If you’re a fan of Far Cry 3 (or dictionaries) you’ll remember that insanity is the “exact ‘frigging’ thing over and over again expecting ‘stuff’ to change.” Sometimes I feel like that’s the motto over at the 20th Century Fox development room when referring to their heavy-hitting X-Men comic book franchise.
Up until the past decade or so, rebooting old material was something that happened after a respectable amount of time, usually twenty or thirty years (Psycho, Lost in Space, Star Trek, etc), but it seems nowadays it only takes about five to ten for a series to get a new coat of paint. In X-Men’s case, their “clever” cover-up has included time travel and alternate dimensions of their already existing lineage.
Movies character like Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and even Batman have already been retold with their iconic (minus the fantastic foursome) series taking place within the same decade! Utilizing the same story elements as J.J. Abbrams in the Star Trek reboot, X-Men began retelling their history just five films into the main series with X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Loosely based on the comic book arc of the same name, the Days plot sent Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to alter the course of history. While this could’ve opened up a DC Comics-esque multiverse, instead his actions seemingly erased the subplot’s dystopian future from existence.
While alternate X-Men movie timelines may exist, the narrative of the films give us only a few hints and a lot of murky lines. Where do the Wolverine movies fit in at this point if Logan went back and erased all of the events of X-3: The Last Stand? Those events are still confirmed as having happened through The Wolverine (2013), and deleted scenes from Logan (2017) confirm Victor Creed/Sabertooth (although we don’t know if it’s the X-Men Origins: Wolverine version or the original film’s played by Tyler Mane).
It all gets so confusing, especially now that the two casts are finally combining in the movies as far as placement in time. Most likely, James McAvoy is the official Professor X as far as the actor portrayal, but what about throwaways who’ve appeared at the exact same age in different decades including Jubilee (Kea Wong and Lana Condor), Emma Frost (Tahyna Tozzi and January Jones), and Angel (Ben Foster and Ben Hardy)? I can get behind altering future events to come, but to say that Jubilee has been a sophomore at the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters for twenty years is just crazy!
One character that could explain a bit of this is Cable (Josh Brolin), who’s appearing in the upcoming Deadpool 2. Cable’s best is known for his time and inter-dimensional traveling, so it should be easy to just have a throwaway line about how everything is just screwed up by his actions, or that the universe is in constant reprogramming mode due to the ripples of the space-time continuum. While I don’t think the average movie goer spends time wracking their brain around the two halves of the X-Men universe, it’s the little things like this that make a movie unwatchable. Why spend time trying to connect a thread through, at this point, eleven official franchise entries while you’re supposed to be digesting new material that’s equally confusing and contradictory?
Also, where does the planned New Mutants fit in? Are they modern day entry or a splinter off the new franchise; more specifically, which era? Its hard enough following the one main X-team! Are the New Mutants going to be their own thing and barely interact with “established” lore? Deadpool did a great job keeping the X-Men world very vague in the first movie, and as such was the most coherently told story since X-Men: First Class. Its possible New Mutants will be sectioned off in their own deal, possibly teasing at the main team until the inevitable movie crossover event.
Which brings me to the next point: What is the ultimate goal of branching out a seventeen-year-old franchise? The short answer is money, but when you take a closer look it’s probably more like big money.
The big money these days are a bankable multi-film franchise, which studios justify by dumping almost as much money into casting A-Listers as they do making the thing in the first place. While movies in the DC Expanded Universe are slowly catching up, they’ve done a good job at making new recognizable stars (Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill) that have broken into the main stream. X-Men, on the other hand, basically had only Hugh Jackman as the constant, and his era’s sadly come to an end.
The only way to get that type of huge Avengers money at the theater is for a massive gimmick to crossover. Sure, X-Men has one of the greatest rogue galleries in the history of comic books, but they’ve also ruined a lot of opportunities to cash in on their mega-villains. Apocalypse could have been a huge deal, like Thanos is to the MCU. Magneto, while definitely the most popular character of the movie universe behind Wolverine, has been oversaturated and can’t work as a humongous villain anymore. At least when Tom Hiddleston was the main baddie in Avengers, he was still fresh and not overexposed to the viewers.
So who is left, at this point? One word: Onslaught!
In the X-Men franchise, Professor X has been the patron saint of the children of the atom. What better way to throw off fans than to continually hint at his decent into madness (as was abruptly thrown in our faces in Logan) and being reinvent him as a villainous beast! For casual fans, it could be a huge shock and keep them engaged in an Infinity War-esque two-part movie event.
The Onslaught saga is also nostalgic at this point. Its been over twenty years since the character first debuted, putting most comic book readers who experienced the series in their late 20’s early 30’s. These are the kids who grew up watching X-Men: The Animated Series, went out and actually bought the books at a comic book store, and can remember this as their first main crossover Marvel Comics event. People in that age range are also either the most likely to go to a movie or have kids of their own they can take out to the theater. The marketing is already there; all it would take is a little reminder for this demographic.
In the end, the timelines are ruined so far as the X-Men universe is concerned, and not even a set of reboots could fix it. First Class tried its best, but the sequels stumbled greatly despite excellent groundwork. The only hope at this point is for the spinoffs Deadpool 2 and New Mutants to offer a better idea of where we are, where we’re going and what actually happened that still matters from the six already existing X-Men team and three stand alone Wolverine movies. That’s a lot to sift through.
Before we start expanding the universe, fix that problem first! But hey, at the end of the day, Fox might get so frustrated at why their franchise isn’t working and shoot it back over to Marvel Studios for maintenance, much like Sony did with Spider-Man. As always, keep checking into nerdslant for more news and updates on everything X-Men! Comment below with your suggestions on how to fix the timelines, and don’t forget to like and share!