The younger Professor X still has a full head of hair, and sports a longer, hippie-style mane.
Mystique rocks some hairstyles of the time in her human form and in one scene, masquerades as a black woman with an enormous afro.
Quicksilver's glam mop upset many fans in promotional materials, but it fits in with the era perfectly.
Trask's hair helmet is very appropriate for the time period.
Wolverine still wears his muttonchops even in the future scenes.
Achilles in His Tent: '70s Xavier gives up on his powers and his role as the leader of mutants, and refuses to cooperate with Wolverine; without his aid, the entire venture is impossible. He's got more justified reasons than in most examples of the trope, but still.
Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: There are plenty of emotional, character-driven moments (especially with the younger Xavier) in between the spectacular action sequences.
Blink's powers make her extremely effective in fighting the Sentinels, both in taking them out herself and assisting the others in fighting them.
On a more meta level, Mystique is the only mutant back in the past who's been doing anything for the last few years. (Magneto's been stuck in the Pentagon for a decade, and Xavier's been moping around the house since the start of the Vietnam War.) Even once the plot takes off, she's arguably the most active character.
Adaptational Badass: In the comics, the Sentinels are just Humongous Mecha, and mutants with strong powers note the X-Men in the comics are much stronger than in the movies with Storm, Magneto, Iceman, and Xavier being planetary threats; and it doesn't help that they're made of metal usually take them down by the dozen. They are portrayed as such in the '70s of this movie as well. The future Sentinels, however, with their ability to duplicate mutant powers to counter their opponents, are so overwhelmingly powerful that any fight with them is considered outright hopeless.
In the comics, Quicksilver is often an outright jerk (often intentionally), in this film he's more of a merry mischief-maker. Overall he is still more heroic than most adaptations portray him and while he can easily make it out on his own once the breakout goes bust, he instead goes out of his way to save Logan, Charles and Magneto, even though he already broke the latter out of his prison by technicality. He also clearly is not impressed, if amused, by the idea that he helped break out the person suspected of killing JFK once he finds out, and is especially shown to be stunned (either in amazement or horror) by Magneto's "demonstration" in the climax.
While in the original comic book Bolivar Trask wasn't a good guy by any means, he did eventually come to realise that Mutants are not a threat to humanity and even performs a Heroic Sacrifice to stop the Sentinels. Neither of those happen in the movie.
In the comics, Quicksilver may be a world-class asshole and suffer from Heel-Face Revolving Door, but he is well-meaning at the core and can be counted on to do the right thing. Here, he's just a bored teenager with a kleptomaniac streak who doesn't really care about being a productive member of society and who has to have the breakout sold to him as an opportunity to raise hell, as it's clear that he probably wouldn't have done it of his own volition otherwise.
Adaptation Expansion: The original comic book is a story of just 2 short issues. There is a Bad Future, Kitty Pryde is sent back in time to warn the X-Men to prevent a political assassination, which is stopped, Kitty returns to the future, the end. In its original form, it would be short even for an episode of an animated series. Everything else in this movie which was not mentioned in that short premise is something new.
Quicksilver's real name is changed from "Pietro Maximoff" to the more Americanized "Peter Maximoff." Presumably, this is due to the fact that the film version of Quicksilver was raised in the U.S., while his comic counterpart grew up in Eastern Europe. A supplementary website, 25 Moments, still refers to him as Pietro, however. Averted in the Italian dub. The name "Pietro" is kept there.
Although it may never be said onscreen in this one, the same thing happened to Colossus in this franchise. Originally Piotr Rasputin, changed to Peter Rasputin. Of course, he's called Peter in the comics by most people anyway. "Peter" is the Anglicized version of their names in any case.
Adapted Out: While they added a lot of characters in (in the original story, only Magneto, Storm, Colossus, Kitty, and Wolverine survived while Beast and Magneto's younger self were uninvolved in the story), at the same time a lot of characters were removed from the original story. Rachel and Franklin Richards are not present in the bad future (likely because Rachel's parents were dead and Franklin is tied to the Fantastic Four and thus would require too much explanation to include them), while the film has Wolverine work with Beast and Xavier rather than the group of X-Men who did so in the past (the above mentioned from the future minus Magneto and along with Angel and Nightcrawler), and Mystique had her own Brotherhood of mutants helping her carry out the assassination, none of whom who appear in the film. At least one of these, Pyro, is justified by being tied into the original films' timeline and so isn't born at this point, as was the X-Men team involved.
Adaptive Ability: The Sentinels in the Bad Future have the ability to adapt their structure, powers and strategy to counter the mutants, allowing them to win in almost any scenario. They got the ability from 50 years of research on Mystique's DNA. The only way to survive their attacks is by using time travel to ensure they never happened.
Advertised Extra: Anna Paquin as Rogue has a total of one scene (and a handful of seconds at that) in the theatrical release. She even got her own Empire magazine cover despite the fact that most of her scenes were cut from the final film.
In Wolverine's own words, the Sentinels were created to kill mutants, but then moved on to anyone with the potential to breed more mutants, then anyone who tried to aid the mutants (insert WWII analogy here). The "very worst of humanity" are all that remain, ruling over the Sentinels.
Zigzagged with the '70s Sentinels. Magneto laces the prototypes with iron so he can control their movements and use them as weapons, but he can't really affect their programming. One Sentinel tries to kill Erik when it gets the chance.
The Alcatraz: Magneto is kept at a high-security, all-concrete prison right in the center of the Pentagon. Considering he was arrested shortly after the JFK assassination (1963), this jail has successfully restrained one of the most powerful mutants in the world for ten whole years.
The Alcoholic: The younger Charles has been a drunk for the past decade by the time Logan meets him.
Taken even further than First Class. For starters, 1973 technology has advanced somewhat faster than the real world: the Sentinels were built, plastic weapons to counter Magneto have been developed, and mutant-gene scanners exist (when the mid-70s marked the period when genomics started to take off).
The bit where Magneto drops a baseball stadium around Richard Nixon's head in front of international television, or the little number where the mutants get into a full on brawl during the Paris Peace Conference, which drastically changes world events by bringing mutants to public attention.
Mystique ends up getting hit with a Tazer in both the original and altered events of 1973, a year before Jack Cover invented the device.
Hank has created a serum capable of both restoring Charles' mobility and specifically silencing a gene; both feats are still being researched today, and this film takes place in 1973, when genomics was just starting to grow as a field.
And Starring: Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen shared the "And" billing.
Anti-Villain: Bolivar Trask. Unlike other characters obsessed in exterminating the mutants, he does so not out of hatred, but a desire to see humanity united against a common threat, and actually admires mutants for helping him accomplish that goal. Pity he has no empathy...
Armies Are Evil: All military characters are portrayed in a very unflattering light.
Armor-Piercing Question: When Erik confronts Charles about his withdrawal from the world and abandonment of his former friends.
Iceman sports one. Shawn Ashmore has said in interviews that it signifies his character's maturity.
The younger Xavier has a beard and somewhat longer hair.
Badass Grandpa: As a Holocaust survivor living in 2023, Magneto is, at the very least, in his late eighties/early nineties (X-Men: First Class portrayed him as being around ten in 1944). He still lifts the X-Jet and hurls it at a horde of incoming Sentinels like it's a child's toy, takes a piece of shrapnel to the gut and slightly-less-than-casually pulls it out, and still uses the remaining wreckage to further barricade the path to Kitty and Wolverine.
Bad Future: The premise of the movie is preventing a horrific dystopian future by changing past events.
Bait and Switch: The final scene sets you up to believe that it's a Call Forward tying in to previous, chronologically later movies, but switches gears at the last second. Wolverine's past self has been recovered by William Stryker, apparently setting up his involvement with Weapon X. Then we find out Stryker is actually Mystique in disguise.
Battle Butler: Hank essentially fulfills this role for Charles. In addition to looking after his ex-mentor's needs and maintaining the mansion, McCoy also serves as Xavier's bodyguard.
Beard of Sorrow: Young Charles has one when Wolverine first visits him in 1973. Played with, as he keeps it for the entire movie.
Been There, Shaped History: Magneto was arrested for his involvement in Kennedy's death (as in the magic bullet; the Viral Marketing raises the hypothesis that Mystique in guise of Lee Harvey Oswald was the one who shot), and the Paris Peace Accords that closed America's involvement with the Vietnam War now have Bolivar Trask and some mutants in attendance.
The Big Bad Shuffle: Mystique and Bolivar Trask compete for title of villain in the film; it's Trask's Sentinels that lead to the Bad Future, but it's Mystique killing him and being captured for experimentation that leads to the Sentinels getting approved by the government. Additionally in the future Trask and Mystique are dead, making it the Sentinels themselves that are the villains. And then in the past Magneto ends up becoming a third villain when he tries to kill Mystique, and later the President.
When the younger Charles sees Mystique again for the first time in 11 years, he caresses her hair and shoulder as a gesture of comfort while telling her that he will keep her safe among other soothing words. When Magneto then points a gun in her direction, Xavier stands in between the barrel and his adoptive sister, and Erik later has to use his power to change the bullet's trajectory so that it won't hit Charles in the head. Despite their estrangement, Xavier is willing to die for Raven to save her life.
Peter Maximoff is seen playing with his little sister. He's even willing to sit down and watch television with her, which is heartwarming considering how hyperactive the guy is.
Big Good: Both future Professor X and future Magneto share this role. And past Charles is growing into this.
Big "NO!": Past Charles shouts this in panic when the guards try to shoot him and his allies in the Pentagon kitchen.
Bittersweet Ending: While everything is well for their counterparts in the new timeline, with the exception of Wolverine, all of the characters that we have followed for the last 14 years die horrible deaths before being erased from history.
When Past Xavier (who is drunk and looks like he just got out of bed) is initially unwilling to hear Logan's plea for help, his excuse is:
Charles: Well, tell whoever it was who sent you that I'm... busy.
When confronted by guards in the Pentagon kitchen, Charles attempts to reassure them that he and Logan are important personnel, but one part of his speech is especially unconvincing.
Charles: We are special operations C-B-F-E-C-I-C.
There's a glitch in Logan's Mental Time Travel, resulting in his past self waking up at the worst possible time, in the middle of a botched assassination, surrounded by strange people (some of whom are blue), days after he last remembers anything. Charles briefly tries to explain the situation to him truthfully, before giving up.
Charles: You're on acid. Someone gave you really bad acid.
After slipping into a deep depression, the younger Charles views his telepathy as a curse because he can no longer control it. He is unable to shut out the clamour of thoughts that he doesn't want to hear, and this causes a tremendous amount of agony, to the point where he becomes addicted to a serum which numbs his ability, allowing him to sleep at night.
At the age of nine, Xavier believed that he was mentally ill (schizophrenia, most likely) due to the voices in his head, and it took him three whole years to recognize that he was actually telepathic—as dysfunctional as he is in 1973, his childhood experience must have been downright nightmarish in comparison.
Bloodless Carnage: There is a surprising lack of blood in this film, only some of which is justified by the mutants. For example, Iceman gets decapitated and Colossus gets ripped apart, but since they are in their "iced-up" and metal forms respectively when it happens, there is no blood. At the same time, the Sentinels impaling the normal-ish mutants like Blink don't so much as spill a drop, and Mystique gets a bullet through the leg yet walks it off with only a few drops spilled here and there.
Happens to Wolverine during the film's climax, when Magneto impales him with several rebar pipes, entwining them within his flesh and leaving him to drown in the Potomac.
Several of the deaths in the Bad Future. First time out, Colossus has his head caved in whilst in his metal form and Iceman's head is snapped from the the rest of his body in his frozen form, only for the events to later be averted. In the climax, Bishop explodes due to being "force fed" too much energy, Colossus is ripped in two, Sunspot loses an arm, and Iceman has most of his torso vaporized.
Break the Cutie: Charles' attempt to set up a school for mutants comes crashing down around him due to the outbreak of the Vietnam War. Those events have broken him, to the point where he's taking a serum designed by Hank that suppresses his powers and restores the use of his legs just so he can sleep at night without feeling other people's pain.
While X-Men probably still happened more or less the same way it did in the original timeline (Rogue's got her white hair), the events of X2: X-Men United must have been altered for Jean to be alive and one of the good guys, as well as Mystique presumably no longer being a murderous terrorist or Magneto's Dragon. Also, among the few things that remain from The Last Stand and Origins respectively are Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat is played by Ellen Page and Beast will become Kelsey Grammer when older, and Wolverine's bone claws.
