Last week’s surprising, not-so-surprising news that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen would be returning to their roles as Professor X and Magneto in "X-Men: Days of Future Past" could’ve been predicted by any blogger with a pulse as soon as we found out months ago about that inkling of a notion of a rumor that Stewart getting in the ole wheelchair. To have it officially confirmed by Bryan Singer lent a nice little air of finality to the rumors, and should only amp up the anticipation for the film’s release, as did the other news that Hugh Jackman will be returning as Wolverine in some capacity.
Of course, Singer didn’t offer many words on how the returning heroes will be used. But given what we know about the time traveling elements in the mix, I figured I’d speculate on a few ways Stewart and McKellen could show up.
1. Put them in the distant future. Well, duh. This is the obvious one, as we know that the original "Days of Future Past" storyline takes place in the future where everything has turned to ruin and most of the mutants are living in concentration camps. In the original story, both Xavier and Magneto are deader than January Jones’s eyes (ba-zing!) and it’s a wizened trio of Wolverine, Storm and Kitty Pryde who inform the future sequence of events. (That's how Jackman might come in, by the way.) But the exact date of the future could be left ambiguous, allowing Xavier and Magneto to appear as really, really old dudes still capable of throwing down while doling out a bit of advice. Imagine the two former BFFs, forced to reunite under the threat of Sentinel supremacy, and the heart strings to be plucked as they make their final stand along with the other mutants in order to ensure the past has a chance. Great-grandpa aged Magneto taking a few Sentinels for a spin before falling to his own infirmity? An exit befitting of a legend. But that leaves the totally niggling, probably not that important but definitely noticeable continuity error of...
2. Put them in the not-so-distant future. ...Xavier no longer being in his original body. If you’ll remember the events of "X-Men: The Last Stand," Xavier’s physical body was destroyed by Dark Phoenix before his mind resurfaced in the shell of a formerly comatose mutant being treated by Moira MacTaggert, as handy of a plot device as there ever was -- the idea, I think, being that Xavier could be recast in a future installment should Stewart decide he not want to sit in a wheelchair for any longer. The producers could and should obviously just ignore this because it was dumb and turned out to be kind of unnecessary, but the trickiness of placing Stewart in the far future could place him in the pre-"Last Stand" timeline around "X-Men" or "X2," allowing for cameos from other mutants as well.
The scene could be important to the plot, or it could be an Easter Egg tip where Stewart and McKellen separately say something telling like "I feel for certain that we are not going to grow into a post-apocalyptic hell, given the invisible actions of the future mutants I can sense out there (but will never meet, because they’re from the future)." (Or something more delicate, I guess; I’m just talking.) It would be a nifty way to subtly integrate the past movies by showing their hidden history, and get around the admittedly silly problem of having to resolve the continuity. It could just be a pure flashback, too, involving some previously unseen aged interaction between older Xavier and Magneto. The producers could have their cake and eat it, too, by having...
3. Time travel them from the future to the past. … Xavier and Magneto fall through time to the present day so that they could interact with their earlier selves, played respectively by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. They could offer a word of advice, and get them to stop fighting at each other’s neck? Or maybe Magneto would tell his earlier self, "Never give up this fight; Charles is totally wrong, and you will get to keep sleeping with a cool blue shapeshifter." (Again, I imagine it would be something more delicate.) It would be very "Star Trek" relaunch of the writers, but it would be undoubtedly fun -- and undoubtedly fanservice-y, I’ll admit -- to see past and future hanging out at the same damn time. They could also reverse it and...
4. Time travel the past mutants to the future. … have McAvoy, Fassbender and company briefly appear in the now-corrected future to see the fruits of their labor, and maybe get some inspiration to stop being such jerks to each other. The same speeches would happen, but they’d take place in a future that didn’t seem so dire. Everyone would be happy, everyone would win, and everything would be beautiful. A truly fairytale ending.
Personally speaking? I like option one the best, as it would give the two actors something to do before making their (presumably final) exits from the franchise. Any of these could work in more fleshed out forms but give me a crunchy action scene any day of the week over difficult-to-perfect melodrama, especially given Singer’s established track record with the films. Let’s just be glad there are options, though.
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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