THIS MUTANT LIFE #8: Should Patrick Stewart Return As Charles Xavier?

It’s been slow-going on the X-Men movie news front lately, largely because “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is still another two years from coming out.

But there may be an interesting nugget that comes courtesy of Bleeding Cool: According to a chance encounter at an Apple store, none other than Patrick Stewart might be returning to the “X-Universe as Professor Xavier.

A fair warning: We’re entering the realm of conjecture and heresy, in which nothing is easily provable. After all, if you’ll read the article you’ll see that Stewart merely nodded when asked if he was going to be in another X-Men movie. Not exactly Woodward and Bernstein here, for those concerned with journalistic veracity.

But putting aside all of those doubts, how would such a thing work? As “X-Men: First Class” took place in the ‘60s, the future would be the only place for Stewart to make his appearance. Assuming that “Days of Future Past” does indeed involve the future, we’re probably going to see at least one of the mutants featured in the main story. For the sake of arguing, let’s say that at least one of those, if not more, would likely be Magneto, Professor X or Mystique, because they’re already important to the narrative and because they’re played by the biggest actors in the rebooted series.

Here’s where things get tricky (or perhaps goofy, if you’ve spent more than 30 seconds thinking about this in spite of all the work you have to do). Who should those future characters be played by? On one hand, there’s Fassbender, McAvoy and Lawrence, shellacked in old person makeup ala Guy Pearce in “Prometheus.” On the other, there’s Stewart, Ian McKellen and Rebecca Romijn, who played the Xavier/Magneto/Mystique troika in the original films. Their reappearance, regardless of how long it is, would surely be greeted with cheers by longtime X-Men fans. It would be a neat little reference for anyone who was titillated by Romijn’s brief appearance in “First Class,” or Stewart’s cameo in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”

Obviously, there’s a simple answer: Put the old actors in it or don’t. But the question is about more than makeup, I think. It’s about whether a franchise should be allowed to accumulate layers and layers of bygone history — sort of like the dead foliage that gathers at the bottom of a forest — as it moves forward. “X-Men” came out in 2000; “X-Men: The Last Stand” was in 2006. It’s an inert side of the franchise until further notice, and I’m not sure how much is gained by awakening the dormant in order to capture… what, exactly? A sense of nostalgia? A greater feeling of connectivity? A visceral reaction of, “Wow, rad!” The ticket sale of fans who will only see a movie if Ian McKellen is in it? (And I’m sure they exist.)

The need for connectivity is fair, and it’s part of why people become comic book fans — the acknowledgment that what’s come before does matter. But I sort of feel like any chance there is to make a clean break from the past and speed into the future should be taken, regardless of the fuzziness to be felt at the sight of McKellen in that old red helmet.

Of course, that’s only if any of this ends up being relevant. Maybe Stewart was just twitching because he was a little zinc deficient that day. Maybe he was actually talking about showing up in “The Wolverine,” where it wouldn’t be so difficult to figure out the timeline. We don’t know! But what would be the point of superhero comics fandom without endless idle speculation?

This Mutant Life explores all corners of the cinematic X-verse, from the kids of “First Class” to the berserker rage of “The Wolverine.” Suggest topics for future columns in the comments or on Twitter!

Previously on This Mutant Life:
» How Much Does Continuity Matter?
» The Value of Bryan Singer
» Talking “Wolverine” With Chris Claremont
» Claremont Looks Back on “Days of Future Past”
» Why “Wolverine” Should Stick To His Own World
» Hopes For A “First Class” Sequel
» The Status Of “X-Men” On Film