Although some recent entries in the series had proven disappointing, fans and critics alike have sung the praises of Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days of Future Past as a return to form for the original modern comic book film franchise. In addition to being perhaps the best film of the series thus far (though it still has to contend with X2 for that title), DoFP also did some very necessary work on the continuity of the series, bringing a greater creative flow to the series' timeline. Things now clearly begin for the characters with 2011's X-Men: First Class, and it's also likely that the original 2000 film is still canon, but practically everything else is pretty much done away with.
The presence of certain characters alive and well at the end of DoFP likely do away with the events of both X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand, the tease with Mystique in the new film may also cast away a great deal of X-Men: Origins: Wolverine, and the loss of The Last Stand would also greatly change, if not outright remove much of the story from 2013's The Wolverine. So, things are going to be more streamlined: there's now a greater degree of wiggle room for the intervening years between Days of Future Past and the original X-Men film, as well as an entirely new lease on life for the "modern" X-Men cast to go on new adventures.
So, that begs the question: with two casts, two vastly different timelines, and a lot more room to explore now that the slate has largely been wiped clean, where do we go from here?
First Stops: X-Men: Apocalypse, and the Third Solo Wolverine Film
The next time we'll be seeing the X-Men on the big screen will be in X-Men: Apocalypse, due out in early summer 2016. Featuring the classic X-Men villain Apocalypse, the film will include the cast of First Class (McAvoy as Xavier, Fassbender as Magneto, Lawrence as Mystique) along with Evan Peters' return as Quicksilver, and will be taking place in the 1980s.
According to Bryan Singer himself, Apocalypse will also feature the beginning formation of the team as we know it in the original film, which means that we'll see younger versions of Cyclops, Storm and Jean Grey. In addition to creating better continuity between the First Class cast and the modern cast, this also has the virtue of being a story that the film series hasn't yet told.
While a younger version of Cyclops was briefly featured in the first Wolverine film, the continuity doctoring done by Days of Future Past now allows for that story to be told more effectively and truthfully to the tone of the original film. The same goes for Jean Grey, whose younger self appeared in the opening of The Last Stand. We've yet to see the younger Storm. In the first X-Men film, Professor X told Wolverine that Cyclops, Storm and Jean were "some of [his] first students," and if Apocalypse helps tell the story of how that happened, that'd be great ground to cover.
The year 2017 will also see the return of director James Mangold and star Hugh Jackman to the solo Wolverine franchise. At this point, only sparse details are known about what that film will look like. While the 2013 film largely stood on its own from a narrative perspective, it was definitely informed by where all of the characters were left after The Last Stand. Mangold even spoke about how the fragmented state of the team in The Last Stand led to Logan's intense feelings of isolation, and the film itself saw Logan vowing not to hurt anyone after having to kill Jean Grey.
Even though much of the environment around Logan may have now changed in the wake of Days of Future Past, it's still conceivable that many of The Wolverine's events still happened. They probably just happened a little differently than how we remember them.
Both the narrative and critical success of Days of Future Past has placed the X-Men film series in an interesting place. Although First Class was successful back in 2011, the new film has greatly legitimized the younger cast as, perhaps, the possible standard-bearers of the franchise going forward. So, will the next team-based X-Men film further develop the history of the team with the younger cast? Or will the original film's cast return for a new, modern-day adventure? Will we maybe get another grand ensemble for the follow-up to Apocalypse that we received this past May?
There are certainly a lot of possibilities, and depending on the success of Apocalypse, we'll have to see where things go next. With the partial calamity that was The Last Stand now wiped off of the timeline, though, I'm hoping that we get a new film led by Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, James Marsden, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and maybe even Kelsey Grammer. Since Apocalypse is jumping a decade into the 1980s, there's only so much ground left to cover before the younger cast's stories start to catch up with the events of the original film. That being said, at least one more go-round with the original X-Men--perhaps in a film more resembling the comics (as suggested by our own John Gholson)--may be a welcome way to top off the film series on a very positive note before it evolves once again.
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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