Days of Future Past.
In terms of iconic storylines from the classic X-Men comics, Days of Future Past ranks pretty high among those remembered by fans. That storyline, along with the classic Dark Phoenix Saga, helped launch the X-Men into the mainstream in the mid 80’s and helped kids like me become interested in it.
So, when it was announced that the newest X-Men film, and sequel to X-Men: First Class, was going to be titled X-Men: Days of Future Past… fans perked up and I know we’re all thinking: “How are they going to handle this?”
There are a few routes that director Bryan Singer (X-Men, X2) could go and we’re going to go over some ideal situations.
The Original Storyline
The storyline from 1981 featured Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) coming back in time mentally to warn the X-Men of what would happen if Senator Robert Kelly were assassinated and then the world became hostile towards mutants, evolving into the creation of Sentinels, giant robots programmed to exterminate mutants.
Would this storyline translate to the screen? Unfortunately, there’s a few issues. Kitty Pryde has already been established in the timeline of X-Men 3: The Last Stand and Senator Robert Kelly was introduced in the original X-Men film. So, they’d need to recast Kitty’s part with either a new or returning X-Men character.
Days of Future Past / X-Men Animated Series
How the 1990’s hit animated series of X-Men handled this situation was by integrating another time-traveling mutant by the name of Bishop (above). Bishop came from an alternate future riddled with Sentinels and he came to seek out who the assassin was that killed Senator Kelly and who inadvertently caused this dystopian timeline.
Bishop (or any other similar time-traveler figure such as Cable) could stand in as Kitty Pryde’s role. Someone that could serve as a narrator and explain the future to us. This future might also allow for some cool cameos from characters in the original trilogy timeline, such as Iceman or even Kitty Pryde.
Actually… In retrospect, they could use Kitty Pryde (reprised by Ellen Page) as a time traveler since she’d be coming from the future anyways. Mind blown.
Anyways. This storyline might allow for easy exposition to the audience and introduce some new characters, as well as possibly some cameos to further elaborate on the shared canon.
Days of Future Present
In this variation of the same story (and somewhat of a sequel), we follow the story of a time-traveling villain named Ahab who tries to kidnap/exterminate the children of mutants who grow up to become powerful. One of these is the child of Scott and Jean Summers (who grows up to become Cable) and the other is the son of Reed and Susan Richards of the Fantastic Four, who grows up to become what’s called an “Omega level” mutant, who can warp reality to become whatever he wants.
Now… why would they possibly consider any facet of this for the movie?
Fox, who currently owns the rights to boththe X-Men and the Fantastic Four franchises, has actually come out with the intention to create a shared universe, much like Marvel has done. They’ll likely reboot Fantastic Four (since the Human Torch will be busy being Captain America for awhile). If they introduce Franklin Richards and even the Fantastic Four in this X-Men film, it might lead into their own film as well.
Plus, this story will negate the problem of Senator Kelly, as the writers can now introduce new villains and heroes without worrying about continuity with what’s already been created.
So… How do any of these ideas fit with the First Class story?
At the end of First Class, we’ve got Magneto finally starting to realize his potential. He’s rolling deep with the White Queen, Azazel, Riptide, Mystique, and Angel. What we might call the Brotherhood. The core of this new story should still revolve around Erik and Charles, as that was hands-down the best part of First Class. I would trim the fat and remove Riptide and Angel from the roster for this sequel, as to focus on the preexisting characters.
Charles is now confined to a wheelchair, with students Havok, Banshee, and Beast. Let’s actually spend some time with these three, while maybe introducing another female character to fill the gap left by Mystique turning to the dark side. They start to make progress when they’re disrupted by a time traveler with bad news.
They could go the route of Magneto and the Brotherhood attempting to assassinate someone important and that the newly formed X-Men have to stop them, or else a horrible future will take place. This introduces very little new concept to the story but allows us to create some cool moments for our pre-existing characters. If we bog down the story with too many new additions, the movie will flop like Wolverine: Origins and X-Men 3: The Last Stand.
If they go the route of someone from the future coming to assassinate young mutants, we could see Magneto and Charles working together to stop these future forces (such as Sentinels), but they both have different motives with what to do with these children. This would create another philosophical difference between the two that would result in some cool moments for Fassbender and McAvoy to play out.
If they absolutely create some new characters, they’re becoming fairly limited because of the canon that the other X films have already decided. Bishop or Cable as time-travelers would make sense, and there are still some untapped heroes such as Psylocke, Jubilee, or even characters from other rosters like X-Force and X-Calibur, that they could bring into the team. I always veer towards minimalism, as it allows more screentime per character. Especially for the villain team, they have a hefty cast already.
How would this play with the canon of X films?
With time travel, this becomes complicated. We have essentially three timelines. We’ve got the pre-prequel timeline of Wolverine: Origins, the prequel timeline of X-Men: First Class, and then the standard timeline of X-Men, X2, X3, and then soon to be the Wolverine solo sequel The Wolverine which occurs after X3.
If they show a future, they could definitely utilize cameos from the standard X-Men line (and maybe even another cameo from Hugh Jackman) but they have to make sure to not alter what will happen in those timelines. We know how Magneto and Charles end up, so we can’t stray too far from that reality.
Again, I’m emphasizing minimalism. I’m not a huge fan of First Class (see my article here) and I don’t want this sequel to make the same mistakes. There are some potentially cool ideas to utilize (or pick pieces from), so hopefully we get a good balance of action and then deep character development.
We’ll see, when X-Men: Days of Future Past comes to the big screen in 2014!