Matthew Belinkie, Peter Fenzel, Shana Mlawski, and Matt Wrather overthink X-Men: Days of Future Past.[audio:http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/traffic.libsyn.com/mwrather/otip308.mp3]
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As a geology dilettante, I decided to do a bit of research into the matter at hand. For starters, the Earth’s continental crust, as opposed to the oceans crust, is about 20-30 miles deep. Since Virginia and DC is nearer to the ocean, it may be on that lower, end but it isn’t relevant. As for the specific geology of the area, it lies in a region called Piedmont, which is a whole mix of stuff because there used to be mountains there, because Africa and the Americas used to abut there in Pangaea, but the mountains are now all eroded.
However, pretty much every major city in the region, and on the Eastern seaboard, are just above the fall line, which is where the hard metamorphic rock meets the sandy sedimentary rock of the shores. So, if I were to hazard a guess, they’d have a bunch of hard rock to dig into to build Magneto’s prison.
One thing that is both awesome and frustrating about the X-Men series is the extent to which time travel and alternate timelines figure prominently. Apocalypse is often depicted as the inevitable ruler of the planet, but one keenly aware of a prophecy surrounding his demise. He is eventually defeated by the son of Scott Summers and Jean Grey, who has been sent to the future to be raised among an order of telepathic/telekinetic priestesses (who themselves worship the daughter of Scott Summers and a Jean Grey clone). The son, Nathan, returns to the present as the grizzled vet Cable, and fights alongside the X-Men because his clone, who had been raised by Apocalypse as a failsafe against Cable, travels back to the present to cause mayhem, without regard for paradoxes. One of these paradoxes involves present Apocalypse, who hibernates while he waits for the right time to wake up and start culling the weak.
Then there’s Bishop.
As a 90s comic fan, I was always intrigued by Bishop, because like Cable, he was a grizzled badass from a dystopian future who fired big guns in lieu of using his mutant power, but unlike Cable, he was an X-Men fanboy, not the Chosen One. He had grown up being told all the stories of the X-Men’s heroic exploits, and then had to travel back in time to not only fight alongside his heroes, but expose the traitor among them who would betray them. Plus Bishop had the nifty ability to “remember” previous continuity even when a timeline changed. Essentially, he was us.
The film gives us an homage to the Bishop we grew up on by choosing him to groundhog day the Sentinel battle, but it’s hard not to lament him not having the rich backstory of his comics counterpart. Further, I’m not sure he shows up in Wolverine’s “Its A Wonderful Life” segment, but it would have been neat if he had given Logan an approving glance, with the knowledge of the apocalyptic future that had been diverted.
Anyhow, the problem with a movie that closes its own loop like DoFP does is that it doesn’t really make space for future adventures. It sends off the original cast in an all-too perfect way, but they’re still meant to be superheroes in a world that hates and fears them, so even if one future has past, that shouldn’t make this future perfect. The post-credits scene kind of exacerbates this problem, because the threat alluded to is a threat from millennia in the past, one that has either always been laying dormant or has already been vanquished. Had the En Sabah Nur reveal been contemporaneous with the close of the movie, it could have made a point about how averting one apocalypse still puts us on the verge of another. (An even bolder choice would have been to say that eliminating the Sentinels actually opened the door for the rise of Apocalypse.) This not only maintains a theme from the comics, but given that this is functionally an X-Men reboot, you want to end with the future wide open, rather than with a denouement.
I think that somehow the new timeline MUST have paved the way for Apocalypse, unless you buy that the X-Men have defeated him before and just never mentioned it. From what I hear, Apocalypse is the kind of world-shaking threat that it’s hard to imagine just never came up in conversation over the last five or so X-Men movies.
The next movie actually has a nifty built-in framing device. In 2023, Wolverine has told Professor X he remembers nothing of the past 50 years. Professor X has known this day would come and patiently asks, “What’s the last thing you remember?” The door is open for Patrick Stewart to be narrating the next film from the future, telling Wolverine the story of his own life.
The downside of that framing device is it lowers the stakes because we KNOW, for a fact, that the future turns out okay. Which is not a huge deal, because let’s face it, we were never really afraid that Apocalypse was going to take over the world permanently.
Well, actually, the episode of TNG was, apparently, “The Naked Time”.
Also, does anyone else feel bad for Bishop in this movie?
He’s the only mutant who remembers all these battles with the Sentinels in which he repeatedly watches his friends get slaughtered. Kind of a bummer.
I thought about that, but it’s probably not true. As soon as they get the slightest warning the Sentinels are coming Bishop goes into his little time coma, ideally even before they arrive. He’s not aware of what’s happening to his friends, although I can only imagine his feelings as he’s about to make the leap, knowing that he’s going to leave his friends to die in order to save them.
