I would argue that most of the X-Men movies by 20th Century Fox have been good. Rarely great, but mostly good and only a couple times have they been bad. X2, X-Men: First Class and Deadpool stand as their high water marks with Wolverine and X-Men: Last Stand junking up the bottom. But the rest tend to be pretty strong. The biggest problem for the fans is that there’s never been a long-term plan with the X-Men. So a lot of times they’ve used characters more than once. We’re talking different actors, different time periods, and wildly different interpretations. X-Men: Days of Future Past did an admirable time reset but while that erases some of the stuff in Wolverine and Last Stand that weren’t too good, it really doesn’t explain why a character like Angel exists in both the 80s and the near future at about the same age. Or why Moira MacTaggert can be a CIA operative in the 60s but a doctor in the future and not look much older. The timelines just don’t work. Let’s take a look at some of the more prominent characters that were used more than once. We’ll go ahead and skip some, like Sabretooth or Nightcrawler who are played by different actors at different points in time, but, you know, it can still work. Because comics.
Beast is one of the original X-Men in the comics. Originally a guy with big hands and feet and amazing athleticism, his amazing physique was contrasted with his brilliant mind. He later develops an elixir designed to allow anyone to temporarily unlock mutant abilities but used it on himself to hide it from terrorists and alters himself into a furry blue appearance. In the movies, they just skipped past him in the first movie but he does have a cameo in X2. “Dr. Hank McCoy” appears in a TV show along with “Mr. Shaw”, debating on the necessity of registration for the mutant citizens. He still has his human appearance. It’s fine, if a bit of a small role for such a key X-Men member. And let’s ignore that Mr. Shaw was clearly intended to be Sebastian Shaw.
But in the next movie, X-Men 3: The Last Stand, they decided to include Beast on the team, and in his blue furry appearance. But it clearly can’t be the same character because this Dr. Hank McCoy is already blue and has been for a long time. He says he used to be a student and teacher but now works with the government to work on integrating mutants and humanity. It doesn’t fit with the cameo version in X2.
Then, when the movies went back and rebooted by showing the X-Men origins in the 1960s with First Class, Dr. Hank McCoy works for the CIA as a scientist before joining the X-Men. This version creates a formula to hide mutant powers so that he can fit in, but it ends up mutating him further. Except this time he has a feline appearance. In the comics, Beast evolved a secondary mutation that changed his look. In this movie the secondary mutation isn’t mentioned but he now has a very different blue look. And in the next movie, Days of Future Past, he’s in there again as the feline Beast but a fast-forward at the end includes Kelsey Grammar with his Last Stand look. I guess it’s up to us to create the in-between story of how he went from government to X-Men to government again to X-Men again. And changed his look. So it’s possible, but they skip over any explanation.
Jubilee was created in the early 90s as a new protege for Wolverine. She’s a teen that makes fireworks. And since she’s Chinese, that’s not the most sensitive portrayal, but whatever. She had a good personality and became well-known to the mainstream public because she was one of the main cast of the 90s cartoon. There wasn’t room for a big role for her in the first movie, but she has a cameo as a student, played by Katrina Florence. In X2 and Last Stand, the role is played by a different actress, Kea Wong, and she has a couple lines. Still, same role. Student. Makes sense.
But now she’ll be one of the main X-Men characters in X-Men: Apocalypse, which takes place in the 1980s, roughly 20 years before the original trilogy is set. This time she’s played by Lana Condor. And yeah, in the previous movie, Days of Future Past, set in the 1970s, the timeline was reset going forward. But that can’t produce a teenager just ten years later. She’d have had to be born before the events in Days of Future Past. Which would put her in at least her late 30s by the time of the original trilogy. It doesn’t make any sense. They just decided to use her again and hope everyone forgot. It’s easy to sort of ignore her small role in the original trilogy but she was still in all three of those movies.
Professor X’s timeline in the movies is completely borked. It starts off fine with Charles Xavier played by Patrick Stewart in X-Men through Last Stand. He’s in a wheelchair and teaches mutant children, providing them a safe haven. In the Last Stand, there’s a flashback to Xavier and his then-friend Magneto coming to meet a young Jean Grey, and recruit her to the school. This younger version of Xavier is played by Patrick Stewart. He was bald but could walk. We’ll very roughly guess that this is set in the late 1970s to early 1980s because the Jean Grey of the present in the original trilogy is in her late 30s and the movies came out starting in 2000 and were set in “the near future”. Let’s call that 2005 and say Jean is 35. If we back up to when she was 10, that puts us at 1980. So far, so good, right? This version in the past is further confirmed by the ending to X-Men Origins: Wolverine which takes place in the early 1980s and ends with the same bald but standing Professor X rescuing some mutant children that Wolverine freed.
But then, the next movie is First Class, set in the 1960s. Now Professor X is played by James McAvoy. He has a full head of hair and can walk. He befriends Magneto until the end of the movie where they have a falling out and Magneto accidentally paralyzes Charles. Well, now we have continuity problems. Charles can’t walk but still has his head of hair. And he’s not friends with Magneto. The next movie has them team up grudgingly. And Charles can walk but only with a drug that takes away his powers. Professor X and Magneto have a grudging teamup in the next movie that rewrites the timeline. But if that hadn’t happened, there was no way for Professor X’s appearances in Wolverine or Last Stand to make sense. He wasn’t bald, walking or friends with Magneto.
