'X-Men: Days of Future Past' lifts from X-traordinary 1981 X-Men story

By Andrew A. Smith
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

May 13, 2014 -- If you’ve seen the trailers for X-Men: Days of Future Past, the Twentieth Century Fox movie that premieres May 23, your reaction has probably been “What the heck is going on here?”

That’s understandable. The previews show a number of inherent contradictions. Like, how can Professor Charles Xavier, as played by Patrick Stewart, be involved, when we saw him die in “X-Men: The Last Stand”? Why isn’t The Beast (Nicholas Hoult) furry? And why does there seem to be two versions of the major characters?

The answer to these questions is one phrase: time travel.

For more information we have to travel in time ourselves, back to 1981. That’s when the story this movie is based on first appeared, in the Uncanny X-Men comic book.

At the time, Jean “Phoenix” Grey was recently dead (for the second time -- don’t ask) and Scott “Cyclops” Summers had taken a leave of absence to work through his grief. Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde was such a new X-Man she was still using her first code name “Sprite.” The only other members of the team at the time were founding X-Man Angel, and relative newcomers Colossus, Storm and Wolverine (who all joined in 1975).

The story “Days of Future Past” opened with an adult Kitty Pryde (now called Kate) moving through the ruins of Manhattan decades in the future, in the (cough) 21st century. Very quickly we learn that North America had been taken over by Sentinels – large, mutant-killing robots that the X-Men have fought more than a few times – and the United States is a ruin. Most superheroes are dead, the government has been dissolved and what few mutants remain – like Kate – are kept in concentration camps. Sentinels patrol the skies while gangs rule the streets. We’re told Kate has managed to get a day pass for medical supplies, but instead keeps a surreptitious rendezvous with Wolverine, one of the few mutants still roaming free.

Yikes!

What Kate gets from Wolverine is the final component she and her fellow imprisoned mutants need for a last-ditch plan to fix everything. Those mutants – Storm, Kate’s now-husband Colossus, Franklin Richards (the son of Reed and Sue Richards of the Fantastic Four), Rachel Summers (the daughter of Cyclops and Jean Grey) and a crippled Magneto – plan to send Kate’s mind back in time to warn the X-Men of the 20th century to avoid the major mistake that led to this dystopian future.

That mistake was failing to prevent the assassination of U.S. Sen. Robert Kelly – a presidential aspirant – by Mystique and a bunch of mutant super-villains, just as he is pushing a “Mutant Registration Act” to authorize draconian measures against mutants. After the assassination, we learn, an outraged nation passes the act, sending the country down the slippery slope to concentration camps.

Kate’s mind does in fact make the time jump, landing in her teenaged 1981 body. After convincing the X-Men that she’s from the future – hey, the X-Men have seen weirder – Storm leads her team in an attempt to prevent the senator’s assassination. Meanwhile, the story also follows the X-Men of the future as they make a suicidal attempt to disable the Sentinels.

What follows next is the stuff of comic-book legend, and I won’t spoil it for you here. I will say that Uncanny X-Men was at its height in the early ‘80s, with writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne co-plotting a run of issues so imaginative and ground-breaking that X-Men became the most popular franchise in comics for the next 20 years.

Amazingly, this famous story was presented in exactly two issues. In today’s world of “decompressed” storytelling – often a euphemism for “stretching a story to six issues so it will fill a trade paperback” – it would doubtless have run the whole summer of 1981, crossing over into six or seven other titles and a clutch of miniseries and one-shots. But, no: Claremont and Byrne told the whole story – two stories, really, in two different time periods – with a beginning, a middle and a very serious end in exactly two issues. And they did it so well that no X-Men reader of 1981 ever forgot it.

Marvel Comics didn’t forget it either -- unfortunately. Various writers re-visited the concepts and the dystopian future of “Days of Future Past” in the 1990s with a four-part story that ran in four annuals of different series, three issues of Excalibur and a three-issue Wolverine miniseries. Oh, there was also a Hulk story in 2009. Frankly, many of those stories weren’t very good, as “Days of Future Past” suffered from the law of diminishing returns.

There are no flies on Marvel, so of course all of these “DoFP” stories have been collected in a new hardback with the same name as the movie. Given the almost painful awfulness of the later stories, I’d recommend that you find one of the other reprint books that contain the original two-parter, like Marvel Masterworks: Uncanny X-Men Vol. 6, X-Men Essentials Vol. 2 or Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol. 2. Those will contain not only the two-parter, but some of the issues on either side of “Days of Future Past,” which are pretty good. (Oh, there’s a new prose version of the story as well.)

