Sunday, May 25, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Questions

I saw the new X-Men prequel/sequel this weekend. This is not a review of the film, nor a discussion about just the film itself. It was a good movie, and nice to see Bryan Singer return to the X-Men movie universe he built, as well as correct some of what went off the rails without him. But as much as I liked the Back to the Future ending of the movie and the things it set right, this movie and more importantly the gaps between movies leave me with lingering questions about the film universe and its timeline that I fear will never be answered. I even took the time to watch all 6 other X-Men movies prior to the new one, so it is fresh in my mind. I thought I'd post about some of the issues that remain and bother me. There will be only mild spoilers for Days of Future Past; I'll try not to ruin it for anyone. However, all other films are fair game. Here we go:

1. First Class totally messed up the timeline. I enjoyed First Class a lot as a movie, and it works on its own. If it were the first X-Men movie, I would have no problem with it. But continuity that was important for the first three films was ignored (and thus the timeline compressed) to make a more dramatic arc for the movie. I'm going to detail a number of these issues below, but suffice to say that for the most part, even including X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the timeline made sense. First Class threw it out whenever it suited it. Did it make for a good movie? Yes. But it makes for TERRIBLE movie series continuity. Why does this matter? Because Days of Future Past is both a sequel to the original trilogy and to First Class. The future versions of Xavier and Magneto have memories of the events of First Class and Days of Future Past. So how is this possible, when it conflicts with the prior canon? One of the only possibilities is that there has been some time travel between The Last Stand and Days of Future Past that messed up events and created the First Class timeline. But if that's the case, who went back in time, how did they change things, and why?

Now let's get to the discrepancies:
2. Xavier and Erik met when Charles was seventeen, according to the first movie. In First Class, they meet after Charles gets his degree. So unless he's insanely bright and really was 17, that was changed.

3. Mutations come at puberty... or do they? Jean Grey says in the first movie that the mutations caused by the "Mutant X" gene manifest at puberty. But in First Class, Charles seems to be just a kid when he meets Mystique. Maybe he's not got his powers yet, but she certainly does and we see her in blue girl form. She definitely appears pre-pubescent (and I wonder a bit how they got away with showing a naked little girl onscreen like that. Sure, the actress is covered in blue and we can't see any of her naughty bits, but the character is still standing there stark naked. If she weren't blue, we'd call that child pornography). This could be new and she could be right on the cusp, but it's curious. I won't delve into all the curiosities about her or the mundane logical questions about mutant personal hygiene in this post, so don't worry. Just the broad issues. In Days of Future Past, we are told Xavier started to get his telepathic powers when he was 9, though it wasn't for another few years that he understood them. Maybe Charles is an early bloomer, but 9 seems pretty early for a boy to enter puberty, especially in the 1940s.

4. Is Mystique's backstory the same? In The Last Stand, she refers to the name Raven as her "slave name", having now fully accepted Mystique as her identity. We see some of this identity forming through her interactions with Erik in First Class. That's all well and good. But we are also told that her family abandoned her when she was young. So how long was she wandering about as a blue mutant girl stealing before Charles invited her to stay? First Class makes no mention at all of her family. So it's possible that is still her past. But I don't know. Also, when Raven is cured in The Last Stand, her hair is black, yet whenever she feigned a normal appearance in all prior movies, both as Rebecca Romijn and Jennifer Lawrence, she is a blonde. So is Raven a blonde, or is her hair actually raven black and she just prefers to be blonde? Meanwhile, Mystique is a redhead!

5. Who built Cerebro? Xavier states quite clearly in the first movie that he built Cerebro and Magneto helped him. This is an important plot point in X2 when Magneto knows how to alter it and gives the plans for how to build it to Stryker from memory, since he had built it. But in First Class, Cerebro was built by Hank McCoy. Again, this might not seem like a big deal, but as it becomes instrumental to the plot of X2, it certainly is. Did Xavier and Magneto just add finishing touches? Or was Hank's a prototype and then Xavier and Magneto built a new one at the school?

