I had a moment of reflection the other day. I was watching Days of Future Past, and I was paying close(er) attention to Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), more specifically to his motivations and what made him (in my humble opinion) an excellent villain. I think it’s sad that Trask’s role didn’t impact the movie as much as it could. Let me expand on this point: During the movie we get more involved in the internal conflicts between the mutants, and the role of “terryfying monster” falls to the sentinels and, on ocassion, Magneto. When we analise the movie deeper, we realise that Trask is the ultimate force of evil, but to a casual observer, he lacks presence, he’s not “there” enough. And it’s not the fault of the actor, but of the importance given to him on screen and as a power to be reckoned with. His villainy serves as a driving plot to unify or divide mutants, and not to highlight the very real threat that people who “are different” face every day, in every time-stream, in every ‘verse.
Wowever, when we sit down to inspect his motives, and when we really pay attention to this character, we see terror far beyong fictional killing machines. We see something that makes our skin crawl. And it’s nothing more than the realisation that Trask, much like Dolores Umbridge on Harry Potter, is a very human character who represents a very human evil. He’s the embodiment of things we’ve all encountered in reality: Fear, ignorance and intolerance, pumped up by power and public validation.
It’s a mostly unspoken feeling amongst the most serious adults, that the times we live in, times of war, of intolerance, of insecurity, prejudice, fear, hate, and catastrophe; that these times aren’t to be wasted in silly stories. The uncle Vernon in the less imaginative screams that, indeed, there’s no such thing as magic. But I’ll brandish a technicolor flag at those who forgot how to dream.
Today is when we need these stories the most, and it is when we should heed them the most.
Bolivar Trask is a powerful businessman with ridiculous amounts of money and influence, positioned in a powerful stance, and influenced by ignorance, prejudice, ego, and a misunderstood hero complex. If that doesn’t ring a bell, I suggest taking a look at the presidential candidates in most countries.
James Jonah Jameson (yeah, the mustahcey guy from Spider-Man), is a newspaper owner bent on proving a biased point of view. If that doesn’t represent big media moguls, I’m not sure what does.
The Galactic Empire is every democracy turned into an authoritarian government, turned into a military dictatorship. And I could go on listing every major baddie from most fantastic or sci-fi story, and we would find a very distinguishable pattern.
In the end, intolerance to the differences that makes us human is what terrifies us the most, not because of the superlative effects given to it by fictional stories, but because of the very painful and very tangible effects that we see represented on screen.
I wish the movie should have allowed Trask to properly evolve into a full fledged villain, I wish Peter Dinklage could’ve gotten the chance to do a sequel and that the story would have allowed us to hate the guy’s guts. Because a hero is only as good as the antagonist, and Days of Future past falls short in that regard, feeling in the end like the excuse to reboot a franchise. A very, very enjoyable movie; but one that could have become a stepping stone for more resonant stories.