If you keep up with the comic book or comic book movie scene on any level, you probably know how confusing it can be to keep track of storylines spanning across multiple sequels. The "extended universe" phenomenon is real, and it leads to movie studios stretching out storylines to get you to come see their next movie.
The X-Men universe is one of the biggest and most important in the world of comic book movies. 1999's X-Men jump-started interest in the genre for a new generation of fans, and has since spawned eight more movies with another soon to follow.
Hugh Jackman got his big break in Hollywood playing Wolverine in the original film, a role he's set to reprise in Logan, the latest entry in the series. But if you were worried about having to keep track of storylines dating back through 18 years of X-Men films, there's some good news for you! Logan director James Mangold sat down for an exclusive interview with ComicBook.com, where he talked at length about when and where the movie takes place. Mangold claims he pushed into the future intentionally to break off from the other movies:
It’s year 2029 when the movie takes place. There’s an epilogue scene in Days of Future Past which is 2024, or 2023, something like that. I just wanted to get far enough past. My goal was real simple: it was to pick a time where I had enough elbow room that I was clear of existing entanglements.
Then, it’s impossible to do something fresh, meaning essentially you’re just a director on the 14th episode of a television show picking up where the last one left off and people are going to be really startled by any discontinuity or changes…The goal here was to somehow make a film that’s different: to be a filmmaker myself and go, ‘How would I bring myself to this? What would I do if I was starting from scratch? What would I explore? What have I seen not explored?’ Not only in the X-Men universe but in comic book movies in general.
Taking it a step further, Jackman himself told Digital Spy the film would take place in a different universe from the one you might be familiar with:
When you see the full movie you’ll understand. Not only is it different in terms of timeline and tone, it’s a slightly different universe. It’s actually a different paradigm and that will become clear.
We wanted to make something really different. Definitely tonally different. Early on we had the idea for the title not having anything to do with Wolverine in it but just being about the man. And what the collateral damage of being Wolverine your entire life would be.
This is a refreshing change of pace for a genre that needs one. Comic book movies are major cash cows — three of the top-10 highest-grossing movies involve Iron Man — and they tend to be limited in their creative choices accordingly. Studios tend to avoid risk and focus a lot of their energy to set up future sequels, in order to turn one successful movie into three or four.
Mangold and Jackman (and by extension Marvel) appear to have higher ambitions for this project. Logan might not completely flip the script on Wolverine as a character, but the effort to create some separation from other films in the genre should lead to an interesting effort.
The end product is a mystery at the moment, but just like in 1999, one of the X-Men has a chance to breathe life back into comic book movies.