6. Helmets that block telepaths. In X-Men, Xavier finds that he cannot reach out to Magneto's mind because he has somehow found a way to block him. We later learn that it's because Magneto wears a fancy helmet that somehow blocks out telepaths. This is new information to Xavier. And yet in First Class, Sebastian Shaw does this exact thing and Xavier and the kids have to craft their plan around finding him without touching his mind and then getting the helmet off. So it's already a stretch to suggest that Xavier wouldn't wonder if something like that were responsible. But then Erik takes that helmet for himself when he becomes Magneto. And as is evident in Days of Future Past, Xavier is fully aware that when Magneto wears it, he is blocked. So even though Magneto wears a different helmet in the other movies, there's no reason for Charles not to think "Hmm, I wonder if he's got a new helmet or something" instead of "I have no idea why I can't contact Erik".

7. Who is Quicksilver's father? This is a minor spoiler for the new movie. We meet a new character, Quicksilver, and it is heavily implied that Magneto is his father (just like in the comics). In the movie he's at least 15 years old, possibly older, and it's set in 1973. So when would Erik have met his mother and produced this kid? Erik was in a German concentration camp and then under the thumb of Sebastian Shaw for the duration of the 1940s. First Class is set in 1962. So what was Erik doing in the early '50s?

8. Just who is Emma Frost? Emma Frost is a mutant girl who has diamond-hard skin. In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there is a young girl who escapes with Cyclops from Alkali Lake. She is said to be Kayla's sister (Kayla is Logan's girlfriend) and she has diamond skin. She is even listed in the credits as "Kayla's Sister/Emma". This is sometime in the 1980s (or is it? I'll get to that). But then First Class came out, and it had an Emma Frost played by January Jones. There is no way this is the same girl. Especially because in DOFP, she's dead. So why are there two Emma Frosts? Now, I know that three different actresses have played Kitty Pryde, but she was always the same character. This is different. Why even include Emma in First Class when her role could have been filled by any mutant? The diamond effect was better in Wolverine anyway.

9. Bryan Singer wants to pretend Origins: Wolverine never happened. Yes, there are some visual conflicts between the Weapon X stuff that Singer shot for X-Men and X2 and the way it happened in Wolverine. But it's still basically the same event; Stryker gives Logan adamantium bones. But as the Emma Frost point illustrates, Singer is basically pretending the movie never happened. Watching DOFP, it's clear he wants to act like that movie doesn't exist. The problem is, we see flashbacks to The Wolverine, the recent film, in DOFP. And in that movie, Logan was haunted in his dreams by his past including Kayla, the girl from Origins. So if The Wolverine is canon, then at least Kayla is canon too.

10. When was Logan in 'Nam? Or was he? This leads to a major issue of timelines for me. In the opening credits of Origins, Logan and Victor Creed (Sabertooth) fight together in war after war, from the Civil War to two World Wars and finally what seems to be Vietnam. At the end of the sequence, they are captured in Vietnam, put before a firing squad (but cannot die), and then holed up in prison until Stryker pulls them out. This is roughly six years before Logan gets his adamantium (or at least, six years before he meets Kayla). So Logan has to have been in Vietnam toward the later side of the war. Days of Future Past is set in 1973 and the end of the war is an important plot point. But Logan isn't there in a prison; he's in New York for some reason. Why is he there? Why didn't he go back to Canada? Anyway, I guess it could be that he was let out and the mutant gang did their big mission together in the early '70s before the end of the war and then he went back to the States. But it's curious. Especially because of...

11. Stryker. We see a young Stryker in 'Nam in Days of Future Past. The Stryker we meet in Origins is definitely older-looking than this one. So if the events seen in Origins took place before these events, Stryker seems to have de-aged. I mean, I get having different actors and all and I can pretend to a point,  but it's like Singer was consciously picking a younger guy to fit in with his X2 Stryker and ignore Origins.

12. The teaser of The Last Stand. This is a biggie. The third movie opens with a flashback to "twenty years ago" when Xavier first recruited a young Jean Grey for his school. He arrives at her house with Erik, who he's still on good terms with at this time and they recruit her together. The implication is that Erik is working at the school, or at least helping Charles with admissions. This flatly contradicts that they have been at odds since 1962. But when this movie was made, there was no prior canon to violate. They had built the school and Cerebro together and then had a falling out, but we didn't know when. First Class messed that up. But secondly, Xavier can walk in this opening, and has his powers. We don't know why he's in a wheelchair later, but at least he could walk as of 20 years ago (somewhere around the 1980s). But he had a debilitating spinal injury in First Class that put him in a wheelchair. Days of Future Past partially tries to ret-con this by giving him a serum that temporarily eases the pain on his spine allowing him to walk, but which takes away his powers (why the two should be related is never properly explained). So for Xavier to walk in the DOFP chronology, he can't use his powers. But he has both in The Last Stand, as well as in Origins. Even pretending Origins never happened, The Last Stand is canon. We know this because it's referred to in both The Wolverine and DOFP. So how in the heck de we reconcile this discrepancy with the First Class timeline unless that past was overwritten at some point?

