There’s an interesting concept playing out in the Marvel comic books right now, in which the original X-Men — Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel and Beast — have been plucked out of time from their teenaged years and dropped into the modern Marvel U.
I’ve no idea how it’s going to play out, because the storyline has just started and because I don’t have the password to Brian Michael Bendis’s e-mail account. But it got me thinking about what would happen if a similar thing happened in the X-Men movies, and how a similar thing probably will play out in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” as a past and future incarnation of at least one of the X-Men are destined to interact with each other.
Of course, the original X-Men have never been introduced in the movies at the same time. The first three movies gave us Cyclops and Jean Grey as adults, but Iceman was a teenaged student of the academy; Beast was significantly older than all of them, and not even a member of the team; Angel was a young adult, non-team member shoehorned into “X-Men: The Last Stand” with no appreciable narrative or payoff. You’d think “X-Men: First Class,” a movie that started at the beginning of the X-history, would’ve been a good opportunity to amend the continuity and start from scratch, but we only got a young Hank McCoy and the wrong Summers brother.
Why, though, shouldn’t “Days of Future Past” be taken as an opportunity to introduce Scott, Jean, Warren and Bobby, and right history to the way it should be? Ignoring “The Last Stand” and aging Bobby Drake might be problematic for some fans, but it’s not as though continuity has been anything less than malleable for the larger comic book movie audience. (Witness “The Incredible Hulk” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”) There’s nothing particularly special about why those five mutants have to be together, but apart from being a nod to the comic books, they’re also all strong characters with interesting interpersonal dynamics: Cyclops as the wounded loner-turned-leader, Jean as the untapped prodigy, Bobby as the Omega-level goofster (and the most visually intriguing powers), Warren as the unwanted rich boy. Part of my problem with “First Class” was that, diversity aside, the movie seemed to struggle at giving dimension to its supporting mutants like Banshee and Darwin. Obviously, the writers for “Days of Future Past” could take liberties with backstory creation, but it seems like a good idea to work with already-popular characters with already-established histories, just waiting to be adapted for use.
There are a few issues. The continuity is a problem, but I hope the indelicacy of saying “Who cares?” is a good enough argument on its own. (Because, really, nothing should ever be limited by “The Last Stand.”) There’s also the wonky issue of defining how Alex Summers, who we saw in “First Class,” is related to Scott, given their disparate ages. “Days of Future Past” would also have to take place later in the timeline — say the 1980s — so there wouldn’t be the peculiarity of having to reconcile the ages between the first trilogy and these films, though that will probably always be an issue best not viewed under the microscope.
The other problem is the overwhelming whiteness of the original team, which would simply seem out of place in a country where a multi-cultural coalition just re-elected a black president. The Internet’s less enlightened users can cry about tokenism all you want, but racial diversity is a natural development for a franchise where discrimination is a recurring theme. It was also personally refreshing to see a cast in “First Class” that wasn’t so lily white across the board, even if the people of color ended up dead (Darwin) or evil (Angel). But this has a pretty simple solution, too, as the movie can just introduce other non-white mutants alongside the main five.
The mutants we saw in “First Class” were dandy and all. But Xavier’s roster is depleted due to the aforementioned death and villainy, and if Bryan Singer really wants to ratchet up the fun, he should introduce the original squad and ease us toward the modern day. There are a few issues, sure, but I think it’s something that the producers should take a strong look at trying to make work.
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!
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