Needless to say, the movie will not follow the original story perfectly. For one thing, it’s clear that the future X-Men send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time, not Kitty Pryde. Sen. Robert Kelly already appeared, and died, in the first X-Men movie, so he’s kinda unavailable. And somehow or other, the older Xavier (Patrick Stewart) will exist in the future, despite having died in the, uh, past.

Actually, that latter isn’t all that hard to understand. If the X-Men are dinking with time, isn’t it possible they could change the events that killed Xavier back in Last Stand? Plus, time travel provides the excuse to have two Xaviers and two Magnetos, meaning we get the thrill of seeing Stewart, Ian McKellan, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender all in one movie! Not to mention the many other famed actors who are reprising their original roles, like Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Halle Berry (Storm), Anna Paquin (Rogue), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde) and Shawn Ashmore (Iceman).
Plus – plus! – Peter Dinklage, who has found fame in Game of Thrones, will play Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinels.

What is less clear are all the new X-people who are appearing in “Days of Future Past” that have no connection to the original story, or to the various X-movies to date.

For example, we’ll meet the energy-absorber Bishop (Omar Sy), a refugee from a different dystopic future. And the teleporter Blink (Bingbing Fan), yet another refugee from yet another dystopic future. And the solar-powered Sunspot (Adan Canto), the super-speedster Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and the Native American warrior Warpath (Booboo Stewart), who aren’t refugees from anywhere, thank goodness.

All of this time-hopping leads one to believe that his movie will revoke a lot of Last Stand, not only conflating the various X-movies into a single cohesive timeline, but restoring a number of formerly dead X-Men – Ex-Men? – to viability.

Which is going to make for a movie with an X-traordinary number of X-Men. That’s one way it will be just like the comics!

Contact Captain Comics at capncomics@aol.com.

Views: 941

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

So, I saw Days of Future Past Monday night (5/26). And it was really good. Some quick thoughts:

 photo spoiler-1.gif

 photo spoiler-1.gif

 photo spoiler-1.gif

* I thought all the time-jumping could be confusing, or it would be dull if they continually did establishing shots to remind everyone what era you were in. But they solved that elegantly by placing the future scenes in such a unique setting that the viewer could orient immediately despite a lot of quick cuts.

* I wondered if there would be just too damn many X-Men, but the moviemakers solved that by simply not explaining all the future X-Men. You just had to pay attention to understand how and what the powers were for Sunspot, Warpath, Blink and Bishop. I thought they all came across pretty clearly, except for Bishop. Heck it wasn't clear in the comics what his power was (absorbing energy, which he re-directed ... through a big gun?!??). The other future X-Men -- Storm, Magneto, Kitty Pryde, Prof. X, Wolverine, Colossus and Iceman -- had appeared in previous films, and were even played by the same actors, so that was no biggie.

* At first I was disappointed by the look of the Sentinels -- the comic-book robots are frikkin awesome, so why not just use that look? But then I realized that the X-Men fought the comic-book Sentinels (without naming them) in a previous movie in the Danger Room. It would stretch credulity had the X-Men anticipated the robots they would fight in the future!

* I have to say I didn't care for the Beast's combat scenes. He didn't look like an animal fighting, he looked like a guy in a costume being swung around on a wire.

* I wondered at the Big Names that were slated for this movie that in the comics had only bit roles. And, sure enough, Anna Paquin and a few others had only cameos. But Jennifer Lawrence's role as Mystique was upgraded to make her the crux of the movie -- which is only amazing if you haven't noticed how high her star has risen.

* What was sort of amazing is how little Wolverine had to do. I'm not complaining -- some of the other X-movies could have been titled Wolverine and His Amazing Friends, and he's already had two solo films -- but despite being the central driver of the movie, he had little to do except stand around and give X-position. He did get a chance to take his shirt off, which he should, because his physique is a special effect in itself.

* I predicted in the column above that a lot of Final Stand would be un-done by this movie, and it was. They revived all the dead X-Men, including (old) Prof. X, Cyclops and Jean Grey. As, honestly, I expected. But Patrick Stewart and the others aren't under contract any more, so I have no idea what will happen next.

* Yes, there's a credits scene. It's set in ancient Egypt, where the pyramids are being assembled by what appears to be telekinesis, or maybe gravity control. Throngs of people are chanting to the guy doing it: "En Sabah Nur! En Sabah Nur!"

