As close as we can get to time travel Hitler killing…
by Kevin J. Johnson
Greetings, ladies and gents, KJ here with another spoiler special and this time we’re talking about X-Men: Days of Future Past. In this one, I spoil not only the latest mutant extravaganza but every single X-Men film there is, even Generation X! From the 90’s? Okay, maybe not that one.
Days of Future Past combines the twin casts of the original X-Men trilogy and the new X-Men: First Class members, and in doing so, takes an opportunity to fix glaring flaws left over from previous installments. Keep in mind that before DOFP was released, we already have big contradictions and continuity errors in the X-Men timeline. What better way to celebrate the release of the newest movie than with revisiting The Entirety of the X-Men Films From Start to Finish? Don’t worry, I’ll make this quick.
Seriously, in these SPOILER SPECIALS, there are lots and lots of SPOILERS that could potential SPOIL the movie for you. If you don’t like SPOILERS, then please read no further until you’ve seen Days of Future Past, which is highly recommended.
And now I give you an abridged timeline of the X-Men series:
Senator Robert Kelly tries to get a Mutant Registration Act passed
Magneto decides to mutate world leaders at the UN Summit in New York
Wolverine joins Xavier and the X-Men for the first time
Senator Kelly dies from Magneto’s experiments
Mystique impersonates Senator Kelly
Magneto is defeated and imprisoned
X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003)
Nightcrawler tries to assassinate the President while being mind-controlled
Stryker forcibly gains information from Magneto about the X-Men
Wolverine’s reunion with Stryker triggers Weapon X memories
Stryker is defeated and his base is destroyed
Jean Grey dies saving the X-Men
X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006)
Xavier and Magneto meet young Jean Grey; Xavier can walk and is still friends with Magneto in the past
Angel’s father Worthington has a mutant cure developed
Cyclops discovers Jean as Phoenix, and is disintegrated by her powers
The X-Men try to stop Phoenix, Xavier dies in the process
Magneto attacks Worthington’s facility in Alcatraz (Alcatraz?)
Magneto is de-powered by Beast
Wolverine kills Jean to stop the Phoenix
Xavier’s consciousness is discovered in a coma patient
This is where things get tricky fun.
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009)
1845: Young Logan discovers his mutation and that Sabretooth/Creed is his brother
1973: Logan and Creed fight in numerous wars and are discovered by Stryker in Vietnam
1979: Logan undergoes the Weapon X procedure and gains an adamantium skeleton
Logan frees mutant captives on Stryker’s base; Xavier rescues them, still able to walk
Stryker shoots Logan in the head with an adamantium bullet, giving him amnesia (whuh?)
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011)
1944: Sebastian Shaw kills Magneto’s mother in order to trigger his powers in Nazi Germany
Young Xavier meets and befriends Young Raven Darkholme in England
1962: Magneto hunts down Shaw for revenge, is rescued and recruited by Xavier
Magneto, Xavier and Raven form the X-Men and start recruiting; Cerebro is built
The X-Men stop Shaw and prevent the Cuban Missile Crisis
Magneto kills Shaw, accidentally cripples Xavier and becomes his archenemy
THE WOLVERINE (2013)
1945: Logan saves Yashida from the Nagasaki blast
Logan becomes a recluse after having killed Jean Grey; Yukio recruits him for Yashida
Yashida offers to make Logan mortal
Logan fights the Silver Samurai, who chops off Logan’s metal claws and reveals himself as Yashida
Logan grows his bone claws and defeats Yashida
Yukio joins Logan in further crazy adventures
Magneto, now re-powered, and Xavier, now alive, recruit Logan into a new mutant resistance
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)
Kitty Pryde and the resistance use time travel to stay ahead of the Sentinels
Xavier, Magneto and the X-Men convince Wolverine to travel back in time
1973: Logan tries to convince Xavier and Beast to free Magneto
The X-Men stop Mystique from assassinating Dr. Trask
Magneto tries to kill Mystique; the ensuing fight reveals mutants to the world decades before X-Men 1
Xavier makes contact with his future self, and resolves to recreate the X-Men
Xavier convinces Mystique to stop Magneto and spare Trask
The future is saved and the X-Men are back, nullifying the entire timeline from the series
Okay, good. We’re all caught up.
The Destruction of a Trilogy
First things first, X-Men set the stage for the comic book movie renaissance we’re enjoying today. Blade (1998) got there first in terms of the material being treated seriously, and The Matrix (1999) was infused with comic-book and manga flair, but X-Men made it official. In its growing pains, it eschewed the colorful outfits of the comics, made awkward allusions to codenames (“What do they call you? Wheels?”) and tried desperately to map action choreography into superheroics. No matter, the characters for the most part were gotten right and given respect.
X2 took it up another notch. The audience responded to the first entry with their pocketbooks, and this level of new-found confidence allowed Bryan Singer and his crew to go full throttle, introducing more mutants with wilder looks (Nightcrawler, Deathstrike) and giving these mutant action sequences the budget they deserved. Of course, none of this matters if the script wasn’t adept at juggling the humungous ensemble and giving every character a moment to shine, leading up to the beloved and legacy-defining “Dark Phoenix Saga.”
Which turned out to be friggin’ terrible. Singer departing for Superman Returns essentially drove two franchises into the creative mire. Brett Ratner, being a good soldier, took Matthew Vaughn’s story developments (who left to direct Stardust [smart move]) and made a standard summer action flick, except that films like Spider-Man 2, The Matrix and even X2 itself had completely upped the stakes and raised the bar as to what could be demanded from our entertainment.