It becomes obvious that Weapon X plays out differently than originally set forth, meaning Jean's sacrifice at Alkali Lake never happened and her rampage after coming back as Dark Phoenix didn't either.
When young Magneto exits the film, he says goodbye to Xavier as he did in the first two films. This time, Xavier says goodbye back.
Broken Bird: Time and events have really taken their toll on Young Charles Xavier. He lost Raven and Erik, Sean disappeared several years prior (and is later confirmed dead at the hands of Trask), then his teachers and students were drafted, leaving Charles alone except for Hank.
Bullet Time: The film features a young Quicksilver. His scenes usually just show his movement as a blur, but his bullet-time sequence, as well as highlighting how he sees the world when he runs, shows him to be not just fast enough to dodge bullets meant for him—he's fast enough to artfully rearrange them in flight so that they do not hit his allies. AFTER running a lap of the room and inventively messing with over half a dozen shooters on the opposing side.
The Bus Came Back: Toad finally returns for his first appearance since the original X-Men movie.
Mystique discovers partway through the film that Angel Salvadore, Azazel, Emma Frost, and Banshee (Sean Cassidy) all died (and their bodies were used in experiments by Trask) during the Time Skip between X-Men: First Class and Days of Future Past.
When the younger Beast asks, Wolverine admits that Beast died at some point in the Bad Future.
Butt Monkey: Despite his prominence in the overarching franchise (and his role as The Dragon to Trask), William Stryker suffers the most injuries and beatdowns out of anyone in the film, including being blasted by Havok in the opening scene, being tasered after Mystique's failed assassination of Trask, and being beaten again when Nixon and his team discover Mystique is in the room with them. It's really no wonder he seems to hate mutants so much later on, when he spends all of his screen time in this one getting his ass beaten by them.
California Doubling: The Paris scenes were actually filmed in Old Montreal, and parts of the Pentagon (like the area where we see visitors touring the building, and when Charles and Logan are walking alone in a basement corridor) are from the Arts Building at McGill University.
Logan's "Go fuck yourselves" from First Class comes back to bite him in the ass, courtesy of Charles Xavier, no less.
When Logan sees the young William Stryker for the first time, he has violent flashbacks to his confrontation with the older Stryker from X2.
To persuade Congress to consider his Sentinel program, Trask quotes Xavier's Oxford dissertation from First Class on the near-immediate eradication of the human sub-species homo neanderthalensis upon the appearance of their "mutated, more-evolved cousins," homo sapiens, alluding to the idea that mutants will eventually drive ordinary humans into extinction.
Charles in 1973 regards Magneto as a monster, and Erik called himself "Frankenstein's Monster" in First Class.
The sincerity of the younger Erik's apology ("I'm sorry, Charles, for what happened, I truly am") is questionable because it sounds very much like Shaw's from First Class ("I'm sorry for what happened in the camps, I truly am").
When Xavier refers to his telepathy as, "This is a muscle I haven't stretched in a long time," it brings to mind the lesson he gave to Sean Cassidy in 1962 ("This is like any other muscle in the body, you can control it.")
Professor X's line where he informs Wolverine that the latter has to "Lead me, guide me" may have been recycled from the Missing Trailer Scene for First Class where Charles tells Erik, "A new species is being born. Help me guide it, shape it, lead it."
An example would be '70s!Erik's "Imagine if [your claws] were metal" remark to Logan.
When '70s!Erik goes to retrieve his helmet from the Pentagon, he's shown wearing a fedora and dark suit ensemble very similar to Magneto's civilian appearance in the first X-Men film. He also uses small metal balls, like in X2.
When Logan passes through a metal detector, he's briefly surprised that it doesn't go off. Doubles as a Call Back to the first X-Men film.
Used for Dramatic Irony when Trask says to Stryker that by the time the upcoming human-mutant war arrives, his son will be old enough to fight in it. Stryker's son does become a victim of this war, as he's a mutant and his own father turns on him.
In his New Era Speech, '70s!Magneto mentions "a Brotherhood of our kind."
In the finale, Beast uses a handful of hypodermic needles of his serum to supress his mutant genes, in order to hide from a Sentinel's sensors. In the finale of X3: The Last Stand, Beast uses a handful of hypodermic needles of a different serum to suppress Magneto's mutant genes and gain the upper hand on Alcatraz.
The Call Knows Where You Live: Literally. The young Charles Xavier gives up on his school and on helping mutants in general. The future Logan goes to find him in the mansion to persuade him to take up the cause again at his older self's request.
The film ends with appearances from Anna Paquin as Rogue, James Marsden as Cyclops, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, and Kelsey Grammer as the older version of Beast, all of whom were restored to life after the heroes stopped Mystique from killing Trask.
A young version of En Sabah Nur, aka Apocalypse, appears in The Stinger.
Alex Summers from X-Men: First Class can be seen as one of the mutants Mystique rescues from Saigon. A younger Toad is also featured there, even appearing in a later scene watching Magneto on TV to allude how he will join the Brotherhood.
Ink gets three: one in the Bad Future as a concentration camp inmate, one in Vietnam as a soldier, and one near the end, watching Magneto's New Era Speech.
While Magneto moves the stadium through the air, a little red-haired girl (Jean Grey?) watches the structure passing.
While Scarlet Witch as a Mutant is absent in the film in spite of her relationship with Quicksilver, a girl with red hair is later seen with him. Interestingly, she is only credited as "Peter's Little Sister," making her identity ambiguous (some think she's Peter's half-sister Polaris), though it definitely counts as a Mythology Gag. Bryan Singer says there was a cut-out scene where the little girl was told to "go bug your sister."
X-Men: The Last Stand may have been erased through the Cosmic Retcon, but it's featured in flashback scenes and its existence is at least acknowledged. X-Men Origins: Wolverine however (aside from a flashback scene from Victor crushing Logan's claws), is very hard to reconcile with the events shown: William Stryker is played by a younger actor and holds a different rank and job, which could be just The Other Darrin. In addition, it's strongly implied that he doesn't know Wolverine yet, and this movie takes place around the end of the Vietnam War, but according to Origins they met during it. It is possible that Origins had yet to occur as Stryker had seen Logan and went to find him.
In The Last Stand, Bolivar Trask is played by Bill Duke, a 6'4" plump black man while in Days of Future Past he is played by Peter Dinklage, a 4'5" white man. Many assumed that Duke's Trask in the The Last Stand was indeed Bolivar Trask, however his first name was never confirmed as he was only referred to as "Trask." As a result, Duke's Trask has been retconned into "Secretary Trask" whereas Dinklage is confirmed as the true Bolivar Trask.
Cassandra Truth: When he's first sent back to the '70s, Wolverine wakes up in the bed of a mob boss's daughter who he has apparently slept with repeatedly, and her father's goons aren't happy. He quickly lampshades that they probably won't believe that he's traveled back in time.
Central Theme: The importance of maintaining hope, even in the face of hardship and tragedy, because hope can conquer anything, and that just because someone has lost their way, it doesn't mean they're lost forever.
The Champion: Hank puts his entire life on hold for a decade in order to assist and defend the emotionally dysfunctional Charles. Since McCoy is no longer Professor X's student, they both should be on equal footing, yet Beast continues to readily defer to Xavier's authority. This steadfast devotion demonstrates that Hank values Charles' well-being and safety above his own.
"...very early on we made the decision that it was young Charles' arc, and that really the emotional story of the movie is watching him go from the guy who's lost his legs, lost his best friend, lost his sister, and in some ways lost his mind, to a guy who will become the all-powerful, benevolent Professor Xavier. McAvoy is really about as far as one can be from the Patrick Stewart that we know from X1, and we're really watching him take the first big step towards owning that chair and being a leader."
The Power Nullifier that both Charles and Hank have been using to suppress their powers is useful when dealing with robots that can detect mutant powers.
Magneto is accused of using his powers to curve the bullet which killed JFK. He later uses this power to try and kill Mystique when a gun is knocked from his hand after firing a single bullet.
There's also a literal example: the plastic guns that were invented after the US government's encounter with Magneto, issued to his prison guards. Mystique uses one near the end to shoot him in the neck, as it's the only gun around that he can't control.
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: '70s Magneto turns on both Xavier and Mystique the second it's convenient, trying to kill Mystique for her place in setting up the Bad Future. He then tries to use the Sentinels to kill Nixon, making a potentially WORSE future until he's stopped.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Poor Riptide. He goes from No Name Given in the previous film to not even earning a mention here. Particularly notable since Erik takes the time to list all the characters not in this movie because they died in between films.
Civvie Spandex: Quicksilver does not wear a costume, but instead has a "cool jacket" and a pair of goggles.
Color Wash: The color and lighting in the '70s scenes deliberately invokes the feel of 40-year old movies.
Comes Great Responsibility: Xavier coming to terms with the responsibilities of his powers and his role as mutant leader (and the personal sacrifice it requires) is a major plot point.
Comically Missing the Point: When Hank unveils his set-up so that any mention of what happened in Paris on TV is recorded, he proudly notes that it'll record from all three networks and PBS. Logan, coming from a future where there are far more than three networks, makes a sarcastic comment about it. Hank, not understanding what Logan is getting at, gets slightly offended and reiterates he's also got it set-up to record PBS.
The X-Men series has a long tradition of ignoring this trope, but now it goes over the top. When Wolverine tells Xavier about his future, he advises him to search for people with certain names: Scott, Jean... and "Storm." Having just read Logan's mind, Xavier certainly would know who he's talking about, but still.
It's also played straight a few times. Quicksilver is never called by that name, for instance.
Quicksilver looks and acts like his nephew, Speed, and even wears a similar pair of goggles.
Condescending Compassion: Played with. A nurse tells Mystique that she feels sorry for the blue-skinned woman she saw on the TV because it must have been such a shame to be born looking like that, but she's unaware that she's talking to the woman in question.
Conservation of Ninjutsu: At the start of the film three Sentinels pretty much make a total party kill with one only losing an arm. For the finale even after bottle necking the ships with stormy weather and an exploding aircraft the remnant still destroy more Sentinels than at the start.
Justified in that the mutants have doubled their numbers in the finale, and Storm and Magneto have area-effect attacks that the Sentinels can't easily adapt to.
Conspicuously Public Assassination: Mystique tries to assassinate Trask for revenge at the Paris Peace Conference, and when that fails, at the Sentinel demonstration at the White House. It's a very bad idea as such public violent action spurs hostile countermeasures like the Sentinel programme, as Xavier points out.
William Stryker is asked about his son, Jason, who played a crucial part in the events of X2.
Stryker's "you hate mutants, don't you?" "No, I respect them" speech that he gives to the General in Origins is almost word for word repeated here, only this time a younger Stryker is on the receiving end as Trask (his mentor) delivers the speech.
When '70s Xavier chooses not to inject himself with the serum (in order to regain his powers), a snippet of music from "Mutant and Proud" (from the First Class score) can be heard.
An exhibit in the Pentagon holds several mutant artifacts from the Cuban incident in the 60's: Sebastian Shaw's helmet, Angel Salvadore's severed wing, the coin used to kill Sebastian Shaw, and Havok's damaged focusing unit. Each of these were presumably recovered from the final battle in X-Men: First Class.
Except for the helmet, which must have been obtained when Magneto was captured after JFK's assassination. Magneto had been wearing it when Azazel teleported the Brotherhood away from Cuba, and still had it on when he freed Emma Frost from government captivity at the end of the previous movie.
It appears that by 1973 all of the younger mutants who had survived the Cuban Missile Crisis (save for Havok) are dead, as Erik chastises Xavier on the plane to Paris for not helping to protect them, and Mystique sees them in grisly autopsy photos while impersonating Trask, implying they has been captured by Trask to help accelerate his work on the Sentinels.
At the end of the movie, Logan is fished out of the water and placed on a grate much like how he was placed in X2 during his adamantium bonding process.
Numerous references to X2: X-Men United in the franchise include Xavier and Magneto uniting to prevent a potential mutant genocide, Magneto's non-metal prison (and guards with plastic weapons), weaponized metal balls, and turning a device created to destroy mutants against its human creators: New Cerebro in X2, the Sentinels here.
Hank at first suspects that Peter is a teleporter because the teen's power reminds him of Azazel's.