* I hope that this doesn't mean we've seen the end of "young X-Men." Fassbender and McAvoy are terrific. (In fact, all the acting is terrific, and for an action movie, a lot of emoting is called for.) My wife commented that nobody but Fassbender could have pulled off a believable, charismatic Magneto.

* The movie got a lot of the '70s right, which only reminded me what a gawdawful decade that was. Clothes, cars, music, everything was terrible. Plus "tin soldiers and Nixon coming" -- Vietnam and Tricky Dick. What a terrible, terrible decade.

* From the previews, I thought I'd hate Quicksilver. But, no, he was one of the highlights. There were some in-jokes for us comics fans, like Peter (not Pietro) commenting, "A guy who commands metals? My mom used to know a guy like that." And later on, he's shown cuddling a younger sister with reddish-brown hair.

* It was clear that we were supposed to be shocked and horrified when Future Storm bought it. But, honestly, she's been so wooden and lifeless in this series that I was almost relieved. Even my wife said, "After all the things she's said about that role, who cares? She sure didn't." Bingo. If she doesn't care about her character, why should I? I actually re-play her lines in my head to make them better.

* I was actually more saddened by the deaths of Warpath and Blink. The camera loved them, and they were terrific, and irresistible when on screen. I would be happy to see more of both.

* Bishop was kinda meh, but then, the comic-book Bishop was kinda meh.

* Perhaps as a nod to Wolverine & The X-Men, or maybe it was my imagination, but Future Iceman and Future Kitty kept throwing Significant Looks at each other. In the present, of course, Iceman and Rogue are a couple.

* Shawn Ashmore only struck me as competent before. He was actually pretty impressive in this, with his determined Alamo performance. He even rode an ice slide!

* The future X-Men were amazingly multicultural: Black (Bishop, Storm), Chinese (Blink), Brazilian mestizo (Sunspot), Native American (Warpath) and White (Colossus).

* Believe it or not, we also saw Toad, Ink and Havok in this movie!

That's all that tumbled out of my brain tonight. Who's next?

I didn't notice gender on Apocalypse. Maybe he was a boy.

Also, aren't Bishop and Blink from different dystopic futures in the comics? I'm not complaining, just clarifying. I'm pretty sure Blink was from Age of Apocalypse, and I don't know where Bishop is from -- some future where the Xavier Security Enforcers exist. Or is it Cable's future, with the Mother Askani business?

I haven't seen the movie but I think that any decade that could bring us the Pet Rock had some definite problems.

I'm pretty sure that Blink originated in the 616 present, but was killed off shortly thereafter.  As a result, all of her appearances since then have been dimensional counterparts, like the one from Age of Apocalypse.  Bishop is from a different dystopian future than Cable (not that the X-Men have many utopian futures to pick from).  Oh, and Prof. X came back to life in the post-credits sequence at the end of X-3.

Captain Comics said:

I didn't notice gender on Apocalypse. Maybe he was a boy.

Also, aren't Bishop and Blink from different dystopic futures in the comics? I'm not complaining, just clarifying. I'm pretty sure Blink was from Age of Apocalypse, and I don't know where Bishop is from -- some future where the Xavier Security Enforcers exist. Or is it Cable's future, with the Mother Askani business?

I remember the Blink of 616 being introduced and dying, and Marvel bringing in the one from Age of Apocalypse because, they said, readers were outraged by the death of "our" Blink. I thought it was typical hyperbole, but there did seem to be some support for Blink online. Anyway, the new Blink was the leader of Exiles in the book(s) of the same name, all of which I have, and the copy mentioned more than once that she wasn't the 616 Blink.

All I was uncertain about was which dystopian future in the comics Blink is from, which I remembered as Age of Apocalypse -- but was too lazy to look up. (I have learned to my chagrin that looking up ANY X-Man can eat up an afternoon.)

Ditto with Bishop -- I seemed to remember he was from a unique future, but couldn't be sure it wasn't just a LATER future of one of the ones we know, like Cable's. Also, his status quo was altered substantially by the decision to turn him into a relentless hunter of Hope -- so much so, I couldn't remember if it was the same character. It certainly didn't square with his previous appearances. But, again, I was hoping one of you X-fans could tell me rather than waste half a day looking it up.

I also remember the credits scene in Last Stand with Xavier, but what I remembered is that it wasn't explained! Maybe you understood it better than I.

