The X-Men timeline has always been the messiest of the superhero movie franchises, but now Deadpool 2 may have actually fixed the continuity concerns. That's no easy task; whereas the problems with Marvel Cinematic Universe's broken timeline stand out due to how tight their continuity usually is, Fox's mutant series hasn't made sense for well over a decade, and even though recent movies like X-Men: Days of Future Past and Logan have tried to streamline the continuity, they've only really made more bumps.
Now, Deadpool 2 is pretty confusing on its own thanks to the introduction of Cable's time travel. The film doesn't lay down any real mechanics for how the time travel works, and regardless breaks what it sets up. By our calculating, the film's working with at least five different timelines, with the fates of multiple characters completely unclear.
However, thanks to cameos, references and the larger ramifications of that time travel meddling, Deadpool 2's timeline impact goes well beyond its two-hour runtime. The movie is bigger than the original, and that goes to its complicated relation to the parent series.
- This Page: How The X-Men Timeline Broke
- Page 2: How Deadpool Breaks (And Then Solves) The Timeline
A Brief History Of X-Men's Timeline Mistakes
At their core, the X-Men continuity confusion is more down to the franchise being a product of a different era than it is storytelling oversight (contrast to the MCU's ever-correcting timeline). The first movie released in 2000, at a time when making one movie based on a comic was a major achievement, let alone an inter-connected franchise. The original X-Men trilogy was set in "the not-too-distant future", distancing it from real-world concerns, and was for the most part pretty consistent; there were minor flubs with character ages and the like, but for the most part it was as good as could be expected for the time. Even X-Men Origins: Wolverine slotted in fairly well by nature of narrative distance; the major issue there was an inconsistency in the Weapon X program's presentation with X2, yet nothing contradicted enough to be a problem. Ultimately, it was pre-shared universe storytelling done fairly well.
The cracks become problems with X-Men: First Class, a proper prequel that truncated presumed major events - Professor X and Magento's friendship that is so strong they remain close despite battle lines was a short excursion - confused character ties - Cyclops' younger brother was a member of the team in 1960s, while both Emma Frost and Moira McTaggart had counterparts in the original fun - rewrote prior movies - Xavier and Mystique were suddenly childhood friends - and overall ignored Wolverine. The adjustments were all for the benefit of Matthew Vaughn's film, but considering one of its primary franchise purposes was to tell the "origins" of the core team and the cohesion of the MCU was making continuity a key concern, it fumbled it.
Days of Future Past existed primarily to fix everything, and the solution was a novel one: rather than bending over backward to explain the inconsistencies, it created a new "best fit" timeline that explicitly wrote out the events of lesser films (Origins and The Last Stand) and left the specifics of the rest open to audience and future filmmaker interpretation. Of course, even to get there holes were made - The Wolverine's mid-credits setup ignored the future threat, somehow Professor X was alive after The Last Stand, Bolivar Trask had turned from Bill Duke to Peter Dinklage, and the 1962 characters hadn't aged a day in the following decade - and the fix wouldn't last regardless.
X-Men: Apocalypse basically ditched any notion of the new timeline and acted as if it were tying directly into the original X-Men trilogy, and with its recasting of Angel, retconning of Havok to Scott Summers' older brother and Jean Grey's Phoenix powers (among others), created a host of new problems itself. This was all so messy that for Wolverine's final go-around, Logan jumped far into the future with only passing reference to continuity (and still had confusing moments with what exactly happened prior and the recast of Caliban).
It's worth noting that at no point has this been a problem in any artistic sense. Bar Days of Future Past, none of the movies are incredibly fussed with continuity, and whether the notoriously inconsistent franchise lines up or not has had little bearing on the success of respective movies. However, in contrast to the likes of the MCU, it's become a recurring gag - something Deadpool's more than in on.
Page 2 of 2: How Deadpool Breaks (And Then Solves) The Timeline
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2020) release date: Apr 03, 2020
- Gambit (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020