This movie marks the first time Fassbender's Magneto addresses McAvoy's Xavier as "old friend," which is their elder counterparts' term of endearment in the original trilogy.
While it's difficult to see, Colossus was sketching something before Warpath announces that the Sentinels have arrived. It's a small nod to X2: X-Men United where Colossus drew a funny image of Iceman being "zapped" by Rogue.
Continuity Snarl: Prior to the release of the film, producer Lauren Donner Schuler went on record saying that the film made X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: The Last Standnon-canon. However, the film still references Logan's memories using scenes from X-Men: The Last Stand, and from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, namely Logan killing Jean at Alcatraz and finding Kayla 'dead' in the forest.
It is established early on in the film that if Wolverine is successful, he will still remember the timeline that leads to the war with the Sentinels, which still exists, up until it diverges when Mystique no longer kills Trask.
Conveniently Coherent Thoughts: Among the cacophony of thoughts at the White House, Xavier can distinctly hear Mystique's inner voice speaking, "This is for you, brothers and sisters."
Cool Plane: The future X-Jet, as usual. It ends up being destroyed to slow the Sentinels down.
Cool Shades: In 1973, Logan, Charles and Erik sport fashionable '70s-style sunglasses.
Cosmic Retcon: The events of the movie not only fix the Bad Future, but also alter the events of X-Men: The Last Stand, bringing Scott and Jean (who's still taken to wearing red) back to life. X-Men Origins: Wolverine also gets discontinued, not just in the ending, but showing only that William Stryker is different and Logan's flashbacks to his adamantium bonding are those of the first two movies.
Crapsack World: The future. A war-torn hellhole where major cities have been reduced to ruins, and anybody with mutant DNA is either killed or imprisoned in concentration camps.
Since the Reset Button is in full effect here, the film does not shy away from doling out horrible deaths to the future characters, who are guaranteed to survive for another go-around. Decapitated, ripped apart, melted; the Sentinels pull no punches.
Warpath gets his goddamn face burned off. Slowly. It's easily the most brutal Sentinel-related death.
Cunning Linguist: Mystique is fluent in Vietnamese, French, and possibly other languages as well.
Wolverine vs. Magneto. Even without adamantium covering his bones, Magneto has a baseball stadium full of metal to weaponize, preventing Wolverine from even landing a hit before he's disabled.
Magneto's fight with a Sentinel only lasts a few seconds.
Subverted with Wolverine's fight with the mafia goons. The audience and Wolverine himself believes that it won't even be a problem for him, but then we learn that Wolverine doesn't have his adamantium (which besides making his claws super-sharp, also protect him from a headshot and absorb the impacts of the bullets). Wolverine still wins fairly easily (he's still Immune to Bullets because of his Healing Factor), but it's not entirely one-sided.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: Throughout the film Wolverine keeps forgetting that he doesn't have his metal claws in the 1970's and can only stab things rather than slice through them. This often makes him a liability in a fight because it takes him a few seconds to remember and adjust accordingly.
Darker and Edgier: The film adapts one of the darkest X-Men storylines ever, and, while it has many humorous moments, the overall tone (especially that of the Bad Future scenes) is pretty bleak.
Dark Secret/They're Called Personal Issues For A Reason: By 1973, Charles had never revealed to anyone—not even Raven, Erik or Hank—that as a nine-year-old kid, he thought he was going insane after his telepathy became active, and he didn't learn until he was twelve that he could in fact read other people's minds.
Although Wolverine starts out as the main character, Charles Xavier is the true protagonist of the movie. Wolverine's primary role is to simply help motivate the younger Charles to change the future. And when the final battle begins, Magneto simply impales him with rebar and throws him into a nearby river, quickly ending his importance in the film.
Mystique is presented as a villain throughout the movie, but her motivations (to kill the man who tortured and murdered her friends) are heroic, and she's the one who saves the day and stops Magneto at the end.
Defrosting Ice King: In a Power of Friendship example, Wolverine's bond with the elderly Professor X must have grown quite strong during the Time Skip in between The Wolverine and Days of Future Past because after Logan meets the younger Charles—who is practically a stranger to him—he gradually sheds his outer "macho armour." Compared to Wolverine's normally gruff exterior (especially towards other male characters), he really is quite gentle with Xavier in a few scenes where it's just the two of them, like the plane ride to Washington D.C. and the heart-to-heart talk they share in the Alternate Timeline.
Rogue only appears in a non-speaking cameo and doesn't even get a close-up. This is because all her other scenes were cut out and will be put on the DVD release.
Havok appears in the beginning to be rescued by Mystique and never shows up afterwards. Still, at least he survived unlike the rest of the First Class cast, with everyone who didn't appear in the earlier/canonically later films being unceremoniously killed off between films. But of course, he had to survive because in the film continuity he's probably Cyclops' father rather than his younger brother.
Storm does kick some serious ass, but gets little screen time overall and doesn't have many lines until midway into the movie.
Compared to the prominence of her role in the comic version of Days of Future Past, Kitty Pryde's role is mostly being the means by which Wolverine gets into the past.
Despair Event Horizon: When Xavier is forced to close his school after the first semester due to the Vietnam War conscription, he gives up his ambition to be a leader and protector of mutants, and becomes a self-medicating recluse.
Kitty, who must keep the link open, is at one point stabbed by Logan when his present body reacts violently to mental trauma in the past. And due to how time runs concurrently in the past and present, it's implied that it takes a few days before Logan and co. can properly stop Mystique, which means that she is slowly bleeding out and can't sleep for that period.
Same goes for Mystique, who throughout the film finds more and more damning evidence that Trask really needs to be killed. It's not until the very end that Charles manages to talk her out of it.
The Prototype Sentinel that goes after Magneto definitely is this. Even as it's being torn to pieces, it still tries to grab him.
Deus Exit Machina: Quicksilver EASILY takes out the guards in Magneto's prison, and is faster than anybody, even two powerful mutants—and one with enhanced senses—can react. Combining him with Xavier in locating either Trask or Mystique would've wrapped the plot up in far shorter time and at least half the damage. So naturally, he's out of the story once the break-out scene is over, save for a cameo near the end. Justified in that he only worked with the Mutants because of the opportunity to pull off the heist of a lifetime (and Charles probably didn't want to drag more young people into this war after what happened to his students).
Between going through a personal hell, his mind clearly not working straight, it being the '70s and him shooting up to dull the pain, Xavier really resembles a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran. James McAvoy has even called it his Born on the Fourth of July look.
The footage of the mutants fighting at the Paris Peace Conference is eerily reminiscent of the Zapruder film, right down to the small format and shaky cam.
The images from the Bad Future of mutants being branded to identify them and camps full of mutants and those who helped them being marched to offscreen executions is strongly reminiscent of the Holocaust. Given the X-Men series's penchant for drawing that parallel, it's undoubtedly deliberate.
Don't Call Me Sir: Past Charles insists that Logan not address him by his professor title.
Don't Create a Martyr: The plot is driven by the need to stop Mystique from killing Bolivar Trask, creator of the Sentinel program, because his death at the hands of a mutant will only drive others to finish his work. In addition, since Mystique is captured when she does it, they are able to adapt her mutation to give the Sentinels Adaptive Ability, which made them unstoppable.
Do with Him as You Will: Mystique stuns Magneto and takes his helmet off, leaving him for Xavier. It's less brutal than most instances of the trope, since Mystique knows that Xavier won't hurt Magneto if he can avoid it.
Drama-Preserving Handicap: At various points in the movie, the most powerful mutants are incapacitated or kept from using their powers to full extent, thus allowing the plot to advance. This includes Xavier losing his mental powers due to the effects of the drug which allows him to walk, Wolverine dazed by flashbacks of being tortured by Stryker and allowing Magneto and Mystique to escape, Magneto kept in a prison of concrete and plastic, etc.
'70s Magneto is the most unsympathetic portrayal yet, while the future Magneto is the first time he's shown as an outright hero. Near the end, Magneto in 1973 attempts to assassinate the president on live television in order to start a race war, and Magneto in 2023, dying from injuries obtained in a Last Stand, regrets that he wasted so many years fighting with Xavier and reconciles with him.
Continuing off the above, Trask sees mutants as a common enemy which can unite all the human race and end the Cold War. In the Bad Future, Trask's inventions have become the common enemy that united all the mutants.
In the tie-in material, it's revealed that Warren Worthington III is killed by Sentinels during a mutant protest. He likely is brought back later by the Cosmic Retcon.
According to the tie-in material, Future Beast gets dragged from his home and murdered by a mob of mutant-hating humans akin to the "Friends of Humanity" from the 90's animated series.
Doubles as a Call Back if you're watching the prequel before watching the main X-Men trilogy.
X-Men: First Class spent a good bit of time introducing some new mutants, such as Banshee, Emma Frost, Angel, Azazel, Riptide and Havok. One sequel later in this movie, Havok gets a few minutes of screen time before being rescued by Mystique. As for the rest, Riptide isn't mentioned, and Banshee, Emma, Angel, Azazel are all pronounced dead by Young Magneto. While they were killed between films, Raven/Mystique infiltrates Trask's office, where the audience is then treated to some photographs of the aforementioned mutants... post-autopsy. As a bonus, one of Angel's wings can be found in a vault.
Drowning My Sorrows: The younger Xavier attempts to escape from his emotional torment by consuming copious amounts of alcohol.
Xavier and Magneto unite against the Sentinels that threaten all of mutantkind with extinction. Although Magneto ends up attempting his own plans for mutant superiority and, ironically enough, winds up jeopardizing the plan to save mutantkind.
Trask and Stryker are shown handing over their plans for the Sentinels to the Dirty Communists at the Paris Peace Conference. Trask is even grateful for the mutants for providing a common enemy which will unite humanity in a struggle for survival.
Everybody Lives: In the Good Future, everyone seen to die in the Bad Future is saved, and indeed, so too are a great many characters killed off in previous films. Several supporting characters from First Class remain dead, but since that happened between movies it's not material. Every single named character in the story of this film is saved in the end (even the bad guys).
Evil Is Not a Toy: Wolverine and Professor X free Magneto from his metal-free prison to get him to stop Mystique. Of course, he develops his own agenda...
Exactly What I Aimed At: Mystique fires a bullet through Magneto's neck but doesn't hit any major arteries. Magneto thinks she's lost her edge, but she insists that the shot would have hit something important if she was serious. She wasn't trying to kill him; she only wanted to stun him long enough to get his helmet off.
Exact Words: In a scene, Mystique tells Charles Xavier to "get out of my head." He gets around it by possessing various people around her to talk to her long-distance in a truly creepy display of his telepathic power. He eventually decides to cast an illusion of himself to talk to her instead.
The future Sentinels bear more than a passing resemblance to The Destroyer from Thor, with their height, metallic exterior, Nigh-Invulnerability, and faces that open up to reveal a Death Ray.
Their grey coloration, lack of facial features apart from monochromatic eyes and adaptability also evoke the version of Amazo from Justice League Unlimited.
The Extremist Was Right: Bolívar Trask said "You are not fighting a skirmish on the other side of the world, you are fighting people who could be amongst you, in your offices and homes, and who may have already taken over. And then you will have suffered a worse defeat than in Vietnam". Now jump forward to the climax, with Magneto surrounding the White House with a full stadium levitated from across the state and with the life of the President in his hands, and with another mutant already infiltrated among the President's most trusted people... and say again that Trask was exaggerating, or that his concerns were unjustified. Of course, it was his actions that provoked them to do this, so it's a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
Fantastic Drug/G-Rated Drug: Xavier being dependent on his medicine, and suffering intense pain from his powers returning when he stops taking it, is about the closest a PG-13 film can come to depicting the effects of drug abuse and withdrawal.
Played with: Bolivar Trask reveals to Stryker that he does not hate mutants, even respecting them, but wants to use them in order to make humanity band together, though he still thinks of them as research material rather than people. Emphasized when Mystique gets into the presidential safe-room, and Trask insists that they not shoot it, because he needs her for research purposes.
Meanwhile, Magneto grows stronger in his loathing of humanity.
Averted with Richard Nixon; though he is as understandably concerned with mutants as anyone holding power would be, he doesn't harbor hatred for them.
The Farmer and the Viper: '70s Magneto's sole contribution to the venture is to derail things the moment he sees a chance to advance his cause at the expense of everyone else. As the endings of First Class and X2 show, this is something of a habit for him.