X-Men: The Last Stand is a 90’s era Marvel movie with a 2000’s era budget. It’s the X-Men movie we would’ve been lucky to get if we didn’t know any better. It’s the burger and fries when you just had steak and lobster the other day, and it’s cold fries at that! Empty character motivations, needless deaths and executions, pat and simplified dialogue; The Last Stand is a case study in exhausting audience goodwill.
Or so I thought.
Original Sins: Nuking The Fridge
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is where this franchise nukes the fridge. Oddly enough, it’s the fourth movie that does it, isn’t it? Batman and Robin. The Phantom Menace. Even Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, from which the trope is named. Do you know where it happens in X-Men Origins? Do you? Take a guess.
Cartoon claws. Those £µ¢ɮ¡#§ cartoon claws. It was just a bad movie before that, but when Logan pops those claws out for the first time after Weapon X, they look jaw-droppingly awful.
Wolverine’s claws are a statement. They are the baddest-ass visual image of all of comicdom, and in that movie, they look like they came from an ACME kit from Toontown. Bryan Singer went through great pains to make sure that Wolverine’s claws felt real and tactile, but the filmmakers of XMOW couldn’t be bothered, leaving us with infamous moments such as this:
Or even this
Making a bad film is one thing. Saturating it with visual images that betray the work of story adaptation THREE MOVIES INis another.
The Glory of The Reset Button
So, it is with “pryde” that I can say that X-Men: Days of Future Past successfully un-nukes the fridge. The last scene of the film completely resets the universe into a happy ending featuring the School for Gifted Youngsters intact with a staff chock full of our favorite mutants. Seeing Kelsey Grammer back as Beast was a real treat since he was the only thing I liked about The Last Stand, a casting decision made by Matthew Vaughn.
It’s fitting that Vaughn and Singer have teamed up to rehabilitate this franchise as it was their subsequent departures that left The Last Stand and XMOW in the hands of studio suits, well-meaning souls who seem to wither everything they creatively touch. Vaughn returned to the X-universe with First Class, which gave 60’s style, flair and pizzazz to the saga and highlighted the camaraderie and schism between Xavier and Magneto.
It ignores the timeline established by Last Stand (smart move), and accelerated the philosophical conflict between the two, while still keeping it somewhat canon by including Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in a cameo. Plus, XMFC showed it was unafraid to offer fundamentally different portrayals of the younger versions, giving the cast latitude to enhance the emotions of forging a new fighting force.
Singer produced First Class, and Vaughn returned the favor by co-writing the story on this one. Simon Kinberg, who scripted both The Last Stand and DOFP, seemed intent on redeeming himself by crafting the best tale possible, using whatever he had at his disposal. And he let nothing, NOTHING, stand in his way.
Xavier disintegrated at the end of X3? Nope!
Magneto left powerless and dejected? Since when!
Wait, Wolverine has his metal claws back? It’s the future; everyone has metal claws!
Kitty Pryde’s able to project consciousness across time and space? That’s Kitty Pryde all day!
The filmmaker has one responsibility paramount to all others: entertain the audience.
You can challenge your audience, educate your audience, manipulate your audience, even cajole and sweet-talk your audience, but you have to entertain them. I wish more franchises would become less beholden to continuity (Star Wars, Star Trek) if it got in the way of a good story. If a franchise needs fixing (Batman, X-Men), then by all means do what you gotta and reset.
Fine, let me offer up some possible scenarios. In The Last Stand, Xavier transports his consciousness into a coma patient and wakes up in the end credits scene. This was a reference to Cassandra Nova, Xavier’s stillborn twin sister whose inherent evil caused Charles to psychically attack her while in the womb. (I’m not making this up.) The Xavier we see in DOFP could be potentially be the body of his twin brother, but more than likely, Xavier’s death at the hands of the Phoenix was probably just straight up ignored. Smart move.
Ditto for Magneto being de-powered. There was a small scene right before the end credits of Last Stand where Lehnsherr is at a park and tries to move a chess piece, which does! So yeah, that film basically went back on two of its most major developments, but whatever. Magneto retrains himself to manipulate metal, and homeboy’s back in full effect. Or just ignore X3. Hand wave it away until it is no more. Smart move.
Kitty Pryde, they just straight up gave her new powers. Go figure.
Even Sean Connery returned in Highlander 2 after having his character decapitated in the first film. How did he come back? Who cares?! Man, I miss the 80’s.
Days of Future Present
So what are the implications of the timeline presented in DOFP?
To reiterate, the filmmakers were unafraid to ignore certain events if they got in the way of telling the story they wanted to tell, and audiences are all the more better off for it. Bryan Singer, Matthew Vaughn, or anyone else for that matter can go any type of tale they want to without being slavish to a clumsy, hastily structured timeline.
The X-Men triumphed and live in peace, but that could just be one reality, not destiny itself. New courses of events can be pursued in order to find the best version of an adaptation, which is how adaptation is supposed to work. Improvements can be made, relationships can be strengthened. Mistakes can be avoided. This is why you reboot a franchise.
Perhaps Mystique and Logan team up as partners. Maybe Magneto creates the Acolytes and forms Asteroid M as a base? We might even get to see the New Mutants, 80’s style! I’m all about that.
The next film is X-Men: Apocalypse (that was the guy in the end credits scene, one of the major X-Men villains), and there’s no telling what kind of film it will be. That’s exciting and somewhat troubling at the same time. There’s a lot that can go wrong. Thankfully, what could’ve gone wrong with Days of Future Past didn’t. Audience goodwill is being restored in the X-Universe one screening at a time, and that’s a fine place to start the next adventure.
A rejection from society created both the X-Men and Kevin Johnson and both have twitter pages for you to talk to them through. Coincidence?