I can’t believe I didn’t wait for the after credits scene!! I would have got the reference, too, having watched X-Men Evolution as a kid. Damn!!!
The more I think about it the more fascinated I am by the initial Bishop-Kitty plan. The group is sitting around. Suddenly Bishop stands up. “I’ve just been sent back into by body from 12 hours in the future. We have to leave now.” So you do. And a few days later, it happens again. Every so often Bishop tells you that he’s come from the future and you have to move. That’s all well and good. Maybe that happens a dozen times. Maybe 100 times.
But the horrible thing is that you know that eventually, IT WILL BE YOUR TURN. Every time Bishop is sent back, it means you died in an alternate timeline. But someday the Sentinels are going to attack with no warning, and it’s going to be YOUR turn to die so that another version of you can live another couple days, before dying so that ANOTHER version of you can live another couple days.
From one point of view, you can live forever with this trick. But honestly, what this plan comes down to is that you die a horrible death in the hopes that another version of you can do better. It’s a pretty rotten deal, but it’s not like there are a lot of better options.
You know what this reminds me of in a strange way? The Tom Cruise movie opening next week, Edge of Tomorrow. It’s not exactly the same premise, but that movie seems to be about being able to die and “reset the day” so you can try again. But the big difference here is that Tom Cruise doesn’t really experience death, whereas everybody except for Bishop really does in the other plan.
Yup, it’s basically Hugh Jackman’s dilemma from The Prestige: he begins the trick every night, never knowing if he’s going to be the transported man or the man in the box.
Let me ask what seems like a fairly obvious question, but it’s really tripping me up. If you go back and change history, does that mean that the Sentinel apocalypse never happened? Because I can’t help feeling like it DID happen. All those people really died. What Wolverine really did is create an alternate version of the timeline where something BETTER happened, which is certainly worth doing. But it seems wrong to say none of those bad things really happened.
Even if you want to argue that there’s only one timeline, and not multiple timelines, I’d STILL argue that the Sentinel apocalypse really happened, but then it was undone. Maybe this is a distinction without a difference, but it seems wrong to me to say those deaths didn’t matter, because it sure mattered to THEM. Rather, once time travel is introduced we have to consider the idea that multiple things happen to the same people, but they ALL count equally.
Basically, I don’t think we should be biased in favor of what we perceive as the “final” timeline… because hey, who says we’re LIVING in the “final” timeline.
So this there’s an Orson Scott Card book that addresses this problem head on – Pastwatch. It has a somewhat similar time travel mechanic, in that the timeline that produces and sends a time traveler ceases to exist as soon as the past starts to change. And it actually tears the characters up – because it means that as soon as the time travel happens everyone dies.
I was thinking about this during all of the scenes where they are getting ready to send Logan back in time – sure, maybe it will make the universe a better place, but it means that *everyone* standing in that room (and indeed, everyone in the last 50 years) is going to cease to exist when he’s done. How is being erased from a timeline and replaced with a different version of yourself substantially different from dying? Despite the apocalyptic setting, aren’t any of the X-Men upset about this?
I’ll try to find the quote later, but there’s a great bit in Pastwatch where one of the characters is extremely upset that their timeline is going to be wiped out: it essentially condemns everyone who has lived since that moment in the past as being unworthy of living. In a way it’s even worse than killing someone – when you murder someone, it’s a way of saying that you don’t think they deserved to live anymore. When you go back and erase their actions from existence, it’s saying that you don’t think they deserved to live at all.
Sounds like the old “Do you go back in time to kill baby Hitler?” problem. So many people say yes, but I know one Jew who would not have ever existed if someone changed the timeline to prevent the Holocaust.
This has been a message from the Hey, Time Travelers: Please Do Not Doom Shana to Nonexistence By Killing Baby Hitler campaign.
When I go back and kill Hitler a single tear will roll down my face and I will say: “I’m sorry, Shana.”
This is basically how it works in X-Men comics involving time travel: you can actually never fix anything, any change you make just creates a new universe that incorporates your change. The “bad” timeline still exists elsewhere. I learned this from an excellent new podcast that is entirely devoted to explaining X-Men minutae. Here is the one they did specifically for this movie:
I’d like to tie your idea that the bad future still happened to the question of what showing us the bad future contemporaneously with the story means, and compare that to Terminator.
