Retconning in film franchises is more common than audiences might think. Something retcon means changing the retrospective continuity of events or characters within a franchise. It could be as simple as changing a character’s origin story slightly, to entire storylines that are undone in the blink of an eye. There are many reasons to reconnect, from issues like actor unavailability to fixing hideous character creations. Retconning isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be.
This article looks at five movie franchises that have made significant retcons in their timeline, some good and some bad. There are resurrections, the destruction of an entire film’s meaning, and meta-driven rewrites of the characters’ origins. Even for viewers who are only casually familiar with the franchises, these are obvious.
The original highlanders is a classic action/fantasy film starring Christopher Lambert as Connor MacLeod, an immortal born in the Scottish Highlands in the 16th century. In the film, the immortals have been at war with one another for centuries, waiting for the time when few are left. MacLeod faces off against his enemy The Kurgan (Clancy Brown) and is joined by Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez, a Spanish swordsman from Egypt who is inexplicably played by Sean Connery.
The second film undoes all the lore and background of the first by making all immortal aliens known as Zeistians. It also notes that Ramirez and MacLeod knew each other before they met in the Scottish Highlands, have a plot revolving around a shield covering the earth to protect it from radiation and showing the resurrection of Ramirez, who died in the first film. It is also widely regarded as one of the worst films of all time.
Ryan Reynolds eventually brought on the character of Dead Pool at least brought to life in a more authentic way in the 2016 R-rated film. Prior to the solo outing, Reynolds played the character of Wade Wilson X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Comic book fans were excited that Deadpool was finally coming to the big screen, but when the movie came out, their reaction was far from happy. While the character was still a mercenary with a mouth, after he was subjected to the Weapons XI program, they literally took his mouth away and reduced it to a silent side part.
In the Deadpool solo films, Reynolds righted Weapon XI’s wrongs by bringing a much more comic-accurate version of the character to the screen. Since the character is played by the same actor and is a completely different iteration, this was a simple and essential character retcon. It didn’t stop Reynolds from making fun of himself and referencing Weapon XI in the narration.
When it comes to retcons, the war of stars Universe could be the biggest culprit. There’s a lot of choice in the franchise’s story, Luke and Leia being revealed as siblings after they kiss, the who shot first debate and of course the introduction of midichlorians into the universe. One of the most controversial retcons of recent times has been the resurrection of Palpatine. Killed by Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi To protect his son Luke, Palpatine unexpectedly returned The Rise of Skywalker.
Apparently all the time in between Return of the Jedi and The Rise of SkywalkerPalpatine had transferred his consciousness into a clone body. The clone was created on Exegol by Sith cultists who had used Sith alchemy to create bodies that could contain his power. However, none of this is addressed in the film, and is instead expanded upon in the film’s novelisation. Even for war of starsthis is a pretty egregious retcon, and not even addressing Palpatine’s resurrection in the movie just makes the whole situation muddy the movie.
At the end of Foreigner, Ripley, Newt, Hicks and Android Bishop escape the Xenomorph and embark in hypersleep pods aboard the Sulaco. Finally safe, the survivors sleep in the hope of rescue. foreigner 3 begins with an egg hatching aboard the Sulaco, a fire, and the ship’s computer dropping the pods into space. Scans show a capsule contains a face hugger. The escape pods crash into the high security men’s labor correctional facility Fiorina 161.
When he wakes up, it turns out that Ripley is the sole survivor of the crash. Newt, Hicks and Bishop all died and fans were furious. They were all fan favorite characters who had built up a lot of audience goodwill, and just killing them outright set the tone for the film in a bad way. The laying of the egg on the Sulaco also caused a stir because it wasn’t there at launch and had no way of getting there.
Sam Raimis Spiderman trilogy of films paved the way for superhero films to become the mainstream powerhouse they are today, despite the best efforts of the third installment and Tobey Maguire’s dancing. In the third film, Peter Parker is affected by the Venom symbiote and also has to deal with his former friend Harry Osborne becoming a Green Goblin and Flint Marko becoming a Sandman. Rather than allow Sandman to be his own villain, the filmmakers chose to reintroduce a very important detail Spiderman Story.
Dennis Carradine is the man who killed Uncle Ben in the first one Spiderman Movie after Peter allows him to escape after a robbery. This event is what triggers Peter to use his powers for good and become a superhero. It also drives much of the narrative in the first film. Then in the third film, although the murder was shown in the first film, it is revealed that Flint Marko killed Uncle Ben. Not only does this make no sense considering the audience witnessed Carradine committing the crime, but it reduces Sandman to just another villain connected to Parker.
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