FANTASY AND SOCIAL COMMENTARY IN THE FILM ADAPTATION OF DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

Laura Antola

University of Turku

During the past fifteen years superhero film adaptations have become Hollywood’s leading genre. Their success begun in 2000, with the first X-Men-film directed by Bryan Singer, and since then Marvel has managed to build a movie empire – Marvel Cinematic Universe – around their iconic characters that almost matches their comic Universe. The X-Men-franchise has grown into a series of 8 films and still manages to coexist and expand alongside the even bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe. At the same time DC has also been building their own cinematic universe, encouraged by the success of the three Batman-films directed by Christopher Nolan.

In this presentation I will analyze the adaptation of what is widely considered one of the most prestigious superhero stories, Days of Future Past (Claremont & Byrne, 1980), into a Hollywood film. The film uses the original two-part comic as a starting point, but as adaptations usually do, it expands into different directions and takes on new themes. Adaptation studies has often been criticized for focusing too much on the fidelity of the adaptation, and overall for prioritizing the “original” text. I will look at X-Men: Days of Future Past (Singer, 2014) as an adaptation that falls into the sphere of borrowing, meaning that the original text or universe is used as a starting point for the story, and by borrowing elements from different stories the filmmakers have created a new one. I want to explore the adaptation of fantasy in the film; how do the time-travel-storyline and the realistic style of the film negotiate with each other? How are the fantastic elements adapted into the screen?

Another key element that is adapted in the film version is the story’s political commentary. The comic book original carries themes such as racial segregation, political violence and government control. The plot revolves around a political assassination and its repercussions. By borrowing different elements from the vast X-Men-canon the director and writer of X-Men: Days of Future Past have created new political implications to the story. By placing the film in the past instead of the present the film becomes even more fantastical, and at the same time the social commentary becomes less direct. The style of the film, however, is very realistic, and this conflict is what makes the political implications interesting. In my presentation I ask if the fantasy elements in the film allow for a new kind of social commentary.