Days of Future Past managed to dazzle viewers with its host of mutants, and X-treme displays of power - but everyone's favorite mutant hunting robots quickly became the center of attention, and the focal of the DoFP narrative.
Still reveling in the aftermath of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we’re back to present you with another Weekdays of Future Past post, this time focusing on one of the most iconic antagonist in the X-series – The Sentinels. Any X-Men fan will tell you that the Sentinels and the X-Men go way back. All the way to the 1965 November release of X-Men (vol. 1) #14, serving as one of, if not the most iconic antagonists in the canon.
The three-story tall robots debut in the same issue as their creator Bolivar Trask, making quite the grand entrance. Mastermold - A super Sentinel with A.I. and almost sentient qualities make his debut in the issue as well, becoming a miniature Sentinel producing plant. But the evolution of the Sentinel has been one to watch, with prototypes of all shapes, sizes and functions. One standout Sentinel foe would be Nimrod – a shapeshifting virtually indestructible robot hailing from Rachel Grey’s (aka The Days of Future Past timeline), or Bastion and his league of Prime Sentinels - hybrid humans who had been fitted with cybernetic nanotech implants. The Primes were used to execute Operation: Zero Tolerance program, a government crackdown on the mutant populace.
The Tri-Sentinel – created by the one and only Loki was the merging of three regular Sentinels used as as a weaponized attack on a nuclear power plant on Long Island. Luckily Spider-Man was there to save the day. The Tri-Sentinel would later reappear under the command of Cassandra Nova, and was responsible for the complete destruction of Genosha, which housed a significant mutant population. One of the most interesting spins on the Sentinel program is the introduction of the Nano Sentinels in New X-Men. Again under the command of Cassandra Nova, the microscopic nano-machines targeted mutant bloodstreams and ate away at the victim on a cellular level, causing flu-like symptoms.
The true power of the sentinels in the comics is that they serve as weaponized symbols of the hate and ignorance of man. This was a comic that dawned in the middle of the civil rights movement, and seeing something so absurd (because it should be acknowledged that blue and purple probably aren’t the most ideal colors for giant robots.) take on literal and symbolic meanings for human emotion is incredible powerful. Which is why the X-Men’s most dangerous threats in the comics are various forms of zealotry like Cameron Hodge and The Right, or William Stryker – who slightly varies from his X2 counterpart – a religious military leader that heads the Purifiers, a mutant hate group working towards the eradication of all mutantkind. Its foes such as Hodge, Stryker and the Sentinels who directly challenge what the X-Men fight for – equality and social justice.
Of course, there are a few key moments where the Sentinel technology has actually been used to make allies for the X-Men. Branching out of the Operation: Zero Tolerance storyline, a sleeper agent Prime Sentinel known as Karima Shapandar awakened well after O:ZT, but she was able to override her programming and use the Sentinel tech in her body as Omega Sentinel. She served as a member of the X-Men until very recently, when her Sentinel code was rewritten and she was destroyed. There was also a military unit known as Sentinel Squad ONE that were assigned to protect the X-Men and were controlled by human pilots, but unsurprisingly the initiative failed and the Sentinels were once again turned against the X-Men.
But perhaps more iconic than the comics was the Sentinels that appeared in the 90s cartoon. There isn’t a vast difference from comic book to the small screen, though the Sentinels always seemed to be after Jubilee. Maybe the raincoat? Either way, they’re more of a light hearted take than the comics. They’re big, clunky and not truly a threat until their numbers increase.
The Sentinels had an interesting evolution in the film, similar to Stark tech armor, the suits advanced with the labels of Mark I (the first model), II, IV, etc and Mark X being the last. The Sentinels in Days of Future Past were pretty bad ass, both future and past iterations looked modern and fitting for the appropriate time zone. The original Trask Sentinels in the movie vary in color – no blue, but the white is reminiscent of 90s macs. The Sentinels in the past timeline didn’t really project a threatening image, If anything the machines were experimental and still easily manipulated by Magneto (With the help of some metal magic, of course), and despite Trask’s persistence on the use of the Sentinel program, the message of threat implied by their comic parts wasn’t as strong as we liked. However the marketing for the movie does a phenomenal job in capturing the essence of the Sentinel’s power in the poster on the right.
In the future timeline, I referenced the constant feel of dread for the fate of our heroes – an obvious angst created by the more evolved Mark X. It was in the future scenes of the film where the Sentinel really shined. And though fans didn’t get the iconic “Wolverine blast scene” from the comics, the Sentinel horde showed improved strategic plays (like Storm’s death scene), and the ability to acclimate to their environments and opponents might have made them the most formidable and undefeatable foe in the cinematic universe.
Mystique serves as a good catalyst for the bases of the Sentinel X program. Even looking at the fluidity of the Mark X’s transformations in battle scenes resembled Mystique’s morphing abilities. The look here is more threatening, and when images were released online prior to the film’s release of the Mark X, fans were divided. We personally loved the new Mark X designs. General bad-assery aside, the Mark X is quite the killing machine in action. And it’s the opening sequence in the film where we see our entire future team decimated in a no holds barred fight. Colossus’s steel exterior used against him, using temperature to combat Iceman and Sunspot’s attacks – that’s the moment more than any, that informs the audience that these Sentinels aren’t their clunky purple and blue comic counterparts, and maybe we should be worried for our heroes.
Fox released a series of images for some of the concept Mark X designs, and they’re all pretty intense. It would’ve been awesome to maybe see these designs used in multiple variations of the Sentinels. If the machines achieved global domination, they were bound to have an order or hierarchy of sort. Maybe a battle drone Sentinel to deal with civilian humans and mutants as opposed to a special, more sentient Mark X to deal with the likes of the X-Men. That would’ve worked well as a great opportunity to introduce Nimrod as well.
Did you guys love the Sentinels in Days of Future Past? Or do you prefer the comic versions? Be sure to sound off in the comment section of the Geek Facebook page as we wrap up Weekdays of Future Past.
All Images: 20th Century Fox and Marvel