While the public and most other characters refer to Erik (Magneto) and Raven (Mystique) by their mutant code names, Charles and Hank still remain on a first name basis with both of them, and vice versa. This is also presumably true for Alex, who still addresses his former allies as Raven and Erik.
This is the first time in the franchise where Logan uses Charles' first name when speaking to Xavier directly. It's the result of the close friendship they developed during the Time Skip after The Wolverine.
Surprisingly, the elderly Magneto calls Bobby by his first name instead of his codename (Iceman). This indicates that Erik must have gotten to know Bobby on a more personal level during their war against the Future Sentinels.
Five-Token Band: The new mutants consist of Bishop (black), Blink (Chinese), Warpath (Apache), and Sunspot (Brazilian).
Fix Fic: The film uses a Cosmic Retcon involving time-travel to undo some of the more unpopular plot points from X-Men: The Last Stand, and it takes special care to give a wide range of characters their own subplots—Mystique, Beast and Professor Xavier noticeably take center-stage far more often than they did in previous movies—to answer criticisms about Wolverine constantly hogging the focus from other characters. By the end of the movie, Cyclops, Jean Grey and Professor Xavier are alive again, Rogue and Bobby are still together, Rogue has her powers back, and Jean and Cyclops are back to Official Couple status.
Flashback Cut: Two snippets of Raven from First Class appear when the Future Professor X discusses their sibling-like relationship to the other X-Men.
Both '70s and future Magneto contrast each other in the film. '70s Magneto continues to move forward with mutant supremacy and attacking Charles and his group, while future Magneto was fighting to protect both mankind and mutants while lamenting his pointless struggles with Charles in their younger years. Past Erik is very much on his own, but his elderly counterpart is a valuable team member.
Past Magneto and Past Xavier were both inactive and isolated in between 1963 and 1973 (the former due to imprisonment, the latter due to depression). Erik shows signs of wanting to repair at least part of their previous friendship, but a bitter Charles isn't interested for the most part. Magneto tries to kill Mystique while Xavier tries to protect her. Hank remains unwaveringly devoted to Charles, but Erik loses Mystique's loyalty after the murder attempt. In X-Men: First Class, Erik personified "rage" while Charles embodied "serenity," but their roles are reversed in 1973. Xavier is now the one who is full of pain and anger, and therefore has great trouble wielding his telepathy, whereas Magneto is (relatively) calm and controlled, still possessing great mastery over his power despite being deprived of metal for a decade. (We even see Erik adopt a meditation pose in his prison cell, which makes him appear almost Zen-like.)
Foreshadowing: "She can transform into anyone. Even you, Mr. President."
Forgot I Couldn't Swim: Wolverine forgets that his '70s body doesn't have adamantium on his bones or claws several times; he's surprised when he doesn't set off a metal detector and tries to cut a Sentinel prototype, even though his uncoated claws have points but no edges.
Freudian Trio: In the '70s, Charles is the Superego, Hank is the Ego, and Logan is the Id. As for the antagonists, Trask is the Ego, Mystique is the Id, and Magneto is the Superego.
Full-Frontal Assault: Mystique does most of her fighting in her mutant form, with no clothes on. This is lampshaded at one point when she's seducing a target and returns to her normal form, who up until that point was quite excited at the prospect of seeing her naked.
Future Badass: As noted above, the future Sentinels are a serious improvement over the 1970s versions.
Genghis Gambit: Bolivar Trask believes uniting the world against mutants will create a brighter, more peaceful future.
Glamour Failure: Mystique's eyes sometimes turn yellow, even revealing her at one point, and when she duplicates Boliver Trask she doesn't get his face quite right.
Glassy Prison: Large panes of glass form the ceiling of Magneto's cell underneath the Pentagon.
Godzilla Threshold: The main characters' plan is to erase themselves and everyone else from existence, because in the new future they would be different people with different experiences and no memory of the originals. Everybody understands it, yet they go through with it without question anyway: the current situation is just that bad.
The Sentinels were programmed to hunt and destroy mutants amongst the non-mutant populace and they proved extremely effective in this task. However, they soon began targeting people who could potentially have mutant children and then those who might have mutant grandchildren. Eventually they began wiping out the entire human race to fulfil their purpose.
Bolivar Trask wanted to make the Sentinels to create peace, and got it, in the form of the apocalypse. The peace of the grave.
Magneto deals with humans and mutants other than Wolverine by shooting them, threatening to shoot them, or restraining them with metal. Magneto deals with Wolverine by weaving steel rebar through his body and throwing him about a mile away. Into the river.
In-Universe, this is the reason why Wolverine is sent back in time instead of Professor Xavier, whose mind would not survive the trip.
Grand Theft Me: Logan essentially steals the body of his counterpart from the new timeline when he snaps back after changing the future.
Great Offscreen War: The war against the Sentinels. When the film starts, the war is over, and the Sentinels are just hunting the last mutant survivors.
Grew Beyond Their Programming: The Sentinels, their original programming was to go after any Mutant and mutants only. Then they started going after any human that could give birth to a mutant (themselves being human but having the mutant gene to pass on), and humans that opposed them.
Happy Flashback: 1973 Charles briefly reminisces about the first time he met Raven, which was a much happier and more innocent period of his life than his current state of abject misery and self-destruction. One notable difference between his memory of the event and what we saw in First Class is that Charles as a kid never said, "And that's a promise" right after he told Raven that she would never have to steal again.
Hate at First Sight: Judging by the harsh glare the younger Magneto gives to Logan just before he walks away from the Pentagon kitchen, he plainly dislikes the clawed mutant even though the latter hasn't done or said anything negative. It seems highly unlikely that Erik would remember a rude stranger that he once tried to recruit in a bar 11 years prior, and even if he did, his behaviour is rather antagonistic for such a minor insult.
Magneto, as usual. In the Bad Future, he makes a final peace with Charles. In the past, he plays both sides.
Furthermore, we see Past Magneto fully ascend to the Big Bad even as Future Magneto and Charles share the Big Good role among the future X-Men. As such, this movie shows him at his most good and his most evil.
Magneto seems to have made the turn between X-Men: The Last Stand and his cameo appearance at the end of The Wolverine, because in this movie, Future!Magneto is firmly on Professor X's side throughout and ultimately makes a Heroic Sacrifice against the Sentinels during the climax.
Mystique eventually decides to give up her vendetta against Trask to prevent future bloodshed against Mutants. She also saves Nixon and his cabinet from Magneto.
What Charles has been in since the end of First Class.
A lot has happened in the Time Skip between the two movies, resulting in the deaths of most of the characters from First Class who don't appear here. It's also stated that Charles lost many of his students and teachers to conscription and the Vietnam War, effectively closing down his newly budding school.
Hero Killer: Future Sentinels are downright unstoppable; even a combined team of half-a-dozen really powerful mutants can't defeat them. They kill most of the characters in the Bad Future, some of them more than once, and the only way to escape from them is to run before they even find you.
He's Back: After receiving a pep talk from his future self, Charles finally pulls himself out of his depression and is able to use his powers to their fullest extent.
Played straight with the elderly Magneto and Professor X (the moment where they're holding hands is the closest that we've seen them since First Class), but averted with their younger selves. In 1973, Charles never once calls Erik "friend" (although the latter uses the endearment twice), which goes to show how broken their relationship is.
Hank and Charles are each other's Only Friend for a decade, so it's inevitable that they would develop a very close bond. There are moments of non-verbal (and non-telepathic) communication between the two men, like when Xavier gently taps Beast on the chest after he mutters to Logan, "I think I'd like to wake up now." McCoy immediately understands that the gesture means, "You can calm down now, our visitor is not a threat," and he reverts back to his human form.
Hide Your Otherness: 1973 Magneto invokes this as he's shouting at Xavier, "Hiding, you and Hank, pretending to be something you're not!" Beast in particular is very uncomfortable with his blue, furry form, and he creates a serum which temporarily suppresses his mutation so that he can appear human.
Hide Your Pregnancy: Halle Berry's role as Storm had to be rewritten following an unexpected pregnancy. Though they were able to finish shooting while Berry could still fit her costume (though only by a week or so), all of Storm's flight and hand-to-hand combat scenes had to be cut from the script.
Historical Hero Upgrade: Subverted with Richard Nixon, perhaps the most vilified president of the twentieth century, who gets a big, heroic Take Me Instead moment during a hostage situation only for it to turn out that it's a disguised Mystique getting the drop on Magneto. To be perfectly fair, though, Nixon does get one mild Pet the Dog when he calls off the mutant genocide when one of them saves his life.
Nixon is shown deactivating a tape recorder prior to his discussion with Trask, both referencing the recording system that would eventually lead to his downfall and providing an explanation for those recordings missing 18 minutes.
Plus Magneto being present at the assassination of JFK, and taking credit for causing the bullet to 'curve mid-air,' although he claims that he was actually trying to save the president, since JFK was also a mutant.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Trask is seen handing out plans to his new Sentinel units to the foreign powers at the summit in Paris. This turns out to be a major mistake on his part, as he gets arrested for selling military secrets to other countries in the new timeline, once the President apparently has a chance to take a better look at the activities he's been getting up to in the name of advancing his work...
Hopeless War: The one waged by mutants of the future. Their eradication by the Sentinels is a predetermined outcome; even with Kitty Pryde's Mental Time Travel powers, they can only postpone their inevitable demise.
Hope Spot: When Magneto and Storm combine their powers to throw the X-Jet into the horde of advancing Sentinels and detonate it to take them out. It looks like it worked... until Storm is impaled by a Sentinel and it's revealed that a large group of them have scaled the cliff from above and below for a surprise attack.
Hulking Out: '70s Beast uses a serum that allows him to maintain a balance between his human and mutant appearance. When he's angry enough, his mutation kicks in, and he returns to human form once he's calmed down.
At the climax of the movie, Past!Magneto has his most blatant moment of hypocrisy in the entire film series. After all the bravado both before and after about protecting mutantkind, he deliberately pits a Sentinel against Wolverine and Beast, ordering it to "do what you were made for."
In the plane, Magneto calls Xavier out for abandoning the mutants out there to be killed or experimented on. Given how X-Men: First Class ends, Xavier can reasonably say that Beast, Havok, Banshee and himself (who was newly shot in the spine) could have easily ended up as guinea pigs for either the US or the Soviet Union because Magneto left them stranded in Cuba with no transportation.
Throughout both films, Charles is often criticized or distrusted by those around him for using his telepathy. Considering Erik's and Raven's out-and-proud stances on mutantkind, it seems very hypocritical that either of them would request that he create a block between them (Raven most specifically) and his mind, especially since it's implied several times that brushing against people's minds is an innate part of Charles' mutation that he can't just shut off. And then after they're reunited, Erik again criticizes Charles for taking a telepathy-blocking drug that actually allows him to sleep since it drowns out all of the voices that are constantly bombarding his mind.
Charles Xavier: I'm just not very good with violence. [The elevator opens, Magneto inside.] Erik Lehnsherr: Charles... [Charles knocks him out]
Idle Rich: For a whole decade, Past Charles hasn't done anything the least bit productive; he is a reclusive alcoholic who wallows in self-pity within his Big Fancy House.
I Hate Past Me: An unusual variation where it's not stated by the time-traveller (Wolverine) himself. Right before Kitty sends Wolverine's consciousness back to the past, Future Erik briefly mentions that he worries that his and Charles' past-selves won't understand the nightmarish situation in the Bad Future. Future Charles doesn't want to discuss it further. At the climax, in the Dramatic Irony moment no less, we can say Future Erik is right to worry about his own past-self.
Future Erik: You really think this will work? Future Charles: I have faith in [Wolverine]. Future Erik: It's not him I'm worried about, it's us. We were young, we didn't know any better. Future Charles: We will now.
On the other hand, it's unknown whether Wolverine feels this way or not when he found himself (or rather, his past body) sleeping with a random woman whom he possibly doesn't remember anymore.
Much like Last Stand, it's left rather vague whether or not Bobby and Kitty had anything going on or not. Come Cosmic Retcon, Bobby is back to being in a relationship with Rogue. Kitty and Colossus co-teaching a class may mean something between them as well.
