Montreal's genre-friendly Fantasia Fest may be coming to a close in a few days, but they're pulling out all the stops to make the closing days La Grande Finale, what with Edgar Wright's "The World's End" making its Canadian premiere tonight. They also scored a major Hollywood get as director Bryan Singer came directly from shooting "X-Men: Days of Future Past" in the province to take part in an hour-long discussion cleverly called "Rated 'X': A Night With Bryan Singer."
Festival attendees and local Montreal mutant fanatics snaked around the block at The Imperial Theatre for the free event, which began with an overview of Singer's whole career (including "The Usual Suspects") before previewing two-minutes of footage from "Days of Future Past." Twice.
While the footage was identical to that which was screened at Comic-Con last month, it was nevertheless exhilarating to get to see this slickly-cut trailer and hear Singer discuss it while in the midst of production, all without having to navigate the smelly nerd cave that is Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con. There were lots of cool scoops tossed out during the Q&A, which we will go over in claw retracting detail.
It begins with the 20th Century Fox and Marvel logos, then cuts to an eye filling the screen ala the opening shot of "Blade Runner."
WOLVERINE: What's the last thing you remember?
We see fleeting shots of Hugh Jackman's older Wolverine (with patented "Days of Future Past" white streaks in his hair), Halle Berry's Storm with shorter hair (though not a mohawk) creating tornados in the distant dark clouds, Shawn Ashmore's Iceman and Ellen Page's Kitty Pryde looking all lovey dovey while Anna Paquin's Rogue looks on angrily. Trouble in paradise!
PROFESSOR X: I had a glimpse into the past. You're going to have to do for me what I want to do for you.
Omar Sy's super-strong/energy-absorbing Bishop with copious dreadlocks, along with several other members of Magneto's Mutant Brotherhood.
Wolvie, the Professor and Magneto taking shelter in an ornate Indian temple, lit by glowing orange fires of a post-apocalyptic, battle blasted landscape. Later shots show the location on fire and Wolverine not looking too happy about that.
James McAvoy's long-hippy-haired/bearded Young Professor X blowing dust off the Cerebro helmet.
MAGNETO: You'll need me as well, side by side to end this war before it ever begins.
Mustachioed Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask seated at a big wooden desk in front of some sort of United States government board of inquiry
WOLVERINE: So I wake up in my young body and then what?
Wolverine sent back in time via a machine made up of blue metal glowy things giving his head electric shock treatment. The suits most of the mutants are wearing have a much greater suit of armor feel to them, darker with grooves in the material.
Shirtless Wolverine getting shot full of bullet holes, which of course all heal up tidily in a jiffy.
PROFESSOR X: Find me. Convince me that all of this is going to need the two of us.
We catch 1970s protesters in the street, with an angry looking Richard Nixon (is there an other kind of Nixon?) looking on in contempt, "Watchmen"-style. The Oval Office seal is opened to reveal it's a hatch in the floor leading to some room below. A coup-in-progress, perhaps?
WOLVERINE: And where do I find you?
MAGNETO: A different past. A darker path.
Michael Fassbender's Young Magneto in the X-Mansion courtyard pulling a fallen blue Mystique towards him with his mind, looking pissed.
PROFESSOR X: Logan, I was a very different man. Lead me, guide me, be patient with me.
Shots of Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique with her face/skin in normal J Law mode, then at least one prominent close-up of her in loveable huggable naked blue form with a tear streaming down her cheek.
WOLVERINE: Patience isn't my strongest suit.
Nicholas Hoult in full Beast make-up screaming with terrifying vigor directly into the camera, staring someone down (besides the audience).
A glass room shattering over the head of an unidentified character.
YOUNG PROFESSOR X: I don't want your suffering! I don't want your future!
The final image is a close two-shot of Stewart in the Indian temple face to face with his younger McAvoy self.
PROFESSOR X: Please, we need you to hope again.
CUT TO TITLECARD: "Days of Future Past" (cue massive cheers from the audience)
Throughout the wide-ranging Q&A Singer dropped some serious truth bombs on the audience in regards to plot and character direction in what he calls an "in-betweenquel." No apologies for "Jack the Giant Slayer" were forthcoming, though.
