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This article contains spoilers for X-Men: Days Of Future Past. If you haven't seen the film yet, come back after you've done so.
For a couple of months running up to the release of X-Men: Days Of Future Past, the inclusion of Anna Paquin's Rogue was the subject of intense speculation. It all started with Bryan Singer's insistence that despite being featured in the teaser trailer for the film, everyone's favorite mutant from down south was out of the picture. This position was then reversed almost a month before the film's May 23rd release date, though her re-instated role was referred to as a "mere cameo." Now we know we see Rogue for a brief moment as she and Bobby hold hands in the newly corrected future. Between both extremes was a subplot that writer/producer Simon Kinberg deleted from the final script: a subplot that would have made for a longer, but a more sensible film.
The Daily Beast caught up with Kinberg on the Louisiana set of his next film as writer/producer, Fox's The Fantastic Four. In the ensuing interview, the hot topic of just how much we didn't get to see of Anna Paquin's performance was addressed rather directly, with a directly proportional response from Simon Kinberg himself:
"The Rogue/Anna Paquin scene was by far the biggest cut we made, and that was more my fault than anything. When I was crafting the script, I wanted to create a subplot for old Charles and old Eric — Patrick [Stewart] and Ian [McKellen] — to have a mini-mission together, one final adventure. And that’s what the Rogue sequence was — that they went to retrieve Rogue."
Strangely enough, I think this subplot could have worked, because it's exactly what I (and I'm sure countless other comic geeks) thought was going to happen the moment Kitty Pride got slashed by Wolverine. The movie originally had a scene that would have brought Rogue into the picture to try and help Kitty heal during the time travel process. While the scene would have changed Rogue's power set a bit, the idea was that she could touch Wolverine, absorbed his healing powers, and then transfer them to Kitty. Not only does this make Kitty's wounds a more significant part of the plot, the extra scenes would have also meant more screen time with Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen - which would have been worth the money and narrative effort spent. So what was Simon Kinberg's problem with this scene?
"It felt like it didn’t come from the spine of the film, it was an appendage where I just wanted to see the old guys get in the X-Jet for one last ride. It was a narrative detour, and in a film with this much momentum and narrative flow, you can’t afford any detours."
After taking in Simon Kinberg's statements, and pulling apart/reassembling the story pieces of X-Men: Days Of Future Past, the Rogue subplot doesn't seem like that much of a detour. In fact, it begins to look like a thematically tidy, yet fan pleasing solution to the ensuing plothole that arises in the story line's deletion. Also, by letting Kitty Pride to get by on only a wing and a damned prayer, the filmmakers indirectly engaged in an act of cruelty towards a mutant we've yet to see played as nothing more than a sidekick/love interest. Seriously, what did Ellen Page ever do to you guys?
Since I don't know how the original story implemented this scenario, there's only one way I can see this deleted storyline fitting into the finished film. Assuming the Rogue/Kitty healing scenario is in play, we know that Logan would have had to have another instance of his consciousness being knocked out of focus, when he feels his power draining. As fate (and scriptwriting) would have it, there's a chunk of time that left him at the bottom of the Potomac during the final fight in the film. Simon Kinberg could have easily juxtaposed Rogue healing Kitty with Logan at the bottom of the river, or replaced Logan being at the bottom of the river entirely with the Kitty/Rogue connection. The latter would have made more sense, seeing as one of the biggest nitpicks the movie left dangling was how the hell is Logan still alive when he's been left to drown for so long? The former might have been able to use comic book logic to keep Wolverine alive underwater for extended periods of time. Both solve two problems, and give the proper due to two female mutants whose names aren't Mystique.
It's not the first time Rogue almost appeared in an X-Men-related property, and knowing that X-Men: Apocalypse is going to use the now battle tested "First Class meets Old Class" formula going forward, it probably won't be the last.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past is in theaters now.