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Continuity Snarl / Live-Action Films

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Continuity Snarls in film.

  • Minor by comparison to most of the other examples, but Tim Burton's Batman (1989) featured a black Harvey Dent, whereas when he was used as a character in the Joel Schumacher-directed sequels, he was depicted as white. Or at least, half of him is white.
  • The Godzilla series has built up some impressively messy continuity over the decades.
    • In King Kong vs. Godzilla, Godzilla emerges from the iceberg he was trapped in during Godzilla Raids Again. However, Raids Again was localized in America as a standalone monster flick called Gigantis The Fire Monster, so the dub for King Kong vs. Godzilla had to pretend that Godzilla had been trapped in the ice for millions of years and was just now getting out. However, everyone still knows about Godzilla and references him as though he's attacked before, due to the rest of the dialogue not being changed. As a result it's unclear as to whether the original film happened or not in this continuity (and it's worth mentioning that the American version of the original already established a different continuity than its Japanese counterpart, introducing a new character)
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    • Throughout the 1960s, several of Toho's other giant monster films were retroactively included in the Godzilla universe, regardless of continuity issues. For example, Godzilla coexists with a monster named Gorosaurus, who originated in King Kong Escapes, which depicts King Kong's discovery and abilities in a way that's absolutely irreconcilable with what was shown in King Kong vs. Godzilla. Baragon, from Frankenstein Conquers the World also made his way into the series, so we have the Frankenstein monster out there in this universe as well. There are indications that this is meant to be the same monster seen in the Universal Horror films of the 30s and 40s, so do Dracula and the Wolf Man also exist in this world? Maybe.
    • All Monsters Attack has a questionable place in the series' continuity due to Godzilla and the other monsters only appearing in the day dreams of a young boy named Ichiro. Is this supposed to be in the same universe as the other movies, or is it in the "real world" and Ichiro just likes Godzilla movies? None of the other films directly reference this one, but it did introduce Monster Island, which became important later on, so the mystery is unsolved.
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    • The series was rebooted in 1984 with The Return of Godzilla, which accepts the original film but ignores all of its sequels. Amusingly, this film's American release is actually a sequel to the American release of the original, featuring the same Western-exclusive character returning. He doesn't show up again in the American cuts of any of the other movies from the 1984-95 series, making it unclear which version of the original and Return they're meant to follow.
    • Godzilla (1998) was a remake of the original, unconnected to all the others.
    • Godzilla 2000 kicked off the "Millennium Series" of films. It takes place in its own universe. Its follow-up, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, features the same Godzilla suit but takes place in another continuity where only the original film happened, but with a completely different ending than the "canon" one.
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    • The next film, Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack! is in yet another continuity in which the original film and, somehow, the 1998 film both took place, but none of the others.
    • After that, Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla started another continuity where the original film happened but again with a different ending (and not the same ending Megaguirus featured) as well as several other Toho Monster films, but only ones not featuring Godzilla. Things get messy because one of those films, Gorath, featured the destruction of Earth's moon, which is clearly still visible.
    • Godzilla: Final Wars and Godzilla (2014) are each set in their own brand-new continuity with no connection to anything else. The Final Wars continuity, though, seems to have had Broad Strokes versions of the original 60s-70s movies occur in its backstory.
    • Shin Godzilla effectively is a standalone remake, taking place in a continuity entirely separate from the others portraying Godzilla's first attack, with Toho since scrapping any plans for a sequel in favor of a cinematic universe, directly citing Marvel's as an influence.
  • In Halo: Nightfall, one of the given reasons for going to the Alpha Shard is to find proof that "the Covenant's broken the treaty". The issue is not only that the Covenant has long been split into multiple opposing factions by this point, but that a number of these factions are already openly vocal about their hostility to humanity: the entire plot of Halo: Spartan Assault was about a Covenant remnant attack on a UNSC colony that happened about two years before Nightfall.
  • Thanks to its continuous abuse of Rule of Cool, as well as its blatant assumption that every viewer is familiar with the books, it can be a right mess trying to determine just how magic functions in Harry Potter. Even before non-verbal magic is introduced sometimes Harry and friends need to say the spells out loud and sometimes they don't, sometimes Expelliarmus disarms and sometimes it hurls the target across the room with the force of a cannon, sometimes apparition leaves a smoke trail and sometimes it doesn't, sometimes wizards need a wand to cast spells and sometimes they don't, spells that have inconstant effects so that the exact same incantation can produce a beam/flash/bolt/crackle without explanation... there really are far too many examples to reasonably list here. The set changes are also a problem. Whilst we can possibly excuse Hogwarts looking different with every film as the special effects and budget improves, things like Hagrid's hut shifting position, size, shape and materials go unexplained.
  • Highlander is one of the kings of this trope. Each of the original films screwed up the continuity more and more (and two of them are Canon Discontinuity in any case), and then the series was added in and then there are things like Search For Vengeance, and the Animated Series. This is another universe that will give you a headache if you try to figure it out.
    • It's general accepted the original movies with Connor (save for HL2) are a separate timeline from The Series.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe
    • The official prequel comic for the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie revealed that Nebula had cut off her own arm to escape a trap after being ensnared by Gamora. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 instead says that Thanos had Nebula's arm amputated and replaced with a cybernetic upgrade after she lost a fight to Gamora. James Gunn ended up having to declare the prequel non-canon to explain the discrepancy.
