A few weeks behind everyone else, my wife and I finally saw X-Men: Days of Future Past. This might be one of the most brilliant films I’ve ever seen. One of the coolest moments is the scene at the Pentagon where the mutant speedster Quicksilver (played by Evan Peters) takes out a group of security guards in a kitchen. Not only is it a special effects feast, but for storytellers, it delivers a powerful reminder of the difference that point-of-view can make in a story.
For a large portion of the scenes involving Marvel’s most famous super-speedster, we witness his powers on display in a blur of action. This makes sense for those scenes, because they’re being told from the point-of-view of other characters, such as Wolverine and Magneto. They aren’t super fast, so all of Quicksilver’s actions are too fast for them to see anything other than the results. I think most directors would have made the mistake of using this treatment for all of Quicksilver’s scenes.
Then we get the moment in the Pentagon’s kitchen where a large group of security guards have cornered Quicksilver, Professor X, Magneto and Wolverine. This scene belongs to Quicksilver and is shown from his perspective. Instead of watching his actions in a blur, we’re given the opposite view. We watch how incredibly slow the world move’s from Quicksilver’s point-of-view as he runs through the room to disarm the guards, redirect the bullets going towards the mutants, avoid the metal utensils launched into the air by Magneto, and even to sample some of the soup before it can spill to the floor. Sure the moment pays off because of the visual effects, but not taking that simple moment to see the world through Quicksilver’s eyes would cheat the audience out of something special.
Switching to Quicksilver’s perspective does a lot more than just create a great special effects moment. It tells us a lot about who he is. This guy is a prankster with a purpose, and this scene puts that on display. Even as he’s goofing around, almost every action he takes is to the single goal of making sure the mutants get out of there alive. He also doesn’t do anything that would get anyone killed. When you see how easily he can get the drop on every guard, it’s not difficult to realize he could just as easily grab one of the knives in the kitchen and kill them. Only, he chooses not to. That shows us he has some self-control and a sense of ethics.
This scene in the latest X-Men film provides a fun reminder that we need to be careful which character’s eyes we use to tell a story. When a writer makes that choice for a scene, it changes what the reader takes from it.