There's no doubt in my mind that the 20th Century Fox X-Men films revamped the comic books from and made the franchise accessible to old and new fans alike. There's also no doubt that though the movies strayed from the original stories (and understandably so), they were guilty of some pretty obvious inconsistencies that we feel they could have been avoided—or at least explained. In fact, it comes as no surprise whatsoever that many X-Men fans have been confused and outraged by alarming continuity problems throughout the series. Many have even dismissed entire plot-lines and character mishaps altogether. We can accept changing actors—that's just the reality of showbiz—but we draw the line at character timeline inconsistencies and fluctuating character interpretations.
Fans who may not be familiar with the original storyline have (more than once) found themselves struggling to understand what happened in the closing credits that validated upcoming films. No one wants to spend hours of research after watching a movie just trying to make sense of what they saw, do they? Thankfully, we've assembled the top 15 most noteworthy continuity fails in the X-Men series, and explained them so you don't have to.
15 Timelines Past 1973
For many X-Men fans, there are a handful of films that are considered so nonsensical that it would be easier to simply forget about them. These generally include X3: Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and X-Men Apocalypse. Thankfully, with the release of the 2014 film, X-Men: Days of Future Past, at least the first two films were forgotten and wiped off the face of the X-Men Universe entirely. In the realm of comic books, this is known as a "reboot" - essentially a re-do that erases everything that happened in previous storylines. We can clearly see this happening at the conclusion of Days of Future Past, when Wolverine wakes up in 2023 after traveling back in time to find out that all of his dead colleagues were still alive, the war with the Sentinels never happened, and reminded of Mystique's assassination.
Confused yet? Don't be. Just remember that the original X-Men trilogy and the two (terrible) Wolverine movies are now null and void. And bear this in mind whenever you have questions about continuity moving forward.
14 Moira MacTaggert
The continuity hiccup of Moira MacTaggert's existence is another fail we can explain away from the events of Days of Future Past (before which Moira technically makes her first appearance as a CIA agent in X-Men: First Class). However, fans of the films know we've already met Moira—albeit in the body of actress Olivia Williams, as a 38-year-old Scottish doctor in the post-credits of X3. Because we know the events of X3 never happened, we can deduce this just to be a simple nod at the genetics expert who had a larger role in the comics. Though the original timeline suggests Moira changed careers—from CIA agent to special mutant genetics doctor—there's no fathomable way Rose Byrne's Moira could have aged that well in four decades.
Thankfully, in the revised (and only existing) timeline, this X3 scene never occurred, so we can only suggest the later Moira MacTaggert shared the same name, or was possibly a relative of the original.
13 Mystique And Professor X
Again, another continuity error easily explained, is the question of the relationship between Raven/Mystique and Charles Xavier. This was introduced and developed in First Class, where a young Mystique meets Charles when she's caught stealing food from the kitchen. Immediately, he takes her as a sister figure, and seems to completely accept her as she is—something she has never encountered in her mutant form. Through the course of the film, it's apparent that Jennifer Lawrence's character of Mystique is much, much different than the cold and calculated Rebecca Romijn's version. But again, we have to acknowledge that the Mystique from the original trilogy (and in Apocalypse), while elusive, was tightly bonded to Magneto—which is solidified at the end of First Class. However, if we take into consideration of Mystique's antipathy towards Charles (and vice versa) in those films, this could be attributed to her assassination of Trask in the '70s.
For now, we're certain it doesn't really matter. Even without a reboot of the series, a lot could have occurred between First Class and the X-Men trilogy to justify the confusing relationship between Mystique and Charles.
Less of a casting issue, and more of timeline and character conflict, Angel is clearly represented in two entirely different ways within the X-Men universe. Introduced to fans in X3 and played by Ben Foster, Angel is the son of a wealthy industrialist who we find trying to hack off his wings in the bathroom. Years later, when the mutant cure has been developed, we see him angrily rejecting it and flying out of the high-rise window to join the other X-Men. Of course, in Apocalypse (set in the 1980s), we meet a punk-rock Angel (Ben Hardy) of the same age, who fights with the Four Horsemen alongside Magneto, Storm, and Psylocke. We find him as an alcoholic after damaging his wings from fighting in underground clubs, where he eventually has them "healed" into metal by Apocalypse before being recruited.
Overlooking the continuity error of Angel's character and that in the comics (where he is a founding member of the X-Men), we're still unsure why he was introduced to us twice. We can only assume that they are either two different mutants with the same names and powers, or as some theories suggest, he died in Apocalypse and was reborn years later as the more comic-accurate version.
