In 2006, the X-Men franchise appeared to be in trouble. Bryan Singer had departed the Marvel mutant movies, handing the reigns to Brett Ratner, of all people. Key characters were killed off. Important villains were marginalized (poor Juggernaut). The future looked bleak.
Nowadays, few franchises appear to be as healthy as Fox’s X-Men series. What a difference a few years can make. Matthew Vaughn reset the needle with the origin-story prequel X-Men: First Class. Several significant pieces from the past and present are coming back to the screen for a generations-spanning story in this summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. And plans already are underway for 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse. The future looks bright!
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we have to dig deep into Days of Future Past. We have roughly 100 moving parts to organize as we get ready for the sequel’s May 26 release date. Here’s everything you need to know about X-Men: Days of Future Past, starting with the trailer...
Now read on and learn a bit about what you just saw and what you've yet to see...
The Comic BookThe X-Men: Days of Future Past storyline originated from back-to-back issues of The Uncanny X-Men, released in 1981. Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin collaborated on the plot, which found a futuristic Kitty Pryde venturing back from 2013 – the FUTURE! – to warn the modern ‘80s X-Men about problems that lead to a destructive future. Fans loved the books, and plans to adapt it to the big screen have been kicked around for decades. Now, they’re finally coming together.
Bryan SingerSinger is back in the X-Men fold for the first time since 2003’s X2: X-Men United, and depending whom you ask, that’s either a blessing or a curse. Fans initially loved Singer’s work on the first two films, especially when compared to Ratner’s effort. But Vaughn might have delivered the best X movie with First Class and was set to helm X-Men: Days of Future Past until he walked, and Singer replaced him. He knows his way around the franchise, and hired virtually all of the original players (whom you’ll read about below). So, he’s the right guy for the gig… right? By the way, are you following Singer’s Twitter feed? Because the director uses social media OFTEN to share important X-details, and beyond.
WolverineHugh Jackman’s arguably the biggest global star in the X-universe, so it makes sense that Fox and the franchise’s producers have manipulated storylines to make Wolverine the lynchpin of the mutant movie series. Hell, they couldn’t even get all the way through First Class without dropping in a Jackman cameo. Thankfully, it was pretty funny. If you need more evidence that Jackman is "The Man" here, know that Singer and his X-Men: Days of Future Past team changed the storyline that drives its narrative. In the source comic books, Kitty Pryde is the one who travels back in time to attempt to prevent a decimated future. In Singer’s movie, however, it will be Wolverine who must save the day… once again.
Professor Charles XavierHere’s where things get complicated. For those who might not know, X-Men: Days of Future Past begins in a distant future but ventures back to the past. Crap, you might have figured that out from the title. This means, however, that Singer often will have two versions of major characters as his disposal – the actors he hired for the original X-Men movies, and the younger iterations Vaughn used in First Class. So, we get Patrick Stewart as an older Professor X, sending Wolverine back to the 1970s to connect with young Charles (James McAvoy) and set him back on the right, decent path. It’s the only way to prevent a terrible alternate future where mutant-kind is almost extinct.
MagnetoThe flip side of Xavier’s coin has always been – and continues to be – Magneto. First Class explained how a wedge was driven between these young friends, and X-Men: Days of Future Past will continue to explore that rift. But the time-travel nature of the plot also allows Sir Ian McKellen to slip back into the familiar cape and helmet of his magnetic megalomaniac, playing off of the villain Michael Fassbender created in Class. The only disappointing notion of Days is that, because they exist on different time lines, we won’t get a scene of McKellen interacting with Fassbender. Those two could chew a ton of scenery together. Alas, one Magneto will fight alongside Charles in the dying future, while the other will make Logan’s life complicated in the past. Word is that Fassbender’s version of Magneto plays a huge part in 2016’s Apocalypse, so watch Days of Future Past to see how that narrative develops.
MystiqueIf anyone’s challenging Jackman’s reign as the mega-star in the X-Men ensemble, it’s Jennifer Lawrence, who returns to the makeup chair to play the blue-skinned shapeshifter, Mystique. Seriously, between her Oscar-nominated roles and her Hunger Games money, Lawrence doesn’t need yet another massive tentpole franchise to her name. But she’s back for a second X-Men movie, and is expected to explore her complicated relationship with Fassbender’s Magneto. Appreciate her while you can, people. Unless she’s under contract, I can’t see a shooting star like Lawrence sticking around for many more X-Men movies. Can you?
