How and Why Shadowcat Should Have Time Traveled in X-Men Days of Future Past. When I learned that Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) would not be the mutant traveling back in time as she did in the famous Days of Future Past comic book storyline but Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), my first question was why? Why abandon such a major dynamic that made that storyline line so beloved, that showed the depth of the X-Men team, and the growth of its members over time? Why change that in the Days of Future Past film incarnation?
X-Men: Days of Future Past screenwriter Simon Kinberg had this to say about the change:
“We made the decision for a lot of reasons, some of them obvious and some of them more nuanced, to make it Wolverine who goes back in time. One reason is that he’s the protagonist of the franchise, and probably the most beloved character to a mass audience.
Probably the bigger reason is that when we started thinking about the logistical realities of Kitty’s consciousness being sent back in time, to her younger self, as opposed to her physical body being sent back. It was impossible. Obviously in the book it’s Kitty, but you’re talking about an actress (Ellen Page) who, in the age of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, would have been negative 20 years old. So we started thinking again, and the first reflex response to that was a character who doesn’t age. Wolverine is the only character who would looks the same in 1973 as he does in the future.”
Now lets look at each part of Kinberg’s rationale.
1. He’s the protagonist of the franchise, and probably the most beloved character to a mass audience.
This is what happens when a character has the spotlight turned on them from the outset. This reaction occurs when a single character is singled-out to the largest degree of any other character on the X-Men team: they garner a greater fan reaction, recognition, and following than all others. This is not a situation that existed at the outset of the X-Men film franchise. The people behind Wolverine’s on-screen celebrity are using “the monster” they were instrumental in creating as a justification for his continued center stage position. There are many people that had never heard of Wolverine before X-Men debuted in theaters in 2000.
What the writers could have done with X-Men: Days of Future Past was set the stage for other X-Men team members to take a more prominent role in the franchise, team members like Shadowcat. They decided not to move in that direction so then they can’t say that the character is not “the protagonist of the series “or “beloved” by the when: a.) you have spent no ad dollars promoting that character or their storyline to a prominent degree, and b.) that character has had no stand-alone film so that fans and potential fans had the opportunity to get to know them more intimately.
Marvel has solved this problem.
They have taken third-tier superheroes and made them house-hold names e.g. The Avengers film franchise team roster.
This has not been the case with the X-Men team roster. Only Wolverine has received this star treatment and to some extent, Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto.
This is one of the reasons why Wolverine was chosen to go back in time instead of Shadowcat. No one knows her. No one knows her back story. No one knows what drives her, yet if chosen to headline X-Men: Days of Future Past, people would have been following her around for an hour an a half.
That would have been a huge financial risk (e.g. film production costs, cast salaries, and marketing costs).
Could they have used a small portion of X-Men: Days of Future Past‘s runtime for Shadowcat narrative? Sure. They did so effectively in X-Men with Wolverine’s flashbacks, glimpses better than all of his standalone films. Ellen Page is a star and Shadowcat is mentally strong. They could have dealt with the spotlight in an admiral way in X-Men: Days of Future Past but the less risky, fiscally conservative, more recognizable choice was chosen instead to lead the film and its narrative.
Why not Shadowcat?
2.) Kitty’s consciousness being sent back in time, to her younger self, as opposed to her physical body being sent back…was impossible. Obviously in the book it’s Kitty, but you’re talking about an actress (Ellen Page) who, in the age of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, would have been negative 20 years old.
This explanation makes sense logistically, on the surface, expect that the X-Men: Days of Future Past story deals with time travel and thus alternate realities. The instant a person steps back in time, the Butterfly Effect occurs, whether intentional or not. Once your foot touches the ground of the past, that past, that reality has been changed because your weren’t there previously and your foot never touched that spot at that exact time before. The actions you take in the past alter other peoples thus the future, to some degree, is changed. Those changes cause alternate realities to come into existence.
Bearing that in mind, here is how Shadowcat could have been sent back into her younger self in the past a.) she was sent into the past into her mother’s body, who looked exactly like Shadowcat and possessed the same abilities, b.) she was sent into her younger body during the age of Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy in an alternate reality (think a Einstein–Rosen Bridge and Sliders). In that reality, she had already physically been sent back from another time period, c.) they change the time travel concept from mental to physical and physically send Shadowcat back in time through a machine (derived from the new technology in the upgraded Sentinels i.e. Nimrod) à la Kyle Reese, the T-101s, and the T-1000 in The Terminator film franchise.
I came up with those three ideas in short period of time, under ten minutes. If I could do that, why couldn’t someone practiced in the concept of script nuances like Simon Kinberg? Screenwriters have been manipulating details in X-Men storylines since the beginning. Why not how Shadowcat goes back in time or whose body she travels back into?
They could have had Charles Xavier say in the film (in the future): “You didn’t exist when Magneto and I were younger. That’s why we built this.” Then the time displacement equipment is revealed or a Einstein–Rosen Bridge device.
X-Men: Days of Future Past presents a persistent and glaring problem for the franchise: only one of its characters has been fully developed. Because of this fact, Wolverine will be the defacto lead in every storyline for the near future, no matter what the original incarnation of the storyline was and who was its main protagonist. Wolverine will always be shoehorned into the main, central storyline. This stratagem will inevitably be detrimental in the long run, as it was for an aspect of X-Men: Days of Future Past‘s storyline. X-Men: Days of Future Past was Shadowcat’s moment. I am not saying it would have led to a standalone film if she had been its star but at least the X-Men team roster would have been deepened in a different area, an area still untapped at this point. Electra was terrible film but that doesn’t mean that a female-led superhero film can not be successful.