One of the most beloved comic book story lines comes to the big screen this Memorial Day Weekend with “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” Moviegoers and fans of the original X-Men trilogy are excited that this film unites the world of Patrick Stewart’s and Sir Ian McKellen’s X-Men with the now rebooted “X-Men First Class” cast in a tale of time travel and redemption.
Unlike previous X-Men films, “Days of Future Past” is much darker. There is almost a prevailing hopeless undertone as the audience is thrust into a post-apocalyptic future. This time, Professor X and Magneto are working together against formidable odds to try to defeat man’s and mutant’s greatest enemy, the Sentinels, in order to secure everyone’s future. Patrick Stewart explains how “Days of Future Past,” from the beginning, is such a different X-Men film starting with his character’s own actions and options.
“Whenever we have seen the good professor, he has always had options and those options have included negotiations, persuasion, diplomacy some resolution that will not be violent. But right from the beginning of this movie, thank you Simon [screenwriter], there is no other option because our enemy this time is not available to rational conversation, to being reason with,” Stewart says.
Almost of the edge of extinction, the remaining X-Men secretly gather together for a last desperate effort. They decide their remaining hope for a future is to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) from the future back into the past to change history to prevent the events that would lead to the creation of the Sentinels, which would inevitably bring doom and extinction for both humans and mutants. Merging both the X-Men trilogy and “X-Men First Class,” Wolverine travels back in time only to find another world in shambles. He stumbles into a world of X-Men before they have faced those events that will shape them into who they inevitably will be. Raven (Jennifer Lawrence), AKA Mystique, is on the brink of causing the creation of the Sentinels, while Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), AKA Magneto, is locked away in a Pentagon vault for killing President Kennedy. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), AKA Professor X, has not only lost his legs, but also his hope and disbands his beloved school for gifted students.
Wolverine is tasked with bringing all three mutants back together to prevent the Sentinels creation before his future body is found and destroyed. “It sort of felt like two films in a way because the beginning was the future, which was like an incredible reunion for all of us [pointing at Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen], and then came the young, more inexperienced actors [pointing at James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender],” Huge Jackman joked, adding, “I was never sure that it would be possible to fill the shoes of Ian and Patrick what they did in X-Men. When I saw ‘First Class,’ I realized that these did it with such a calm and confidence, not only did they feel like the younger versions of those characters, sorry the more inexperienced versions of those characters, but they have also made it their own and it’s an incredible feat what you guys did and I think you guys [Ian and Patrick] anchored the films in ‘X 1,’ I think these guys [Michael and James] anchored the films in this.”
James McAvoy opened up about playing the younger version of Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier, explaining that he had been a fan of Stewart for years, so he didn’t take the task of playing Stewart’s Xavier lightly.
“The key thing was watching the empathy that pours out of you [Stewart] in the previous movies, and I hope in ‘First Class’ to be able to emulate that because it is sort of the prime characteristic of Professor X,” said McAvoy.
He did admit that it was not easy playing Charles Xavier especially when younger Charles Xavier reaches into the future and interacts with older Charles Xavier. McAvoy described sharing that scene with Stewart as a younger version of himself, since Stewart had “been in charge of for 14 years …[face to face]…was quite nerve racking.” Stewart said, “I am not sure how it quite came about that we were nose to nose like that, but I can’t now think about any other possible way of making the scene work because you’re looking into the eye of yourself.”
Stewart explained the natural chemistry in which the scene was filmed, “It was James’s first day of work on the movie and it was my last day of work on the movie…I don’t recall rehearsing it….We knew the lines and they rolled the camera. It was 40 minutes work as far as I recall.” Stewart went on to joke that he learned so much from McAvoy’s Charles Xavier that, “It made me feel that I would really like to go back and shoot all the other movies again now that I know exactly where I came from and what I was. I could get so much more James McAvoy into that performance.”
Michael Fassbender, who plays the younger version of Sir Ian McKellen’s Erik Lehnsherr/ Magneto, wasn’t so lucky. He said, unlike Stewart and McAvoy, he didn’t get to meet McKellen early on. For Fassbender’s inspiration, he said he studied McKellen on YouTube “just trying to get more of the rhythm and tones of his [McKellen’s] voice and then we finally did get to meet at Comic Con which was great, but unfortunately I didn’t have a scene [together] …we flipped a coin and James and Patrick won the toss.”
As to where the X-Men franchises and story lines go from here, both McAvoy and Fassbender speculated, “let’s see how the box office works.” But Jackman did offer some telling choice words…
“The film feels not just like a celebration, but a fresh beginning. I feel like watching this movie as you did, ah we can start again. It feels like an opening.”
It appears as though Fox is making good on its X-Men franchise. If you stay past the closing credits this weekend, you will get your answers as to what will happened next….