Comics

Just Call it “X-Men: Days of Future Manpain” Already

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I loved X-Men: First Class. Okay, so, yeah… they kind of disregarded who the real First Class kiddos were. Whatever, it was an amazing movie, right?!

When they announced X-Men: Days of Future Past, I quickly googled to see if there were any rumors of what the plot would be, and lo and behold, I discovered it was actually an existing comics plot from the 1980s. I even read the comic so I could be prepared for what might be!

Guess what I found out? It starred Kitty Pryde as the center and main character driving change. Kitty Pryde has been my favorite X-Men character since X-Men: Evolution so…

Holy. Shit.

Dream come true!

Except… not quite.

Let’s break it down for you in a quick summary of what could have happened, if everything had been like the comics.

Key points:

  1. Dystopian future, mutant internment camps.
  2. Psychic time travel by our dear Kitty Pryde.
  3. Sentinels.
  4. Possible nuclear holocaust.
  5. Introduction of Rachel Summers.
Rachel using her telepathy to transport Kitty to 1980.

Rachel using her telepathy to transport Kitty to 1980.

The entire point of the comic book plot for Days of Future Past is psychic Rachel Summers sending an adult Kitty Pryde to the past to posses her younger self’s body and prevent the pivotal event of mutant/human history that leads to the dystopian future of 2013.

Can I reiterate that enough? Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers are the drivers for Days of Future Past.

When X-Men was first announced for Marvel NOW! with an all-female cast, I had a discussion with my dad about how awesome and progressive this was, mentioning how the articles I read often discussed the X-Men’s lengthy history as a very female-driven cast. My dad agreed, and educated me further, explaining how much Chris Claremont had done to create many of our most beloved female X-Men — Rachel Summers/Grey, Jubilee, Rogue, Mystique, Kitty Pryde, and Emma Frost, to name a few.

I’m sure you’re not surprised, dear reader, to learn that Chris Claremont penned this story.

Naively, I thought Kitty Pryde would be the main character. I mean, it’s Ellen Page, and Ellen Page can do anything, right?

Wrong. The framework that has been created for X-Men: Days of Future Past prevents any of this awesomeness from being realized on the silver screen.

What do we get instead?

Another fucking story about Wolverine.

Obviously there wasn’t enough brooding.

Don’t get me wrong — I love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine as much as anyone. But seriously? We have an amazing, female-driven story reduced to yet another movie hinging completely on the actions of men.

In the new movie, it’s Wolverine who is transported to the past to possess his younger body, sent there by Xavier. And, okay, yeah, if I think about this critically, Kitty Pryde is a teenager in the 2000s series of movies, so how is she supposed to be interacting with young Charles Xavier back in the 1970s?

Okay, fine. This still doesn’t explain writing out Rachel Summers from the story. But whatever, let’s hear what writer Simon Kinberg had to say about the creative choice:

“We made the decision for a lot of reasons, some of them obvious and some of them more nuanced, to make it Wolverine who goes back in time. One reason is that he’s the protagonist of the franchise, and probably the most beloved character to a mass audience. Probably the bigger reason is that when we started thinking about the logistical realities of Kitty’s consciousness being sent back in time, to her younger self, as opposed to her physical body being sent back… it was impossible.

“Obviously in the book it’s Kitty that’s sent back, but because we cast Ellen Page in X-Men: The Last Stand, you’re talking about an actress who, in the age of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, would have been negative 20 years old. So we started thinking again. The first reflex response to that was a character who doesn’t age. Wolverine is the only character who would looks the same in 1973 as he does in the future.” [Source]

Let’s reflect on that for a bit. It is, indeed, logistically impossible for Kitty to drive the story if we use the same mechanism for time travel. There are, indeed, few characters as recognizable as Wolverine and Xavier in the franchise.

But can we challenge our assumptions? Specifically:

  1. Why couldn’t we change the mechanics of time travel? Could they have tried to write it with Kitty Pryde physically traveling to the past? After all, Wolverine will be just as much of a stranger to the X-Men as a time traveling Kitty Pryde would be.
  2. Why did Rachel Summers get written out of the story in favor of Charles Xavier? Because I don’t see her listed anywhere on IMDB, and the trailers hint that Xavier is the one doing the psychic time travel.
  3. Why did X-Men: First Class pick the blandest, most random mutants to be the students in the first film?