13. Hank's cure. It's interesting that we were first introduced to Beast in The Last Stand, a movie that was about a cure for the mutants. Beast said this wouldn't go over well in the mutant community. Then in First Class, we find Hank had been working on a cure of his own to give himself a more normal appearance. It backfired and caused the blue monster side of him. In Days of Future Past, he's altered a new formula to keep this monster side at bay, but it still comes out every now and again. Why? And why does Kelsey Grammer Hank later on not use this formula to look normal?

Anyway, those are the main timeline discrepancies that I can think of. Near as I can follow, events seen in the films follow like this until the ending of the recent film:
1845: Young Logan has bone claws and flees Canada with Victor Creed (Origins: Wolverine)
1860s: Logan and Victor fight in American Civil War (Origins: Wolverine)
1910s: Logan and Victor fight in World War I (Origins: Wolverine)
1944: Logan and Victor storm the beach in World War II (Origins: Wolverine)
          Erik moves a metal gate in a concentration camp trying to save his mother (X-Men, First Class)
1945: Logan is POW in Japan when the bomb is dropped (The Wolverine)
1940s: Charles meets Raven, Shaw starts working with Erik (First Class)
1962: The main events of X-Men: First Class
1970s: Logan and Victor serve in Vietnam, captured and "executed" by firing squad (Origins: Wolverine)
           Logan and Victor are freed from Vietnamese prison by Stryker, and go on mission with several other mutants (Origins: Wolverine)
1973: After Vietnam War, Mystique kills Bolivar Trask but is captured. Her DNA is taken and used to create the Sentinels years later. Logan is living in New York, having just slept with some guy's girl. (Days of Future Past)
1980-something: "six years" after what we last saw in the Origins movie, Logan is living in Canada with Kayla.
"20 years" before The Last Stand: Xavier and Magneto recruit Jean Gray for the school
1980-something: Logan gets adamantium claws. Xavier recruits Scott Summers for his school (Origins: Wolverine)
               Logan drinks in a bar in Japan (one of several end teasers for Origins: Wolverine)
1990-something: Angel trying to hide his wings from his dad (The Last Stand)
"not too distant future": original X-Men trilogy
2000-something: The Wolverine
Two years later: Logan approached by Xavier and Magneto at airport (The Wolverine)
2023: Sentinels attack everyone (Days of Future Past)

Now back to some other random questions:
14. Sabertooth. Are there two Sabertooths (Saberteeth?)? Sabertooth was in the very first X-Men movie. He didn't say much. He was a hairy henchman of Magneto who attacks Logan on the road. But later on we meet Victor Creed in Origins and he and Wolverine have a whole history together. He's meant to be Sabertooth, though never called that by name in the film. So are there two separate Sabertooth characters and Victor is not meant to be Sabertooth? Or did he change over the years, and it is the same character? If so, why does he not recognize Logan... or does he? He does take Wolverine's dog tags as if they mean something to him. Some might ask why Logan doesn't remember him, but he has amnesia about his past, so that's fine. But even given that, where is Victor Creed during Days of Future Past, or The Wolverine? Why is Logan alone in Japan in the latter?

15. Regarding species and evolution. All the movies, especially the original trilogy, talk about mutants in terms of human evolution, as if they are a new species. All mutation is said to be the cause of one mutant gene, and we learn it is passed on by the father. But for all Magneto's talk, this is bad science and they are NOT a new species, at least not yet. Their mutations only manifest at puberty; I don't think we can say that of a mutation that denotes a separate species. These mutations seem to have endless varieties. So there is no one "mutant species". When we classify a different species, I doubt we would put things that fly, things that swim, things that shoot fire, things that are metamorphs, etc all under one same "species" umbrella. There do seem to be certain types of traits (telepathy, teleportation, weather control, strength) that whole groups of mutants have. So maybe there are several different mutant species developing, but certainly not just one, as if all mutants are the same. Furthermore, as I understand it, doesn't a species have to be reproductively isolated to be classified as a separate species? Can mutants not breed with normal humans? This seems untrue because Quicksilver would seem to be a human/mutant product. Does that make him sterile? It just seems to early and to pat to just call it evolution. And doesn't natural selection and Darwinian evolution generally require geographic isolation and environmental factors to foster these changes? There's no explanation for the sheer number and variety of the different mutations.

