After the X-Men film trilogy concluded on a sour note for fans and critics with 2006's The Last Stand, Twentieth Century Fox looked to Marvel Comics' past to continue the franchise with prequels. The next set of films began with the origin story of Wolverine with franchise star Hugh Jackman returning to star. This was followed by Matthew Vaughn's team-up prequel in X-Men: First Class.
While First Class and the return of Bryan Singer to the franchise made up for the last two franchise films - critically speaking - both it and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were continuity error-laden and seemingly disconnected from the core trilogy.
At this point, the future of the core franchise is hindered with how the story and character arcs played out in X-Men 3 and the prequels can't connect to X-Men 1 because they don't fully follow the same continuity. To fix this and to do something bigger and more ambitious with the franchise - taking a page out of Marvel Studios' handbook - Bryan Singer and Matthew Vaughn are turning X-Men: First Class 2 into a time travel film that can connect all of the films together and (hopefully) make sense of all the stories presented so far.
As we speak, The Wolverine is in principal photography (first official photo of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was just released) for a release next summer and up next on the docket is X-Men: Days of Future Past which will begin shooting in the new year for a summer 2014 release date. Outside of Bryan Singer confirming the title of the film and teasing the idea of seeing older characters return and exploring multiple timelines, no additional details or confirmations have been released, except one by Patrick Stewart.
While appearing at Montreal Comic-Con 2012 (Comiccon de Montréal), Stewart helped close out the event with a Q&A session where he was asked about whether or not he'd be returning as Professor X in the upcoming film(s). He smiled, said "I think there is every possibility," and proceeded to namedrop his female costars from the trilogy. He then began to flat out confirm his return by saying "Yes, I'll be reprising..." before his son Daniel cut him off to namedrop his father's male costars.
Stewart plays Charles Xavier in the series aka Professor X and was (sort of) killed off in X-Men: The Last Stand before it's revealed in the post-credits sequence that he transferred his consciousness to the body of a comatose patient (who may be his twin brother). He also cameo'd in X-Men Origins: Wolverine before X-Men: First Class introduced James McAvoy's younger version of the character.
For years now, X-Men franchise producer Lauren Shuler Donner has name-dropped X-Men 4 (& 5) as a movie she had in development. X-Men: Day of Future Past could essentially be that very same movie, or potentially even lead into X-Men 4 (something Singer teased he'd be interested in directing) or a different take on X-Men 3, one that represents what Bryan Singer would have done with it had he not left the series to direct Superman Returns.
James Mangold and Hugh Jackman have emphasized all along that The Wolverine isn't a direct sequel to Origins and that it's more of a standalone story. With Days of Future Past on the horizon however, we're not too sure how much of that will hold true and we'd expect a reference, even a post-credits scene that will tease the next film in the series, especially since it's practically a given that Hugh Jackman will have a role in X-Men: Days of Future Past as well.
Do you expect everyone to return for the next X-Men team-up? Can Fox pull of a film that features the X-Men: First Class cast along with the cast of the original X-Men trilogy?
The Wolverine hits theaters July 26, 2013. X-Men: Days of Future Past hits theaters on July 18th, 2014.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.