“In the future, it's a very dire situation for the X-Men.”
X-Men: Days of Future Past has already set itself apart from previous X-Men films even months before its release, not only because of the gargantuan cast and adaptation of a beloved story, but because of another primary feature: The Sentinels. A longstanding foe in the lore of the X-Men, we've only seen a hint of these mechanical titans in the previous films, which screenwriter Simon Kinberg referred to as “A not so awesome moment,” but in their latest big screen outing they'll be going toe-to-toe with the 25-foot killers.
Twentieth Century Fox isn't hiding the Sentinels either. Director Bryan Singer released the first image of the practical Sentinel on his Twitter feed, and then the viral marketing for Trask Industries started showing off how the robots had been used throughout history, including being present for Ronald Reagan's Presidential inauguration. But what makes what they're doing here different from the countless other robot films that we've seen in the past five years?
“There are movies like 'Transformers,' and 'Iron Man,' and 'Pacific Rim,' that have already explored robots of all different sizes and shapes and scope and caliber,” Singer said. “I knew that to make another robot attacks people or hero movie is not (ideal) – yet they are an element in the picture. So they serve the story in an interesting move, and not necessarily in an obvious rock-em-sock-em battle robots at the end of the movie kind of way, although there is some of that now that I'm really thinking about it. Come to think of it, more than I probably realize. It's just not that, particular what you saw in that picture, is not the totality of it. That's not exactly the whole of the technological threat.”
Legacy Effects, the geniuses that designed and built the characters and props for the Iron Man films, Avatar, The Amazing Spider-Man and many more, came up with the designs for the Sentinels and even built the practical one used on set. During the design phase, the company came to Singer with a wide range of potential designs for the different parts of the robots.
“I had very strong feelings about all of the designs about the characters and very specific about what I was looking for, and (Legacy) came with different ideas, different head ideas, different body ideas. Originally it had this round thing and then a big fan, and I'm friends with Guillermo so he let me watch Pacific Rim a while ago so unfortunately I had to say, 'It's too much like those robots. I need something cruder, more seventies.' So I had them put in the vent on the chest.”
You may have noticed the look for the Mark 1 Sentinel looks a little glossier than normal, and maybe not exactly made out of metal. Well, you're correct. The stylization of the Mark 1 was designed to reflect both the era of their creation (1973) as well as give them proper function against, say, mutants that can control metal.
“Well, we tried to make the Sentinels of the past a little fun and stylish but also a little retro,” Singer mentioned. “And the key is they're not made of metal. That's very important to our story because we've got a very powerful mutant. So that was a challenge to, to make them look like they could be made of polymer or some other material, plastic or something, but still have them be formidable when flying around and all that.”
X-Men: Days of Future Past also has the distinction of being the only "X-Men" film shot in 3D (2013's The Wolverine was post-converted). It also marks Singer's second outing with a 3D film, with his previous film Jack the Giant Slayer being his first go at the format, and he's already changed out he approaches the material from that film.
“I became so captivated and caught up with the framing for the 3D that I didn't shoot as aggressively as I had in my previous action/adventure films,” Singer revealed about working on Jack the Giant Slayer. “I wasn't giving my editor the volume of material, he complained tremendously about it that I wasn't giving him the coverage.”
“We're looking at this differently,” Lauren Shuler Donner added. “In Bryan's last movie I know he only watched the 3D monitor and focused on that. This time now he'll go check all the time, but he's also now focusing more on the characters and you can only do that really in 2D, because you can either watch the frame and how its going or as a director you can look at your actors which is what it's all about.”
Singer revealed to us that most of the film was being shot in 3D, with mostly the complex action sequences, that require an agile camera, being shot in 2D. These sequences will be converted after the film is completed. He also mentioned that the sequence we saw being filmed on the jet was being shot in 2D, but for good reason.
“Today is a very rare day where I'm shooting 2D because you can't get the cameras, lenses, and rigs in the jet, but normally, we did an intimate scene in that jet that follows this scene where I actually forced the 3D cameras into the space. So this is rare, normally we'd be shooting native stereo.”
Special effects have been key for bringing the X-Men to life, but none of them have had quite this level of special effects. All told, producer Hutch Parker tells us it would be a safe bet there will be over one thousand effect shots in the completed film.