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Through the X-Men film universe (X-Men 1-3, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and The Wolverine), we see at least three distinct timelines/alternate realities.

The "Original" Timeline

Through X-Men 1-3 mutants are a largely unknown factor. X-Men 1 opens up in "the near future" (relative to the year 2000, when the film was released) with the public largely unfamiliar with mutants or their abilities. The "Mutant Registration Act" aims to identify and register mutants. The following films deal with mutants still being very much hidden, but there is no indication that they are being hunted or even identified in any large scale way until X-Men: The Last Stand when mutants voluntarily come forth. In these movies, the only mention of anything even remotely close to a Sentinel is a robot head in the Danger Room in X-Men: The Last Stand. In this timeline, when mutants appear, police are called, not Sentinels, and

Jean Grey and Cyclops both die (Jean dies twice).

The Days Of Future Past Timeline

In this timeline, Sentinels are used to hunt mutants and anyone with mutant genes.

The whole premise of the movie/Wolverine's mission is that

the assassination of Bolivar Trask in Paris in 1973 sets off anti-mutant hysteria, leading the US government to activate Trask's Sentinel project. In addition to the Sentinels, Trask has a device which can detect mutants (he has it with him at the Paris meeting which he is to be assassinated in). When the assassination fails, Trask already has a number of Sentinels built and ready to deploy, proving that while the updated Sentinels with adaptation ability are still a ways off, the technology for the Gen-1 Sentinels is largely ready - in 1973.

These two timelines are definitively different as

there are no Sentinels hunting mutants, nor is there any massive anti-mutant hysteria in X-Men 1 (at least, not to the level described in Days of Future Past)

The Altered Days of Future Past Timeline

Prior to Wolverine embarking on his mission, Kitty explains that should he succeed,

he will wake up back in their present (2023, I believe), but with history changed around him. Only he would remember the original Days of Future Past timeline with mutants having been hunted to near extinction.

In the end, we see this timeline

with Jean and Cyclops still alive and well in the 2023 present time.


Phew... Got all that?

The present story of The Wolverine opens with Wolverine having nightmares of when

he was forced to kill Jean Grey.

By itself, this doesn't mean that The Wolverine takes place in the "original" timeline, but we see a world where, as with the "original" timeline, there is no indication of mutants being hunted. Nor are there any mentions of Sentinels.

Conclusion: It is reasonable to assume that The Wolverine takes place in the same timeline/continuity as X-Men 1-3.

Right until we get to the post-credit scene

The Wolverine ends with

Logan flying off with Yukio, but only has bone claws.

The post-credit scene takes place later (2 years, IIRC). In this,

Wolverine sets off metal detectors, and is then approached by Professor Xavier and Magneto, hoping to recruit him for an upcoming battle. In the background, we see a commercial for Trask Industries playing on a TV.

The insinuation, of course, is that this scene is meant as a direct lead-in to X-Men: Days of Future Past, and that

Xavier and Magneto are recruiting him to fight the forthcoming Sentinels.

If we assume that The Wolverine and the post-credit scene are in the "original" timeline, then the post-credit scene is not a true lead-in.

If we assume that the post-credit scene is in the Days of Future Past timeline, then we are left to explain why no mutants have are being hunted by Sentinels already.

So... Which timeline does this post-credit scene take place in, or why is the history described in DOFP not reflected in X-Men 1-3?

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    Related: movies.stackexchange.com/q/19680/49. – TARS May 25 '14 at 23:41
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    Stupid question here... what the heck is a stinger? – Jared May 27 '14 at 13:02
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    @Jared Stinger is another term for a post-credits or mid-credits scene – phantom42 May 27 '14 at 13:04
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    After watching DoFP I felt it was pretty clear that there was only one timeline. I got the impression that the main point of the movie was to do this, probably allowing for multiple movies using the different casts. – Dave Johnson May 27 '14 at 16:20
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    @DaveJohnson DoFP-1973 shows that Gen-1 Sentinels are ready to deploy at that time. If these existed in the X-Men 1-3 timeline, mutants would have been known more at the beginning of X-Men 1, and something like the Mutant Registration Act would have been a non-issue as they could have detected all the mutants with Trask's device. – phantom42 May 27 '14 at 16:33
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I would not make the assumption that they have created the alternate timelines that you are implying they have.