Erik and Raven. When she's holding a spike to his throat, he just quips, "It's been a while since we were this close." There is also a hint when Charles asks Erik for the second time, "How is she [Raven]?", and Charles' facial expression when he hears the answer basically reads, "Oh god, he has slept with my sister."
Erik: She was... we were... I could see why she meant so much to you.
In the "Double Take: Xavier & Magneto" featurette on the Blu-Ray release, Michael Fassbender mentions that his character is "...very close to Mystique, he has very strong feelings for her."
Innocently Insensitive: After Mystique escapes the peace conference, she is outed as a mutant on the news. She manages to get to a hospital and get her leg bandaged in her normal human guise. The nurse who is doing it is watching the earlier footage and pities Mystique's appearance, wondering "It must be hard waking up each day and seeing that in a mirror". Ouch.
Info Dump: A barrage of nonstop exposition occurs in between the first fight scene and Wolverine's arrival in the past, explaining how the future X-Men operate, how the Sentinels grew so powerful, how the time travel plan works and why Wolverine is the best man for the job.
Informed Attribute: Hank and Charles say that Mystique's abilities are unique. While it is true that there have been no other shapeshifting mutants in the film series, there have been several cases of mutants having similar or outright identical abilities. Both Emma Frost and Charles being telepaths is but one example. In this context, their assertion that there is not one other mutant that could possess her power is somewhat ignorant.
Invincible Villain: The future Sentinels, to the point where the only way to truly stop them (and the main plot of the film) is to attempt to rewrite history so that they were never created to begin with.
Irony: The person who led the extermination of the mutants is also a mutant, in this particular case an achondroplasic dwarf.
It Has Been an Honor: Future Magneto and Xavier have such a moment as Magneto lays dying while the Sentinels are closing in and expresses regret that they spent so many years fighting each other.
"It" Is Dehumanizing: Played with, as Trask uses gender pronouns when referring to Mystique and her mutation, but slips into "it" when faced with a mutant in person.
I've Never Seen Anything Like This Before: Played serious. Especially horrifying is that it's coming from Wolverine, whose Bad Future self would be 191 years old and and has seen more fucked up shit in his life than most normal people could possibly imagine.
Wolverine: I've been in a lot of wars... but I've never seen anything like this...
Jerkass Has a Point: Trask justifies the need for his Sentinels to Nixon by pointing out Mystique can shapeshift into any person; she could impersonate Nixon himself, walk into the White House, and order a nuclear attack. Considering all the other things we've seen her do with her powers over the franchise, including the infiltration of the government in such a manner as he warns, his concerns are perfectly valid.
Young Erik has grown increasingly amoral since his actions in First Class. Mystique isn't far off, either. The two split right before Dallas.
Trask Industries' Sentinels originally targeted mutants. But as time passed, their programming came to include regular humans whose offspring would be mutants and eventually, anyone sympathetic to mutants who stood in their way. This ultimately brought about the Bad Future where the worst of humanity lord over the remnants of civilization, using the latest Sentinels to finish off the mutants once and for all.
Just in Time: Wolverine, Charles, and the rest arrive just in time to prevent Mystique from assassinating Trask.
Just Plane Wrong: A downplayed example. While the Gulfstream II, the plane the X-Men use to fly to Paris, was first manufactured in the 1960s, the wingletsnote the vertical surfaces on the tips of the wings seen on this particular example were not part of the original design and were first available as an aftermarket retrofit in the 1990's (though much like the Blackbirdnote the SR-71 was still in development at the time of First Class was set, and neither it nor the Lockheed A-12 from which it was derived were VTOL-capable as the X-Men's jet is this is justifiable by Xavier's immense personal fortune and Hank's engineering know-how allowing for a custom, one-off modification). Also, the plane's tail number of N540EA reveals that it was manufactured in 1975, two years after the setting of the film.
Karma Houdini: Justified given that they had to fit it into real-world history, but Nixon and his cabinet were perfectly happy for Trask to build an army of genocide robots. The worst they get is a bit of a scare from Magneto's attack. Yes, they changed their mind, but they went along with a planned genocide campaign right until their own lives were saved by mutants. (They don't even arrest Trask for torture and vivisection, just for selling military secrets.)
Killer Robot: The mutant-hunting Sentinels, manufactured by Trask Industries. They've wiped out most of humanity by the Bad Future the film starts in.
Killing For A Tissue Sample: After studying Mystique's DNA, Bolivar Trask decides he wants more samples in order to create new kind of technology with Adaptive Abilities. Among the samples he needs are brain tissue, spinal fluid, and bone marrow, implying that, if he got the chance, he would pretty much pick Mystique apart piece by piece.
Kleptomaniac Hero: Quicksilver, who frequently shoplifts behind his mother's back along with a lot of other hijinks.
Know When To Fold Them: Erik makes it clear that he's not willing to take on Charles without his protective helmet; he knows that he stands no chance against the telepath in a straight fight. When he loses his helmet at the end of the film, he retreats.
La Résistance: The X-Men of the Bad Future, though by the time the movie starts they seem to be able to accomplish little but stay one step ahead of the enemy.
Radio host: We talked about Xavier's theme which almost acts as the central theme for the film because his story is so important, and it hovers around him. Since the film is about hope, and his character is about hope and rediscovering his hope, kind of a lost soul, where did you really draw the music from [...]?
John Ottman: [...] I knew what the character's challenge was, what the film was about, so I tried to create a piece of music or a theme that could play both sides, sort of despondent and tortured, but also be designed so that it can be hopeful as it evolves later in the movie. I started sketching on an electric piano, and it sounded so cool and vintage [...]. Early in the movie, when it's just very subtly underscoring him, it's a lot of electric piano within the strings.
John Ottman: Magneto's theme is a very simple "baauum baaaaw." That's basically it, it's so simple you can identify with it and feel it. [...] When he does his stuff at the end and you hear that big sound, it's bigger than it ever was before, and it ties things together.
Like Brother and Sister: Lampshaded by the older Professor X when he mentions that Mystique was like a sister to him. It's later alluded to when a nurse wonders if the blue, scaly woman at the Paris Peace Accords has a family, and Raven replies, "Yes, she does."
Living MacGuffin: Mystique is the lynchpin to the Bad Future in more ways than one. Her murder of Trask not only drives others to complete his work, but her subsequent capture provides them with the key to making Sentinels unstoppable, which is why Erik tries to kill her before she can kill Trask.
Loads and Loads of Characters: Not only is Days of Future Past a team movie, but one with X-Men teams from the future and the past, making the cast almost twice the size of a normal X-Men film.
So, the Sentinels are made of a "space-age polymer" and contain no metal, and Wolverine has no adamantium in his body anymore? No problem, Magneto just bends some metal into their bodies so he can still restrain and/or control them with his powers.
The future Sentinels exploit several logical weaknesses in their battles with the future X-Men. They deliberately focus firepower on Bishop and forcefeed him so much energy that it overloads him, use extreme heat and fire to negate Ice Man's powers, and after all the other X-Men are dealt with they focus on swarming Blink, attacking her from so many angles that she can't think to make portals fast enough. And of course as mentioned above they're made of an advanced polymer meaning Magneto has to fall back on using outside sources of metal to fight them, making it easier for them to take him on.
Logo Joke: The film brings back the previous Logo Joke of having the "X" in "TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX" fade out a few seconds after the rest of the logo, as well as adding the first few notes of the X-Men theme at the end of the Fox fanfare.
Long-Lost Relative: Simon Kinberg confirms that Magneto is Quicksilver's father, so the trope is played with in this case because although Erik suspects that Peter is his son after the teen mentions that his mother once knew a guy who could control metal, the older mutant doesn't try to seek out the truth or inform anyone else about the potential blood relation.
Kitty and Bobby share one as they cross paths during their battle against the Sentinels, and this may allude to them being in a relationship.
Mystique, disguised as a colonel, winks at Alex in a reassuring manner which says, "Don't worry, I'll get you out of this." Alex is unaware that the colonel is his former friend, though, so the wink confuses him.
Hank and Charles exchange an amused "Why am I not surprised?" glance (the former even adds a raised eyebrow) after Peter asks them, "I saw your flight plan in the cockpit; why are you going to Paris?"
Men Don't Cry: Averted with Charles because he cries repeatedly, but in this case it's very much a rare male example of Tender Tears, as it's used to illustrate his great capacity for empathy by showing how badly he is affected by the suffering around him.
Mental Time Travel: 2023 Wolverine's mind gets beamed back in time into his younger self's body in the 1970s. Also goes in reverse when Young Charles has a conversation with his future self by way of Logan's mind.
Mess Of Woe: In 1973, Charles' neglect of his mansion is a reflection of how utterly forlorn he is. His bedroom and study are extremely cluttered, plus the grass on his estate is overgrown. Hank does his best to clean up some of the mess that Xavier carelessly leaves behind (at one point we see McCoy picking up empty liquor bottles).
Metal Detector Checkpoint: There is one on the White House lawn; it beeps when Xavier passes through because of his wheelchair, and when it's Wolverine's turn... nothing happens because his 1973 body is adamantium-free.
A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Xavier in the past is so broken that he does not want to hear voices anymore. In order to visit his future self, he has to go through Wolverine's mind, which is full of traumatic memories. It's a pretty shocking experience for him.
He also uses the serum to block out the voices in his head.
A brief moment where Pietro's little sister tells Logan she's a princess (and he replies with "I'm the Wolverine") does not appear.
A scene where Bobby and Magneto are seen freeing Rogue is also missing.
In the third trailer, there's an scene where Wolverine talks to Mystique and calls her a coldhearted bitch, which offends her. This is not in the movie, and they never interact with each other in the final cut.
Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Magneto's attempt to kill Mystique essentially derails her off his path of a race war, though for most of the film she's still determined to kill Trask for his crimes.
Magneto uses one national monument as a weapon against another in the climax. Specifically, he picks up RFK Stadium, levitates it across DC, and drops it in a circle around the White House. Later in the fight, he pulls a panic room out from under the White House through the walls and floors to get at the people inside it.
In 2023 Moscow, the Kremlin and other Red Square monuments are in shambles (although scaffolding indicates someone is at least trying to repair it).
Mood Whiplash: The '70s scenes in the first act are filled with jokes and humorous moments (most notably Quicksilver's antics) which clash with the bleak tone of the 2023 scenes and the somber mood of acts 2 and 3. In fact, the 1973 scenes in general can come across as this. Even during their darkest moments, the more colorful backdrops and blatantly '70s hairstyles, clothes and aesthetics can be jarring.
Magneto uses his metal-controlling powers to stitch his head wound.
Quicksilver uses his speed to play pingpong with himself.
My Future Self and Me: Unable to cope with his powers, to use them properly and deal with all the stress caused by the things at stake, and with a guy like Wolverine who can't be anyone's mentor, Charles Xavier got the help of the best mentor that Wolverine knows about: Charles Xavier! To accomplish this, 1970s Xavier reads his mind until he can manifest outside of Wolverine's future body, and talk with his future self.
Wolverine's future outfit has yellow and blue elements as a nod to his classic comic book outfit. Also serves as a Call Back to Cyclops's comment about "yellow spandex" in the first X-Men film. His outfit in the 1970s is identical to the one the future Wolverine wore in the original comic storyline.
The Sentinels, particularly those from the X-Men's Bad Future, possess elements of Bastion and Nimrod. The claws they occasionally sprout are clearly based on those of Lady Deathstrike.
In the original comic storyline, Kitty was the one who was sent to the past. In the film, she's the one who sends Wolverine back.
Bishop, the one who got sent back in the "Days of Future Past" arc in the 1990's animated series, is one of the future X-Men, and Kitty mentions that he is her usual target of Mental Time Travel in avoiding Sentinel attacks.
Beast is able to hide his mutant appearance by using a formula that hinges on the suppression of his rage, much like his debut episode in X-Men: Evolution.
Quicksilver's quip to Magneto: "So, you control metal? My mom knew a guy who could do that." Erik is, of course, his father in the comics.
Quicksilver has a little brown-haired girl on his lap while watching tv. The girl is either Wanda Maximoff AKA The Scarlet Witch or, based on a cut scene in which Quicksilver and the little girl's mom tells her to "go up and bug your sister," Lorna Dane AKA Polaris as in the House of M timeline (given Pietro and Wanda are twins and Polaris is only their half-sister, probably the latter). The credits themselves only identify her as Quicksilver's sister.
