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Over 50 years and 23 movies James Bond has moved with the times without aging. The stories in the films are largely self contained. The continuity from one film to the next is shaky at best. Comic books have a different approach having story arcs that last months or years, eventually however they rewrite history often as new writers come in. Sometimes this is done within the story other times it is simply what we now call a reboot. Comic books often contain more than one story at a time, these stories can appear at any time in the within the timeline of the characters, this helps distract from the reinvention of the characters. This has found its way into the movie adaptations. Batman, Spiderman and Superman have all had the reboot treatment recently.
The X-Men took a different approach. Bryan Singer’s first film in 2000 took all already established group, any origin or back story was told in flashback over the first two movies. Instead of rebooting the series, X-Men: First Class (2011) went back and told the origin of the characters in the 1960’s keeping the existing continuity (more or less). Despite positive reviews and a strong box-office the film has never received much love. When everyone expected a First Class sequel or another origin movie. What they came up with was nothing short of stunning in its audacity. Returning director Bryan Singer has come up with sequel to The Last Stand (and The Wolverine (2013) that was a sort of sequel to The Last Stand) and First Class, that at the same time rewrote continuity of the entire franchise except First Class and part of Origins: Wolverine, wiping out the events of The Last Stand. A similar thing was achieved in Star Trek (2009), while that series gave the opportunity to reboot and recast the series within the continuity of the original films and TV show the X-Men has a far different agenda and appeal. All the events from 1973 onwards can be re written without having to worry about continuity of the original trilogy, and best of all within the new continuity, the events of X-Men: The Last Stand did not happen. Like so many other comic books, the X-Men seem to pick and choose between a multiverse and single changeable reality. The way characters disappear from the screen when the past changes suggests that it becomes a “dead reality” and not part of an alternate reality.
So where does that leave us? The possibilities are endless but a few thoughts on what this opens up. Days of Future past ends with Wolverine in the hands of William Stryker (or does it?), I think we have seen enough Weapon X and Wolverine getting his adamantium, but what he does after this is up fro grabs. A new path in his life could result in Wolverine joining The X-Men prior to 2000 as he did in the original movie. This allows him to appear in X-Men Apocalypse. It would mean he doesn’t meat Rogue when he did in that movie. That will change her timeline dramatically, although we do see her at the School at the end of the movie, so she makes it to the X-Men one way or another. This leaves the door open for a Mystique and Rogue Movie. The biggest criticism many fans have of The Last Stand is the way it handled The Dark Phoenix story, this could now be retold. It could work as a standalone movie told in two time periods, the other story coming from The Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix. However poorly handled Phoenix/Jean Grey was in that movie Famke Janssen is perfectly cast. The other character who was short-changed in that movie is Psylocke aka Elizabeth “Betsy” Braddock. She was unrecognisable from the character in the comic book. She could be re-introduced, however, she was famously missing from the original Age of Apocalypse comic.
There are a few clunks and contrivances along the way but when you look back at it the X-Men franchise has done what so many other franchises have failed to do. Just eight years after Tim Burton reinvented Batman (1989), Joel Schumacher had killed the franchise with Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997). It took Christopher Nolan another eight years to reinvent the character with Batman Begins (2005) and the rest of the Dark Knight trilogy. It took Sam Raimi just five years to reboot and destroy Spider-Man between 2002 and 2007 resulting in a reboot in further reboot in 2012. The X-Men has recovered from the disasters of The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine to come up with three decent films X-Men: First Class (2011), The Wolverine (2013) and now X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).
The post credit sting doesn’t reveal anything we don’t already know, the next film, X-Men: Apocalypse based on The Age of Apocalypse story arc has been announced and is set for release in two years time. As long as Bryan Singer stays onboard as director I am looking forward to it.