X-Men: Days Of Future Past unites two generations of mutants for the first time onscreen, with Hugh Jackman's Wolverine travelling back in time to warn the young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) of the dark future that awaits all mutants unless they can change the course of history. The first trailer - essentially the footage that director Bryan Singer, returning as director for the first time since 2003's X-Men 2, debuted at Comic-Con in July - just went live. "It really is what we wanted from the first look at the movie," says Singer, talking exclusively to Empire just hours after the trailer's debut. "It's an emotional piece that has the characters and the pathos and the mission."
Singer then went on to talk us through some of the key moments and images from the movie that could well be 2014's biggest blockbuster. For more from Singer, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence on the movie, pick up the new issue of Empire for our world exclusive set visit report.
We start with an eyeball. Whose eyeball? Well, the unmistakeable voice that accompanies it tells us that it's Professor Charles Xavier, as played by Patrick Stewart. "It's his eyeball!" laughs Singer. And the opening line is no accident. 'It's him asking, 'what's the last thing you remember?' It's a line from the movie, but in a way he's also asking the audience. We're about to go back into a familiar world - what's the last thing you remember?'"
It would seem that Xavier is also asking Hugh Jackman's Wolverine what he remembers. Given Logan's well-documented struggles with his memory, that might be an exercise in futility.
Part of the hook of Days Of Future Past is that it takes place in two different time periods - here, we see Future Wolverine in what seems to be a temple or monastery of some sort. Check out the snazzy grey streaks in Jackman's temples.
"The grey in the hair is something I took from X-Men Days Of Future Past, it’s a look in the comic," says Singer. "I liked it, even though he hasn’t really aged physically it’s something that shows how tough things have gotten in the future, and brought that out in him and given him a little more world-weariness."
What with his two solo outings and that brilliant cameo in X-Men First Class, we've seen plenty of Jackman-as-Wolverine since X-Men 3 in 2006. Not so for Halle Berry as Storm. This is our first look at Halle Berry as Storm in the future, doing what Storm does best: delivering awful lines about toads unleashing lightning.
"She’s one of the last surviving X-Men in this post-apocalyptic world," explains Singer of Storm's place in the movie. "She’s part of that with Wolverine and Charles and Magneto; they’re some of the last folk standing from the original X-Men. They’re at the spearhead of this mission, this last chance at saving the world. This is their only hope, their mission into time. Can you actually go back and affect time? Can you go back and change things or will time correct itself? Will history fight you back and is your destiny pre-determined or can you change it?"
Now we welcome back a bearded Bobby Drake, AKA Iceman, AKA Shawn Ashmore, and Ellen Page’s Kitty Pryde, AKA Shadowcat. X-Men: The Last Stand established that they had at least a connection, but is there more to their relationship now? "They are an item in the picture," confirms Singer.
Now we are reintroduced to Iceman's former belle, Anna Paquin’s Rogue, also in the future section. Does she have her powers? What does she do now? Tell us, Bryan! "I don't want to give away how she enters the movie at this point," he spoilsports. Bah!
"You’re going to have to do for me what I once did for you...” Charles tells Wolverine, as we get a glimpse at the good professor's new souped-up wheelchair... with built-in Cerebro, perchance? Mega. Rad.
"You'll need me as well..." Ian McKellen’s Erik Lehnsherr, AKA Magneto, is also a fixture in the future war, facing an enemy so monstrous that it forces former foes to band together. When we meet the X-Men in the future, the X-Men effectively no longer exist.
"They’re on the run," says Singer. "There’s no organisation. It’s all been shattered. Most of them have been hunted down. Most of them are dead."
Days Of Future Past isn’t all about the old guard. Singer and writer Simon Kinberg have introduced some new mutants too, and here’s our first look at Omar Sy as long-term fan favourite Bishop, Adan Canto as fiery Brazilian mutant Sunspot (who almost appeared in X-Men: The Last Stand), Booboo Stewart as the Native American strongman Warpath and Fan Bingbing as Blink, whose ability to conjure portals may come in handy during battles. Just don't think of them as X-Men.
"They’re not really fresh recruits," explains Singer. "They’re more refugees that are living day to day in this hideously ruined world. They don’t have much hope in the future. They’re on the run and they join forces with the remaining X-Men to try to do this one last attempt at fixing the world."
As McKellen's Magneto continues speaking ("side by side to end this war"), now we see Storm, Wolverine, Professor X (and his amazing new chair) and Magneto together in the future. Either the X-Mansion has had one serious Tibetan-style make-over, or they're not in Kansas (or even Westchester) anymore. Singer has spoken in the past of the global scale of the movie: are the X-Men clocking up the air miles?