Colossus and Kitty are shown teaching a class together, referencing their relationship in the comics.
Storm's death in the Bad Future is the same as her death in the original comic — pierced by a Sentinel through her torso.
The finale where Magneto has Wolverine wrapped in steel rebar with points sticking out of Wolverine's skin resembles a famous comic panel of Magneto removing Wolverine's adamantium skeleton. Him hurling him into the Potomac River and leaving him to drown is a reference to Ultimate X-Men where Sabertooth once considered drowning as the only thing to which Wolverine's healing factor is vulnerable. Needless to say, this is the closest Wolverine has come to dying in the film series.
Magneto using Sentinels to attack the White House and attempt to kill the President before being stopped by Xavier's telepathy is taken from the climax of the first arc from Ultimate X-Men.
Before deciding on Wolverine, the Bad Future mutants plan on sending Xavier's mind back in time. His mind was the one sent back in Wolverine and the X-Men.
While Wolverine wasn't the one sent back in the original comic storyline, he did get sent back in similar stories, such as Frank Tieri's "Weapon X: Days of Future Now", or in the Ultimate Universe, as the Ultimate version of Cable.
Future Wolverine's hair is shown to be greying at the temples, similar to the future Wolverine of the original comic story.
The plot point involving Hank's restorative serum, wherein Professor Xavier overcomes his paralysis at the cost of his telepathic abilities, is based on the period in the 1980's when Xavier did just that, though for different reasons. note In the comics, Xavier regained the use of his legs after the Shi'ar transplanted his mind into a clone body, as his original body was destroyed in a battle with the Brood. He had to give up his telepathy in order to keep the psychosomatic pain in his legs at bay, and spent some time exploring the galaxy with Lilandra Neramani as a normal human.
Magneto gained control of the Sentinels, just like in the X-Men arcade and the Wolverine and the X-Men animated series.
Imprisoned mutants in the future have the letter M branded over the right eye, which is done to mutants in Bishop's native future timeline in the comics. That world is similar to the original Days of Future Past, but separate.
Pietro keeps his habit from X-Men Evolution of being a kleptomaniac simply because he gets bored.
Future Xavier has a floating "wheelchair", just as he did in the comics during the 90's and the animated series around the same time.
Quicksilver's Bullet Time scene may be a reference to his Ultimate counterpart, who claims to regularly do this (which is later proven correct) and it's shown that even a small impact from him can greatly injure someone.
Past Xavier's alcoholism is presumably a reference to his mother Sharon becoming a drunk not long after the death of her first husband in the comics. It may be a case of Like Mother, Like Son because Charles reaches for the bottle when he cannot cope with profound loss.
Naked on Arrival: Logan wakes up in the past naked... because his past self just spent the night in bed with the woman he's supposed to be guarding.
Narrative Filigree: The tour guide in the Pentagon explains that the building has twice the number of bathrooms that would be actually needed, because it was built when racial segregation was still in effect. Even though that has passed, it would cost too much to remove them. No, this info does not become useful for the plot later, it is just trivia.
Near Villain Victory: In both the past and the future. Magneto almost succeeds at eliminating American leadership and ushering in an era of mutant tyranny backed by the reprogrammed Sentinels, and the Sentinels almost succeed in eliminating the last of the X-Men.
The first official trailer gives the impression that Wolverine is being sent back in time to recruit the primary mutant characters we met in X-Men: First Class, including Mystique (with a clip showing off her badass fighting skills coupled with spliced-together dialogue stating, "[We need her] because she's a cold-hearted bitch"), so that they can unite with the present-day cast to battle the Sentinels. This is actually the farthest thing from the truth: Logan's the only one who ever travels through time in the film, and it's for the purpose of uniting Charles and Erik so that they can stop Mystique from committing the assassination that will bring about the creation of the Sentinels in the first place.
The "I don't want your future!" line from Young!Charles is directed to Logan and his memories, not to Future!Charles as the trailer implies.
In the first trailer when Logan asks Magneto where he will find him, Erik says "A different path, a darker path"; he's referring to Mystique in the movie, not himself.
New Era Speech: 1973 Magneto proclaims a new era of Mutant supremacy to the American leadership and the entire world.
"You built these machines to destroy us. Why? Because you are afraid of our gifts. Because we are different. And humanity has always feared that which is different. Well, I'm here to tell you, to tell the world, you're right to fear us! We are the future! We are the ones who will inherit this earth! And anyone who stands in our way will suffer the same fate as these men you see before you! Today you meant to enslave our power. Instead, I give you a glimpse of the devastation our race will unleash upon yours! Let this be a warning to all of you. And to all my mutant brothers and sisters out there, I say this: no more hiding. No more suffering. You have lived in the shadows in shame and fear for too long. Come out. Join me. Fight together in a brotherhood of our kind! A new tomorrow, that starts today!"
Magneto tries to kill Mystique because experiments performed on her were used to give the future Sentinels their adaptive abilities. However, this attempt spills her blood, allowing it to be collected and sent to Trask Industries. Subverted in that Trask still needed the living specimen.
The heroes' decision to break Magneto out ultimately does more harm than good. Given Mystique's reaction to Charles's presence, it seems leaving Erik in prison would have saved a lot of problems. It's even lampshaded by Xavier when he tells Logan, "It was a mistake freeing Erik."
Depending on how you interpret The Stinger, it seems that in preventing the Bad Future, the X-Men have somehow inadvertently set the stage for Apocalypse to rise up and attack mankind in the new timeline.
No Kill Like Overkill: Seems to be the Future Sentinel’s general philosophy when taking out targets. As such they commit a string of ruthlessly brutal and outright cruel executions during the film, seemingly to ensure their targets are taken out for good. There is some cold justification for this considering how much punishment some mutants can take, though it doesn't make what they do any less horrific.
Non-Action Guy: 1973 Charles invokes this trope to explain to Logan why he always tries to talk his way out of a problem (even if it results in ineffective rambling) instead using brute force. However, Xavier can still throw a mean punch if someone really pisses him off despite not being much of a fighter.
Non-Uniform Uniform: The future X-Men mostly wear black (except for Rogue, who wears white), but that seems to be the only real "rule." Storm, Magneto, and Bishop's costumes all have capes, Kitty Pryde's has a jacket, Blink, Warpath, and Sunspot all have individual markings and design elements, etc.
Nothing But Hits: All your favorite tunes from the '70s. The first thing Wolverine hears in 1973 is Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face"; Quicksilver listens to Alice Cooper's "Hello Hooray" and Jim Croce's "Time in a Bottle"; the disco in Paris is playing Claude Francois's French '70s hit "Stop au nom de l'amour."
Nothing Is the Same Anymore: After all the time-travelling takes place, the course of history has been altered with only Wolverine and Professor X aware of what went on previously, Jean Grey and Cyclops are both Back from the Dead, Rogue apparently has her powers once more, Mystique has apparently undergone a Heel-Face Turn, and the public became aware of the mutant presence two decades earlier than it did in the original timeline. Also, the events of The Last Stand and Origins have been confirmed to never have transpired in the new timeline, and the events of X-Men and X-Men United occurred differently if they occurred at all.
Not Wearing Tights: The film Zig-Zags on this. The future X-Men do wear costumes (mostly black but with some ornamentation), while most of the '70s-era characters just wear their street clothes. However, the younger Magneto from the '70s does wear a red costume that looks much closer to his comic design than any of the previous cinematic takes on the character.
Charles (aside from the beard and long hair), Erik, Hank and Alex Summers all physically look pretty much the same as they did in X-Men: First Class despite the fact that it's been over a decade since the events of that film. (Mystique is excused, since her mutation slows her aging process.)
Honest Trailers even made the mistake of describing McAvoy's character as a "young man," a term usually reserved for males who are under 30; Xavier is in his late thirties/early forties in 1973, but it's easy to forget that because the actor appears younger than his actual age.
Old Money: Past Charles can afford not to work for a decade because he can simply mooch off his inherited wealth. The Xavier family crest on the tail of his personal plane, his plane's elegantly decorated interior, and even the design of the chess set he brings along for the trip are a visual cue to the audience that he is this trope, and not the tacky (or so the stereotype goes) Nouveau Riche.
Hank, per First Class, is not only an accomplished engineer but a skilled biologist. He's improved on the latter, as his serum now works as intended (more or less).
Trask seems to be a pioneer robotist, building robots that work in the 1970s, but he is also a skilled biologist, who can study mutants to the point of understanding how their powers work at the cellular level.
Averted. Mystique gets shot in the leg, has to go to a hospital to get the wound treated, and suffers from a notable limp for the rest of the movie.
Also, when Erik gets a head wound, he takes care to clean and stitch it up as soon as possible.
Only Friend: After Past Charles isolates himself from the outside world due to his severe depression, Hank becomes his sole companion. Hank also doesn't seem to have a social circle, as he has taken it upon himself to be Charles' caretaker, which appears to be something of a full-time job.
As in the previous film, James McAvoy loses his English accent in favor of his native Scottish one when he shouts, "I don't want YA FUTCHA!" It's even more apparent when he's yelling at Erik on the plane because it comes out as, "YA ABONDONED MEH!"
Interestingly, it's averted with Michael Fassbender who maintains an Ian McKellen-esque English accent rather than slipping into his own Irish one as he did repeatedly in First Class.
The English Nicholas Hoult's American accent is pretty good, but he frequently messes up on the word "professor."
Hugh Jackman's Australian accent slips out in Wolverine's very first line of dialogue.
Overshadowed by Awesome: Happens to Wolverine, of all people. He's The Heart here, helping 1970s-era Charles Xavier deal with his issues. Against the various security guards and soldiers, Wolverine pulls his weight, but he's not nearly as effective as Quicksilver or Magneto without his adamantium bones and claws. Against Sentinels, he's not even as effective as Beast. Even when this takes away his normal vulnerability to Magneto, he's still quite outclassed.
"At the beginning of the film, Charles is medicating, and very possibly on hallucinogens, so we had that come through in his shirt. As he pulls himself together, he wears a nice blue oxford like all good, put-together men—a progression from that psychedelic Cat Stevens-wear."
Peace Conference: Mystique plans to murder Trask during the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.
People Puppets: Xavier possesses various people around Mystique at the airport to talk to her in a casual display of how creepy his power can be when he gets creative. At the end, he also controls Magneto when Mystique knocks the latter's helmet off to free himself from the metal debris that fell on him earlier.
Perma Shave: Professor X, Magneto, Warpath and Colossus in 2023 have very little facial hair despite living in a post-apocalyptic world where they're being hunted down by Sentinels.
Hank has light stubble throughout the movie which is meant to make him look older than his clean-shaven appearance in First Class.
Sunspot sports a 5 o'clock shadow.
Period Piece: More than half of the movie is set in the 1970s. Everyone has long hair, drives funky cars, and wears garish colors, Hank McCoy is proud of developing a way to record "all three networks and PBS" at once, and Sentinels are described as being made from a "space age polymer." Seventies pop music is also prominent.
Kitty Pryde, somewhat. The viral website states the events of X-Men: The Last Stand occurred in 2006 when Kitty appeared to be, at the most, in her mid-teens. The Bad Future is said to occur in or very close to 2023, putting Kitty in her early 30s even though the films were released just 8 years apart and Ellen Page was 26 during filming.
Magneto is somewhere in the area of twenty to twenty-five years older than Peter, while Michael Fassbender is only a decade older than Evan Peters.
Portal Cut: Blink takes off a Sentinel's arm when one of her portals closes on it. Unfortunately, it closed because said arm had just stabbed her.
Portal Door: Blink has the mutant power to create these at will.
Power at a Price: A tough decision for Xavier: he can either take the serum and be able to walk, or don't take it and have his mutant power (which includes being able to help Raven). He can't have both things, legs and power; he must choose.
When Logan first arrives in the past, Charles doesn't have his psychic powers to verify his story or make their mission easier. This is because he's been taking a serum that lets him walk, at the expense of suppressing his telepathy. Considering the Heroic BSOD he's in the middle of, he doesn't mind. The same serum lets Beast look normal with no apparent ill effects, but it has to be taken periodically by both of them.
Nullification collars are used in the Bad Future on mutants in the Sentinel-controlled camps.
The Future Sentinels have the ability to heat up if they encounter someone with an ice power, like Bobby.
Sunspot's mutant ability.
