We now live in a post-Logan world. As division of time goes, it's a bit like dividing events into what happened before the birth of Christ and what came after, only more important, because what's at stake here is an exact understanding of just what the hell is going on with the notoriously convoluted X-Men movie timeline.
Major spoilers ahead for #Logan and every other X-Men movie, although if you haven't seen them by now I don't know what you're doing here.
To recap, everything was fairly straightforward for the #XMen. The original trilogy, which director Bryan Singer departed after two movies, was set in the present day. It was linear. The rebooted prequel trilogy followed younger versions of Charles, Erik and Raven as they established the X-Men, beginning in the '60s with X-Men: First Class. So far, so simple.
In 2014, Singer returned to the franchise and directed Days Of Future Past, set in '73, a major fan favorite which screwed with what had been a linear timeline. Future Past established a new timeline, meaning the X-Men movies were now juggling two.
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Ever since, trying to work out which events actually happened and which have been erased is a bit like trying to solve a rubix cube which also happens to be a Sudoku — the pieces are always moving, the square which is supposed to be blue has "done a Mystique" and is now white, and Charles's age still doesn't make any sense.
So, once and for all, let's try to break the events of all ten X-Men movies down into one linear, legit, definitive timeline, beginning in...
1845: Wolverine's Mutation
In the year 1845, a young James Howlett witnessed the murder of the man he thought to be his father at the hand of his actual father. The trauma activates his mutation, and the Wolverine is born, as depicted in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
1930-1961: Birth Of The X-Men
Erik Lehnsherr is born in Dusseldorf, Germany to Jewish parents in 1930. Charles Xavier is born in 1932 in London. Raven Darkholme is born in 1934. In 1944, Raven meets Charles after breaking into his family home in search of food, as depicted in X-Men: First Class.
In the same year, Erik is separated from his parents at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, where both he and the villainous Sebastian Shaw first learn of his mutant abilities. While Raven and Charles spend the '50s studying at Oxford together, Erik searches for Shaw, who murdered his mother.
1962: The Missile Crisis Of 'First Class'
In 1962, Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert learn of the Hellfire Club's desire to manipulate a global nuclear warfare, under the leadership of Shaw. They convince the CIA of mutantkind's existence and help to train Raven, who takes the alias Mystique, Erik (who becomes Magneto) and various other young mutants.
Against the backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis, Magneto and Xavier disable Shaw and prevent WWIII, but in the chaos Magneto deflects a bullet into Charles's spine, causing his paralysis. Feeling betrayed by humanity, Magneto establishes an ideological "us vs. them" mentality, parting with Xavier, who then wipes Moira's memory to remove all trace of the X-Men for her own protection. In 1965, Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters opens its doors.
The above events all effectively belong to both timelines: the original, including the events of X-Men and X2, and the new, definitive timeline which would branch off from the original precisely ten years after First Class.
1973: Wolverine Alters The Future
Buckle up — this is where things get a touch more complicated.
In 2023, mutantkind is slightly fucked, to say the least. The sentinels, an army of mutant-hunting robots, are winning the war against the X-Men. Because Mystique's capture by the government in 1973 was the turning point which sparked this war, Kitty Pryde sends Logan's present-day consciousness back to '73 in his younger body, and Logan is able to prevent Mystique from assassinating Bolivar Trask.
Trask's Sentinel Program is cancelled and the future is saved, meaning everything between 1973 and 2023 that was previously canon — the entire original X-Men trilogy — is now mercilessly erased from the new timeline. Wolverine's consciousness returns to his future self, while in '73 Mystique fishes his body from the river where Magneto dumped him.
1983: Apocalypse Awakens
Ten years later in 1983, Moira MacTaggert, who still has no memory of the X-Men, awakens the ancient mutant En Sabah Nur, otherwise known as Apocalypse, by, uhh, allowing sunlight into his pyramid. Sure, whatever. Mystique is now a hero but mutants are in hiding around the world, or forced to participate in brutal cage fights.
