X-Men Days of Future Past – thoughts on the timeline changes

Previously I posted a fairly non-spoiler review of X-Men Days of Future Past (hereafter referred to as DOFP). Now I’m going to discuss the implications of the new timeline that the movie results in. This post will include spoilers so be warned if you have not yet seen the movie.

As a bit of background its worth outlining the events of the six previous X-Men and Wolverine movies.

In 2000 the first X-Men movie (X1) came out starring Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman. It was followed by X-Men 2 (X2) and X-Men The Last Stand (X3) which formed a kind of trilogy. Then came X-Men Origins Wolverine which is set before all the other three movies and goes up to the point where Wolverine looses his memory. A bullet to the head will tend to do that.

(Please note that I am one of only five people on the planet who actually likes the flawed The Last Stand, especially because of what I call The Scene In The House.)

Next up was 2011s X-Men First Class with a new cast featuring James McAvoy as young Professor X, Michael Fassbender as young Magneto and Jennifer Lawrence as young Mystique. The movie was mainly set in 1962.

Then another Wolverine movie titled The Wolverine followed in 2013 but was set after all the others. We can date it as it references the death of Jean Grey as depicted in X3.

Finally we have the new movie which switches back and forth between 1973 and 2023. The continuity of the movies more or less works although there are a few contradictions. For example in X1 Professor X tells Logan that he met Magneto when he was 17 which is contradicted by First Class. Also in the same movie he says Magneto helped him build Cerebro but we see Beast build it in First Class. Also in X1 Professor X is surprised that Magneto can block his telepathy with his helmet but we see Magneto acquire the helmet from Sebastian Shaw in First Class.

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At the end of First Class we see Professor X injured and paralysed. This initially seemed to contradict the “twenty years ago” Professor X walking with Magneto to go and meet young Jean Grey at the start of X3. We also see a Patrick Stewart type Professor X standing by his helicopter at the end of Wolverine Origins. However both of these inconsistencies can now be explained if we accept the serum Professor X uses to walk in DOFP.

Two more observations. A present-day “Trask” appears in X3 but he’s a black man of average height. In DOFP Trask is now working on sentinels in the 1970s and is a white man of considerably shorter stature. And Olivia Williams appeared as Moira McTaggart in X3 when she was in her late thirties while Rose Byrne appeared as the same character in First Class while in her early thirties, although those two movies were set decades apart. Let’s pretend they were mother and daughter.

So with that background established it’s on to the timeline discussion.

DOFP begins with a depiction of an apocalyptic future in 2023 where sentinel robots hunt for mutants and destroy them. In an attempt to change history Professor X sends back future Wolverine’s mind to younger Wolverine’s body in 1973. This is a pivotal moment in history as it is Mystique’s assassination of Bolivar Trask that prompts the development of the deadly future sentinels.

Professor X wants to stop Mystique from killing Trask and eventually he is successful. The future changes and Wolverine wakes up back in 2023 but finds everything has changed. He is back in the mansion and his fellow team members are teaching the mutant kids.

But here’s the thing… If he had just seen Iceman, Colossus, Kitty, Rogue, Storm and Beast then one would assume that the status quo has been reset as these characters were all alive and well at the end of X3. But in addition to those characters Logan is shocked to see first Jean and then Scott alive and well. Both of these characters died in X3 so it is a surprise to the audience as well as to Logan.

Now, in the comics dead characters come back all the time so one might assume that the same thing has happened between The Wolverine and DOFP. But I don’t think that’s what has happened as we may have expected to see them in the apocalyptic future scenes.

Also The Wolverine had a number of scenes with Logan and Jean’s “ghost” where he is mourning her. They might be dreams or maybe there is a bit of the Phoenix force at work, but either way it is a reminder she is dead.

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Also in DOFP Logan lets young Professor X mind meld, sorry, read his mind, and the first thing Professor X sees is Jean’s death at the hands, sorry, claws, of Logan.

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I think the intention of these scenes is to reinforce the fact that she is dead and stayed dead. So when we see her and Scott at the end of the new movie it means that history has been fundamentally changed. Everything from 1973 onwards is now on a different path and the events of X1 onwards no longer happen in the same way. 1973 Logan has his bone claws and has no memory of working with Professor X to stop mystique. One assumes he will eventually get captured by the Weapon X program and get his adamantium skeleton and claws again. One can also assume that Professor X and Magneto will continue to clash.

However it is now possible that Mystique will not become the cold-hearted killer from the original movies. After all they have that nice Jennifer Lawrence from Hunger Games playing her. So I guess they will want to make her more of a conflicted hero/antihero who ultimately is good, kind of like Wolverine himself actually.

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Back in 2023 Logan wakes up with the memories of his own timeline. For example he remembers Jean’s death so he is surprised to see her. I’m not exactly sure why he would keep his memories and not get reset like everyone else. I guess you could explain that his mind and memories were safe in 1973 when history was being changed so when his mind snaps back to 2023 the old memories are there. But never mind because it’s a lovely sequence as we get to follow Logan as he walks through the mansion and see all the familiar faces. And yes, apparently that is Kelsey Grammer in beast makeup for those few seconds.

So what does this mean? Well it means that in true JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot style that there now is a blank slate for the movie makers to do whatever they want. Apparently the next ‘First Class’ movie will be set in the 1980s. And they can go ahead and set movies in the ‘80s, ‘90s or 2000s and do their own thing. They can recruit new or old members of the team as they see fit and not worry about continuity.

Personally I am hoping for the original five X-Men to be on the team, namely Beast, Iceman, Angel, Cyclops and Jean. One might expect the makers to recast younger actors as Cyclops and Jean. And as much as I love James Marsden as Scott and Famke Janssen as Jean I would like to see their younger selves joining the X-Men for the first time as teenagers or young twenty-somethings.

Also I suppose the possibility is there that an ‘old’ X-Men movie could also be made with Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Jean, Scott, Storm, Wolverine, etc. But I doubt it. I think they will stick with the ‘First Class’ cast from now on. I mean, it can’t have been cheap to pay for Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones all to appear in the same movie. And to pay for the Quicksilver scene. And Magneto levitating a sports stadium. And Blink’s portals.

Still, I’ll happily be proved wrong.