I just came from “Rated X: An Evening with Bryan Singer,” which was held at Montreal’s Cinema Imperial as part of the annual Fantasia International Film Festival. After lining up for well over an hour outside the venue, I managed to get a plum seat for the Q&A and presentation of footage from his upcoming Days of Future Past, which has been filming in Montreal over the past few weeks and months. The two minutes and nine seconds of footage was probably the same as what was shown at Comic-Con; it was cut very much like a trailer and didn’t feature any obviously unfinished shots. First, I’ll share my thoughts on the footage and then I’ll get into some of the more interesting bits that stuck with me from the Q&A.
The first thing that strikes you about the Days of Future Past footage is the tone. The piece is accompanied by a melancholy, spare piano score. While Singer promised that the film has a “bright message,” what we see here is quite grim. The future is very black, and there are no shortage of fires. Some seriously post-apocalyptic stuff. The X-Men have new costumes in this future that are very much in the mould of what we’ve seen in previous X-films (i.e., they’re black and leathery). Storm’s dealing with some nasty weather (likely not of her own design). Wolverine’s around in this future, looking much the same but for a streak of grey in his trademark up-do. (I guess his hair doesn’t have a healing factor.) A goateed Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) are shown together, with Rogue (Anna Paquin) looking on sadly (at least, it was cut together to give that impression).
Because the footage was cut like a trailer, we don’t get much of a sense of how the narrative is going to be put together. The footage opens on a eye, and Professor X asking (somebody) “What was the last thing you remember?” The Professor and Magneto are convincing silver-fox Wolverine to go back in time to convince the young and brash Xavier (James McAvoy, rocking the ’70s long hair and beard from his wheelchair) of what awaits mutants in the future. We see shots of Bishop (Omar Sy), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), and Blink (Fan Bingbing), members of the future mutant resistance. (Singer mentioned that Booboo and Bingbing are the first two people we see onscreen in the film, suggesting that we’ll start in the future, approximately ten years after the conclusion of X3: The Last Stand, which I guess means The Wolverine takes place eight years after X3, for the chronology nerds.) Singer claimed that Blink was the “Nightcrawler” of this movie, but that she teleported by throwing portals, which is a cool sounding twist to the effect.
In 1973, we see Xavier in Cerebro and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) holding a gun in front of a big painting. (According to the voiceover, he’s taken a “dark path” compared to Xavier, and Mystique rolls a tear to prove it.) There’s clearly a political bent to this movie as well, which is to be expected from the franchise: we see a shot of what appears to be Nixon, as well as a POTUS seal, Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) testifying before Congress, and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) transforming into a soldier. Xavier confronts Wolverine, but most excitingly, the footage concludes with Patrick Stewart and McAvoy coming face to face. The elder Xavier tells his younger self, “We need you to hope again” (or something like that, I’m paraphrasing). They showed the footage twice, but I’m sure I’m missing a lot of it and I might have gotten some details wrong. I forgot to bring a notepad! What kind of journalist am I?
In the Q&A, Singer was forthcoming about a lot of details, both known and heretofore unknown (at least to me). He confirmed that Cyclops would not be appearing in Future Past, and that he was “not thrilled” that Brett Ratner has chosen to kill him off in X3. If First Class was about the beginning of Xavier and Magneto’s relationship, Days of Future Past is about how they become the men that they ultimately are (presumably in X-Men). Quicksilver’s appearance in the film will be fairly minor, and it sounds as though he was used as a means to an end (i.e., as a plot device). He will be young in the film, and Singer didn’t think that his depiction here would necessarily conflict with The Avengers. Indeed, the director seemed intent on bridging these worlds; he teased the audience by mentioning that he had a pitch for the studios that would crossover different properties, but he kept the details vague. When asked about dealing with actor’s eccentricities, he noted that Russell Crowe, who was Singer’s first pick for Wolverine, volunteered to play to role bald, to Singer’s bewilderment.
Days of Future Past only has a few weeks of filming left — apparently he’s filming a crucial scene involving Xavier and Magneto’s relationship on Thursday, about which he’s a bit stressed — and it is set for release on May 23, 2014. I’m excited to see Singer back in the director’s chair for this instalment of the franchise. This is an ambitious project, but Singer is one of the few directors that knows how to treat the superhero genre seriously without taking it too seriously.
(As a little bonus, here’s a filming notice for Days of Future Past, codename HK Project, from when they were filming in my neighbourhood.)