In one fell tweet director of the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, Bryan Singer, solidified the frustratingly confusing timeline of the X-Men movie universe by confirming that Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart would be reprising their roles as Erik Lensherr/Magneto and Charles Xavier/Prof. X. The two will be joining their younger counterparts Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy in one of the more well-known X-Men comic book storylines involving a plot that will result in a future where mutants are nearly hunted to extinction by Sentinel robots created in the wake of anti-mutant hysteria brought on by the very event The X-Men are trying to stop.
So I’m a details person. I like continuity within franchises because, if I’m going to believe that characters exist within a grounded reality, I need to know that the reality is consistently maintained. The X-Men movies spit in the face of all that by loosely tying their movies together through the use of the same actors in specific roles instead of, say, getting their stories straight. The first three X-Men movies laid the foundation for the X-Men universe on film (even if X-3 got everything wrong except for the concept of the mutant cure and Beast), but X-Men Origins: Wolverine started taking some liberties with the continuity in terms of how Logan got into the Weapon X program as established in X-2 and his interactions with other mutants he’d supposedly already met yet all seemed to have forgotten they met him when he was the one who lost his memory. Sabertooth and Cyclops come to mind – but Cyclops was blindfolded at the time, what’s Sabertooth’s excuse? X-Men: First Class was an opportunity to reboot the franchise by starting at the very beginning…which got mucked up by ignoring plot points from the previous films and using cameos from Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Romijn that locked the movie into the same continuity and created even more problems. How can Emma Frost be an adult in the 1960’s and a teenager in the 1980s? Why is Cyclops’ younger brother in the first class when Xavier stated in the first X-Men film that Scott, Jean, and Storm were among his first students? Why does Beast look like a nightmarish Furby with glasses?
Obviously I have a lot of time to think about these things.
There are, however, some positives that could come from this…sequel? If it involves the younger Charles and Magneto, then it’s still a prequel, but the sequel to the prequel. But if we also have the older versions, then does that make the movie a sequel to the original three X-Movies? Arrrgh! My head hurts. Positives! Focus on the positives. Right, so, one of the big positives is that we have four talented and amazing actors playing the two most important characters of the X-Men Universe. Sorry, Wolvie fans. In the first three movies, McKellen and Stewart embodied Magneto and Prof. X in such a way that fans couldn’t imagine anyone else playing them. Though skeptical of Fassbender and McAvoy’s casting in the beginning, they proved to be the strongest parts of X-Men: First Class. So much so that I really wish the entire movie had just been about young Erik and Charles going on mutant adventures! So, at the least, we know that some of the acting will be top notch!
The secondary positive is that Days of Future Past involves time travel and alternate realities…kinda. Written by Chris Claremont in 1981, the storyline involved an older Kitty Pryde transferring her mind from the future into her past self to stop the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly. Considering we already met Senator Kelly in the first X-Men movie, and he died, there may be some kajiggering of the plot. Then again, this is the X-Men, so why wouldn’t Kelly be a young senator in the 60’s/70’s and then a middle aged man in the year 2000? Which brings us back to the positive of this particular storyline. A useful crutch in comic books to fix certain “problems” that arise from continuity errors, time travel and alternate realities have already been utilized as a means of explaining rebooted franchises. Think JJ Abram’s Star Trek. Same characters in an alternate reality that doesn’t negate the old timeline established in the old series and the movies. Days of Future Past could explain some of the more blatant continuity errors in the X-franchise while telling an intriguing story about actions and consequences, racism, hysteria, and blah-blah-blah just get to the Sentinels already!
We won’t really know how the movie will play out until a synopsis appears on the internet. Maybe the whole X-franchise will be revealed as a dream and we’ll find Bobby Ewing in the shower acting like nothing’s changed…now I made myself sad (R.I.P. Larry Hagman). But, for the time being, we know that at least Magneto and Prof. X are secure in their past and future selves. How it all fits together is anybody’s guess, but hopefully Singer will fix this broken machine.
Update: In news that will surprise no one, Hugh Jackman may be in talks to reprise his role as Wolverine/Logan according to The Hollywood Reporter. Given that Old Man Logan is right there on the well-known cover to Days of Future Past, and the fact that Jackman has been in every X-Men film thus far…probably a safe bet.