In Wolverine, set in the 1980s, they take some weird liberties with characters. Chief among them is giving Emma Frost, one of the X-Men’s former Hellfire Club enemies turned shady ally/teacher, a wildly different background. In this movie, Emma (she isn’t called Emma Frost, to be fair) is the younger sister of Wolverine’s girlfriend Silver Fox. She’s a prisoner, so we can’t really comment on her personality. But at the end, during the breakout, she turns into diamond, one of Emma Frost’s two powers (like Beast above, she had a secondary mutation in the comics).
Unfortunately, they later decided to make a more comics-accurate version of Emma Frost that makes the previous version… someone else. Because the Emma Frost in First Class is part of the Hellfire Club and has both mind control and diamond skin powers. And it takes place in the 1980s and she’s in her 30s. So the two versions just don’t match and even though mutants rarely have the exact same powers, I guess there were two Emmas with diamond skin powers in the X-Men movie universe.
In the comics, Moira MacTaggert is a brilliant biologist and former girlfriend of Professor X. Someone who helps the team on scientific issues. In the movies, he first meet her in Last Stand where she’s played by Olivia Williams, then around 35 or 36. It’s a pretty small role but accurate to the comics.
Then, in First Class, set in the 1960s (when she’d be about ten at the oldest), she is now played by 22-year old Rose Byrne. Also? She’s now a CIA spy. The career path from spy to geneticist is tricky enough and the different looks of the actresses is one thing, but the ages just don’t match up. And if the movies want to tell me Professor X knows and had relationships with two Moira MacTaggerts I’m calling bullshit.
In Last Stand, Bolivar Trask is a played by Bill Duke and he’s the head of Homeland Security. In Days of Future Past, he’s just like his comics version – the head of Trask Industries and creator of the robotic Sentinels designed to hunt mutants. A big black guy and a white dwarf. They could not be much more different. Guess there’s just two Trasks that are interested in eliminating mutants at different points in time.
Here’s a unique one. Both versions of Deadpool are played by Ryan Reynolds. But they have completely different origins. In Wolverine, Wade Wilson is a mercenary who has some sort of undefined power that amounts to swinging his swords fast enough to block bullets. William Stryker performs experiments on him, putting other mutants powers into him. These mutants die so Stryker calls him Deadpool. And when he’s finished, he has his mouth sewn shut. So he’s a mute monster with teleportation, claws and laser eyes. It’s terrible.
Fast forward seven years and a Deadpool movie is made. Still played by Ryan Reynolds but it has nothing to do with the previous version. It’s a reboot. A reboot that still takes place in the same shared X-Men movie universe (Deadpool visits the Xavier mansion and teams up with Colossus, among other shared elements). In this movie, Wade Wilson is a mercenary who finds out he has cancer, like in the comics. He agrees to undergo an experiment to potentially heal him that involves activating latent mutant abilities. It gives him super healing abilities but also scars his whole body permanently. He’s even more of a wiseass than he was in Wolverine. Reconciling these completely different interpretations requires you to imagine nearly everything seen in Wolverine is completely wiped out by the time travel events in Days of Future Past. Though why those events would impact people like Stryker and Deadpool is a complete mystery.
Colossus appears in a cameo, sketching in the first X-Men. In X2, he has a brief scene where he turns into his metal form and saves some of Xavier’s students. In Last Stand, he’s part of the X-Men. He isn’t given many lines but he’s part of the team. One thing that’s notable is the actor, Daniel Cudmore, doesn’t bother to do a Russian accent. In the comics, Colossus comes from Russia. In Days of Future Past, he’s again played by Cudmore although he’s killed in a segment set in the future. When the timeline is reset we see him teaching at the mansion alongside Kitty Pryde. In the comics, they are a couple.
In Deadpool, Colossus appears only in his armored form. But it’s a very different look. He’s much larger. His metal skin has edged rings as he’s drawn in the comics, as compared to the super-shiny metal that follows musculature in the Daniel Cudmore versions. And this Colossus has a deep Russian accent. Both have their accuracies to a comics interpretation but they look and sound very different, even though they are all taking place in about the same time period.
Psylocke appeared in Last Stand, or at least she’s credited as being Psylocke. Actress Meiling Melançon played a minor villain in the movie who has the power to teleport out of shadows. That’s not anything Psylocke has ever been able to do in the comics.
She will next appear in X-Men: Apocalypse in a comics-accurate purple ninja jumpsuit with a purple psychic knife, as played by Olivia Munn. The two characters really aren’t similar at all. While her look and powers seem to be accurate in Apocalypse, both film versions include her as a villain. In the comics, she was never a villain. She actually started as a frail English lady. At one point, the X-Men step through a magical portal which erases the world’s memories of the X-Men, allowing them to operate in secret. Due to mystical mumbo-jumbo, Psylocke switched bodies with an Asian assassin named Kwannon and remained in that body ever since.
Angel first appears in Last Stand, which came out in 2006 when actor Ben Foster was about 26. It’s a relatively small role but he has his wings, he’s handsome, he’s the son of a billionaire industrialist. He’s not a founding member of the X-Men but his background and powers are accurate to the comics.
He will next appear in Apocalypse, set about 20 years earlier, and is played by Ben Hardy and will again be 26. The timelines do not match at all. Same character, different time period. Other characters like Nightcrawler, Jean Grey, Storm and Cyclops also appear in Apocalypse as teenagers, but that could still match up with the adult versions seen in the original trilogy of films. But Angel? He’s prominent in the third one and now the newest but his age is off by at least 20 years.