Having recently had the honor and privilege of attending the global premiere of the most recent mutant film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, I figured that I would compare the film to its book counterpart, on which it is based. True believers, as Stan Lee would put it, are probably wondering how the two measure up, and what differences exist between the two. How faithful of an adaptation is this? What did they have to sacrifice for the sake of the film’s story? As great as the movie is, there are quite a few fundamental differences between both stories.

To begin with, the cast of both stories is vastly different. In the book, the mutants of the past are comprised of two teams: the X-Men and the Brotherhood. Fighting for the X-Men are Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler, Angel, Professor X, Wolverine, and Kitty Pryde. The movie utilizes Wolverine, as we are all well aware at this point, and Professor X, but the remaining X-Men are missing, instead having been replaced with First Class’s Beast. Quicksilver and Magneto also team up with Wolverine and Professor X in the movie. As for the Brotherhood, the book shows off a dynamic cast comprised of Mystique as the leader, Blob, Pyro, Avalanche, and Destiny. Of these five, only Mystique makes her way into the movie, though she is the main opposing mutant force, so that part remains consistent. She is the mastermind behind the assassination plot on which the story- and future- depends.

The cast is also different as far as the future-mutants go. Bishop, Blink, Sunspot, Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Magneto, Professor X, Storm, and Wolverine are all present in the movie. In the book, we have Colossus, Kitty, Storm, and Wolverine, who are joined by Franklin Richards and his girlfriend, Rachel. It is Rachel’s psychic abilities, in the book, which transport the mind of Kitty Pryde to her younger body, before she would have learned how to block a psychic attack. In the movie, Kitty’s role is reduced to that of Rachel. Somehow, Kitty has developed the ability to phase a person’s consciousness back in time, and Wolverine is the only one who could survive it.

Most of the differences regarding the cast are due to the previous X-Men movies, which limit the timelines in which the chosen X-Men can and do exist. Honestly, though, this disparity doesn’t bother me all that much. The greater variety of future-mutants in the movie allows for an awesome display of the many mutant abilities, as well as just how difficult the Sentinels have become. It also means that a couple of storylines have been combined. Bishop’s presence, for example, many people will recognize from later plotlines, such as X-Men: Messiah Complex. The dystopian future we see in the movies is a combination of Bishop’s world and the world presented in the book of X-Men: Days of Future Past.

As far as the mutants that are present in both film and book versions of the story go, we still see many differences. Professor X in the movie suffers from a lack of confidence in himself, as well as a fear of failure. Professor X in the comic is the same Professor X we’ve always known, and needs no convincing. Due to the inability to have Storm present in the past in the film, her role in the book had to be taken up by Professor X, which requires him to have no mind-reading abilities (which would have easily solved many problems very early on). Instead we see a version of the Professor who is more comparable to a drug addict than to the genius leader of the X-Men.

Another major difference between the two is the timing and pacing. The story of Days of Future Past takes up about two issues of the trade paperback collection. These two issues were stretched into a two-hour long movie. Thus, a lot had to be added. There is much more in the way of politics in the movie than there is in the book. Nixon is a prominent figure in the movie, and it’s his assassination that the X-Men must prevent, rather than that of Robert Kelly, Professor X, and Moira McTaggert in the book. Bolivar Trask is another major addition- which makes sense for the movie, as this is the first we’ve seen or heard from the Sentinels (barring a brief cameo appearance in the Danger Room in X3: The Last Stand).

In the book, it takes about a page to convince Storm of the plot, while Professor X takes much more convincing. In fact, the growth of Professor X, and Wolverine stepping in to mentor his own mentor, is arguably more of the focus of the movie than the Sentinels are. We see much more in terms of character development for Magneto, Wolverine, Professor X, and Mystique. The book is all about the action, and there’s plenty of it. The movie has it’s share of action too, but its climax is less of an all-out war between mutants, and more of a massive and impressive stand-off.

Finally, the motivations of the X-Men are fundamentally different, which I’m not certain I enjoy. In the movie, the future-mutants are fighting to preserve their own lives, and prevent the extinction of the mutant race. Don’t get me wrong- that’s a noble cause. The book, however, shows X-Men whose main desire isn’t to save their own lives, but to prevent an all-out, world-wide nuclear war. This is because, in the book, the Sentinels have been limited to the United States. Once they step outside their borders, the other nations are ready to declare war and counterattack with nukes. In the movie, it is abundantly clear that the Sentinels are in control of pretty much the entire world. The X-Men of the future spend much of the movie in a temple in a snowy, mountainous region that reminds one of China, or perhaps Tibet. The motivations just seem a tad more noble in the book.

Overall, I’d have to say I enjoyed the movie better than the book. Having fewer mutants to focus on in the past allows for more development of the characters. The plotline is also more developed, and the pacing seems to allow time for events to actually matter and sink in. The additions of Nixon and Trask make sense for the movie universe, and help ground the movie in our reality, rather than the X-Men universe of the comics, which may help some people to feel more connected to the movie. It also helps to introduce the concept of the Sentinels, which were, up to this point, absent from the movies. The writing of the book is another thing that made me feel disconnected from the book. The writing seems a bit high-brow and unnatural, and I spent a lot of time wondering “why is he writing like this?” and dissecting sentences to see how much sense they truly made. In a visual medium like film, you don’t have the luxury to sit and contemplate those sorts of issues, unless it’s a MAJOR problem.

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The book is a good read, and I’d recommend it for X-Men fans that are looking for a bit more history to the team. There are several other stories within its pages as well, including a descent through hell that parallels Dante’s Inferno, Wolverine battling against the Wendigo, and Kitty facing of against a demon. They’re all very entertaining, and honestly, I may have enjoyed the descent through hell more than the Days of Future Past story. Ultimately, I think the reason this storyline was chosen is because the major concepts- prevent an assassination to stop the Sentinels from taking over- is an easy overall plot to follow. It’s the details which the writer played with when adapting it to film. The plot also allows for rebooting the franchise, without actually stopping production and restarting from ground zero.

I’m sure there will be people who wish the movie had been more faithful to the comic, and that’s fine. There are some things from the comic that I wish had been added to the movie- Nightcrawler, for example, is someone I’ve been wanting to see more of since X2: X-Men United, but haven’t yet been able to. Nonetheless, the film is a worthy entry to the X-Men cinematic franchise, based on a pretty entertaining story from the comics. Watch the movie if you like superheroes, read the book if you love the X-Men.

Thanks for reading, comics fans, and stay tuned for more articles, podcasts, and video reviews!

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