X-Men Untangled

So a couple of weeks ago I saw Logan, the latest film in the X-Men series. It’s a fantastic film and if you haven’t seen it, do so now. Or at least when you’ve finished reading this.

I then decided to rewatch all the previous X-films, starting at the beginning with X-Men. What I noticed when I got as far as X-Men: First Class was how glaringly obvious all the changes to the continuity were. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve always been there, and it’s not like I hadn’t picked up on them before, but when the information given to you in a previous film is still fresh in your mind because you’ve only recently watched it, it is quite jarring.

(NB For the purposes of this post, I am going to ignore any errors created by the alternate timeline and the time travel in Days Of Future Past. The differences I am talking about were all there before Wolverine went and changed everything.)

For example, in X-Men, Charles Xavier tells Logan that he first met Erik Lehnsherr when he was 17, but in X-Men: First Class, he is clearly at least in his twenties when they meet. Logan provides even more information by stating that in 2029, when the film is set, Charles is 90. This tells us that he was born in 1939, which means that in 1962, when First Class is set, he is 23, not 17.

Let’s now look at Charles’s timeline with regard to the use of his legs:

  1. 1962 – First Class: is shot in the back which takes away the use of his legs
  2. 1973 – Days Of Future Past: has the use of his legs and no powers, both due to Hank McCoy’s serum
  3. 1979 – Origins: Wolverine: has the use of his legs and has his powers
  4. “the not too distant future” – X-Men onwards: has his powers but not the use of his legs

It is conceivable that between 1973 and 1979 he and Hank were able to modify the serum so that he could walk and still have his powers, but if that were the case why would he then need to use the wheelchair? OK, maybe they couldn’t make any more serum. Or maybe he got shot in the back again…

There are other inconsistencies too. The Last Stand, released in 2006, takes place in “the not too distant future”, and has an opening prologue set “20 years ago”, placing it in “the not too distant future of 1986”. In that scene Jean Grey is shown as a girl of approximately 12-13 years of age. But in Apocalypse, set in 1983 – at least three years prior – she is around 16 years old. I know – Apocalypse is in that pesky alternate timeline. But Wolverine travelling back to 1973 wouldn’t have changed Jean’s birthdate, particularly as it was before 1973.

There are lots of other changes that I haven’t touched on:

  • Mystique becoming Charles’s “sister”;
  • When Wolverine arrives in 1973 in Days Of Future Past, where is Victor Creed? Aren’t they still inseparable at this point?
  • The differences in age and appearance of William Stryker in Days Of Future Past and Origins (he looks much older in Origins than DOFP despite the Vietnam sequence taking place only a few months later);
  • Don’t get me started on Bolivar Trask changing from a bald black man to a white dwarf….

Clearly the reasons why these differences/errors exist is because the writers of the prequel films chose to disregard some of what had happened in the previous films. However, there is a way to look at these films so that the errors are not errors: Treat them as two completely separate entities. First Class was not actually the prequel that it was dressed up to be, it’s a reboot. Just like The Amazing Spider-Man rebooted a perfectly good superhero franchise (well.. mostly..), so did First Class, and created a new series within the franchise that also includes Days Of Future Past and Apocalypse. All the other X-films exist in their own timeline: Origins, X-Men, X2, The Last Stand, The Wolverine and Logan. (There is a case to argue that Logan follows on from the alternate timeline after Apocalypse, which I believe was also the intention of the filmmakers, but I think it makes much more sense to place it directly after The Wolverine, particularly given the two actors involved and all that we have seen them go through in their previous films.)

And there you have it. That is how I shall continue to view these films. I’m sure others have their opinions and I would love to hear them.

Maybe in a future post I’ll look at the James Bond series in a similar vein. Might take a bit longer to research that though…..


2 thoughts on “X-Men Untangled

  1. Good read as usual.
    The inconsistencies of franchises are my biggest regret of being a film fan, in particular with x-men.
    I’m a huge James Bond fan! I’m always going over the timeline in my head, in particular when driving from one client to another and have nothing better to do.
    I’d love to hear your thoughts on that franchise.


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