We see in the future, everyone fighting the Sentinels to the death as a delaying action. They delay the Sentinels as long as possible because Wolverine’s chances of preventing the bad future goes up the longer he is in 1973. From the point of view of an observer in 1973, the longer Wolverine has his future-mind, and is therefore helpful, the longer the mutants in the future are holding out against the Sentinels. So, even though there is no Kitty Pryde time-phasing Wolverine back to 1973 with the remainder of the mutants holding off the Sentinels in the 2023 that remembers a time-traveling Wolverine in its 1973, the consequences of their actions are manifested in the new timeline in Wolverine’s memory and in how long he was there. So there is empirical evidence that they existed and fought, even after Wolverine was sent back in time.
Compare this to time travel in the Terminator. Once John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time, the future stops mattering. Nothing that they do in the future leaves any mark on 1984, and whatever John Connor does after he sends Reese back may be obviated by changes to the past. Kyle Reese’s actions in 1984 are no longer dependent upon the activities of people in the future. It becomes then, a solo mission for him.
So what I would say showing us the future does for the story, (and having time travel work the way it does), is to cause what was a solo mission for Kyle Reese to be a team mission for Wolverine. That he is the only one of the future crew in 1973 does not mean he is the only one of them fighting to make the present a better future. What would have been Wolverine: Adventures in Time gets to remain an X-men movie.
I don’t really care about the X-Men beyond the rapper Kitty Pryde, but, if I did not misunderstand, Apocalypse is the first mutant, but also the most powerful mutant? That seems, even by the standards of X-Men’s science, a bit of a stretch. It seems unlikely that the very first mutant would end up being the most powerful, genetically speaking. Is there any in house explanation for this?
Well, Apocalypse’s powers don’t come from just being a mutant. His mutant powers aren’t even really that powerful. His major powers come from his access to a bunch of super-advanced alien technology, and he runs around in a super-powered robotic exoskeleton.
Basically him being the first mutant gave him an advantage in making first contact with aliens and time travelers visiting ancient Egypt, and once he knew aliens and time travelers existed he was relatively successful in tracking them down and jacking a bunch of their technology.
But they might just ignore this in the movies and make him a super-powerful mutant to keep it simple. I wouldn’t blame them for that.
Even then, Apocalypse isn’t the _most_ powerful mutant. In Marvel comics, there’s at least a dozen random obscure characters who have like infinite power that come up in these kinds of discussions.
Ah ha. So his most prominent powers are networking and the ability to build buzz around his name brand. Works for me.
Totally. Apocalypse as a manager is a master of team-building and delegation. His professional development programs are so far ahead of the curve that he routinely sharks top talent from both Xavier and Magneto, who can never hope to match his benefits packages.
The actual most powerful mutant in Marvel is probably Franklin Richards, the son of Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, who has reality-warping dream powers and can create entire universes. But he’s usually portrayed as just a kid, which is the main way he doesn’t ruin every story he’s in, and while he is commonly referred to as a mutant, and while the cosmic rays that bombarded his parents can cause DNA damage, I don’t really buy that he “mutated” the same way that the X-Men “mutated.”
Hey, I’m a longtime lurker and I just wanted to say this was really cool episode (maybe because I actually saw the movie this time instead of the indie/arthouse stuff I usually see), but I was a little disappointed you guys didn’t mention the best part about this movie: Andy Warho-wait, I mean Quicksilver. That bullet sequence was incredible.
It really was. In the upcoming war between Disney and Fox for the Quicksilver intellectual property, I’d be surprised if that didn’t remain the defining Quicksilver sequence.
WELL ACTUALLY I’m going to go against popular opinion and say that while Quicksilver was super fun, he is also ABSURDLY OVERPOWERED. It’s almost impossible to imagine how Magneto, Wolverine, Mystique, or almost any other mutant could ever stop him in a fight. How could you ever land a punch on a guy who makes bullets look slow? I feel like they shouldn’t be introducing b-level mutants who could dismantle the a-level mutants without breaking a sweat. (The one exception is Professor X, who could probably freeze him via mind control and take him out that way.)
It didn’t surprise me that he exited the movie after the Pentagon sequence, because his powers would make the rest of the film absurdly simple. So Quicksilver strikes me as both an irresistible temptation for a writer, but also something that has to be neutralized and kept away from the critical action, because he makes the a-list mutants superfluous. Kind of the way that writers have to come up with ways to keep Professor X incapacitated/dead because he has the power to simply “shut down” threats remotely, with a mere thought. You need a reason why Wolverine and the gang have to do things the hard way, punch by punch.
@Belinkie, I totally agree – I LOVED that sequence, but then was completely confused by the part where the guys trying to save the world are just like “OK, thanks for single-handedly solving that problem for us. Good thing we won’t have any more need for THAT again.”