11 Emma Frost
Unfortunately, this easily explained flub is made a little more complicated with the release of a promotional video revealing the Emma Frost in First Class and the Emma Frost in Origins was one in the same. If you overlook this strange piece of trivia, it's clear that they are different characters entirely. Not only did Erik/Magneto confirm the death of Emma Frost in 1963, and Kayla Silverfox's sister was captured at a young age in the late '70s, but its been proven that many mutants often share similar powers. Though both have the ability to transform into impenetrable diamonds, only the Emma Frost played by January Jones had the telepathic abilities that made her immune to Charles' mind control, as well as enhanced strength. Emma/Silverfox possessed only the ability to change her form into diamonds. Additionally, given the two characters' vastly different personalities, there is no way they are one in the same.
The Cyclops continuity fail revolves primarily around the age error. Scott's brother, Alex Summers/Havoc, was recruited in 1962 while in his 20's. And yet, we are first introduced to Scott/Cyclops (played by James Marsden) in the 2000s, where he is also clearly in his late 20's or 30's. Not only does this mean there is an age gap of about 40 years between the brothers, but it's also impossible—as we later meet a teenage Scott in the '60s in First Class, and then later, still as a teenager in the '80s in Origins. Similarly, we also see Alex and Scott in Apocalypse in the '80s, where Alex hasn't aged a day, and Scott remains a teenager for decades. Thankfully, Scott as a teenager in the latter matches up with Scott as an adult in X-Men. Unfortunately, this continuity error is so layered that we're guessing the filmmakers were hoping no one noticed, or at least decided to erase this continuity error like Days of Future Past erased most others.
We know, we know. Deadpool is a stand-alone Marvel movie that was completely revamped and shouldn't have any connection to the troubling version of Wade Wilson we met in the Origins film. However, in addition to the fact that both Pools were played by the hilarious Ryan Reynolds, there are some pretty obvious similarities that are difficult to look past. Originally a member of Team X under William Stryker (who, by this point, we all love to hate) during the Vietnam War, Wade Wilson was a soldier and mercenary in Origins before he was killed by Victor Creed and made into Weapon XI.
Alternately, in Deadpool, Wade Wilson was born in Canada in the '70s, and later became a member of the Canadian Special Forces before undergoing his mutant transformation. Of course, these are details easily overlooked with the acceptance that Ryan Reynolds was quickly able to save the comic book character of Deadpool, and turn him into the sarcastic anti-hero worthy of his own films. In this way, we can't even be upset at this clearly wretched portrayal of Deadpool, and are duly thankful that technically Origins - and thus Team X - never existed in the first place.
Another terrible continuity disaster derived from Origins (2009) is the aggravating revision of Sabretooth. Though, again, simply another confusing fail that was scrubbed clean with the conclusion of Days of Future Past. We were stuck with the knowledge that the dim-witted, furry, and silent Sabretooth we met in X-Men was none other than Victor Creed, the half-brother of Wolverine (referred to as James Howlett in Origins).
If you were able to sit through the entire movie, you would've learned that after Team X was dissolved, Victor continued to work with Stryker to eventually murder his old team members and develop Weapon XI. This discrepancy was apparently explained in a comic book that tied in to the movies, but others can only guess the cause of his transformation from Victor to Sabretooth from X-Men over the years. Perhaps it's possible that he experienced—like Hank McCoy—a second mutation, which in effect would explain his appearance. It is also interesting to note that while it didn't seem as if he recognized Wolverine in the 2000s, he did pick up and keep his half-brother's original dog tags.
7 Mystique As William Stryker
One major continuity flaw that cannot be ignored is the unnecessary inclusion of Mystique as William Stryker in Days of Future Past, which somehow makes the later representation of Wolverine as a savage in Apocalypse completely ludicrous. Why Stryker was included in the 1970s plot at all is beyond us. And while we understand it may have been the screenwriter's sassy attempt to end the film on a cliffhanger, it really convolutes the idea that Mystique was the one who pulled Wolverine out of the water at the end of the movie. If this had been the case, then why was Wolverine still captured by Stryker and involved in the Weapon X program when we see him again in Apocalypse?
Here, we can only speculate that although the yellow eye flash always revealed Mystique's disguise, perhaps this was another mutant with the same powers who was working with Stryker. Or, there is the less believable explanation that this was, in fact, Mystique, and she did release Wolverine. And somewhere in between Days of Future Past and Apocalypse, he was recaptured by Stryker.
6 Jean Grey's Phoenix
By now, we can all agree (or at least agree to disagree) that X3 was on par with Origins as being the worst X-Men movie to date. Much of this is due to the portrayal and transformation of Jean Grey, played by Famke Janssen. At this point, we learn that while Jean Grey is one of (if not the most) powerful of all mutants in the universe, her full potential has been blocked by Charles/Professor X since she was a child. This was primarily done to ensure her incredible telepathic abilities were kept in check. Because of this suppression, however, what manifests as the Dark Phoenix is actually a completely separate character to the Jean Grey we first meet. Acting like a split personality, it's the Dark Phoenix that kills Scott, Charles, and joins forces with Magneto in X3. While this was rebooted in the films after Days of Future Past (everyone is still alive in 2023!), it doesn't explain how a young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is able to have full control of her abilities as the Phoenix, without succumbing to those powers in Apocalypse.