Here, Wolverine approaches the table / altar that appears to be, in essence, the movie’s time machine. Quick note: check out the new duds on Wolverine, Magneto and Charlie X. Three-piece suits are a thing of the past - these guys are suited up for war.
“I wake up in my younger body, and then what?” Wolverine asks Xavier, outlining the movie's time-travel mechanism. In the comic book, it's Kitty Pryde who goes back into the past, but here Wolverine takes that role, with his consciousness heading back into the '70s. Like, far out man.
Charles’ reply is simple: “Find me.” Which means...
We meet the younger Charles Xavier, played once again by James McAvoy. This Charles is a very different beast from First Class' feckless playboy. He's a wounded animal, bearded, long-haired, filled with rage at the way the world has treated him. Here, Charles - flanked by Nicholas Hoult's Hank McCoy and Logan - reopens Cerebro, with the X on his face - or, as proud Scot McAvoy would have it, the St. Andrew's cross - a rather lovely touch.
Old Magneto adds, “It’s going to take the two of us.” To which Logan asks, quite rightly, “And where do I find you?”
The answer is: also in 1973. And here we see the Fassbender Magneto for the first time, holding a gun in front of a painting of Liberty Leading The People (it's flipped, but the image may have been mirrored for some reason), which seems wildly appropriate for him. That painting is part of the Louvre's collection, by the way, probably placing him in Paris. And, for all his mastery of magnetism, Fassbender's Erik is not above using a more savage tool. You homo superiors and your guns...
"There’s a line in the movie, ‘He’s always had a way with guns’," reveals Singer. "That’s how he crippled Xavier, and he’s such a powerful mutant but in this particular moment he’s holding a gun and I like that. He’s a product of the Second World War and he knows how to use a gun as much as he does his powers."
“On a different path,” says McKellen of his younger self, as we see Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique shedding a single tear. “A darker path.” It’s clear that a major schism has taken place between Magneto and Mystique, who were very much a couple last time we saw them. Clearly, this is not 50 Shades Of Blue...
"Logan, I was a very different man,” Xavier tells Wolverine as McAvoy blows dust off Cerebro. Clearly, it hasn’t been used very often in the ten years separating First Class and Days Of Future Past.
“Lead me. Guide me.” says Stewart's Charles. And here we see McAvoy's Charles touching Logan’s temples to access... something. But what? Perhaps salvation lies within.
"He’s trying to access something deep in his mind," says Singer, cryptically. "That’s what the line’s about, 'You’re going to need to do for me what I once did for you'. In X-Men 1, Logan was a lost, lonely person and Charles helped him find himself. Now the tables are turned and Logan is coming into the world from the future to find a man who’s at the end of his rope in the past."
Here, we see Xavier confront himself in the mirrored walls of the X-Men's hideaway. "Be patient with me," he counsels Logan.
To which Wolverine replies, “Patience isn’t my strongest suit.” We're guessing that a lot of the comedy - in what could otherwise be a fairly dark movie - will come from watching 1973 Logan try desperately to restrain himself from giving McAvoy's Xavier a piece of his mind.
Then we see the procedure Logan undergoes that sends him back in time: those hands, those beams of energy, are coming from Kitty Pryde, who's evolved her phasing power into an interesting new area. Singer previously told Empire that the decision to send Logan back in time is because, as you can see, the procedure is fairly painful, and it's one only Logan, with his healing factor, could hope to survive.
The monastery or temple or whatever the heck it is comes under attack as a bulky figure runs through the destruction. Is this our first look at the return of Daniel Cudmore as Peter Rasputin, AKA the metal-skinned Colossus? It sure is. Minus the metal skin.
"He may be his human form in that shot, I’m not sure. By that time in the sequence he may actually be metal but I have no visual effects done!" laughs Singer. "So for that shot you just get what’s on the set - a big, live, real explosion. No CGI yet. We’re in process on very elaborate effects but there’s really none of them done except for a couple of backdrops and a couple of shots I could slide in."
Fassbender’s Magneto floats down to the ground. Is this also in Paris? That building and the monument in the next shot look pretty French. Note also the hints of purple in Erik's clothing as he heads further down the dark path to becoming the McKellen Magneto we all know and love/hate/love-to-hate.
"Fassbender knew that he would be, well, not sharing the frame with Ian McKellen, but sharing the movie with Ian McKellen," explains Singer, "so where on First Class he tried to be as different as possible from McKellen, because that was a very different character, he now knows as an actor he’d have to bring his performance slightly closer to Ian’s because he’s heading in that direction."
