A couple months back I indulged in a big rant about how screwed up the continuity is in the X-Men movies. The general gist, for anyone who doesn’t want to go read that post, is that because the X-Men movies are produced by Fox, who take a lowest common denominator approach to action movies, that internal continuity is a raw and bloody mess. For a continuity nerd like me, I have a hard time enjoying the series as a whole (even setting aside the fact that about half the entries so far have been, objectively, the worst movies). When I watch individual installments, I enjoy them pretty well. The first two X-Men movies, while not exactly great films (they hail from that early superhero movie era when no one realized that you could do a movie about superheroes and have the audience be okay with them looking like superheroes) were solid outings with some interesting narrative arcs between them. X-Men: First Class was a fun standalone film that explored some really interesting character dynamics between Xavier and Magneto (and took a few timid steps towards treating the X-Men like a comic book superhero team, even if January Jones’s turn as Emma Frost was perhaps the worst translation of a comic book character to screen that I’ve ever seen).
Fortunately for people like me, Bryan Singer is back in the director’s chair for the next film in the series, X-Men: Days of Future Past. I’m still skeptical that it will be a good movie, but I trust that Singer is doing everything he can to get a handle on the continuity snarl that’s the X-Men film franchise. Fox just released the trailer (also, here’s a good breakdown of everything that appears in the trailer for wild mass guessing, if you’re into that kind of thing), and it looks great.
The trailer, I mean.
Everyone in Hollywood can put out a good looking trailer, so I’ll take all the breathless anticipation with a shaker of salt, but what I saw suggests there’s going to be more of the in-depth character exploration that Matthew Vaughn did so well in First Class, especially for everyone’s favorite elderly
heterosexual platonic life partners, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen Professor X and Magneto.
(As an aside, and this has nothing to do with anything, did you know that Chuck Norris is only one year younger than Ian McKellen? One of my students recently got curious about Chuck Norris and Googled him to find that the guy is in his seventies.)
I’m excited about that prospect, because the ongoing ideological disagreement between Xavier and Magneto is a core feature of the franchise as a whole, especially when it’s balanced against their very strong friendship (mindwipes and murder attempts aside).
Anyway, for those who may not be familiar with the plot of the story arc that Days of Future past is based on (this is actually the second great Claremont story that’s being adapted for the films; the first was God Loves; Man Kills, which was the basis for X2) is pretty convoluted in its structure. See, the original two issue arc (I’m always amazed to remember that there was a point in comics history when major story arcs only spanned a few issues) launched with a sudden departure from the established continuity of the Uncanny X-Men to jump thirty years into the future to a dystopian world that involved mutants living in concentration camps overseen by Sentinels. Most of the original X-Men were dead, with the exception of Xavier, Wolverine, Kate Pryde, Rachel
Grey Summers (Cyclops and Jean Grey’s daughter), and a few other mutants who weren’t that important to the phlebotinum that led to Kate mind-time-traveling back to inhabit her adolescent body and warn the X-Men of a plot to assassinate the anti-mutant activist Senator Robert Kelly(you might remember him as the senator that Mystique impersonated in the original X-Men film) by the Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants (whenever this villain group pops up now, the Evil’s dropped, and I think that’s a good move, since villains that are supposed to be taken seriously don’t typically label themselves as evil). Kelly’s assassination in the future that we’re introduced to led to a crackdown on mutants that accelerated Sentinel production and resulted in the AI singularity causing Sentinels to decide they were more fit to take care of humans than humans.
Yeah, it’s a little complicated, but that’s Chris Claremont.
Anyway, the important changes to make note of are the fact that Kitty’s no longer the time traveler (instead it’s going to be Wolverine, since Hugh Jackman gets to play Logan no matter what the time period is supposed to be). Rachel
Grey Summers (I keep forgetting she took her mom’s last name decades after she was originally introduced) is nowhere to be seen (since this film’s supposed to fix all the continuity problems, and the dystopian future is presumably a result of the events portrayed in the first three X-Men movies, which means that Jean and Scott are both dead long before they ever even considered having kids), so there’s some weird stuff going on with needing Kitty’s powers to initiate the time hop (every reaction to this plot development is more or less the same as mine: Kitty’s powers don’t work like that). I’m not sure how Logan’s time jump back to the ’70s is supposed create a divergent timeline, but maybe in the undisturbed version of events, Charles and Eric made amends after their falling out at the end of First Class and made another try at finding and helping mutants peaceably after their wild and raucous youths.
Long story short, while the trailer is definitely good, and gives me some hope for a fun action movie, the best I’m hoping for from this outing is for the filmmakers to do a serviceable time travel plot that gives them permission to completely ignore what they’ve done before (except First Class) and reboot the franchise (even though Hugh Jackman seems to be pretty much never giving up on Wolverine as his character).
That’s what I hope, anyway. Maybe then there’ll be some work towards doing an X-Men/Avengers crossover like I’m really hoping for.