It reminds me of the part in Return of the King where Aragorn releases the Army of the Dead after they wipe out the orcs in like 5 minutes. While I’m assuming there’s a canon explanation for this, I was just sitting in the theater wondering why the invincible army of ghost doesn’t just jaunt over to Mordor and wipe out all the orcs. I mean, they’ve waited THIS long, what’s another 30 minutes or so?
See also: Hiro Nakamura, Heroes.
In the spirit of OTI diversions: you’re not wrong that the whole invincible-ghost-army thing is a problem in the RotK movie. And of course the real answer is, to quote John Ford explaining why the bad guys don’t just shoot the horses in the dramatic stagecoach chase scene: “because then the movie would be over”
The in-movie “reason” is more hinted at than said. The origin of the ghosts is that they are oathbreakers who promised to fight for the King of Gondor and failed to do so and were therefore cursed to eternal ghostlife. Aragorn promises to hold their oaths fulfilled if they right for him. They kill all the orcs and then turn to him to let them free. Gimli, like you, says “hey, let’s not give up our unstoppable invincible army.” You have to read into Aragorn’s decision a certain genre saviness about the horrible ironic fates that happen to those that break oaths to immortal ghosts who were themselves cursed for breaking oaths. Granted, asking them to stick around for a second deployment might not actually qualify as him breaking his oath, but I can see not wanting to rules-lawyer an angry ghost-king.
The broader “reason” is that all of this is kind of different in the book. It’s not super explicit, but it doesn’t seem like the ghosts in the book have the ability to actually kill people like they do in the movie. The ghosts actually just scare off all of the Corsairs allied with Sauron, allowing Aragorn and a group of normal human soldiers to steal their ships and sail up. Peter Jackson presumably wanted the dead men in order to be somewhat true to the book, but all the extra soldiers were too complex so they kind of combined them with the ghosts, making the ghosts a lot more powerful than in the book. But after that scene they had to go back to the book chronology more or less, so the ghosts had to go.
All these different in- and out-of-universe “reasons” for this event in the movie makes me think we need some kind of fictional teleology to categorize why things happen in fiction, because just in-universe and out-of-universe reasons seems like not enough categories.
As awesome as this movie was, I would like an explanation for why Kitty can project people back through time. Even if it’s just as simple as “that’s her secondary mutation.” I feel like everyone is so happy that this movie was good after we have been disappointed several times, and that it managed to actually rectify so many of those disappointments, that we were all more than willing to forgive this one bizarre element in light of all the good that the movie did. But I’d still like to know!
Here you go:
“As far as Kitty’s role in the film, which is obviously changed from the comic (there, she was the time traveler), she has a secondary mutation that lets her push other peoples’ consciousness through time and space.”
Another interesting thing that article suggests is that Claremont and Len Wein helped come up with the idea.
I just thought it was because her powers involve phasing through matter and space, and side matter is energy and space is time and energy is information, she figured out how to phase people’s thoughts.
One interesting way to think about it is since Kitty Pride is not a telepath, and since she literally shoots some sort of surgical looking thing into the time traveler’s head, maybe in the context of this movie she is physically phasing his current brain into his past body.
This would partially explain why the symptoms of time travel failure that Wolverine is constantly heading tend to resemble having a stroke or physical brain trauma, and why Wolverine can heal from them when Wolverine has never shown before that his mutant healing factor affects psychological damage.
Well actually …
At various points it’s “revealed” that Wolverine’s healing factor can cause him to forget memories that are too traumatic for him. This keeps him from suffering PTSD and lets writers insert whatever they want into his backstory basically whenever they want.
If I’m not mistaken they mention this in one of the movies too.
I’m sure they’ve retconned that part of his healing factor a half dozen times by now though, so it’s easily missed.
No one’s posted it yet? I am ashamed overthinkers.
Kennedy’s car was a Lincoln Continental.
Damn it, I got so focused on the geology of the Washington D.C. area that I forgot to point that out. And I’ve seen that car too, because it is at the Henry Ford Museum and, as a native of the Detroit area, the Henry Ford was the locale for many a field trip. Also, it’s kind of weird that a museum has JFK’s death car on display, right?
And Lincoln’s horse was a Continental named Kennedy.
Great podcast, and I do regret that I wasn’t on to talk about the Terminator connections. May need to save that for a post…
Anyway, I really enjoyed this movie, but one continuity issue above all of them is really bothering me: are we supposed to understand Mystique’s “prime” timeline as follows?
Captured by Trask
Events of X-Men 1, 2, and 3
What happened to her in the interim? Did she escape from Trask?
Related, where were the Sentinels during the events of X-Men 1, 2, and 3?
