Now that X-Men: Days of Future Past is in active pre-production, we've enjoyed some intriguing announcements. It certainly helps that director Bryan Singer is pretty active on Twitter - offering timely casting confirmations and behind the scenes looks at the film-in-progress.
Similarly, 20th Century Fox's Marvel Universe consultant Mark Millar has been keeping busy on the interview circuit, talking up Jeff Wadlow's Kick Ass 2 (which is based on Millar's comic book) as well as offering tantalizing details and reassurances about the content and direction of the shared X-Men movie universe - to be explored in The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past. This time, Millar address one of the most-anticipated X-Men movie characters set to appear in the sequel - The Sentinels.
In an interview with SFX, Millar was first asked to address the size of the ensemble cast - which is set to include characters from the 1970s First Class continuity as well as cast members from Singer's original "modern" X-Men trilogy. Millar would not comment on a finite number of mutants in the film, but praised Singer's ability to handle a large cast - asserting that every character set for return will be essential to the larger plot:
"It has actually been very well put together – Simon Kinberg and Matthew Vaughn worked on it together and they are both great at what they do. Then Bryan Singer came in, and, of course, he is Mr. X-Men and he knows exactly how everything works. Just look at these first two X-Men movies: despite the huge cast of characters it all came together really well. These two movies never felt like overload and the balance was really, really good. On the other hand I thought the third film felt crowded, but then Singer is excellent at working with ensemble casts. So with this one I feel it is all fine. I have read the screenplay and it doesn’t feel rushed and it doesn’t feel like it is too many characters.
I think the best comparison I can give is to Star Trek – that is an ensemble but it never feels as if there is not enough time with any one character. Or maybe Lost – that is an ensemble but every character gets their own moment to shine. So as long as everyone is there for a reason there doesn’t need to be a problem with so many characters. This is a beautifully structured film, and it is a time travel story so the structure has to be especially strong."
Given that the film is going to deal with different time periods, it's easy to imagine there'd be a temptation to pull in one cameo after another - since fans will likely want to catch a glimpse of their favorite mutants (if only for a brief second). However, the Days of Future Past story is set to be an extremely complicated narrative - with multiple iterations of primary characters as well as potential to revisit (and alter) crucial moments from the first trilogy. After all, while Singer may address a few continuity errors that have built-up in the series (especially since First Class was a soft "reboot"), it's equally important that casual moviegoers aren't alienated if they aren't familiar with every entry in the series. Keeping the roster of characters in check, so that less-essential players aren't a distraction, is going to require challenging restraint.
At this point, it's unclear which characters will take center stage but Singer recently announced that Iceman, Kitty Pryde, and Rogue would all be returning for the sequel - in addition to prior confirmations of Wolverine and the aged versions of Professor X and Magneto. Millar didn't comment on how much Iceman or Rogue we'll see in the sequel but did make sure to reassure Kitty Pryde/Ellen Page fans that the character will have satisfying screen time - a detail that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who is familiar with the core Days of Future Past storyline:
"As soon as I say something it will turn into a big internet story. Let me put it this way though: Kitty Pryde fans will not be disappointed."
Of course, just because the film will feature a lot of returning faces, that doesn't mean that Singer doesn't intend to deliver on long-running requests from X-Men die-hards - specifically bringing The Sentinels to the big screen (for real this time). The mutant-hunting robots were previously teased in X-Men: The Last Stand during a Danger Room simulation - as Wolverine decapitates one of the Sentinels (who was previously obscured by a smokey fog).
According to Millar, X-Men: Days of Future Past will not be as coy with The Sentinels:
"I don’t really want to give too much away but the Sentinels are a big feature of this story. They will be cool and this will deliver on all of the teasers. We’ve all been waiting for this ever since X-Men: The Last Stand showed us one of their heads. Now it is finally coming, and we only have to pay ten quid to see it in the cinema - whereas they’re having to pay $100 million to deliver it. So I’m delighted."
Since X-Men: The Last Stand debuted in 2006, we've seen some pretty impressive giant robots onscreen (Transformers and the upcoming Pacific Rim, especially), so Singer will have to find a way to up-the-ante with The Sentinels. The decapitated head in The Last Stand was pretty clunky looking, so we're expecting a significant upgrade for The Sentinels in Days of Future Past.
As for their "big" role in the story, anyone familiar with the Days of Future Past comic book story arc knows that the Sentinels are an essential staple in the Terminator-like "future" dystopia - tracking and executing surviving mutants. In addition to their enormous three-story-tall size and numerous means of killing, the robots often travel (read: fly) in large groups - meaning that Singer is likely to give fans a truly epic X-Men versus Sentinel army fight.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on X-Men: Days of Future Past as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.
X-Men: Days of Future Past hits theaters on July 18th, 2014.