MAY / JUNE 2015: BY RACHEL KOVACINY
I love X-men: Days of Future Past, and a huge part of why I love it is how it handles time travel. I’ve long liked the idea of time travel, especially how it can lead to awesome character development as people deal with the differences between what might have been and what now is, depending on how their actions change things.
Days of Future Past begins in a dystopian near-future where mutants have been hunted almost to extinction. Only a few have survived, including Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine, and Kitty Pryde. Kitty’s powers used to be walking through walls, but they’ve expanded to being able to send a person’s consciousness through the walls of time into their past body, which comes in handy for warning their past selves about future ambushes from the giant robots called Sentinels that have been wiping out the mutants.
Professor X and Magneto decide the best plan to save what remains of mutantkind is to have Kitty send someone to the 1970s to keep the Sentinels from ever being created. Initially, Professor X wants to go himself, but Kitty says a person’s mind can only stretch back for a few weeks—any more and it would break.
Logically, then, the only one who can get sent back as far as the 1970s would be someone whose mind and body can heal as fast as they’re broken, namely Wolverine. Which, from a filmmaking standpoint, is also logical, since Wolvie doesn’t really age, so having Hugh Jackman play him in the 1970s and the near future works without major makeup or digital effects to age or de-age him. A little grey hair at the temples for Near-Future Wolvie, and none for Past Wolvie, and we’re good to go.
Once Wolverine’s consciousness goes back to the 1970s, the real fun begins. Because he didn’t get his adamantium skeleton and claws until the 1980s, he has just his bone claws, which surprises him and leads to one of the funniest moments ever to involve a metal detector. The movies have always depicted him wearing ’70s flavored clothes, especially those awful paisley shirts, so for once, he really fits in well. Also, this allows him to meet up with younger Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique, and thus bridge the past and future versions of these characters neatly, passing the torch much more effectively than in X-Men: First Class.
But the fun 1970s shenanigans, the epic prison break scene involving Quicksilver, and the meeting of the minds between future and past Professor X aren’t why I love this movie, though they add to the wonderfulness. No, this is my favorite X-Men movie, not to mention my favorite use of time travel, because of how it ends. I’m going to spoil that here, so don’t read the next paragraph if you haven’t seen this, but want to, and don’t desire major spoilization.
I love the ending because it effectively wipes out the biggest reason Wolverine has to be filled with heartache and remorse: the death of Jean Grey at the end of X3: X-Men’s Last Stand. Wolvie’s actions in the past create a new future, one much happier than the one he was living in at the beginning of the movie, and not just because the Sentinels are no longer an issue. At the end of the movie, Wolverine wakes up back in Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, which we all know shouldn’t still be standing, much less in such lovely condition. He walks out into the hallways and sees characters who had either died or left the mutant family, and we begin to hope, just like you can see he does, that maybe others who died might also have been spared in this new timeline. And then, there she is —a woman with bright red hair, standing with her back to Wolverine and to us. Wolverine’s eyes widen with the realization that he has fixed so much more than he’d expected to as the woman turns around and reveals she is indeed Jean Grey. My heart nearly burst with joy for Wolverine the first time I saw it, because my heart has ached for him for so long, for the burden of grief he’s borne over having to save the world by killing the woman he loved… and now, that never actually happened. Oh joy, oh rapture unforeseen!
Yes indeed, I like the idea of time travel. I even like it when it means that character development from old stories gets negated by new ones. There’s always room for more in the future, after all. ◦
When she’s not writing, Rachel Kovaciny passes the time by reading, baking, watching movies, crocheting, blogging, and homeschooling her three children. Her least favorite activities are house-cleaning and wearing shoes, and she’s been known to go to great lengths to avoid both. She blogs about books, and also has a personal blog that talks about movies and other important things.