Power Tattoo: Ink, a minor X-Men member in the comics, appears in Vietnam with Toad and Havok, as well as the Bad Future in a concentration camp. He possesses his phoenix, telepathy bolts and biohazard tattoos at least, the latter of which he uses to incapacitate some guards.
The ageless Wolverine gets sent back in time instead of Kitty Pryde, as film Kitty wouldn't have been born in 1973.
In the comic, Peter and Katherine are married, and know that their marriage will cease to be if they go on with the plan and change history. But they do it anyway, on behalf of millions others. In the film, the X-Men from the future sacrifice exactly nothing to carry out their plan.
Quicksilver is shown to be a fan of Hostess Twinkies and Ding-Dongs. In real life, Hostess actually released a line of Days of Future Past-themed Twinkies to promote the movie.
A drink order is called, specifically for a bottle of Johnnie Walker (which blend exactly is yet unclear). Also it would appear that all other bottles of whiskey in the film are likewise Johnnie Walker, of which quite a lot is drunk, especially by Charles Xavier.
invoked During the Crowning Moment of Awesome where Magneto lifts up RFK Stadium, ads for Mountain Dew, Adidas, and various other brands can be seen.
Wolverine requests that the younger Xavier form the X-Men regardless of the outcome of their mission.
Logan: Whatever happens today, I need you to promise me something. [...] The X-Men, promise me you'll find us. Use your power, bring us together. Guide us, lead us. [...] 1973 Charles: I'll... do my best.
Logan: It's good to see you, Charles. It's good to see everyone. Professor X: (smiles warmly) Well, I had a promise to keep.
Pstandard Psychic Pstance: Almost every time Xavier uses his telepathy, McAvoy accentuates it by placing his fingers against his temple.
Or, when using Logan as a conduit to the future, on Logan's temple.
Psychoactive Powers: Charles can't control Cerebro until he gets some advice and encouragement from his future self and stabilizes emotionally, after which he's fine.
Including a demonstration of Required Secondary Powers, Quicksilver has to brace the back of Magneto's head to prevent him from getting severe whiplash while moving at super speed. And despite this, Magneto is still visibly ill and disoriented after moving so quickly.
Right after they get caught, Quicksilver also incapacitates the guards in the room, with hijinks such as crossing two guard's arms, putting one's fist in his own face, poking another one in the face, and giving another one a wedgie. This proceeds to send all of them flying, as he did it at such speeds that the sheer momentum hit them with much more force.
Magneto's fight against Wolverine is a complete curb stomp, with Wolverine only managing to deflect a few objects before he's incapacitated and thrown into the Potomac.
After he gets a head wound during his fight with Beast, Erik doesn't just put a bandage on it but has to clean and stitch it up using his powers.
The head Congressman who's against Trask's Sentinel project. The incident from ten years ago notwithstanding, mutants are a very small portion of the population and haven't been causing trouble.
Richard Nixon himself gets this treatment, unlike most examples. While he does go along with the Sentinel Program, it's out of a desire to protect the nation from super powered beings than any genuine malice. When Mystique saves his life from Magneto, it's implied he gave her a pardon and jailed Trask for trying to sell secrets to America's enemies.
Refused by the Call: Xavier was the initial option to make the time travel, but it was not to be. He would die if they attempted it. So it had to be Wolverine, whose mind can heal as fast as it gets hurt by the procedure.
Relax-o-Vision: Wolverine got inside the mansion to seek the professor and moved upstairs, ignoring the protests of Hank McCoy. So McCoy turned into the Beast, went after Wolverine, and the camera changed the view to the empty stairs that they had just climbed. Well, they are not empty for very long...
The Reliable One: Hank assumes responsibility for Charles and the estate after his friend becomes an emotional train wreck.
When debating how to break out Magneto, Wolverine casually announces he "knows a guy." Said guy turns out to be Quicksilver, who has not appeared or been mentioned in any of the six previous X-Men movies.note This line of dialogue is actually The Artifact. In the original script, the teen who helped Wolverine was a young version of Cain Marko, AKA The Juggernaut, who he did actually encounter in X-Men: The Last Stand.Justified though if he met him in the decades since the last movie.
The future portion of the film fully incorporates the idea from First Class which established that Charles and Mystique grew up together. It can seem a bit jarring to see Patrick Stewart's Xavier sadly recounting how he once loved Mystique and considered her his sister, when there is absolutely no indication at any point in the original trilogy that the two were ever close or even knew one another.
Reset Button: For the entire franchise, as Wolverine's interference has essentially made First Class the only film in the series which is (still) canon with respect to the new timeline. By the end of the movie, Scott, Jean and Professor Xavier are alive again, Rogue has her powers back, and she and Bobby are dating again.
Retcon: X-Men: The Last Stand features a man named Trask as the head of homeland security, who was originally intended to the Bolivar Trask of this continuity. However, with the release of this film, "Secretary Trask" retroactively becomes a different character who just happens to have the same last name.
Retraux: The 1973 Sentinels are clearly based on their Silver Age comic inspirations. In sharp contrast, however, the 2023 Sentinels look more alien than robot.
Revenge: Mystique is motivated by her desire for vengeance after seeing what became of the mutants who Trask got a hold of.
"I land back in 1973—this is what the script says—I wake up next to a girl who I don't remember, and I get out of bed wearing boxer shorts. I was like, 'I don't know about America, but in Australia if you're next to a really good-looking girl, you're not getting out with boxer shorts on or briefs or anything.' So yeah, I went commando."
Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Wolverine is told up-front that he (and only he) will remember the Bad Future should he succeed in changing history. In the end, he wakes up in the "good future" with his memories diverging from real history since it was changed in 1973.
Robot War: The mutants' struggle against the Sentinels in the future.
Rule of Cool: It's unlikely that a functional interior room like a kitchen at the Pentagon would be designed with a circular shape, but it makes Quicksilver's Wall Run look cooler, so who cares?
Rule of Sexy: In the March 2014 issue of Empire magazine, James McAvoy states that he was more than willing to get rid of his luxurious locks for this movie, but as with First Class, the producers nixed the idea.
James McAvoy: I wanted to go bald in this one, [...] but they didn't go for it. I was gutted.
Rule of Symbolism: The presence (or at least the desire to have it) or absence of Magneto's telepathy-blocking helmet is a fairly good gauge of how unhealthy or healthy his relationship with Professor X is. As Simon Kinberg puts it, the finale marks the beginning of the characters' Friendly Enemy dynamic:
"At the end of the movie, [Magneto] flies away without his helmet, with the implication that he'll go off and continue to be Magneto in some form, but not be able to hide it from Charles, who'll be able to read his mind and track him. There's a truce of some kind between Charles and Magneto, but there's a part of Magneto that will always be the Magneto we know from the comics."
This article has made the following observation about the elderly Erik:
"From the photos, we see that Ian McKellen's older Magneto has no need for his iconic helmet that protects him from mutant telepaths since he's once again allied with old friend Charles Xavier."
San Dimas Time: Kitty explains that she can't physically send people back in time, only their consciousness. While Logan's mind gets sent back to inhabit his body in 1973, his 2023 body (and the rest of the X-Men) are still threatened by the approaching army of Sentinels, meaning that he only has so much time in the past to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
Sarcastic Confession: Shortly after arriving in the past, Wolverine is confronted by some thugs who want to kill him for sleeping with their boss's daughter. Wolverine tries to convince them that it was his past self who did it and that they shouldn't be punishing him, all the while cracking some time travel jokes.
Satellite Character: Despite receiving a fair amount of screentime, Hank doesn't undergo any proper character development, as his existence completely revolves around Charles.
Save Scumming: This is essentially how the X-Men in the Bad Future stay ahead of the Sentinels for so long; every time they are about to be wiped out, Kitty sends one of them (usually Bishop) a few days into the past to alert them and avoid the situation that led to them being trapped in the first place.
Save the Villain: This is actually the heroes' main objective, because if Mystique kills Trask, it will trigger the awakening of Sentinels which will bring about the apocalypse. Although they succeed, Trask doesn't get off a Karma Houdini as he is arrested for selling military secrets.
Say My Name: In 1973, Xavier screams "ERIIIIIIIIK!!!" when Sentinels begin shooting at the crowd that has gathered at the White House. Although Magneto (who is wearing a telepathy-blocking helmet) has not yet appeared in his line of vision, Charles just knows that no one else would be causing this mayhem.
Sequel Escalation: The film is an adaptation of one of the most epic and ambitious storylines in the comic's history, upping up the stakes, action, and the sheer number of mutants.
Sequel Goes Foreign: Although First Class was the first X-Men movie to make forays outside of North America, this one goes further, with all of the future scenes taking place either in Russia or China, and much of the '70s action unfolding in Paris and Saigon.
Sequel Hook: Two of them. First, Mystique rescues Wolverine from the river Magneto threw him in, though we know that turns out alright. The Stinger gives us a glimpse of Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen.
Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The main plot is their quest to avoid the Bad Future, by sending Wolverine's consciousness back in time in order to stop the events that would lead to the dystopian future.
The Seventies: Part of the film takes place in 1973, complete with the Porn Stache, Richard Nixon, bell-bottoms and polyester.
The Shangri-La: The last refuge of the mutants in 2023 is an abandoned temple or monastery atop some windswept mountains in China.
Shaggy Dog Story: Partly in the sense that Wolverine was sent to the past to get Charles and Erik to put their differences aside. While they do ultimately succeed to prevent Mystique from assassinating Trask, Erik still pulls a Heel Face Door Slam.
Shirtless Scene: The younger Magneto has one when he's analyzing the Sentinel schematics.
Shoo Out the Clowns: Every mutant introduced in X-Men: First Class except Havok was killed off at some point between films. First Class is easily the most lighthearted of the X-Men movies and the characters killed—Emma Frost, Angel Salvatore, Banshee, and Azazel—represent its more colorful tone.
Naked on Arrival from a bleak future dominated by a Robot War, the time-shifted Wolverine demands a goon hand over his clothes and vehicle. Hello there, Terminator 2! Although in this case, it wasn't the time-traveler who was naked, but the body he was jumping into that happened to be naked at the time.
Magneto quotes James Brown's "The Payback" during his rescue.
Erik: I don't know karate, but I know crazy.
The beginning of the film has the mutants hiding in the subway system under post-apocalyptic Moscow, in a possible homage to Metro 2033.
Villain planning to stop humanity's wars by uniting them against an enemy that isn't actually an enemy? Where have we seen that before?. Bonus points for Nixon being the President in both cases.
There's a scene from the 2003 Children of Dune miniseries where Leto Atreides II (played by James McAvoy) collapses to the ground in agony because he is overwhelmed by the voices in his head. A woman then asks him, "Are you crazy yet?", which mirrors Charles' belief that he had lost his mind after the onset of his telepathy. Moreover, Leto has Bene Gesserit training, so his use of the Voice to control another person's behaviour is virtually identical to Xavier's powers.
The ending is actually reminiscent of the end of Back to the Future as well. In both films, the protagonist wakes up in his room in a happier altered future, is initially confused by his surroundings, and is specifically asked by another character "Is everything alright?"
Sibling Yin-Yang: Eleven years after First Class, Charles and Raven have not only become estranged, but also polar opposites in almost every way, especially in regards to ideology and diplomacy. Her sparing of Trask and the president shows that Raven isn't quite as far gone as originally believed, though.
Skyward Scream: Blink lets out a small cry towards the heavens after being stabbed by three Sentinels.
The Slow Path: In the ending sequence, Logan may be the only one with a Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory, but having interacted with Future Logan in the 1970s, Charles immediately understands what has happened when Logan wakes up disoriented in the altered future.
Smart People Play Chess: Xavier and Magneto. But, in this case, it was more like discussing with a chess table between them, without playing much. The lack of play and banter almost seems to symbolize the extreme distance and hostility (perhaps the worst in the series) between them, including Erik's violent outburst just minutes earlier.
Sophisticated as Hell: The younger Xavier specifically fulfills the "A normally formal character resorting to profanity due to intense circumstances" example. This is the first movie where the otherwise polite and erudite Charles uses coarse language such as "fuck" and "shite."
In the original story, future Wolverine died during an ill-fated attack on the Sentinels headquarters. In the movie, he's the one who travels back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
In the original comic, Future Magento was the first to die, sacrificing himself early on by providing an off-panel diversion so the remaining resistance could escape their imprisonment. During the Last Stand in the film, although he's badly wounded, he never succumbs to his wounds before the timeline is reset.
