It's the end of the world as we know it in "X-Men: Apocalypse", starring younger versions of characters we first met in the movie "X-Men" way back in 2000.
Timeline-wise, the current run of prequels is getting close to meeting in the middle with the older films. So (with spoilers) let's see if the events of "Apocalypse" manage to tie together with what has gone before -- or has the new flick messed up the continuity?
As a reminder, here's the chronology:
- 1962: "X-Men: First Class" (2011)
- 1972: "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014)
- 1983: "X-Men: Apocalypse" (2016)
- The not too distant future: "X-Men" (2000)
- The not too distant future: "X2" (2003)
- The not too distant future: "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006)
If there are discrepancies between new and old films, it could be explained away by the new timeline created in the time-traveling "Days of Future Past", but I hate it when they do that -- I'm looking at you, J.J. Abrams and your "Star Trek" reboot. So leaving aside any timey-wimey nonsense, do the films still tie together?
The answer is yes...and no.
In "Apocalypse", some of the young X-Men encounter Wolverine and free him from the Weapon X project where he has been turned into a living weapon. Hang on -- I thought, as I was watching -- don't they meet for the first time in "X-Men"?
It seemed that way at the time, but watching "X-Men" again, there's actually some ambiguity. In the 2000 movie, Wolverine, who has no memory of his past, is introduced to Jean Grey and Cyclops apparently for the first time. But they never actually ask him his name or seek any information from him. Wolverine doesn't remember them -- "What do they call you? Wheels?" -- but they never show any sign that they don't know him. At the time we assumed this was because Professor Xavier and Jean could read his mind, but it could easily be because they had already crossed paths years before.
Then in "X2", a conversation between Magneto and Professor Xavier implies that both of them know more about Wolverine's past than they're telling him. That matches up with "Apocalypse" too.
Also in "X2", Stryker meets Wolverine for the first time in what he says is about "15 years". Given that "X-Men" was set in the "not too distant future", "X2" is probably more like 20-25 years after Wolverine escaped Stryker's Weapon X project in 1983. Eh, close enough -- Stryker may have got his dates wrong in the heat of the moment, or, more likely, this reference will retroactively make sense if the two encounter each other in the next X-Men movie, which will be set in the '90s.
Maybe we'll also see Stryker's son Jason in that forthcoming film. Incidentally, the actor playing Jason in "X2", Michael Reid MacKay, was 50 years old at the time, which definitely doesn't fit the timeline -- leading us into the ways that the films contradict each other.
According to "Apocalypse", Jean, Cyclops and Mystique have been to Alkali Lake, the home of the Weapon X project. That seems to contradict "X2", in which they don't recognise the location of the base.
More significantly, in "Apocalypse", the mutant Nightcrawler fights alongside Jean Grey, Cyclops and Mystique. That directly contradicts "X2", in which the X-Men very differently meet Nightcrawler for the first time.
There's no ambiguity, as there is with Wolverine: Storm and Cyclops straight-out ask Nightcrawler his name, and Nightcrawler asks them about the school, with no recognition on either side.
So what about "X-Men: The Last Stand"? The third "X-Men" movie, released in 2006, shows Xavier and Magneto as friends, meeting a young Jean Grey just 20 years ago, which is way off the chronology established in more recent films. It also features a winged mutant and a man called Trask, but technically they could be different people than the winged mutant in "Apocalypse" and the character Bolivar Trask played by Peter Dinklage in "Days of Future Past".
Still, we can probably go ahead and forget about "The Last Stand" anyway, since "Days of Future Past" seems to write it off -- and "Apocalypse" makes director Brian Singer's feelings about the third film pretty clear...