"X-Men: Days of Future Past" Rewrites the Comic's Original Storyline to be More Male-Centric

x-men movie poster

The X-Men series proves to be a franchise that, like its most iconic protagonist, regenerates. On the face of it, X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the more enjoyable superhero movies of the last few years. Director Bryan Singer pulls together two sides of a series using a time travel cliché, yet somehow makes the plotline seem not just acceptable but actually fun. 

In the “near future,” a Holocaust-esque extermination forces mutants underground and brings Professor X (Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy) and Magneto (Ian McKellen/Michael Fassbender) together as part of the resistance. They send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 to get their past selves—one who’s given up hope and another who’s given up freedom—to find shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) before her DNA can be used to engineer the weapons now used to target and kill all mutants. Like its 2011 predecessor, X-Men First Class, Days of Future Past thrives on kitsch. Wolverine wakes up in 1973 face-to-face with a lava lamp and his polyester shirt and bellbottom jeans crumpled in the corner (queue a 10-second shot of Wolverine’s butt that garners audible reaction from a crowded theater). References to bad acid trips, explanations of JFK’s assassination, and jokes about only having four television networks punctuate a script that centers on the Nixon presidency and booming defense industry of that time period.

But one 1970s relic permeates the story in an unintended way: the marginalization of women. Although Mystique is the catalyst for the story—and in being so is the female character with the most screen time running, fighting and emotionally combusting—Days of Future Past is still a boy’s club, more so than any other film in the franchise.

In the original comic book version of this story arc, it’s Kitty Pryde who went back in time to save the world. But in the film, the scriptwriters decided the story would have “more gravity” if Wolverine was the time-traveling hero instead, so Kitty Pryde (played by Ellen Page) uses her powers to send him on the journey. Power-absorbing heroine Rogue (Anna Paquin) was also cut almost entirely from the film—she reportedly had a somewhat substantial role in Days of Future Past, but all her scenes were cut during editing. Eventually, Rogue was added back as just a cameo.   

the cover of the original x-men comic featuring wolverine and kitty pryde

The original X-Men comic book storyline revolved around Kitty Pryde saving the day. Image via Comicbook.com.

Storm and two other mutant women who are unnamed in the film also have small roles in the film’s near-future sequences and Mystique is the only female mutant in the past, but no female characters have a presence in both time periods. Meanwhile, the three main characters — Wolverine, Magneto and Professor X — appear in both places, and when they need help they go to two other men: young Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters). Quicksilver is the most entertaining character in the whole film, but his equally powerful sister Scarlet Witch is too young to help out with the mission, confined to a small appearance as a little girl dressed up as a princess—even though the original character is supposed to be his twin.

As it is, the movie feels very male-heavy and many interesting female characters are sidelined to minor roles. However, Mystique’s character is great. The character has made strides since her original appearance in First Class as an insecure, image-obsessed woman.  This time around, Mystique is a tough woman who is loved by Magneto and Professor X but never treated as a prize to be won. She has a bold, self-confident attitude. After morphing from an American Hustle-glam disguise back to her natural blue, she says, “What’s the matter, baby? Don’t you think I look prettier like this?” Lawrence’s acting skills pack as much depth as possible into a character primarily seen kicking ass and taking identities—which is still more than what the rest of the cast brings to the table, despite best efforts on McAvoy and Fassbender’s parts.


But one woman does not a gender-balanced film make. In the film, Professor X asks his past self, “Please, we need you to hope again.” I feel the same way about the whole X-Men franchise.  Mystique’s role certainly provides an example of how female action hero characters can have the same depth as male heroes—the film could have used more heroines like her. As fun and entertaining as Days of Future Past is, it could have been so much more, especially for audiences looking for women to have a far larger stake in the story.

Related Reading — Marvel Debuts a New Series: The All-Women X-Men.

Kate Everson is a Chicago journalist who loves good books, good movies, superheroes, feminism and any combination of the four.

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6 Comments Have Been Posted

You said: "However,

You said:

"However, Mystique’s character is great. The character has made strides since her original appearance in First Class as an insecure, image-obsessed woman. "

The character of Mystique has been in all five X-Men movies (not counting the two stand-alone Wolverine movies). However, Jennifer Lawrence took over the character in First Class. Are you confusing the character with the actress? Or perhaps you haven't watched the earlier movies?

Mystique is as "insecure" and "image-obsessed" as anyone would be if they were covered with blue scales in their natural form. Sort of like someone with three arms or one eye in the middle of their forehead would be "insecure" and "image-obsessed," regardless of their gender. She's not complaining that she's fat or has bad hair; she's trying to survive in a world where literally no one looks like her. She's angry she has to do it, but she understands the necessity, a compromise that drives her behavior in most of the movies. To reduce that conflict to the implication that she was a vain person who only cares about the way she looks is a reductive argument that seems only to serve your thesis.

I'm not certain how familiar you are with the Marvel universe, but many of the issues you raise around the other female characters are based on changes to the X-Men canon that were made because of licensing and the realities of making movies in Hollywood.

The Wolverine was sent back in time because Jackman is a huge box-office draw, not because he is male, but because he had been a central character in all six X-Men movies prior to Days of Future Past. The X-Men made his career for good reason: He is outstanding in the role. Of course he's going to draw a bigger crowd.

Yes, Ellen Page is also a huge star, but nowhere near the level of Jackman. She does a fine job as Kitty Pryde, but because her character has only been in two X-Men movies so far, having her travel back in time wouldn't have had the same impact. Again, not because she's a woman, but because people like watching the Wolverine.

Rogue's scenes were cut because of time. No other reason.