Kitty PrydePoor Ellen Page. The Juno starlet was cast as Kitty in The Last Stand, but had very little to do. Then she hears that Fox will do X-Men: Days of Future Past, a storyline that leans on Pryde! Only, her time-traveling role is handed to Wolverine. Sorry, kid. To Rome With Love and The East should have been bigger hits! From images that have been shared, it looks like Kitty Pryde will use her mutant powers to somehow send Wolvie back to his earlier body. But for the time being, Page’s contributions to the X-Men franchise appear to have peaked with the awkward "I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!" sequence… and that’s a damn shame.
BeastHank McCoy is another O.G. (Original X-Man Member) who has been short-changed by the cinematic X-movies so far. (Angel, however, has been crapped on the most.) Beast is a difficult character to properly capture. He’s a genius. He’s a brute. He comes with trademark blue fur, which can be a bitch on any actor who agrees to play him. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, it will continue to be Nicholas Hoult in the Beast costume… though from what we recently learned, McCoy will be able to "control" his Beast mode the way Bruce Banner controls his Hulking out. So Hoult may avoid the tiresome prosthetics for chunks of Days.
RogueIs Anna Paquin still in X-Men: Days of Future Past? Your guess is as good as ours, to be honest. She was rumored to be part of the returning cast. Then we heard she got cut. But then Rogue was part of the massive Empire Magazine cover spread, leaving fans to wonder if Singer somehow left her in. Rogue likely wouldn’t have a major role in Future Past, as it is. Maybe a fight or two in the future sequences. My guess is you’ll see Paquin in a deleted scene on the eventual X-Men: Days of Future Past DVD.
Bolivar TraskFrom a mutant’s perspective, Bolivar Trask is most definitely a villain. After all, he is the one who is responsible for the creation for the Homo superior-hunting robots known as the Sentinels that end up doing their part destroying the world. Actor Peter Dinklage, however, has gone on record saying that he doesn’t see the character as an evil man. "He’s a man of science," Dinklage told EW. "He’s a man of invention. He actually sees what he’s doing as a good thing — [his ambition is] definitely blind and he’s quite arrogant. He’s strove all his life for a certain respect and attention." If you couldn’t already tell by the mustache and glasses in the image above, Trask’s role will be playing out in the 1973 part of the upcoming sequel’s plot.
SentinelsTake a second to imagine a robot. It’s 20 feet tall, practically indestructible, packed with powerful artillery and is hunting you down because you have a certain genetic difference from the rest of humanity. What you just imagined is a Sentinel, and hundreds if not thousands of them will be playing extremely important roles in X-Men: Days of Future Past. It is because of a certain event in 1973 that work on the Sentinel program is allowed to move forward, and this causes a chain reaction that eventually leads to a practically apocalyptic future. Sentinels are seriously bad news, and every time you see one of them on the big screen in the next X-Men movie, you should be worried for the lives of the heroes.
StormAs one of the most recognizable members of the X-Men, Storm’s presence in X-Men: Days of Future Past seemed inevitable from the start, and while Halle Berry took a bit longer than most of the cast to sign on, she will indeed be back as the white-haired weather manipulator in the upcoming super sequel. She can be seen briefly in the official trailer that was released last year, and she will obviously be fighting against the future Sentinels with the rest of the original X-Men trilogy cast, it’s not quite clear how she fits into the story specifically. Whatever her role is, it won’t contain a great deal of flying or action sequences, as Berry was pregnant during production.
IcemanPlayed by Shawn Ashmore, Bobby Drake a.k.a. Iceman was a main character in all three of the original X-Men trilogy films, and X-Men: Days of Future Past will be his first time back since X-Men: The Last Stand. The trailer that came out last year showed that the character will be shown in his normal human form for at least some of the movie, but photos from the set released last year also revealed that he will be going full popsicle at some point. The teaser also suggested that he still has a close relationship with Kitty Pryde as well.
BishopThe mutant known as Bishop has a special relationship with the classic Days of Future Past storyline. While the character wasn’t actually featured in the comic by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin back in 1980 (he wasn’t created until 1991), he was turned into the central protagonist of the story when the popular X-Men: The Animated Series from the ‘90s adapted the arc for a pair of special episodes. Played by French actor Omar Sy, the new Bryan Singer film will be the first live-action version of Bishop we’ve ever seen and will be fighting alongside the original X-Men trilogy characters in the future.