When the creators of the X-Men: First Class franchise decided to change the original X-Men class, they could have introduced any number of characters into the mix. What they chose to do instead was pick two females — both of whom go on to join the Brotherhood, by the way, and if that’s not some kind of weird patriarchal subconscious decision then I don’t know what is — and a handful of male characters that no one has any particular affinity for.

We could have had Storm in the mix. We could have had a random Jubilee. We could have had Psylocke. We could have had anyone but who they chose, and this new female could have been the catalyst for the events that take place.

Instead, the studios decided to bet on a formula that works for them — Wolverine and Sir Patrick Stewart — at the expense of crafting a story true to the female-driven era Chris Claremont ushered in for the X-Men. And honestly, that just feels like a disgrace to the legacy he left us with, especially in light of the all-female cast of the current X-Men run.

Crazy cat lady and comics enthusiast. Addicted to regency romance novels and young adult lit.

19 Comments

  1. LibraryDrone

    January 10, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    Movie Kitty wasn’t born during the time of the movie. Plain and simple.

    • Elyese

      January 10, 2014 at 3:35 PM

      Havok is, for some reason, Scott Summer’s OLDER brother, Beast is blue, and Moira is an American (for some reason) CIA agent in the framework of First Class.

      The x-movies, specifically First Class, doesn’t give an actual crap about continuity, be it in the comics or in the movie universe. That’s why Emma Grost was a teen in Wolverine: Origins (which takes place in 1981) and a grown adult in First Class (which takes place in 1962).

      The only actual excuse the writers have is that they think female characters aren’t worthy of the movie despite being one of the most well known arcs in X-Men, and comics in general. This isn’t even taking into account the fact that the last two Wolverine solo movies were incredibly boring and universally disliked.

      • kevtron

        January 13, 2014 at 2:08 PM

        While I mostly agree and would prefer the Claremont version, this new movie is Bryan Singer again and he will retcon many of the continuity problems of the series through the time travel (and probably some with no explanation at all). It’s been said that Kitty wasn’t used because Wolverine was around at the time after the First Class events, and Kitty was not.

        I KNOW that’s not the real reason (i.e. money) but I don’t think Singer would create more continuity confusion than already exists even if sales and money didn’t matter.

        Believe me, I want the strong female lead, too. And Ellen Page could definitely deliver. It’s shameful that she won’t get the chance, but Fox wants to sell t-shirts and action figures and they are too impatient to grow a character that could potentially have her own spin-off films.

        One last thing: I don’t think you can fairly say The Wolverine was universally disliked. It received mostly positive reviews from critics.

        • Elyese

          January 13, 2014 at 3:51 PM

          I’m not quite sure “doesn’t want to mess with continuity” is the reason. Brian Singer hasn’t been very kind to female characters in the past X-Men movies. (See: Rogue’s entire….Rogue. And the absolutely awful mess that was X3 and the Kitty/Bobby/Rogue love triangle.)

          Maybe it’s not fair to say that “The Wolverine” was universally disliked. But Wolverine: Origins certainly was, and the larger point I was trying to make is that you can have a million iterations of a male character – most of which are terrible movies, and it not be a problem.. But movies like Elektra and Catwoman are reasons given as to why a female-led movie “wouldn’t work”. You know, despite the fact that Daredevil was awful and Batman & Robin is reviled.

          I think another problem I have with it too is the fact that I feel like I’m in the 90s again and have to deal with fifty Wolverine titles, each more boring than the last. We just emerged from the Wolverine Dark Ages (to be bombarded with Deadpool as the New Wolverine) in the Comicsverse.

        • kevtron

          January 13, 2014 at 4:55 PM

          Singer didn’t direct X3 though you’re right in that it sucked. And I agree with you — I was only pointing out that Fox doesn’t care to develop strong female leads in comic movies because they think their target demographic doesn’t want to see that.

          Daredevil did well at the box office and Batman & Robin did okay. Catwoman and Elektra did not. Notice that Daredevil never got a sequel and Batman didn’t either until the reboot.