The temp score used in the Comic Con trailer is a Hans Zimmer piece called "Time."
In Vietnam, Mystique, disguised as a male army colonel, freed some quarantined mutants. His name was Sanders.
Story-Breaker Power: Quicksilver gets Put on a Bus after the Pentagon raid because, as that raid shows, he is downright unstoppable. While moving at Super Speed, simply tapping a person is the practical equivalent of getting hit by a heavyweight boxer, and he can take out an entire room of armed guards so quickly that their bullets weren't even able to reach the people they had shot at when he started.
Except for Havok, all of the mutants introduced in X-Men: First Class are dead—killed and studied by Trask at some point between films.
Arguably a case of Shoo Out the Clowns as well. While not exactly humorous, First Class is still the most lighthearted X-Men movie and the characters killed—Emma Frost, Angel Salvatore, Banshee, and Azazel—represent its campier tone. Seeing their autopsy photos drives the point home with a sledgehammer, especially since Banshee was most likely still a teenager.
Super Window Jump: Mystique tried this to escape from Magneto. It did not work very well.
Professor X was Wolverine's mentor in the original trilogy, but in 1973, Logan has to try to motivate and counsel an emotionally damaged Xavier.
Professor X: Logan, you're going to have to do for me what I once did for you. Lead me, guide me.
Not surprisingly, the abrasive Wolverine isn't very good at this task, and it's lampshaded in the following exchange:
Past Charles: I'm sorry Logan, but they sent back the wrong man. Logan: You're right.
This also applies to Charles and Hank. In X-Men: First Class, Xavier acted as a big brother figure to McCoy (they're about a decade apart in age), but after 1963, Hank becomes responsible for Charles. Although McCoy certainly prevents his friend from doing anything too self-destructive, he inadvertently becomes Xavier's enabler by inventing an addictive telepathy-blocking serum. Considering that Hank was probably only around 21 years old when he suddenly found himself in the position of being Charles' long-term caregiver (plus he has no experience looking after someone who is mentally ill), it's understandable that he couldn't help his former mentor as well as he would've liked.
Talking to Themself: Future!Charles and Past!Charles are able to have a heartfelt conversation, with the former ultimately reviving the latter's broken resolve.
Teleport Spam: Blink's main tactic in fight scenes. Opening portals in the paths of projectiles, Beam Spam, and even blades to make Sentinels injure each other or themselves.
Tender Tears: A huge part of Charles's character development is centered around his huge capacity for empathy, and how he needs to learn to move past his own pain for the benefit of others, so he spends a good percentage of the film either on the verge of tears or outright crying.
When Hank tells Logan that "the Professor isn't here," Xavier is still living in his estate, only he has lost his powers and the will to lead mutants, thus dissociating himself from his identity as Professor X.
Doubles as a Callback to the previous movie when he repeatedly insisted that "you don't get to be called that until you have a teaching position."
At the beginning, Mystique tells Alex that Raven isn't her name anymore. Given how the film ends, it's ambiguous if she still feels this way.
There Are No Therapists: You'd think that Hank would try to get a therapist to help Charles with his depression and substance abuse, yet it doesn't happen. It could be Justified that Xavier wants to avoid mental health professionals because it's suggested that he was treated like a schizophrenic patient as a child, and considering how a few psychiatric practices of the 1940's are viewed as unethical today, Charles has no desire to risk a repeat of his past experience.
Thou Shalt Not Kill: Most of the X-Men movies have the characters perfectly okay with using lethal force, but this is a specific plot point in this film. It's stated that the young version of Mystique never killed anyone (even the people she used her Shapeshifter powers to impersonate), but Jumped Off The Slippery Slope when she decided to kill Bolivar Trask. Her decision to kill Trask set off a chain of events resulting in a Bad Future, which is the main reason Wolverine travels back in time to stop her.
Three Plus Two: The '70s trio of Charles, Logan, and Hank are joined by Peter, then Erik. Subverted in that Peter is Put on a Bus almost immediately after rescuing Erik, and then Erik reassumes his Big Bad position.
In comparison to X-Men: First Class where her only physical scenes involve weight training and her shape-changing abilities used only as a distraction to aid someone else, Mystique has developed into using some of the acrobatic fighting style that her older counterpart from the first trilogy excels at.
In X-Men: First Class, Havok lacks accuracy with his destructive powers, but shows signs of improvement by the end. In his brief scene here, he neutralizes a soldier using a non-lethal blast with little effort.
Iceman has taken several more levels in comparison to the previous films, including the debut of the iconic ice slide from the comics.
Trekkie: It's hinted that Hank is a fan of Star Trek: The Original Series (an episode is playing on one of his TVs), which is fitting considering that he's Adorkable and a Hollywood Nerd. He describes Peter's mutation as "fascinating," which is a reference to Spock. Bryan Singer's favourite fandom is Star Trek, so it's natural that he would want to bestow that quality on the character (who, coincidentally, can be called Dr. McCoy).
Trust Password: Logan convinces '70s Charles to hear him out by telling him some details about his childhood that he learned from future Charles and that the younger Xavier hadn't told anyone up until this point in time.
Logan: I know your powers came when you were nine. I know you thought you were going crazy when it started, all the voices in your head, and it wasn't until you were twelve that you realized all the voices were in everyone else's head.
There are plenty of other things that Hank could do with his time, yet he chooses to stay by Xavier's side, taking care of him during the latter's decade-long Heroic BSOD. Hank may even be a little too loyal because he serves as Charles' enabler by providing a serum which worsens his friend's already bad case of substance abuse.
Wolverine has developed this for Xavier during the Time Skip after the post-credits scene of The Wolverine. Although both Magneto and Professor X are co-leaders of the remaining X-Men in 2023, Logan only defers to Charles' authority. When Erik tells him that, "You'll need me as well [in the past]," Wolverine is wholly against the idea, but he reluctantly agrees after Xavier nods in approval.
Unkempt Beauty: Charles' appearance in 1973 is rather sloppy and disheveled, especially in comparison to the other movies, yet he is still an attractive man. This was done on purpose by the filmmakers (see the Rule of Sexy entry), and it conveniently evokes the Looks Like Jesus trope, as Christ is often depicted as being handsome in art.
The Unmasqued World: The existence of mutants was already known within some government organizations (in fact, they had Magneto in prison), but the world at large ignored it. Then, the peace talks for Vietnam were interrupted when a blue woman that could shapeshift jumped from the window, followed by a man that controlled metals with a gesture and a blue feral man. And, as if that was not enough, this mutant levitated a stadium across a state, hurled it against the White House, extracted the panic room from it, and gave a New Era Speech for the television. Now, absolutely everybody knows about mutants.
Unreliable Expositor: According to Erik, he curved the bullet in an attempt to save JFK since he was actually a mutant, but failed.
Unstable Genetic Code: Seems to be the case with Mystique, as her blood cells constantly change when under a microscope. Trask says that her DNA might be the "key to mutation itself."
Unstoppable Rage: Beast against Magneto, which is decidedly in Beast's favor, to the extent that Beast almost drowns him. Magneto only barely manages to save himself by using a nearby sculpture to restrain Beast.
Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Mystique's plan was simply to avenge a number of dead mutants by killing the man who had experimented with their corpses. That man had projects, rejected by the Congress, to build powerful robots to kill mutants. His death proved his point, that mutants were an actual menace, and so his projects were restored and continued. The Sentinels would prove so deadly and effective that they would cause the apocalyptic future seen at the begining of the story. Of course, Mystique had never intended any of that, all she wanted was some basic and plain revenge.
Villain Has a Point: Trask. He made a lot of work to convince obstructive bureaucrats that mutants do exist, that they can be dangerous, and that America needs some kind of protection from them... and Magneto proved that Trask was completely right.
Villains Never Lie: '70s Erik claims he's never lied to Raven, while manipulating her towards his cause.
Visionary Villain: Trask genuinely believes that uniting humanity against mutantkind is the gateway to creating world peace. Conversely, Magneto has a vision of a world where mutants lord over mankind, which, in his opinion, is the only way they can coexist with humans.
Was It Really Worth It?: As the older Erik lies dying in the Bad Future, he laments to Charles about all the time they had lost to ideological and political differences when they could've been close friends and fighting alongside each other instead. Considering their current circumstances, it looks like it wasn't worth it.
Magneto: All those years we wasted fighting each other, Charles...
We All Die Someday: When Logan confronts Xavier on not caring about the mutant genocide in the future, he responds with this trope as a sign of how broken he is.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Magneto, Mystique, and Trask all want to do what's best for their people. All three of them are willing to go to any lengths to accomplish this. Trask is an interesting case in that he is not motivated by the typical villain desires of money or power, but he genuinely believes that fighting the mutants will unify humanity and end such conflicts as the Cold War.
What Did I Do Last Night?: Happens when the Mind Time Travel is used. When Wolverine returns to 1973, he has no idea of where he is, or who the girl is he had just had sex with (more probably, he just can't remember). When he wakes up in the new future, he has no idea about anything he had been doing for the last 5 decades.
Mystique is shown impersonating William Stryker at the end of the movie, but what she did with the real Stryker is unclear.
Magneto doesn't mention Riptide's death alongside the other deceased Brotherhood members, although Mystique does find a autopsy file on him in Trask's office, indicating that he was killed in-between films as well.
Angel is the only X-Man killed in the Bad Future not to appear in the new timeline. In fact, he doesn't appear in the movie at all. Even future Beast, who debuted in the same movie as Angel, got to make a cameo!
What became of future Magneto (or Mystique for that matter) in the new timeline isn't shown.
Young Magneto goes into an outburst about how fellow mutants were being killed left and right while Young Charles has been in hiding with Hank.
Erik: Angel, Azazel, Emma, Banshee. Mutant brothers and sisters, all dead! Countless others, experimented on! Butchered! Where were you, Charles?! We were supposed to protect them! Where were you when your own people needed you?! Hiding! You and Hank! Pretending to be something you're not! You abandoned us all!
Before that, Logan calls Charles a little shit for his cavalier attitude about the future.
What You Are in the Dark: Invoked by Charles. In the climax, he's urged to put Mystique out of commission so she won't kickstart the Bad Future. However, he realizes that Mystique has spent her life being influenced by others, so he instead tells her that he will do nothing to stop her, but hopes that she will see there is a better way. She agrees and stands down.
Who Shot JFK?: The Bent Bullet, part of the ARG campaign for the film, has Magneto as the man on the grassy knoll, having used his powers to alter the trajectory of Oswald's bullet, which led to Kennedy's death. However, it is implied that Magneto was trying to stop the shooter... who was actually Mystique and not the real Oswald (Though this would seem out of character with her portrayal in the film, where she is stated to have never tried to kill anyone before Trask). In the film itself, Magneto is being held in the Pentagon for it, but claims to Xavier that he was trying to save Kennedy because he was a mutant. We never find out if he was lying or not.
Would Harm A Child: Bolivar Trask and the people working on the Sentinel program. It's subtly confirmed when Mystique finds the autopsy reports, one of which belongs to Sean Cassidy (Banshee). It's very likely that Sean was still a teenager when he disappeared.
You Cannot Kill An Idea: The Bad Future is set off by Mystique killing Trask, since he was the head of the Sentinel program. Killing him only convinced others to continue his work, and the future happened. When it comes down to it, the aesop is that you cannot kill an idea, but must discredit it.
Played with actually. The Sentinel-ravaged post-apocalyptic future is averted. However, the last scene in the altered future suggests that for the most part, the history of the X-men unfolded more or less the same way. Word Of God themselves admit as much. No matter how much history changes, Professor X will always found the X-men; Cyclops, Jean, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Iceman etc. will always end up at the Mansion; and Stryker or no Stryker, Logan always gets his adamantium claws.Status Quo Is God in other words!
You Don't Look Like You: Beast's makeup in this film is less feline-looking, and more reminiscent of Kelsey Grammer's Beast.
You Monster!: The younger Charles considers Magneto to be a monster, which is why he initially resists Logan's suggestion that they break Erik out of the Pentagon.
You Shall Not Pass: A dying Magneto uses the remnants of the Blackbird to armor up the door leading to Kitty, Wolverine, and Professor X. Bonus points for Sir Ian McKellen invoking the trope.