Quotes from Wikipedia

For the movie X2

Sentinels and the Danger Room were set to appear before being deleted because of budget concerns.

And Days

X-Men: Days of Future Past is a 2014 superhero film, based on the fictional X-Men characters appearing in Marvel Comics. The film was directed by Bryan Singer and acts as a sequel to both 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand and 2011's X-Men: First Class.

Good discussion here about the continuity issue of the movies, with this quote in particular:

And since DoFP insists that X3 is official canon

Further corroboration is a quote from Hugh Jackman from here

Indeed, it's safe to say we're properly set up for "Days of Future Past," as Jackman's statement at "The Wolverine" Comic-Con press conference certainly corroborates: "The character you see at the end of 'Wolverine' is very much the character you see at the beginning of 'Days of Future Past.'"

EDIT: Took out extraneous information about comics and added in quote from Hugh Jackman about continuity of the character from The Wolverine to Days of Future Past.

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    This is a great comparison between the movies and the comics, but I never asked about the comics. The movies and comics are completely different continuities - that's a given and accepted fact. But even with the course corrections made in DOFP, the stinger at the end of The Wolverine does not seem to cleanly fit into any of the timelines presented in the movies. – phantom42 May 25 '14 at 6:17
  • @phantom42 There are many web sources that analyze the end scene to The Wolverine which would disagree with you. The third link posted above is one, another would be denofgeek.com/movies/the-wolverine/26587/… or if that isn't enough direct quotes from the actors themselves here: movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/… – tk1974 May 25 '14 at 6:35
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As far as I am concerned, the timeline of the original trilogy and future Days of the Future Past are the same. The Trask assasination probably wasen't as public as it was in the altered timeline, which to me is enough to justify the negative but not openly violent status regarding mutants in the original movies. Just imagine them developing the advanced sentinels of the future timeline (maybe the prototypes diden't stand a chance against the mutants back then and the war never was that open, or they decided to go for the more advanced design right after they got Mystique) without public knowledge. After X3, some event caused the release of the advbanced sentinels (or maybe an intermediate state) and the open war.

Taking continuity problems within the original timeline into account, we could also say that all three of them are in different, but very close timelines that would have ended in the DotFP scenario.

The solo Wolverine movie takes place in the X3 timeline (flashbacks to Logan killing Jean and all that), and some time after the end credits scene, Magneto gave Logans' claws a new coating (a nod to that in Days would have been nice).

The new future in Days also isen't as safe as one would imagine. We have Deadpool upcoming, and I'm sure they'll give us Cable at some point (second Deadpool or X-Force if this one makes enough). So we'll probably have some time travel events, just not in the immediate follow up movies.

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The post-credit Wolverine scene takes place two years after the events of The Wolverine, but before the beginning of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Since this scene never actually occurs, the only continuity you need to be concerned with as of right now are:

  1. X-Men: First Class — Due to taking place ten years before Days of Future Past, the continuity is protected by the altered timeline;
  2. Flashback sequences of Logan and Yashida in The Wolverine — Since these flashback sequences take place in 1945 (again, before the time alteration), they are also still the same.
  3. Young Logan scene in X-Men Origins: Wolverine — Since this scene takes place in 1845, I think it's safe to say that the continuity is still intact.
  4. X-Men: Days of Future Past (1973 segments before the Paris Peace Accords scene) — Since this is only the first change made by Charles, Logan, Hank, & Erik, it constitutes the start of the altered timeline (ergo, the D.C. battle, Magneto controlling the Sentinels, and the X-Men now alive and well in the present).

Therefore, all plot points from the three X-Trilogy films, all of The Wolverine besides the 1945 flashback sequences, and the majority of X-Men Origins: Wolverine have been erased, albeit temporarily.

Now, only the events in Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Gambit, and whatever new X-flms they come out with will constitute the new timeline, which will probably change again after the events of another movie.

Anyone else feel a headache comin' on?

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As an aside to tk1974's very good answer, I've attached an image from somewhere else on SciFi.SE as something of a visual guide to the Fox-Universe

X-Men movie timelines

  • As I've mentioned elsewhere, this is a fan-created image based on a user-editable wikia. Helpful, but not definitive. – phantom42 Aug 17 '16 at 15:41

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