Here's our first glimpse of Jennifer Lawrence in her 'human' form as Raven, not the mutant and proud Mystique. Lawrence told Empire on set that she spends more time in the movie as Mystique. And, we're guessing, a whole host of other people. Comes with the terrain when you're a shape-shifter.
In the Oval Office, aides unlock a secret vault. Are they trying to protect the President from an attack (shades of X-Men 2, of course)? And if this is 1973, doesn't that mean that the Prez is...
In the 1970s, some goons take time out on their way to Tony Montana's house to have a pop at Wolverine. This will not end well for them.
Charles looks pained as something goes terribly wrong with Cerebro. Again, he’s flanked by Logan and Hank McCoy.
In a white room, a glass ceiling explodes as a figure recoils. Who could this be? What is this room? Are glass ceilings really advisable? Health & Safety are going to do their nut when they find out about this.
In the future, Magneto, Rogue and Iceman run down a corridor. One of them looks to be injured. They’re under attack from something... but what?
In answer to the question we posed several grabs back, the American President in 1973 is, of course, Richard Nixon. Boo! Hiss!
Incidentally, it's a shame First Class' January Jones isn't in the movie, or this could have been Frost/Nixon 2. (Sorry. So sorry.)
In the next shot, Mystique walks away from the scene of an incident... and masks her getaway by morphing into a man in a hat. This is Singer’s cinematographer, Newton Thomas Sigel, making a cool cameo.
Here, Beast and young Magneto have something of a heated debate, or a playful splash around in a fountain. Boys will be boys.
This is also our first look at the new make-up for Nicholas Hoult. Nice.
Meet Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the human scientist who creates the Sentinels, an army of mutant-killing robots. Is he a cut-and-dried villain? 'Course he is, just look at that moustache (all Dinklage's own work, he claimed at Comic-Con).
Storm conjures up some more lightning as we hear young Charles bark: “I don’t want your suffering.”
Mystique, in full whirligig ass-kicking mode, takes care of some guys in suits. Who are they? Are they protecting the President? Or does she have a different target in mind? And if this is the last thing this goon ever sees, will he die happy?
Or you’ll miss her.
"I don’t want your future!” yells an angry, hurting Charles, rejecting Logan’s request. With three Oscar winners (Berry, Paquin and Lawrence) and a few nominees in the cast, the quality of acting on display here promises to be stratospheric. Certainly, McAvoy is not holding back; here you can almost feel Charles' pain.
Now this is a big one. Logan, in the 1970s, takes out some dude. You can just about see them in this grab, but Wolverine's claws aren't adamantium. Instead, they're all bone, baby. All bone.
"He doesn’t have his metal yet in 1973," confirms Singer, which places this movie before the events of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Wolverine's first meeting with a man by the name of William Stryker, head of the Weapon X programme. Here, Stryker (previously played by Brian Cox in X2 and Danny Huston in Origins) is played by Josh Helman. And we're intrigued to see how Magneto and Wolverine get on now that the former can't make the latter behave like a puppet on a string...
In what looks like Paris, Magneto is pulling Mystique along the ground, somehow. She doesn’t look best pleased about it.
Now we cut between Old Magneto, looking tortured and up against it, perhaps haunted by past crimes…
Then we cut to young Charles, long-haired and wild-eyed…
Then it's back to Old Charles. This juxtaposition between Fassbender and McAvoy's broken Erik and Charles and the dignified old men they become will be one of Days Of Future Past's major themes.
"When I try to direct an actor, you always try to give them a sense of who they were as young men, who they were in their past lives, and in my imagination I always had that [with Charles and Erik]," says Singer. "I was able to introduce those notions in X-Men: First Class but to actually have them performing simultaneously on screen, that was a real thrill and a challenge."
The trailer ends with the big visual that sent 6,500 people in Hall H nuts when the footage debuted at Comic-Con: the meeting of the two Xaviers, presumably on the astral plane. "Please..." pleads Stewart's Xavier of his reluctant younger self. "I need you to hope again."
"It’s an abstract scene, without giving away its origin and how it happens," says Singer. "It’s a trippy scene, it has a bit of '70s style in it and the entire scene involved a lot of interesting practical photography using mirrors and other things. It was fun to shoot, and it was great to get the two actors together."
Interestingly, it was McAvoy's first day on set, which is not a bad way to ease yourself in gently.
"I did get goosebumps," adds Singer. "I’ve got a picture on my iPhone of the two of them talking to each other. These moments need to be photographed."