The changes to Scarlet Witch's character were probably determined by the fact that she and Quicksilver are also integral to the Avengers side of the Marvel universe, the rights to which are owned by a different studio than the X-Men: The brother and sister will have a critical role in the next installment of the Captain America/Avengers movies. It's not clear why her character was written as being younger, but it's likely that the changes were made because of time considerations and respect for longtime Marvel fans, most of whom were incensed by the third movie, Last Stand.

The single biggest complaint that fans had about the third X-Men installment was the film's failure to make good use of newly introduced characters integral to the original canon: For example, Angel, a powerful character in the original comics, is introduced, but his role is limited to a minor action at the end of the movie. The same treatment was given to several other characters. Perhaps Marvel aged down Scarlet Witch so that there would be a reason why she wasn't part of Quicksilver's story arc to avoid the same kind of backlash, especially considering the limits of run time: Why take the risk of introducing and under-utilizing another character?

I understand your intent with this article, but your conclusions aren't supported by evidence found in your source material. I took the time to write this comment because too many writers today try to make journalism out of cherry-picked information, selected and manipulated to support the author's thesis. There's nothing wrong with having an opinion and articulating it in print, but when your arguments are based on skewed data, they invalidate your entire message.

Women ousted from a much loved franchise

So (this article is great and chimes with similar themes raised in an article posted on the marysue site)...

The fact that Ellen Page or Kitty Pride is not a big box-office draw is neither here nor there. You have Halle Berry who is as much a Hollywood heavyweight (and Oscar winning can I just add) who could have functioned just as well as the time traveling agent. It is not Ellen Page's fault that Kitty Pride is a battery recharger. That would be down to the writer, the director and the rest of the creative crew. Rogue's character completely written out of the story.

The erasure of Black women in particular from this film has been exceptionally disappointing especially the death of - Storm and Blink who had minor roles anyway. Storm has never been given the chance throughout the x-men franchise to live up to the potential raised in the comics despite playing a central role in the leadership when it comes to field activity as well as playing a senior teacher in the School. This incumbent with the fact nearly all of the women characters from First Class were killed off screen. Allowing then for Magneto, Charles and overused Wolverine to dominate.

As much as I love and adore Hugh Jackman and Wolverine - this character has had sufficient screen time and character development whereby they can act in a subsidiary capacity without having to take centre stage. I agree with the article in that this was very much a boys' film where women were rendered subordinate or obsolete and its such a disappointment.

What I loved about the first two films from the original trilogy and X-Men First Class was many characters were interconnected through their story lines (although focus remained on Wolverine). You didn't have that here.

And also - that final action scene - it was nowhere near as good as the opening scene.

What struck me about this

What struck me about this movie was the straight up victim blaming.



Mystique is captured and tortured and her DNA is used for a genocidal program, and the whole focus of the time travelling rescue mission becomes, stop Mystique from killing that horrible genocidal maniac! Not, stop Mystique from being captured and tortured and weaponized! And she is told multiple times, first by Professor Self-Righteous, then by Magneto, who she has slept with, insult to injury, that she can't carry out her plan, not because she will be captured and weaponized, but because HER actions will cause a genocide. HER actions, of being captured, imprisoned and genetically violated. Why were you dressed like that Mystique? If you hadn't been all alluringly Blue and Morphable, none of this would have happened! Magneto even tries to kill her (bad ex-boyfriend!), cause that genocide, SO HER FAULT!

I just didn't understand why the whole plan had to be stop Mystique from killing that guy who was a mass murdering eugenicist and all around not good human to have around other humans when it could have been, stop Mystique from being captured and turned into a weapon, which was not her fault, it was Dude's. Actually, I do understand, but it still pissed me off.

And why, WHY can't they just let Jean stay dead? Does this mean that we'll be subjected to yet another Bro-Off between Logan and Scott? I mean, they clearly can't do without a Bro-Off, as they inserted that whole Charles, Eric, you stole Mystique, my pretty Blue pet, yell-fest that was really totally unnecessary to the plot.

Yep, bad gender politics all around. That scene with Quicksilver at the Pentagon was bad ass though.

And finally, to the first poster, the article is referencing Mystique's first appearance in THIS trilogy, which has to be looked at a separate entity unless you want to tear your hair out over continuity issues. And yes, it was problematic that the main thrust of her character was being obsessed with her appearance, not in a how the f* am I going to survive in a world where no one else is blue type way, but in a my childhood crush thinks I'm ugly and so do all other men until I am finally validated by Magneto, and now I know I'm pretty kind of way. And yes, she has grown into a more well rounded character in the second installment, no longer needing the validation of men, cause SHE knows she's a fucking righteous bad-ass.

This article hits all kinds

This article hits all kinds of important points. the last two movies have been my least favourite (minus Magneto killing Nazis in Argentina in the fourth one). while there were still interesting sub-plots hinted at around marginalization, oppression and trauma, we already know enough about Wolverine and Professor X and their character were not really more developed in new film, other than expanding on Christian saviour crap. Magneto dealing with the pain of anti-semitism/mutant oppression and displaced male anger (see: Zionism) is very interesting to me, but again, not expanded on. So, yeah, what we all knew before, placing three white men at centre of a story is tired and shitty. Where is Storm???? The coolest character who actually goes beyond Professor X's liberalism and Magneto's displaced aggression with a radical critique of human hegemony combined with compassion for each person (see: Anarchism). Well, she was with the other 3 characters of colour who were nameless martyrs. X-Men is better than this. The comics, tv shows, and first few films are such an excellent combination of action, character development, sub and main plots that revolve around dealing with oppression.

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