16. How recent is this phenomenon? Jean Gray makes it seem like a relatively new thing in the first movie. Indeed, it's become a real political problem. We know there are older mutants, and that it goes back at least a century. But Days of Future Past makes an issue of it in 1973. So maybe the government just tried to keep it hush hush for decades until some "mutants rights" activism sprang up in the not too distant future. But that doesn't explain Apocalypse. The final teaser at the end of Days of Future Past is a tease for the next X-Men movie, which seems to suggest there may have been ancient mutants. How long has this been going on?

17. What happened in Dealey Plaza? SPOILER ALERT! In Days of Future Past, Magneto has been confined for assassinating JFK (cleverly suggesting the "magic bullet" was because of him). But that still suggest Oswald was the shooter. If Erik was involved, how did they catch him? He claims he wasn't trying to kill JFK but to save him. So what led them to take him into custody? How did they link him to the event, especially after arresting Oswald? And how were they able to get him in custody without him escaping? It's also curious that back in the 1970s they were smart enough to use plastic guns and such, when it took three movies for them to figure this out in the original trilogy. Oh, and he was saving JFK because he was a mutant? What was his mutation?

18. What year did Wolverine get his claws? The difficult thing about placing the timeline of the series is that the first trilogy is set in "the not too distant future", but we don't know what that means. We know that Days of Future Past is further into the future and is roughly 50 years after 1973. So that means the original trilogy has to be before 2023, and likely after or around 2000, when the first film was released. So far so good. Xavier says that Logan lost his memory "15 years ago". So when is that? is it 15 years prior to 2000, putting it around 1985? In Origins, an onscreen legend reads "six years later" between the events with Stryker in the '70s and living with Kayla in Canada. The later events all seem to take place around the same time. So if Logan was in Vietnam and then got his claws six years later, that could only really be very early '80s (or as early as 1979). It could be later if he were a prisoner of war for awhile before Stryker freed him, but Days of Future Past throws that out. Even if we go with 1985, is that correct? Or should it be later? We don't know when the "not too distant future" is, so we don't know how far back to count. Then the Last Stand teaser is "twenty years" before those events, but we don't know how much time has passed from the first movie to the third. So was Jean recruited before Logan got metal claws, or around the same time?

19. What's up with Storm? In the first movie she has an African accent, but that disappears in all subsequent movies. What happened there? And with each movie her hair gets shorter. Is she going to be bald in Apocalypse?

20. Rogue and the cure. Rogue gets the mutant cure in The Last Stand. At the end of the movie, she seems to be normal now, so she can finally touch Bobby. This was something that they actually shot two ways, so that they could end with her having not gone through with it. But they did. At the end of the movie, we see Magneto, who had been injected with the cure by Wolverine, has started to get his power back. So was the cure only temporary? If this is so, does that mean Rogue is no longer cured? SPOILER ALERT: Rogue appears at the end of Days of Future Past and we see her hold hands with Bobby, but I couldn't tell if she was wearing gloves or not. If she cured? Wasn't that whole part of the timeline changed? Speaking of which, she had the white stripe in her hair and she only got that from the events of the first movie. So those events still happen, even in the altered timeline?

21. What happened between Last Stand and The Wolverine? Phoenix blasts Charles Xavier into a million pieces in The Last Stand. But at the end of the movie we find out he has transferred his consciousness into the body of a vegetable in the hospital. This man was born without any brain function; just a living mindless hulk. Is this supposed to be a mutation, or just a convenient plot device? Now leaving aside the logistic questions of how Xavier managed to perform this transfer, why does he look like himself again when he appears at the end of The Wolverine? He's basically back to his old body, wheelchair and all. How the heck did that come about? Logan even asks, "How is this possible?" and Charles says something cryptic before it cuts to black. We never get an answer to that question. I hoped we would, but we still don't know what the heck happened in that time. And this is at least two years later.

22. The Wolverine teaser. Speaking of that teaser at the end of The Wolverine, which seemed to be set-up for Days of Future Past, what with the ads for Trask Industries and such, what was the point of it? Xavier and Magneto meet Wolverine at the airport to ask for his help. But help with what? Fighting the Sentinels? The war doesn't seem to have started yet. And when we see him in Days of Future Past, Logan has a bit of white hair, suggesting at least some time has passed from this point (or has it?). So what was that teaser all about?