          Like I said, I don’t agree with this thinking and I wish it would change. But box office is king, and until the studios realize that there’s enough interest to make a female-lead superhero flick successful, they just won’t do it.

        • Elyese

          January 14, 2014 at 2:49 PM

          OK I’ve been thinking this over and we’ve been going in circles here, so this is the last thing I’m gonna say.

          Here’s the point I’m trying to make, and what I think the site is as a whole: the point isn’t “they’re doing it because it sells and that sucks but that’s how it is”. That’s inexcusable – especially in 2013/2014. I’m sick of not seeing myself on the screen and I’m sick of being told that a female led comic book movie “wouldn’t work”.

          The article, and my comments in particular are a way to call them out on this, because it’s ridiculous that we can’t have a female comic book movie protagonist. That’s the underlying thing I’m trying to say. Since I think for the most part we’re on the same side here, I’m a little baffled as to why you’re sticking up for them.

        • kevtron

          January 15, 2014 at 9:55 AM

          We agree. I’m not sticking up for them one bit. You’re confusing my exposition of the reality regarding the system as a defense of it

          But complaining and calling it inexcusable won’t change the culture that perpetuates the attitude we’re criticizing. I apologize for being blunt, but they don’t care about your comments, my comments, or most of what’s being said on this issue. Gotta be a whole lot louder and spend money in the right places before we’ll see any change sadly :/

        • Rachel

          January 13, 2014 at 4:20 PM

          X-Men Origins: Wolverine got a 38% and The Wolverine got a 69%… I wouldn’t call that “mostly” even if it is more than 50%.

        • kevtron

          January 13, 2014 at 4:57 PM

          I only mentioned The Wolverine and, yes, that’s what ‘mostly’ means.

        • Rachel

          January 13, 2014 at 5:18 PM

          Still low in my opinion, but I thought I’d point it out! Far be it from me to dictate what people should like. (I’m 100% serious here.)

    • Courtney Lang

      January 10, 2014 at 4:33 PM

      I understand that, which is why I brought up my three points to challenge our assumptions on how to combat the choice to remove a prominent female character from the action of the movie.

      Elyese also brings up a great point about X-Men movie continuity that I did not focus on in my article, but I would like to reiterate again that no one cared about keeping Emma Frost’s age in line with continuity.

  2. TheCursedHam

    January 10, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    Actually, from the looks of the trailer, it seems like Blink sends Wolverine to the past( When he’s screaming in pain, you can see the blue light being emitted by two hands wearing the same gloves shes wearing), so not only do you still have a female character, but you have a character that a lot of people have been wanting in a movie, so the Rachel Summers argument is invalid. Shadow cat’s role isn’t being taken away, it’s just being switched with Wolverine’s role in the comic. Wolverine’s role in the comic, was the big badass action hero that fought off Sentinels, they’re not making a man the action hero this time, they’re making Shadow cat the badass. Another thing you left out is the fact that Mystique is in control of the brotherhood of mutants.With Magneto not having a role in the original comics, they could have easily just replaced Mystiques role with Magneto and pushed Mystique back to second in command, since Magneto is the more popular character with movie audiences. Instead, they gave Mystique the role of the villain leader. So what DOFP has really done is, they replaced a female character, with a more wanted female character, made a female character who had only one action scene in the original comi have a chance to be a badass, and had a female lead the brotherhood of mutants, even though every other time it’s been a male.

    • Elyese

      January 10, 2014 at 5:47 PM

      This is I think what Courtney was getting at and what bothers me too: They’re still replacing a female driven comic (and one that’s incredibly important for her character) with lol wolverine sells he’s great. It’s the fact that they completely replaced her as the protagonist with Wolverine. That is a huge problem – and the implication that “there are women what are you complaining about” is super insulting. Kitty was the protagonist she wasn’t just one in a cast of “badasses” who “had one action scene”.

      Okay so Rachel Summers and Blink. That doesn’t make the Rachel Summers argument invalid. What it does do is go “lol all women characters are interchangeable”. Which they aren’t. It’s not a math equation. So while I’m glad that Blink is in it (especially as she’s played by a Chinese actress – a huge step and one that shouldn’t be downplayed) Xavier, Magneto, and Wolverine’s super sad white dude problems are the main focus in the trailers and in the past movies.

