Continuity. Is. Over. Rated.
(Okay, I know "overrated" isn't two words. But you get the point!)
Now, I should start by saying I don't blame the percentage of geek film fans out there that think continuity is incredibly important. After all, we're really only in the first decade of this "Geeks Have Taken Over Pop Culture" generation. So the fandom is young; It's still learning how to adapt to being in control of Hollywood. For all intents and purposes, the modern Superhero Boom can be traced to 2008. That was the year that gave us both The Dark Knight and Iron Man.
While we'd been given tastes of what it'd be like for the comic book genre to dominate pop culture in the seven years leading to that- thanks to the X-Men movies and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man Trilogy- 2008 was the year that would officially kick off the era where Superheroes and Cinematic Universes became the central focus of Hollywood. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight was a crossover smash that proved that films about dudes in capes can also be serious, classy, high-minded entertainments. Iron Man singlehandedly kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and I really shouldn't have to explain the significance of that. So I won't.
But now it's time to explain to this well-intentioned 9 year-old why continuity doesn't make or break a great film.
In this age of endless sequels, spinoffs, prequels, and shared universes, we've been made to think- by certain franchises- that everything (everything!!) must be interconnected. While certain companies have done a commendable job of keeping things fairly airtight in that department (Marvel Studios. Though, if you look at how flimsy the supposed "shared world" of their Film and TV universe is, even they can't seem to keep it all together), others have played fast and loose with the "rules." While, in theory, all of Fox's X-Men films exist in the same continuity, poking holes in them is easier than playing "Pin The Tail On The Empire State Building."
And yet, does that matter?
We were just treated to Logan, a film considered by many (including yours truly) as a classic of the superhero genre. And almost exactly a year ago, fans everywhere were marveling at what an awesome movie Deadpool was. And yet, when we examine how these films "fit" in the X-Men Cinematic Universe (XCU), it's easy to see that the connections are fairly dubious. The character of Deadpool was introduced in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, played by the very same actor (Ryan Reynolds), with a completely different origin. Fox and the Deadpool Creative Team's decision to completely disregard all that resulted in a fantastic movie. And no one complained. Why? Because they loved the movie.
All I ever want to say to the people obsessing about that kind of minutiae is: Lighten up! It doesn't matter. Just enjoy this beautiful, self-contained story!
Logan treads extremely lightly on the established continuity. It borrows the elements from previous films that help elevate the story it's trying to tell, and it pretty much ignores the rest. So the history you're "required" to know in order to get the most out of the film is very minimal.
And thank god for that.
I've long argued that being a slave to continuity actually hinders your storytelling possibilities. What once was one of the most exciting aspects of the MCU, is slowly revealing itself to be a pair of handcuffs. While we loved finding out that Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America all existed in the same world, where does that leave us these days? It's still pretty cool, but- if we're being honest- aren't the Marvel Studios movies starting to feel more and more safe and predictable? I know that I, personally, am rarely surprised anymore. The films feel like they're all forced to stay within a certain mold because if one veers off too greatly, then it throws off things in the 73 other Marvel movies that are currently in some stage of development.
What a headache.
Comic books are also known for having Elseworlds tales, and stories that are understood to be part of an alternate timeline or simply stand on their own. Books like DC's Kingdom Come and The Dark Knight Returns, and Marvel's Old Man Logan (!!!) are perfect examples of revered properties that are simply accepted as being non-canon. So fans of the genre already seem to understand that the books themselves don't adhere to an iron clad set of rules. Why should the films be held to a different standard?
Logan walked that fine line that the books all do so well. When you read one of those "alternate world" books, you're expected to bring your previous love of the character and their basic history with you, while also having an open mind to where this story finds them.
The bottom line? Make the movies great, and no one will give a damn about continuity.
Fox gets it. Do you?