I have to admit, I'm just guessing that Bishop's future is separate from Cable's, and not just the same future in different decades (altho if either ever mentioned a specific date, I can't recall, and as you say, looking up any X-Man, especially one with variant timelines, is more of a commitment than I'm willing to make at the moment).  For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure that originally, Cable came from a future that was more distant than Bishop's.

As for Last Stand, somewhere earlier in the movie, there's a scene in which a kind of mutant ethics class introduced scientist Moira MacTaggart at her Muir Island lab, where one of her charges was an otherwise healthy unidentified man who we're told had permanently lost all higher mental function.  The ethics question was whether or not it would be right for a telepathic mutant to transfer the mind of fatally injured person into this healthy body.  In the credits scene, said body wakes up, and while we didn't get to see his face, he was played by Patrick Stewart.  Fannish speculation was that the body had originally belonged to Charles long-lost twin brother, who'd literally lost his mind in a tragic astral projection incident.  Hey, it's not any crazier than Cassandra Nova.  Of course, exactly how that version of Moira squares with the one from First Class, I can't guess, but then, I really thought that the CIA agent working with Charles & Eric in that movie should have been an American version of Gabrielle Haller anyway.

I enjoyed the movie, although aspects of it really screw up timelines.  Hank McCoy would now have to be a generation older than the other original X-Men of the comics, and Alex Summers can't be Scott's younger brother now, unless the present Scott is well into his 60s now, as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch would have to be, unless they went into a wormhole in 1973 and popped 41 years into the future.  Ah, well, it's all fantasy.  It was a fun ride.

BTW, thinking of what was going on in the Marvel-verse in 1973 -- the X-Men title had been in re-runs for years and would continue for two more before the all-new X-Men made their debut.  Wolverine's own debut was still a year away.  Most of the other familiar X-Men and their mutant friends & foes were being kidnapped by the Secret Empire, although readers wouldn't know what was going on or why until well into 1974, and only if they kept up with Captain America & the Falcon.  Gwen died and Crystal officially broke up with Johnny Storm and became an item with Quicksilver, who was royally ticked off at his sister for falling in love with a "robot".  Meanwhile, the former villain Swordsman joined the ranks of the Avengers and brought along his mysterious girlfriend, Mantis.  And Captain Marvel, Drax the Destroyer and others were fighting that magnificently mad Titan, Thanos.  A few highlights.  The '70s weren't all bad!

I had a pair of herringbone bellbottoms in the '70s that were two shades of electric blue -- one shade going up, the other shade going down in the herringbone pattern. And when you rubbed them, they reversed. 

Worst. Decade. Ever.

I would say that Days of Future Past was pretty much the worst story ever to happen to the X-Men franchise.  So many alternate futures, all bleak, all badly written, so many bad characters, so much...just...bad.

What about the underwear on the outside 80's?


Captain Comics said:

I had a pair of herringbone bellbottoms in the '70s that were two shades of electric blue -- one shade going up, the other shade going down in the herringbone pattern. And when you rubbed them, they reversed. 

Worst. Decade. Ever.

The follow up's maybe, but I enjoyed the original. It introduced so much at the time, Mystique and her group, Senator Kelly, Storm as leader... But to me it was like the fairy tale that Kitty told Illyana, they should have left it as a fairy tale.



Randy Jackson said:

I would say that Days of Future Past was pretty much the worst story ever to happen to the X-Men franchise.  So many alternate futures, all bleak, all badly written, so many bad characters, so much...just...bad.

I agree the original story was good.  I swear I had edited my post earlier.  Oh well. 

The initial idea was fine.  It's the follow-ups that have made it the red-kryptonite of the X-verse.

Mark S. Ogilvie said:

The follow up's maybe, but I enjoyed the original. It introduced so much at the time, Mystique and her group, Senator Kelly, Storm as leader... But to me it was like the fairy tale that Kitty told Illyana, they should have left it as a fairy tale.



Randy Jackson said:

I would say that Days of Future Past was pretty much the worst story ever to happen to the X-Men franchise.  So many alternate futures, all bleak, all badly written, so many bad characters, so much...just...bad.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Welcome!

No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.

SOME ESSENTIALS:

RULES OF THE ROUND TABLE

MODERATORS

SMILIES FOLDER

TIPS ON USING THE BOARD

FOLLOW US:

OUR COLUMNISTS:

Groups

© 2021   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service