinoff]

There's also something of a major contradiction in having superheroes, who are known for their extreme athleticism, chowing down on fast food.

"As much as I enjoy the restaurant itself, the Carl's Jr. ads seem to cheapen the 'X-Men' brand," says Thomas Parham, Ph.D., Chair and Professor of the Department of Cinematic Arts at Azusa Pacific University. "Plus, fast food and superheroes really don't mix. Considering the extreme dietary and workout regimens actors in these films have to undergo, showing the characters eating fast food is an example of cognitive dissonance."

However, the ad campaign does have its fans, such as Vincent Zurzulo of Metropolis Collectibles, Inc. & ComicConnect, Corp.

"Half of me thinks they are neat, the other half thinks they are silly and all of me is very hungry," he says. "Super-heroes have always promoted food products. I think these are fun and neat. I think people will dig 'em and I bet sales of the burgers will go up. With great power comes great indigestion?"

And Zurzulo urges us to remember the message of the X-Men themselves when it comes to approaching the campaign.

"The message of the X-Men is tolerance. Out of my respect for the X-Men I will tolerate this money grab," he says.

Ultimately, though, these promotions are an inevitable part of the biz whether they're 'good' or not, so there's no use getting too riled up — especially when it comes to issues of 'character integrity.'

"These are intellectual and corporate properties that exist to make the corporations money," says Dirk Manning,  comicbook writer and author of the book "Write or Wrong: A Writer's Guide to Creating Comics." "If you don't like some ridiculous commercial about Mystique eating a hamburger, I encourage you to create your own characters that will never be corporate shells — and then try to remember that when you're offered a multi-million dollar deal to use your characters' likenesses in a fast food ad, on a slot machine or even as a sticker on a diaper."

[Related: Spidey Gets an X-Men Assist in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' Credits Scene]

Meanwhile, fan reaction out in the Twitter-verse hasn't been exactly positive.

"X-Men: Days of Future Past" opens May 23.