Right off the bat he admitted to watching all 76 episodes of the early 90's "X-Men" cartoon series, which was, of course, very heavy on the robotic Sentinel action. In case you hadn't noticed, there's been some pretty incontrovertible evidence that Sentinels will play a major role in the systematic extermination of mutant kind. This all must be to the chagrin of recently-ousted studio head Tom Rothman, who vowed never to allow anyone to put a giant robot in an "X-Men" movie as long as he was in charge. What's your damage, Rothman?
Singer confirmed that, like the original Chris Claremont/John Byrne "Days of Future Past" issues the new movie is based on, there will be Mutant internment camps, thus making this at least the fourth movie Singer has made that directly or indirectly references The Holocaust after "Apt Pupil," "X-Men" and "Valkyrie."
Singer played to the crowd by adding that "great bars" brought the production to shoot in Montreal, with the added aid of some tax credits. He teased Mystique's backstory since "First Class," stating she'd been "on the road" with Magneto, and came close to revealing some crucial piece of Charles Xavier/Erik Lehnsherr's relationship trajectory. "Where they become true…" and then stopped himself. "True enemies?" "True friends?" "Truth or Dare enthusiasts?"
Yes to Magneto's son Quicksilver (Evan Peters) making an appearance, but no to his sister Scarlet Witch, so you'll have to wait an extra year to feast your eyes on her in "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," which will feature a different actor (most likely Aaron Johnson) in the role. Cyclops will also remain deceased... *one laser eye tear drop*.
Josh Helman will play Wolverine's evil adamantium mastermind William Stryker, previously portrayed by Brian Cox in "X2" and Danny Huston in the wretched "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." In an interesting twist that should get fanboys excited for the prospect of an eventual "X-Force" movie, popular cyborg character Cable was seriously considered for this film, but Singer ultimately went with Bishop instead.
As an added bonus, Singer sprinkled in several anecdotes of making 2000's first "X-Men," such as his original choice for Wolverine - Russell Crowe- who wanted to play Wolverine bald, despite the character's iconic pointy hairdo. Hints at a contentious relationship with an editor imposed on him by Fox for an unnamed movie (which by process of elimination had to be the original "X-Men") included an escalated argument which likely took place with either Steven Rosenblum, Kevin Stitt or John Wright instead of his usual editor John Ottman, ending with Singer smashing a bottle and summarily being banned from the editing suite for three days. The production offices for his Fox show "House" are now located in that editing suite, which gives him traumatic flashbacks.
In "X-Men: Days of Future Past" Wolverine is sent back in time to right the wrongs of Professor X and Magneto, hence he is without question the pivotal character on which everything rests. In other words, no slacking off from Huge Jacked Man. Having posited it in the post-credits easter egg for "The Wolverine," both the wheelchair-bound Professor and Magneto seem to be in some sort of uncomfortable alliance regarding the long-waging mutant war, looking to prevent mistakes they made which have brought the mutant world to its knees.
"It looks cool," said Johan, a fan from Montreal who enjoyed the event. "I was curious to see what he was going to do with it. He's got a killer cast and there's potential there. He said the footage wasn't final, but even in a raw state it makes what little effects were there look pretty cool. There was nothing that looked too gimmicky, it was very straightforward."
"I really love the new cast," said George, another local boy. "Nothing against the old cast, but it's refreshing and different. There wasn't one big explosion, that was nice! I really like Fassbender. I thought they did a good job with "First Class," and there was already a good cast from "X2" and "X3" so I liked the idea of putting the two together."
A third Montreal native, Alexi, was a little more blunt. "I like the idea of fixing 'X3!' Killing Cyclops was a bad idea," he exclaimed.
The fan nitpicking will continue when the hybrid prequel/sequel finally lands in theaters on May 23, 2014, with Sentinel costumes and/or Trask mustaches likely to be in vogue for October 31. Fantasia Fest continues to its own apocalyptic finale on August 7, and we will have more coverage in the days to come.