X-Men: Days of Future Past

So I finally saw this yesterday evening with some friends, and I was very pleased. The story was satifyingly complex. The character work by Fassbender, MacAvoy and Lawernce was fantastic. The action was great. Quicksilver stole the show! (The Avengers film is going to have a very hard time topping that.)  Lots of great fanservice and nods to the comic. Yes, it differed from the story, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The one thing I could not get over was that Kitty Pryde’s power has nothing to do with what she was doing in this film. Kitty “phases” through solid matter by making her atoms (and the atoms of the person she is in physical contact with) pass through the spaces between the atoms of the object she is phasing through. Her power is neither telepathic or temporal. She can’t send someone’s conciousness back in time. There needed to be some technobabble to explain that or set up another ways for this to happen. Also Charles’ serum affecting his telepathy. “Affects my genes” doesn’t make any sense. “Affects my nervous system and therefore my brain” would have worked much better and also made sense in terms of how quickly the effects wore off.

The Uncanny X-Men: Days of Future Past story was published in 1981. Written by Chris Claremont, who is still considered *the* seminal writer of the X-Men, and drawn by John Byrne and inked by Terry Austin.

(Even some comic book readers do not realize how vital inkers are to what they see on the page. The writer writes the story similar to a screenplay script with some, often vague, stage directions. The penciler/artist choreographs the action, creates the layout and draws in the lines for the figures and usually a vague background. The inker is the artist who gives those lines depth, light, shadow, the appearance of three dimensions. He often creates background detail as well. The writer then goes back in to tweak the dialog or narration to fit what the penciler & inker have put on the page. Then it goes to the colorist and letterer, who do not have quite as much prestige.)

The X-Men were created in 1964 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but it didn’t catch on for quite some time. After a brief run of a couple years, the title was cancelled. There were attempts to resurrect the series, both in a new run (notably Roy Thomas and Neal Adams, who was breaking ground in comic book art at the time) and reprints. But it wasn’t until Chris Clarmeont came along that the X-Men finally found their voice. Claremont, working with penciler Dave Cockrum, picked up the title and restructured the team with new faces like Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Banshee and some little obnoxious dude named “Wolverine.” (Yes, Logan had a single appearance before in The Hulk, but you get what I am saying.) Claremont/Byrne/Austin is the team that catapulted The Uncanny X-Men into one of Marvel’s top selling titles and created some of the most iconic storylines that the comic utilizes and references back to even today.

Days of Future Past was one of them. In the original story, in the distopian future in which the sentinels have taken over, Rachel Summers (daughter of Jean Grey and Scott Summers) utilizes her telepathy with Kitty Pryde’s phasing abilities to send Kitty’s mind back into her younger body in order to stop Mystique from assisinating Senator Kelly whom was introducing the first piece of anti-mutant legislation.

So as you can see they kept the essential premise. However, the changes they did make were big ones. Most of them worked well, but losing Kitty as the focus to the we’re-burnt-out-on-this-guy-please-move-on Wolverine was disappointing. I understand the logistical need because of the timeframes, but it was still disappointing. Storm was horribly miscast so I am glad her role has always been small, but she led the X-Men after Scott left. Emma Frost was criminaly misused in First Class. The Wasp was a founding member of the Avengers, but she was dumped in favor of the sexpot Black Widow who has not even gotten her own film despite the male characters around her getting at least two each. Comic Book films need to bring forward and develop more of the strong female characters that grace their pages.

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8 thoughts on “X-Men: Days of Future Past

  1. Interesting what you say about the inkers. I collected Wonder Woman comics for a few years in the ’90s. I was surprised by the fact the job of “illustrator” was broken down into several parts. I suppose 24 pages of images, several panels per page, is too big a job for one person to accomplish each month. Does the letterer really deserve their own credit though? Btw, please don’t tell people I collected WW. I suspect that is incredibly uncool and I have my street cred to maintain.

    • WW is very cool. 😉 She’s just tricky to write. Like Thor in Marvel, she is balanced between the world of ancient legend, modern life and science fiction finding a writer who can pull that off well is often difficult. Even great writers can sometime stumble when presented with such a challenge. So she’s had some great runs and some not so great runs. I forgot about both the colorist and the letterer (I added them above). Well, a credit is a credit, like the “Best Boy” in films. They work on it, they deserve the credit. Both the artist and the inker’s work takes up a lot of time. There is a book where they interview Claremont, Bryne and Austin separately about their work in the X-Men and you get a sense of how much time and effort go into each issue. Now with reproduction capabilities much higher, airbrushing and computer generated art, artistic expectations are much higher. Which I think is part of the reason why comics have gone from panels to so many splash pages: Less individual pictures to work on.

      • I love comparing the credits from old films with modern ones. They take about 30 seconds and there’s no mention of the production accountant or the guy who walked the second assistant director’s dogs.
        I stopped reading WW because I found the frequent cross-overs with other titles made the story very hard to follow. They’d start a story in WW, have a pivotal plot point take place in Superman, then back to WW. As I didn’t read any other comics I had no idea what had happened. It was very annoying. What titles do you read? Do you have a preference for Marvel or DC?