23. Why does he have adamantium claws? In The Wolverine, Logan's adamantium claws are chopped off by the Silver Samurai and when he regenerates, he is back to bone claws (which makes some sense). Even in the airport scene (which is "two years later"), he still has bone claws. But in the future scenes of Days of Future Past, which are in continuity with that movie and set after it, Logan has adamantium claws again. Now, I know it makes for a good image and a way to track past Logan from future Logan for him to have bone claws in the past and metal claws in the future. But since he was back to bone claws when last we saw him, why the heck does he have metal claws again now? Does his adamantium just eventually regenerate too (which I suppose is possible if we assume he were to sustain some sort of major skeletal injury or something)? If so, then how? And why now when it hadn't in two years? If this is not the case, then where did the adamantium claws come from this time? I can't imagine he would tell them to give him metal claws again.

24. White hair? If Wolverine regenerates and thus is essentially ageless, why is his hair just now going gray? He's been roughly the same appearance for the past 150 years, so why is his hair aging? Unless it's not due to age at all, but to shock or something like Rogue. But even then, you'd think his body would heal. Hair of course is dead once it's left the body, so maybe it can go white and then it falls out and grows back brown? It's just weird.

25. How old is Toad? Along with Sabertooth, Magneto had a henchman named Toad in the first movie. We see the Toad character again, with a somewhat different appearance, in Days of Future Past and he's a Vietnam War vet. He certainly doesn't look that old in X-Men. Is Toad another long-lived mutant? Curious that Bryan Singer chose to use this character again in this way.

26. The general unpreparedness of the authorities. If Mystique was well-known for killing Trask in 1972, and if Trask has had her DNA for decades working secretly to make the Sentinels, why is everyone so shockinly unprepared for her in the first three X-Men films. Yes, she can be anyone, but why is that paranoia not a bigger selling point for the mutant registration bill? And if they had her in custody in the 1970s, how was she able to get out and pal around with Magneto later on? Did he break her out? How and when? And I've already mentioned the whole plastic guns issue.

27. Are both Wolverine teasers canon? When X-Men Origins: Wolverine was released, there were two different end-credits teasers, depending on the print. One of them is the Deadpool ending, with Weapon XI's arm finding its severed head which then says "Shh..." This is the ending on the DVD. But there was another ending, which showed Logan in Japan at a bar. He is asked if he's drinking to forget, and he says "No, I'm drinking to remember." This ending appeared on some prints in the theater, as well as the OnDemand version of the movie. This has to be shortly after his amnesia, which means it cannot be set during The Wolverine. Originally, the plan was to do the Japan movie with Wolverine, but then the studio wanted to do an origin movie first. So the teaser was then meant to set up the second Wolverine solo movie, which would be the Japan story. But after years in development, the Japan movie finally came out set after The Last Stand, leaving this scene lingering as a curiosity. So if we don't wipe out Origins completely, did this scene happen, or do we just pretend it never existed? Why was Logan in Japan again, and how long was he there? What led him there?

28. So what caused the changes in the timeline that we see at the end? This is going to be major SPOILER ALERT territory. At the end of Days of Future Past, they succeed in changing history, and the terrible Sentinel future is wiped out. This makes sense. But when Logan awakes in the new present,  much more has been altered. The events of The Last Stand (or at least some of them) have been erased. Jean Gray and Cyclops are alive and well. Beast is still working at the school. Logan teaches history. What happened in the middle years for these things to change? Rogue is still at the school and still has her gray streak so it's not all different. It's an ending very much like Back to the Future, and like that movie has great things that happen for no reason. It's nice that George is an author and Lorraine's not a drunk, but how does that mean Marty gets the fancy new truck he wanted? Maybe they'll deal with this in a following movie, but I don't yet see how saving Nixon's life means Jean Gray doesn't go crazy and kill everyone.

There are probably other issues that I've forgotten, but that highlights some of the many questions I have trying to make sense of what happened between the movies. And some might say, "Why does it matter? Just enjoy the movie!" To which I answer, if a movie is ABOUT time travel, I don't think it's ridiculous to wonder about the timeline! I doubt many of these questions will ever be answered, but I'd like to know if the creators have any explanations in mind, especially regarding the events from The Last Stand to The Wolverine to Days of Future Past.