If she had this ability in her young age, if the events of the trilogy did indeed occur, how did Janssen's Jean not only lack power, but lose herself to her darker alternate personality? Again, the answer lies in the events of Days of Future Past. Technically, the only Jean Grey we've met is a brief encounter in 2023 by Wolverine, where none of her powers are exposed. Until then, perhaps she always had full control of the Phoenix.
5 Charles' Death
This continuity flub was noticed by all X-Men fans, and only resolved for those who had the patience to stay for the post-credits. For all others, they were flummoxed when Professor X casually shows up (in The Wolverine) alive and as if he'd never been vaporized by Jean Grey's Dark Phoenix in X3. We don't blame you if you were baffled. However, a quick fix was given at the very end, where we see a familiar looking body which just happens to be that of P. Xavier, Charles' comatose twin brother. Supposedly, Charles' psyche was able to jump into this body—which then solves the issue of him still being alive. If you can get behind this, then you don't have to worry about the fact that he can only reach his mind that far when connected to Cerebro, and at the time of his death in X3, he was nowhere near Cerebro. But for all intents and purposes, he is Professor X, and who knows the extent of his telepathic abilities when being disintegrated into the universe?
4 Wolverine's Healing Powers
Yet another aggravating flaw that isn't so much fatal as it is troubling, is the lack of consistency with Wolverine's healing powers. There have been many memes over the years showcasing Wolverine's ability to regenerate his body at different points in time throughout the X-Men series. There's no mistaking his fluctuating body transformations at the hands of Hugh Jackman and his personal trainer that do not coincide with the timelines, but we're more interested in the noticeable discrepancy of his healing powers. Whereas in X2, he is taken down by a gunshot to the head and remains unconscious for a good couple of minutes. Soon after in X3, Wolverine is able to withstand Jean Grey's telepathic vaporizing abilities instantaneously. Even in The Wolverine, in a scene that takes place in the '40s, he's subjected to a nuclear bomb, and we still see his completely burnt body take some time to heal. We can only suspect that his healing powers improve over time (like Victor Creed's supposed secondary mutation), or (more likely) this was simply a minor detail overlooked by the filmmakers.
Possibly one of the most charismatic—and useful—characters in the X-Men universe was Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner. Played in X2 by Alan Cumming and in Apocalypse by Kodi Smit-McPhee, Nightcrawler had a relatively small role in the films. Though in the comics, his history was much more complex and developed (Rogue is his sibling and Mystique is his biological mother).
Sadly, we saw none of this in the movies—due in part to Rogue's cut scene in Days of Future Past, as well as Alan Cumming's removal from X3. The explanation is relatively simple, but no less disappointing. Apparently Cumming's part was so small in X3 that it didn't justify having to spend an uncomfortable amount of time in the makeup chair every day. To smooth over this deletion of what seemed to be an integral character in X2, the X-Men 3 video game revealed his absence when Nightcrawler informs his team that he no longer wished to lead a violent life, and was leaving to find peace. Although completely understandable, we still would have liked some clarification in the films.
2 Bolivar Trask
This continuity issue mirrors that of Emma Frost; being played by different actors in different character roles. However, the two differentiating Bolivar Trasks, played by Bill Duke in X3 and Days of Future Past by Peter Dinklage, are much more noticeable. In our first introduction, we meet Trask as the head of Homeland Security. Dinklage's Trask is the antagonist mastermind behind Trask Industries, who creates the Sentinels that hunt mutants in the future. Because the actors look absolutely nothing alike (and this discrepancy is never fully explained), we can simply accept the fact that Duke's Trask was never identified as "Bolivar," and thus must have shared the surname of Dinklage's character, or like Moira MacTaggert, had some sort of familial connection. Considering everything that has occurred in the X-Men universe, this doesn't seem too far-fetched.
1 Wolverine's Claws
Finally, the continuity fail of all continuity fails is the completely unexplained return of Wolverine's Adamantium claws in Days of Future Past. If you followed the films in order of their releases, this occurs along the timeline after Wolverine has his Adamantium claws severed by Ichiro Yashida in The Wolverine. The destruction of his iconic weapons is replaced by his natural mutation's bone claws that are revealed under his knuckles. This is why it's not only irksome that he still has his Adamantium claws at the beginning of Days of Future Past before being sent back in time, but also confusing that he seems shocked at the appearance of his bone claws back in 1973.
So, while frustrating, this continuity error isn't necessarily an error at all. Considering it has been years between the time he had his claws destroyed and 2023, it has been revealed by screenwriters that as he was working with Magneto to fight the Sentinels. Wolverine actually had his bone claws refurbished into metal once again. Still doubtful? Just remember, Days of Future Past rebooted The Wolverine, so you can sleep easy by accepting that none of it happened anyway.