Without question, the X-Men franchise has the worst continuity of any film franchise and as each movie is released, the timeline only gets muddier, especially since the launch of prequel series. Dark Phoenix, the latest and final mainline X-Men films just released, although The New Mutants, if it ever even comes out, will technically be the final film of Fox’s reign over the X-Men. As the sequel to X-Men: Apocalypse and the final film for our main X-Men, where exactly does Dark Phoenix fit in the X-Men timeline? But first, let’s start at the beginning.
The X-Men timeline hasn’t always been convoluted. The original timeline, aside from a few small issues here and there, is straightforward. This timeline consists of the original X-Men trilogy: X-Men, X-2: United, and X-Men: The Last Stand, as well as the first two Wolverine films: X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine. The timeline for these films goes: goes in the order of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men, X2: United, X-Men: The Last Stand, and The Wolverine.
Origins was supposed to launch a new prequel series in the franchise entitled X-Men: Origins, but we all know that didn’t happen. As the title of the film suggests, we see Wolverine’s origin story. The follow-up film, The Wolverine takes place after The Last Stand, covering Wolverine’s time in Japan. In the post-credits scene of The Wolverine, we see our first major continuity problem: Professor Xavier shows up with Magneto to ask for Wolverine’s help due to the upcoming Sentinel threat we would later see in X-Men: Days Of The Future Past.
But why is it a continuity error? Well, Xavier showing up here doesn’t make any sense, since Jean Grey killed him in in The Last Stand. Even though the end of The Last Stand implies that Xavier transferred his consciousness to another body, this still doesn’t explain how he’s back in his original body. I mean, he was dust before Thanos made it cool.
The reception to The Last Stand and X-Men Origins were disastrous among fans despite their large box office intakes. The Last Stand has been credited for nearly killed the franchise due to the film’s multitude of issues which included a change in directors, large studio interference by Fox, and the poor handling of adapting the iconic Dark Phoenix Saga. As for Origins, poor CGI, too many cooks in the kitchen when it came to characters, drifting far away from the source material, and the inclusion of “Deadpool” left a bad taste in fans mouths. With the franchise on the verge of collapsing, Fox scrapped their Origins prequel series in favor of softly rebooting the series with a new prequel trilogy. This new prequel series kicked off with X-Men: First Class.
First Class takes place in 1962 during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Here, we see how Xavier and Magneto meet, now played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, as well as the formation of both the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants. We also get how the two fall out, and the story behind Xavier’s paralysis.
The next in the series is X-Men: Days Of The Future Past, with the future portion picking up ten years after the post-credits scene of The Wolverine. In the future, mutants are being hunted down by the Sentinels, robots designed to hunt and exterminate the mutants. With mutantkind on the brink of extinction, a group of the X-Men have survived and must fight to save the mutants from total extinction, Wolverine must travel back in time to 1973 to stop Mystique from murdering Bolivar Trask, the creator of the Sentinels, who’s murder leads to their creation.
Wolverine, with the help of young Xavier, Beast, Quicksilver, and Magneto (until towards the end) successfully does this, and by doing so, creates an entirely new timeline, which intertwines the two timelines in the film. In this new timeline, mutants are thriving and all of the X-Men are together, most notably Cyclops, who was killed by Jean Grey in The Last Stand, is alive and well. The biggest shocker is that Jean Grey, who was killed by Wolverine in the aforementioned film is also alive and well here. Wolverine’s time-traveling adventure had wiped out the original trilogy, The Wolverine, and most of Origins, as everything that happened prior to 1973 is still canon.
With the original timeline now over and done with, Fox continued to focus on the prequel franchise with its next entry in the series, X-Men: Apocalypse. This film takes place 10 years after Days Of The Future Past. Despite Wolverine creating a new timeline, we start to see our first major continuity issues: Five of the main characters haven’t aged at all in this significant window of time: Xavier, Magneto, Beast, Mystique, and Quicksilver.
Now, we’ve reached Dark Phoenix, the final entry in the mainline series. Here, the timeline gets utterly destroyed in terms of continuity. Dark Phoenix is set in 1992, nine years after Apocalypse. Still, no one has aged. Xavier and Magneto have now entered their sixties and haven’t aged at all. Same goes for Beast and Mystique who should be entering their sixties as well. Quicksilver, who was a teen in Days Of The Future past, should now be in his 50s but instead hasn’t aged at all. But it isn’t just the older ones, the same thing goes for our younger X-Men: Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, and Nightcrawler. They were teens in Apocalypse, now they should be in their mid to late twenties but still haven’t aged.
Dark Phoenix also ignores that fact that Jean already has the Phoenix powers, as shown in the ending of Apocalypse. But that’s not all. Now, what really messes up the timeline further is the film’s ending. In the end, Jean sacrifices herself to save the team, Xavier retires, Beast takes over the school, and the school is renamed to “Jean Grey’s School For Gifted Youngsters.”
In the end, this new timeline is supposed to lead to the peaceful ending we see at the end of Days Of The Future Past. At the end of Days Of The Future Past, everyone is alive including Jean. We also know that Xavier doesn’t retire and the school isn’t renamed after Jean, because she never dies. But Dark Phoenix completely ignores this ending.
Although we’ve finished talking about the mainline series, plus two of Wolverine’s solo outings, there’s another X-Men series that we now have figure out: The Deadpool films. Where exactly does Deadpool take place in this timeline?
While at first, it seemed like Deadpool took place in his own timeline due to films modern setting as well as Colossus’s comic accurate appearance. Deadpool 2, however, causes some confusion. The incarnation of the X-Men we see at the end of Apocalypse makes a humorous cameo in this film, which would then place the Deadpool films in the new timeline. Except, we know the Deadpool films takes place in the 2010s, and that the Apocalypse incarnation of the X-Men we see are from 1983 to 1992.
If Deadpool 2 does actually place in the new timeline, we then know that no one ages at all for two more decades. We also know that comic accurate Colossus isn’t in the future we see at the end of Days Of The Future Past because the original timeline version of Colossus is there. Finally, at the end of Deadpool 2, Deadpool humorously goes back in time to Origins to killed the awful version of the character we got in that film.
While this is obviously hilarious, it also doesn’t make sense. If the Deadpool films take place in the new timeline, most of Origins, including that scene, has already been wiped out by Days Of The Future Past.
And then there’s Logan, the final Wolverine film and Hugh Jackman’s swan song as the character. Logan is a confusing case. The film takes place in 2029, which would be six years after the happy ending of Days Of The Future Past. What makes Logan confusing is that it connects to both the old and new timelines. The Statue Of Liberty fight from X-Men is mentioned and the adamantium bullets from Origins. The simplest answer for Logan is that it takes place in its own timeline, as stated by Hugh Jackman.
After trying to put everything together, it seems that you just can’t make sense of the X-Men franchise. And with Dark Phoenix being the final mainline entry, it solidly confirms it never will make sense. Despite the franchise’s ups and downs through its nearly twenty-year run, it undoubtedly helped kicked off and paved the way for modern superhero movies.
With the rights to the team finally back home at Marvel, I can’t wait to see the future of the characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hopefully, this time around the continuity won’t be as nonsensical.