I can write off the other continuity problems easily–even the issue of resurrected Professor X–but not this one. Most other things add up quite well, but not this piece of the puzzle.
It’s not that hard to imagine a scenario where Mystique escapes and blows up a lab or destroys a bunch of their work, but it only slows them down rather than stops them.
And if the sentinel program is run by William Stryker (which makes sense, since he’s the guy who tazes Mystique), then he has a lot of other stuff to do – he has to run Weapon X, and that has to fail, and he has to get recruited by HYDRA, who are also in X2 (Hail Hydra!), and then he has to do the whole Jean Grey thing and get killed at the dam.
So the project languishes in development for a long time, goes underground, gets put in an off-the-books secret Nazi thing, then its leader and main sponsor dies, and it ends up not getting finished until 25 years after that.
I mean, it’s convoluted and kind of incompetent, but it’s no more absurd than the 2nd Avenue Subway.
Okay, couple of things:
HYDRA is in X2? I never knew that! Is this in the dialogue in the movie, or just suggested by a uniform logo or something like that?
“I mean, it’s convoluted and kind of incompetent, but it’s no more absurd than the 2nd Avenue Subway.”
I suppose that does put things into perspective. For more information about this public works project that is approaching its 100th birthday: http://secondavenuesagas.com/second-ave-subway-history/
1. I looked it up – apparently it’s an unnamed group of paramilitary commandos in the movie, but they’re referred to as HYDRA in the X3 video game, so wikia refer to them as HYDRA in movie plot summaries.
I think Trask mentioned in a throwaway line that in a “few decades” they’d be able to develop the Mystique-fueled Nimrod Sentinels. I think that was their attempt to hand wave how none of them show up for 50 years.
There was also that danger room sentinel in X3. Perhaps that was from a between-the-movies run in with them?
The more you think about that, as with most hand waves, the less it makes sense though. If they had any kind of sentinels, even prototypes, you’d think they’d launch them after an assassination attempt on the president.
I am starting to feel cheated by all the time travel stories that re-write the canon we’re invested in. Resurrecting Jean Grey after the more recent Wolverine movie is especially annoying.
But I did like the irony of the Peter Dinkledge character being so vehemently anti-mutant. Although there is nothing in the script (so far as I can tell) to suggest that the role of Trask was written specifically for a Little Person.
But… but… resurrecting Jean Grey via borderline-absurd contrivance is one of the X-Men’s proudest comic book traditions…
Ethics of time travel is a tricky one, particularly given that our moral capabilities evolved for the purpose of facilitating group living, and tends to be inadequate for large scale political decision-making, never mind when applied to fictional technology/capabilities such as time travel, in much the same way that Newtonian physics breaks down when applied to subatomic particles.
I propose a thought experiment. A person stubs their toe, then shortly thereafter can press a button to change the past so that they never stubbed their toe, and do not remember making the choice to change the past, and leaves no evidence that events ever could have happened otherwise. Is is permissible for them to do so? Is pushing the button tantamount to committing suicide (by killing the stubbed-toe version of themself)?
To add a wrinkle, what if after stubbing their toe, they mentioned the experience to their friend? Now pressing the button changes not only the person, but their friend. Is pressing the button now tantamount to murder-suicide?
Does it make sense to apply deontology to reality altering choices? How would one derive the rules for time travel? Can utilitarianism even be applied to something as unpredictable as 50-year time travel, or does uncertainty make it useless?
The criterion the movie seems to use, (and most movies seem to use), is motive-based: the audience is supposed to support heroes when they act from the proper motives, and the movie rewards the heroes with a mostly-happy ending when they do so. (As an aside, I think Game of Thrones diverges from most such stories in not working on a motive-based causality.)
I would like to note, from a legal perspective, that Magneto was almost certainly dealt with extra-legally. I do not believe he could possibly have had a trial, as the prosecutor would have the unenviable task of convincing the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that not only does Magneto have metal-manipulating super-powers, but he also used them to cause someone else’s bullet to kill the president. At the very least a trial would cause the existence of mutants to be a topic of national discussion.
@Belinkie- Regarding the topic you brought up in the question of the week, see also The 4400, which aired on the USA network long ago in a time before Burn Notice. That show also involves people who get mutations and are regarded as a threat by society, but it incorporates mutant powers across a wide range of utility. Some people have X-men level combat-tailored powers (telekinesis, etc.), but many people have more down-to-earth abilities. One lady is a florist who has the power to make plants healthier by giving them a pep talk (yeah). Presumably this only equips her to defeat competing florists, but little more than that. Another person has bioluminescent hands and we only see her using it as a reading light. Mutant JFK would have been at home there.