“We fought. We lost. We died.” – Kitty Pryde
Not the most uplifting words, but they do set the tone to one of the best X-Men storylines of all time. Days of Future Past is probably one of the most beloved Marvel tales from the 1980s. It makes sense that 20TH Century Fox finally made the decision to go ahead with a film adaptation with Bryan Singer (X-Men, X-2) at the helm. Since so many people are looking forward to the film’s release this weekend, it is only appropriate to discuss the source material for those who are not familiar or need a refresher.
Published in 1981, Days of Future Past was the X-Men story that made me an X-Men fan. I grew up a DC kid most of my life. If I did read a Marvel book, it had to be something that really caught my attention. Frank Miller’s Daredevil opened the door to my first Marvel comic experience and Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men was the title that got me invested in the Marvel Universe.
Post-apocalyptic futures in comics are not unusual. Half the comics printed today seem to take place well after everything has gone to hell. Worlds overrun by zombies, aliens and killer robots dominate the comic book medium. Days of Future Past falls into the latter of those worlds.
In the original storyline, the distant apocalyptic future takes place in the year 2013. Kitty Pryde, the X-Man with a dozen different names, is living as a mutant slave in a dystopian New York City. In a last ditch effort to improve the catastrophic state of the world, the few surviving X-Men send Pryde’s mind back in time to 1980 in order to warn the X-Men of the past of the world’s impending doom.
As Pryde awakens in her younger body, she works to convince the X-Men that the deaths of millions can be prevented if they save the lives of Charles Xavier and the mutant-hating crusader, Senator Robert Kelly. Meanwhile, The Brotherhood of Mutants, now under the control of Mystique, are planning to assassinate Xavier and Kelly at a hearing discussing the “mutant threat.” It’s the deaths of Xavier and Kelly that spurs the creation of the Sentinel Program and the eventual collapse of civilization in North America.
Mutants, humans, heroes and villains alike are exterminated by the Sentinels. Not only are the X-Men devastated by the war with the robotic-mutant hunters, but the deaths of Captain America, Iron Man, Black Panther, Dr. Doom and countless others spark an international outcry from the rest of the planet. The world is terrified that the deaths of these heroes and leaders will leave the rest of Earth open for Sentinel invasion.
Obviously, the film adaptation is taking some liberties with the original source material. In Singer’s film, it’s Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) who is sent back to convince the X-Men of the dangers of the Sentinels created by Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) seems to serve the same role that she did in the original story. From what I can see from the trailers, Mystique is traveling the world attempting to assassinate specific political leaders. Some characters are missing while others are added to the film. Nightcrawler, Angel and Franklin Richards, the son of Mr. Fantastic, have been replaced with characters like Quicksilver, Havok and Toad.
Honestly, these changes don’t really bother me. I’ve come to understand that direct adaptations of a writer’s work rarely translate well to film. While there is a great amount of anticipation for the movie, I have noticed quite a bit of backlash. The costume design for Quicksilver has been criticized as well as the number of characters set to appear in the film. As a comic book fan, I’m willing to admit that I and my fellow comic readers can be a little hyperbolic in our criticisms for a movie that has not even premiered in theatres yet. Despite some people’s concerns, I’m very much looking forward to the film and seeing if Singer can capture the same level of quality that he did with X-2.
If you have the chance, check out the original comic and be treated to the eloquent and blunt vocabulary of the Sentinels. They use the word “terminate” a lot.
“Terminate one Sentinel — terminate one thousand — it makes no difference. Our numbers are too great. Eventually mutants, we will overwhelm you.”