(Warning — the following contains SPOILERS for past X-Men movies, including the ending of X-Men: Days of Future Past. If you're not all caught up with the X-Franchise then proceed with caution, and all that...)
One of the most fundamental problems of modern movie-going isn't the price of the tickets, the apparent ubiquity of certain genres, or even the sound of someone eating popcorn right behind your head even though it's the most important scene in the movie. Instead, it tends to be a very particular — and modern — challenge: keeping track of just what the heck is going on in a franchise.
From Marvel Studios to the Terminator series, and all the way in between, it's growing more and more difficult to grasp the whens, wheres, and whys of what's going on in our favorite movie sagas. After all, with so many sequels, prequels, time-shifts, and ret-cons, it's often all but impossible to know just what movie timeline we're supposed to be watching. For sheer temporal complexity, though:
Nothing Is Quite As Complicated As The X-Men Franchise
After all, not only has the series been sort-of-rebooted (with the original three movies, X-Men, X-2 and X-Men: The Last Stand making way for X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past and this year's X-Men: Apocalypse) but even within that framework, a whole lot of weird time travel related stuff has gone on.
So much so, in fact, that as series producer/writer Simon Kinberg recently put it in an interview with Digital Spy:
"Everything Is An Alternate Timeline At This Point"
Though, as he made sure to add, there is one thing we can be sure of:
"The one thing we have established is the end of Days of Future Past, where Wolverine wakes up in the future mansion - that is the destination of this new timeline. So ultimately they are going to become who you see at the end of that movie."
Or, in other words:
The Ending Of 'Days Of Future Past' Is The Only 'Real' Modern Day X-Men Plot-Line At This Point
Specifically, the reality we saw at the end of Days of Future Past — the one in which Cyclops and Jean Grey are alive, everyone's romantic entanglements sorted themselves out, and sentinels didn't take over the world — is the only one that currently exists as far as the X-Filmmakers are concerned.
Which, in turn, means that...
The First Three X-Men Movies No Longer Exist
Or, rather, the films themselves may still exist, but nothing that happens in them is now considered even remotely canonical.
That's right: Rogue joining the X-Men and battling the Brotherhood, Stryker's anti-mutant crusade, Jean's transformation into the Phoenix and... whatever else happened in The Last Stand — all gone.
What Does That Mean For The New X-Movies, Though?
Well, more than anything else, it suggests that — barring further temporal adjustments — everyone we saw at the end of Days of Future Past is set to survive the next several adventures. Beast, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Professor X, Rogue, Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Colossus and, of course, Wolverine have all been shown to be alive in the future, so they must surely survive the events of X-Men: Apocalypse (and any future sequels).
It also, however, opens up the possibility of certain major characters taking their lives in very different directions. Mystique and Magneto, for instance, are no longer destined to be villains — giving their narrative arcs a whole lot more freedom than they otherwise would have had. It also explains how Nightcrawler could join the team so much earlier — if not quite how Jubilee appears to be much younger in this timeline than in the other.
In other words? Pretty much everything might have changed — but that might well turn out to be a good thing.
What do you think, though?