  2. I’ve been a Marvelite since the beginning. I started with Claremont’s New Mutants (which is was the X-Men junior team) and then quickly went into the X-Men. I got really spoiled during the 1980’s. Claremont’s X-Men, Miller’s Daredevil, Simonson’s Thor. Some of the most iconic Marvel stories come out of that time. It was only in 2005 that I started reading DC comics, and that was because of Gail Simone writing the Birds of Prey, which was AMAZING! (If you want to read some good comics, pick up the trade paperbacks of her run. They are wonderful! And no crossovers.) She then went to Wonder Woman and had a good run there, though she was better at writing “street level” characters. (Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress, Lady Blackhawk, Lady Shiva, etc.) BoP also allowed her to play with other DC female characters and she wrote them so well! I know what you mean about crossovers. Sadly, most of the time they are a marketing tool to get readers to buy other titles and hopefully get them hooked so they buy more comics every month. It really became an annoyance with Marvel in the 2000’s as they would have a major, multi-issue crossover events involving the entire Marvel Universe (all the major titles) every year. Individual teams and characters never got a chance to settle in and develop their own stories. It got so bad one writer (Peter David writing X-Factor) simply refused to take part in one. They still have them, but they aren’t Marvel Universe-wide and lasting most of the year as they used to be.

  3. Crossovers involving every freakin’ character? Wow, that is absurd.I googled and Marvel publishes over fifty titles. It would surely be physically impossible to buy and read all of those comics. One last question- which actor most perfectly realised a comic book character and which was the worst casting choice?

  4. Well, not *every* title, but certainly all the major ones, which forces people to buy eight to ten to a dozen comics a month just to follow one story. Given that comics are $4 a pop, that becomes expensive fast. I remember when comic books were 65 cents and it would take about 20 minutes to read one. Today, Because of all the splashpage art, you aren’t getting as much story in each comic and it takes, maybe eight to ten minutes, tops. I read one study that stated that per minutes of enjoyment, comic book collecting is one of the most expensive hobbies to have. You can halve that by getting subscriptions directly from the publisher, but those crossover events force you down to the LCBS (local comic book shop) to buy comics you don’t want to read regularly. It works, because as much as fans complained, they still went and bought them.

    At least they seems to have calmed down on that now.

    Best casting? That’s tough, there have been some very good calls. RDJ as Tony Stark has to top the list. Every casting announcement has been greeted by waves of angst from comic book fans disappointed that their “perfect casting choice” (and comic book fans *constantly* have had conversations for decades about who would be the best actors to play characters) was ignored. But RDJ was the one casting announcement that was near universally greeted with “…Yeah, that works.” And he proved everyone right. He is fantastic. The comic book Tony Stark isn’t as off the wall and frenetic as RDJ’s ADD-esque portrayal, but he finds the balance between Tony’s suave and nerdy sides, while getting into his frailties.

    But Patrick Stewart’s Professor X is also dead on to the comic book character, though I wish they would explore the fact that Xavier is not wholly good. He can actually be manipulative, a dangerous trait in a telepath. It’s something in the comic that drives Emma Frost (who joined the X-Men) up a wall: Both Jean Grey and Xavier are held up as these paragons of virtue, but in fact they both had gone to the “ends justify the means” route a few times over the years. Emma is very openly an “ends justify the means” person and is vilified for it. (She is MUCH more interesting and fun in the comic than she was in the film.) Michael Fassbender’s Magneto is amazing. I respect Sir Ian immensely, but as someone who is a Magneto fan, I don’t feel he ever quite got into character. He did not quite inhabit it. Fassbender throws himself into it completely. He portrays more menace as well as more vulnerability. Of course the fact that the film departed so drastically from the comic book did not help. Magneto did not have his powers through the Holocaust, he was not trained as a weapon. He was just another prisoner, only worse because the only way he survived was as a sonderkommando. The privation of the Holocaust delayed his power manifesting until years later, when he was an adult. He discovered he had this immense power only after everyone he loved had been killed in a process that he helped with. His main driving force, underneath the genetic superiority rhetoric and need to protect his people, is survivors guilt.

    But I guess that is too complex for the films to tackle.

    Anyway, Fassbender ranks very high on that list.

    I gotta go to work, more later.

  5. You know what it is? Someone once observed that while Magneto is very charismatic with a crowd, he has a hard time inspiring personal loyalty. Xavier was the opposite: Not so great with the public rhetoric, but all his students were devoted to him. Fassbender gets that remote part of Magneto’s character that has a very hard time connecting to people on a personal level.

    In the comics, for a while Magneto gave Xavier’s way a try and ended up taking over the school. Watching him try to cope with the New Mutants was very interesting. Very rocky. Yet after they went through an horrible experience, it turned out that he was the one character who could understand and empathize with the emotional trauma they coping with.

    ANYway, worst casting choice? Halle Berry. Both Storm and Catwoman. Horrible, just horrible. She just does not have the presence and weight to portray those characters innately powerful personalities. Storm especially is a very powerful woman, even without her powers. She’s an war-orphan, street survivor who ended up worshiped as a Goddess by local tribes in the African bush and she took that trust seriously. She is kind, compassionate, wise and utterly implacable when it comes to protecting the weak and innocent. She’s strong, smart, clever and insightful. She lost her power for several years (reading time) and was still such a good leader, she remained in charge of the team, even in combat. She can stand up to Xavier when he is wrong. She can get Wolverine to stand down even when he is in the midst of a blood rage just by sheer force of her personality. (When Cyclops led the team, Logan rebelled against him constantly. When Storm led the team, Logan followed her lead all the time. He trusted her implicitly.) Berry was criminally miscast in this role. If I had my druthers, I would have rather seen Angela Bassett as Storm. She has that gravitas and force of personality.

    • Wow, your description of Storm is totally different to the impression I got of her from the films. She was barely more than an extra in the films and had such a lack of presence that I often forgot she was there. I can see Bassett really doing justice to the character as you described her.
      Fassbender is usually good in anything but I’m afraid James McAvoy, who I adored in Dune, is cursed with an adolescent face and I can’t quite believe him as a grown man.

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