James Mangold’s Logan ripped its way through the box office to a record-setting opening weekend. Despite having strong competition in its second weekend against Kong: Skull Island, Mangold has already scored a huge win with his dystopian take on the X-Men franchise. One of the main reasons Logan succeeded so thrillingly was the compelling, nuanced performances by the mutant characters as they grappled with evil forces and death itself.
Although Logan (Hugh Jackman), Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), and X-23 (Dafne Keen) are the focus of the film, another mutant character served as one of Logan’s surprising bright spots. Stephen Merchant practically steals every scene he’s in as Caliban, the albino mutant tracker who is abducted and forced to use his powers against his own kind. But, in a confounding twist for fans of the X-Men universe, the same character is portrayed very differently – and by a different actor, Tómas Lemarquis – in last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
Mangold was quick to clear up any confusion that may arise with the differing versions of Caliban within two movies set in the same universe. Speaking with Nerdist at a press event to promote the release of Logan, his explanation was simple: it’s a coincidence. Unlike other cinematic universes, the two productions simply weren’t concerned about coordinating with each other on continuity. Mangold was more worried about telling the story the way he wanted rather than worrying about how Logan fits into the broader X-Men universe.
“It’s a funny, messy story of how so often these things are not as coordinated as everyone thinks. I actually had written him into our movie, and they didn’t know [he was] in Apocalypse, and then they kind of wrote it in their movie, and they cast someone in their movie and I had not seen it and was working away on mine.”
Although Caliban only appears briefly in X-Men: Apocalypse, Lemarquis is oddly charming as a more vain version of the character, helping Raven/Mystique with getting Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler from Germany to the United States. In Logan, Merchant plays a more neurotic, reclusive version of Caliban, but ultimately plays a bigger role in the film than Lemarquis does in Apocalypse. As it turns out, portraying two different versions of the same character was not a concern for either production in terms of maintaining continuity – to the point where Logan might even take place in an alternate universe.
The existence of two completely different versions of Caliban, in two separate but loosely connected films that came out a year apart, may be off-putting to fans who would like to see more continuity. But the X-Men franchise has never been nearly as concerned with keeping everything connected as cleanly as the films that exist within the totally separate Marvel Cinematic Universe. As Nerdist pointed out, there have been four different versions of the mutant Colossus. But at the end of the day, X-Men: Apocalypse and Logan have such strikingly different settings and aesthetics, that two different versions of Caliban may be something that fans are willing to accept.