ColossusThe solid-as-steel mutant Colossus has been a player in the X-Men franchise since X2 (when he was shown helping students escape the Xavier Mansion during a raid) and while he had a very small role in X-Men: The Last Stand, he has been sitting on the sidelines since. Daniel Cudmore will be back to play the character once again in X-Men: Days of Future Past along with some of the other original trilogy veterans, however. The capacity of his role is unknown at this time, but let’s just hope that he gets at least one more opportunity to team up with Wolverine and perform the fastball special.
HavokJames Marsden won’t be back as Cyclops in X-Men: Days of Future Past presumably because he has not gotten over the case of deadness he caught in X-Men: The Last Stand, but at least one mutant will be in the film representing the Summers family name. Alex "Havok" Summers, who was played by Lucas Till in X-Men: First Class will be reprising his role in the Bryan Singer-directed sequel, though we expect his role to be much more limited than some of his First Class co-stars. A photo from the set released by Singer during production suggests that the character – who has the ability to generate powerful beams of red energy from his body – has actually signed up with the army to fight the war in Vietnam, which means that he will probably be far away from most of the action in the plot.
NightcrawlerIt was a severe disappointment when Alan Cumming didn’t reprise his role as Kurt "Nightcrawler" Wagner in X-Men: The Last Stand after totally nailing the character in X2, and we’re sad to say that he won’t be back for X-Men: Days of Future Past, either. When the project was in early development there were some rumors that suggested the character’s potential return to the franchise, but sadly it never worked out. Hopefully they’ll find some way to bring him back for future X-Men movies.
William StrykerFirst introduced in Bryan Singer’s X2 as a crazy, powerful scientist who created Wolverine and wished to use Cerebro technology to kill every living mutant, William Stryker has been one of the key antagonists of the X-Men franchise. He was played by Danny Huston in Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and was mentioned in passing in Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, and he will once again be back in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The character will be a part of the 70s storyline and played by Australian actor Josh Helman, and will be the central antagonist of that half of the plot.
BlinkNightcrawler may be a no-show for X-Men: Days of Future Past, but the movie will at least feature one teleporter on the titular team. Blink, who will be played by Chinese actress Fan Bingbing in the film, was first introduced to X-Men comics in the mid-90s as a part of two big crossover storylines: the lesser-known "Phalanx Covenant" and the wildly popular "Age of Apocalypse." Outside her cool punk-pink look and the fact that she will be featured in the future part of the timeline, we don’t really know much about how the character will be adapted in live-action - but she could end up playing a key role in the future of the franchise with X-Men: Apocalypse coming in 2016.
WarpathPlayed by Boo Boo Stewart of Twilight fame, Warpath is yet another new mutant who will be getting his live-action debut with X-Men: Days of Future Past. One of the few Native American superheroes in the Marvel Comics universe, the character – real name James Proudstar – has many incredible abilities, including increased strength, speed, and agility and the ability to fly. Sadly we haven’t seen much from the film’s portrayal just yet, but hopefully that will change as more trailers and TV spots are released.
QuicksilverHe ended up being one of the later additions to the script, but the silver-haired speedster Quicksilver is yet another mutant who will be introduced as part of the X-Men franchise in Days of Future Past. He will be portrayed by American Horror Story’s Evan Peters, and unlike most of the other new mutants, the character’s role will be played out in the 1973 half of the story. It’s unknown exactly how close the representation of the character will be to the comics – including whether or not he will be portrayed as Magneto’s son. Whether or not the movie will feature his sister Scarlet Witch is another head-scratcher at this junction.
SunspotSunspot was a character who was actually almost first introduced in Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, but he wound up being axed from the script and instead the character will be making his live action debut in Days of Future Past. Set to be played by Adan Canto in the movie, the character has the genetic ability to both absorb and rechannel solar energy, turning him into an almost all black figure who possesses incredible strength. Like the other new mutants, it’s unclear what role he will play in the plot or within the X-Men team.
ToadSince Toad’s introduction in X-Men comics during the 1960s he has been a bit of a punchline, but Bryan Singer did his part to legitimize the character by bringing him to life with Ray Park’s portrayal in the first X-Men movie. He hasn’t appeared in one of the franchise’s films since – mostly because he was killed by one of Storm’s lightning bolts – but he will be back as part of the 1973 part of X-Men: Days of Future Past. In January we learned that actor Evan Jonigkeit will be playing a young version of Toad in the upcoming blockbuster, and we will presumably see how he first hooked up with Magneto and became a member of the Brotherhood.