James Mangold's The Wolverine takes place "a few years" (according to Hugh Jackman) after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand as it's not a spoiler to reveal that Logan's in a pretty bad place at the beginning of the film. The Wolverine deals with the consequences of the character being near-immortal and having everyone he loves eventually die as he lives on alone. That's the theme the film explores and by the end of it, Logan's a changed man, setting the stage for X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Where do The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past take place in the movie timeline relative to each other, and to previous events from X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class? And how will the upcoming X-Force film fit into the continuity?
Warning: Going forward, we are going to spoil The Wolverine (and all X-Men films released to date). If you don't wish to be spoiled, all you need to know is that (the future part of) X-Men: Days of Future Past takes place 10 years after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand.
Despite being labeled a "standalone" film, The Wolverine very much honors the established continuity of the previous X-Men films. Its story takes place over the span of just a few days but at the end, there's a mid-credits button sequence that takes place another two years after the events of The Wolverine where Ian McKellan's Magneto and Patrick Stewart's Professor X confront Logan and ask for his help. How this moment factors into the storyline of Days of Future Past - especially the resurrection of Charles Xavier - we don't yet know but we do know when in the cinematic timeline the core story for X-Men: Days of Future Past takes place.
X-Men: First Class is a prequel to the entire series and it takes place in the early '60s. We already knew that Days of Future Past is a story of time travel and multiple time periods and that the First Class crew is returning, with a story set eleven years later - 1973 to be specific. As for the post-apocalyptic future that'll see the return of the original X-Men trilogy stars, Bryan Singer revealed to Empire that the future element of the story takes place approximately a decade after X-Men: The Last Stand.
That means we have a two-year gap for another Wolverine story to be told between when he accepts that he's a "soldier" at the end of The Wolverine and jets off with his new partner Yukio to be a hero, and when he's re-recruited by Magneto & Prof X. There's also another 4-6 years between that mid-credits scene and the state of the world we saw in the X-Men: Days of Future Past footage played at Comic-Con, where another story could be told.
We expect much of what happens to the world in those 4-6 years to be explained in Days of Future Past, where some event creates a massive rift between humanity and mutantkind on the political theater and the government/military greenlights the Sentinel program, sending out towering, mutant-hunting killing machines - built by Trask Industries - to throw the world into a war.
What's interesting about the Days of Future Past teaser screened at Comic-Con and the leaked image (see above) of older Wolverine is that both emphasize how Logan is now aging, clearly a result of the events of The Wolverine where the character not only loses his adamantium claws, but part of his ability to heal, meaning he now ages at a much faster rate. Where does that leave the character going forward?
The story of Days of Future Past will see old Logan sent back in time (as if he were the live-action version of Cable from the Ultimate X-Men comics which so happens to be written by Fox's Marvel consultant Mark Millar) and into the body of '70s Logan, meaning time-travel could theoretically be used to reset the entire franchise - correcting the timeline and potentially paving the way for Fox to reboot (where Jackman can still be involved) down the road. We at Screen Rant believe that X-Men: DOFP could be the final chapter for the original X-Men cast with Jackman being the exception and that future films will continue in a different direction via spinoffs or simply round out the First Class trilogy with the cast led by James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender.
We know that after X-Men: Days of Future Past, the next X-Men film Fox is eyeing is X-Force, which will be written (and possibly directed) by Kick-Ass 2's Jeff Wadlow. That story has a lot of differing source material to draw from but since we expect it to feature a five-character roster with at least a few characters from X:DOFP, that story could take place in the two-year gap before The Wolverine mid-credits scene, where Logan - and this is just our speculation - may recruit his own squad of mutants in the two-year gap before encountering Professor X and Magneto. That could pave the way for the fleshed out introduction for characters like Warpath, an essential part of the old and new X-Force from the comics. It could even take place after the mid-credits scene and have Wolverine forming his own new team based on what Magneto and Professor X told him.
Where would you like the series to go from here and would you like Jackman to still be involved?
Bryan Singer directs X-Men: Days of Future Past with newcomers Peter Dinklage, Omar Sy, Boo Boo Stewart, Fan Bingbing, Evan Peters, Adan Canto, Josh Helman, along with returning stars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry, Lucas Till, and Daniel Cudmore. James Marsden may be involved if witness reports are true.
The Wolverine releases July 26, 2013, X-Men: Days of Future Past on May 23, 2014.
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Source: Empire (via CBM)