The Days of Future Past is probably the second most famous story from the X-Men comics, right behind the Dark Phoenix saga. It was reported today that Fox went to the MPAA Title Registration Bureau to keep anyone else from using the title in the near future. There are some interesting possibilities with adapting it as a sequel to X-Men: First Class.
My favorite X-Men adventure is just 44 pages long, but it could easily be expanded into a two-hour film. In the comic, Kitty Pryde is possessed by a version of herself from an apocalyptic future, who has come to prevent an assassination that would result in the Sentinels (the giant robots shown blasting Wolverine) taking over the world. Half the story features a battle between the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, a terrorist group targeting an anti-mutant presidential candidate. The other half of the story features the last stand of the X-Men of the 21st Century, as they try to prevent a nuclear holocaust, briefly teaming up with Magneto, who was once their former greatest enemy. This will be a spoiler to a decades old two-parter, but you can’t accuse the letterer of the cover of Uncanny X-Men #142 of false advertising.
Due to the setting of the story, it’s a bit anachronistic to read the comics now. It was initially published in 1980, so the future scenes, set about thirty years later, would now actually be set in the near past, though it would technically be an alternate history in which giant robots have killed all the superheroes. It may get more complicated with the films. The first trilogy was set vaguely in the near future circa 2000. X-Men: First Class was a prequel set during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Assuming that it’s a similar type of storyline with two sets of X-Men in different time periods trying to prevent a catastrophe from happening, this does raise the question of when exactly the future sequences are meant to occur.
Those scenes could very easily become a direct sequel to the original trilogy. It gives Matthew Vaughn and company a chance to incorporate the most popular members of that cast, especially Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. In the original comics, most of the mutants have been killed off before the last of the X-Men try to go back in time, so that group can be kept rather small in the film. That can help cut costs a little bit for what is sure to be an expensive piece of cinema.
There are two ways to showcase the future sequences which allow for crossover elements. It could be set a generation or more after the events of X-Men: Last Stand, or it could be set almost immediately afterwards. If the producers want, the latter approach does give the opportunity for an Abrams Star Trek style reboot. That would allow Vaughn to go in a completely different direction for subsequent X-Men movies, without having to worry about how it would affect the world of the Bryan Singer films.
The problem with that approach is that it would restrict the ability to make direct sequels to the original trilogy. It’s worth remembering that while X-Men: First Class was well-reviewed, the lackluster X-Men Origins: Wolverine made more money in both the domestic and international box office. There will be another Wolverine film in 2013, before the First Class sequel, but I’m not sure if Fox or Jackman would be especially interested in committing to a reboot, and restricting plans for sequels for their other X-Men film franchise.