While Jean Grey and Scott Summers come to terms with their powers at Xavier's School, Magneto and Apocalypse travel to Egypt to enact maximum destruction on a city which oddly has no civilians whatsoever. Charles, now bald, encourages Jean Grey to unleash the Phoenix force, killing Apocalypse. Moira's memory is restored.
For reasons entirely unexplained, Jean Grey also finds a semi-feral Logan locked up at William Stryker's Alkali Lake HQ, where Weapon X is in motion. She frees him (how did he get there, when we saw Mystique free him in Future Past?), but we learn in the post-credits scene that Essex Corp have all they need to create a clone. That will come into play later in this modified timeline.
It's worth noting that the saga's habit of jumping forward ten years each time begins to add another element of confusion here, seeing as Charles is supposed to be 51 years old, but barely looks a day over 35. Best just to skate right past that.
1990s: X-Men vs. Dark Phoenix In Space?
Rumors suggest the next movie in the main X-Men saga will be titled X-Men: Supernova, set circa 1993 and will retell the Dark Phoenix Saga, a story already (badly) told in The Last Stand — and therefore wiped from the new timeline. The title would also suggest we might be headed into space this time.
2016: Wade Wilson Becomes Deadpool
Because the events of the original trilogy are no longer canon, there's a massive leap between Apocalypse and the next chronological events.
There's actually never been any real confirmation that Deadpool takes place in the same timeline or continuity as the main X-Men movies, and seeing as it features so few mutants ("Almost like the studio couldn't afford another X-Men!") it's hard to say for sure — but for the sake of our own sanity, let's assume there isn't a third timeline at play here.
Deadpool returns, with Cable, in Deadpool 2, presumably set circa 2018.
2023: Logan Saves The X-Men
As depicted in the final scenes of Days Of Future Past, Logan awakens in 2023, fresh from his time-traveling antics in the '70s, to discover that he was successful — Trask wasn't killed, the Sentinels don't exist, and the mutants are no longer hiding in a cave in China, but going about their everyday business at Xavier's School.
A look between Jean Grey and Logan suggests that, even though their relationship (and Logan's murder of Jean) in the original trilogy essentially never happened, they were still together in some capacity in the new timeline, somewhere between the events of Apocalypse and the present. Life resumes as normal (by X-standards).
2029: The Dark Future Of Mutantkind
Six short years later, the world looks drastically different. In Logan, almost all of the mutants are gone, other than Caliban and a rapidly-deteriorating Xavier. X-23 and various other cloned mutants have been raised in a lab across the Mexican border by Transigen, and are now headed for the mythical Eden in North Dakota, hoping to reach safety in Canada.
En route, we learn that Professor X himself was responsible for numerous mutant deaths at his own school around a year earlier, and that no new mutants have been born for 25 years. Caliban, Xavier and Logan are all killed, and after burying her "dad," Laura, or X-23, and her young mutant friends head into the wilderness.
Again, whether Logan really takes place in the same timeline as Days Of Future Past is contentious, seeing as the year 2023 in that movie seemed like a bright future for mutantkind, but in the world of Logan it's hard to imagine that Charles was at full health and mental capacity just a few years earlier, or that nobody in 2023 realised there had been no new mutant births for 19 years.
Director James Mangold would only ambiguously state that Logan takes place five years after the last (chronological events of an) X-Men movie, without confirming it as part of that same timeline. We may have to wait for X-Force, and the time-traveling mutant Cable, to get any real confirmation of whether the future of this definitive X-Men movie timeline is really as dark as the vision Logan presents.
Check out this exclusive Movie Pilot video for a visual on the two timelines.
So, there you have it — the definitive X-Men movie timeline. It may seem absurdly complex on the surface, but when you break it down, the rules are quite simple. The time-meddling of Future Past didn't create a new branch from the existing timeline — it simply rewrote history, so that the events of the original trilogy and the first two Wolverine movies ceased to ever occur.
Will the X-Men movies find a way to keep things simple going forward, or will the timeline become even more complicated?