      With regards to Mystique: in the trailer all we see her do is cry and have Magneto drag her across the floor. That’s not exactly empowering, nor is the pervading idea of “evil demon seductress” that’s been carried through the movies. Being the leader of the Brotherhood is not the same as giving her a role as leader of the X-Men or savior of mutantkind. They already boiled down her character from an absolute badass to a sad lonely girl who just wants to be pretty and who needs Magneto’s magical penis to “fix” her. It’s gross and disrespectful.

      Women in the trailers and especially in past X-Men movies have only been spoken of and used in reference to male characters. This isn’t exactly new, of course, but they had the opportunity to make one of the first female centered superhero movies from the recent boom and they didn’t do that. What the did do is replace her with a stale character who hasn’t been interest and keeps getting less interesting with each passing movie.

    • Courtney Lang

      January 11, 2014 at 6:56 AM

      Again, Elyese has already done a better job of responding to your comments than me, but let me try anyway:

      I am extremely happy about Blink being in the movie, and being played by a Chinese actress. Fan Bingbing is amazing.

      But the argument doesn’t really hold up that this negates getting rid of Rachel Summers. In the comics, everything starts with Kate Pryde. At the end of the volume, it ends with Rachel and Kate. The movie trailer begins with Xavier, moves on to Wolverine, and then to Magneto, ends with a double dose of Xavier. It insists that Xavier and Magneto are the keys to preventing this dystopia. This is completely different from the comic book arc. The movie trailer focuses on making Xavier “hope” again, while the comic is more about, “Kitty, get them to the place of the assassination and make sure everyone prevents it”.

      Further, to say that by giving Shadowcat’s role to Wolverine we aren’t “taking it away” shows how clearly you don’t understand the point of this article. The reason why this is such a problem is exactly because it has been given to Wolverine. Also in what way have they made Shadowcat a badass? I see nothing in the trailers that convinces me this has been done.

      I’d also love if you could point out in which scene in the movie trailer it appears that Mystique is still first in command of the Brotherhood. As Elyese already pointed out, all I did was see her crying, and Magneto drag her across the floor. That doesn’t look like the powerful leader of the Brotherhood to me.

  3. Kelly

    January 10, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    Really love this piece, especially the part about challenging assumptions.

    • Courtney Lang

      January 11, 2014 at 6:59 AM

      Thanks Kelly! I think that’s the key here. It’s not necessarily that these are terrible choices for the story, but it bothers me that there seems to have been no consideration to the fact that these choices showcase a clearly male point of view, in not even realizing how much they’ve changed the original story and, in my mind, insulted X-Men’s female characters. They clearly made the easiest choices without thinking about their impacts.

  4. Christine Preimesberger

    January 10, 2014 at 7:48 PM

    The movie is going to focus on Wolverine? Oh come on, the guy already has two solo movies and a major role in the other 3 X-men movies. I understand making Kitty the main character in this movie would be weird because she only actually had a role in one movie. But there are other reoccurring characters to choose from. What about Storm, Rogue, or Nightcrawler? Why not give the spotlight to someone else for a change?

    • Courtney Lang

      January 11, 2014 at 7:02 AM

      Yeah, that’s what it looks like from the trailer. I completely agree. One of the reasons I pointed out Storm is that we clearly saw her in the first movie set in the 1960s as a small child. This could easily be translated to Kitty Pryde’s role in the comics, as an adult Kate was transported back to her 13 year old body. If the first movie was set in 1960s, and it’s now in the 1970s, then this means the child of Storm that we saw in First Class would easily be of an age that you could find a suitable actress to carry the movie. We could have had a story focused not only on a woman, but a woman of color!

      Just a lot of missed opportunities with this movie, I feel, and it makes me sad.

  5. Inhumanity Rises

    September 28, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    Cutting Rachel Grey-Summers and giving Kitty’s role to Wolverine makes this Movie a 0/10 for me. Worse X-Movie by far that doesn’t pay ANY respect to the source material so they can have more Wolverine fapping.

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