    • The first Thor movie features the Infinity Gauntlet in the vault of Odin's treasures. Not a problem at first...but then the Infinity Stones began being explored in future films (since the Gauntlet shown in Thor had all 6 stones in it), with various creators saying that there were two gauntlets in existance. Thor: Ragnarok attempted to address this by having Hela call the gauntlet a fake when she visited Odin's vault... only for Avengers: Infinity War to reveal that the real Gauntlet had only been recently crafted, raising questions about how Odin could have a copy of something that didn't exist yet in his vault.
    • In another case of an Easter Egg contradicting later established continuety, Stephen Strange is one of the names rattled off in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a potential threat to HYDRA's plans, along with Iron Man and Hulk. However, the master surgeon would not gain his powers or the will to fight HYDRA until roughly 3 years later.
  • Men in Black has Agent K erasing the data on James Darrell Edwards, the future Agent J, including a birth certificate dated 1975. The third movie takes place in 1969, and a young J is featured. The confusion is made worse by Will Smith being born in 1968.
  • In The Mummy Returns Rick and Evie have an 8-year-old son named Alex. The first movie takes place mostly in 1926, while the second takes place in 1933. 1933 is 7 years after 1926, so Alex being 8 is problematic.
  • The original RoboCop trilogy has a bit of a minor problem with the name of the titular cyborg's superior officer, Sgt. Reed: in in the first movie, his first name is given in one scene as "John", but in the second, he's referred to by Murphy (following his reprogramming by Dr. Faxx) as "Warren".
  • Serenity has a few in its adaptation from Firefly, possibly to make an all-inclusive story that wouldn't confuse people who hadn't seen the show. In the show, Simon Tam hires people to rescue River for him, not only because he's not a suave action guy, but because the authorities already are aware of him due to one previous rescue attempt. In the movie, he sneaks in with a false identity like a secret agent. He's also fully aware of her psychic abilities in the movie, but in the show he acts willfully ignorant of them, and an episode is devoted to him trying to figure out what's wrong with River. Also, in that particular episode, he discovers that the reason River acts insane is that part of her brain has been removed, but in the movie she's just experiencing a temporary insanity due to carrying a terrible secret, and is cured once the secret has been revealed. There are other minor variations, like the show depicting the Alliance as apathetic at best, horribly corrupt at worse, but the film says their problem is that they are trying to be benevolent at the cost of individual rights.
  • Silent Hill: Revelation 3D is absolutely full of this with regards to the first film, despite being an integrally-linked sequel. This was the result of the writer's attempt to make the sequel more faithful to the video game's storyline.
    • In the first movie, Sharon is 9 years old. Revelation is explicitly set 6 years later, yet in that film she's just about to turn 18.
    • In the first film, it's clearly stated (and made obvious by some plot events) that "Only the Dark One (Dark Alessa) opens and closes the door to Silent Hill." Yet in the sequel, a minor character says she became trapped in Silent Hill's otherworld simply by taking a wrong turn and getting lost in a fog bank, when there was no reason for "the Dark One" to bring her there.
    • The biggest is probably that the first movie's climax includes Dark Alessa and Sharon, the two halves of Alessa's soul, merging back into a full reincarnation of Alessa. Yet in the sequel, Sharon is still only one half of Alessa, Dark Alessa is still back in Silent Hill, and there's another big scene right before the climax where they merge... again.
    • In the first movie, it's revealed that Alessa was burned by the town's pseudo-Christian cult on suspicion of being a witch, and that the cult members believed burning her would stop the apocalypse. In Revelation, it's explained the town's clearly pagan cult, the Order of Valtiel - which is oddly described as the same cult from the first film - burned Alessa because she was a chosen one who had to be ritually burned in order to CAUSE the apocalypse of this world and bring about the rebirth of their god and the creation of a new paradise. Paradoxically, Revelation still contains flashback scenes of schoolchildren tormenting Alessa for being a witch.
    • In the first movie, the motive of Alessa, in her creation of Sharon, was to send Sharon out as an orphan, get her a loving, protective mother, and then call her back to Silent Hill to lure in the mother so that she could be persuaded to assist in Alessa's revenge against the cult for the sake of her adopted daughter. In the sequel, it's instead stated by Dark Alessa that Sharon was created just to live outside of Silent Hill and have a happy, normal life, and that Alessa never wanted Sharon to ever return because it would help the cult. Since this is the exact opposite of her plan in the first film, it seems she never called Sharon to Silent Hill during the time of the first movie, yet no other explanation is ever given as to why Rose and Sharon went to Silent Hill six years before Revelation. Since that needs to happen to set the sequel's plot in motion, Revelation essentially writes itself out of existence without realizing it.
  • The Sin City films feature a series of stories in the same setting. The first film establishes that Marvin dies at the behest of Senator Roarke, but a story in the second film has Marvin still alive when Roarke is killed.
  • The Star Wars saga caused several snarls, with some caused due to conflicting Expanded Universe material, and some due to the series' jump from the original trilogy to the prequels:
    • When Disney acquired the franchise, the previously existing EU material was relegated to a separate Star Wars Legends continuity in order to avoid some of this with the sequel trilogy.
    • Obi-Wan has several statements in the OT that turn out to be Half-Truth at best (which does fit in with his character; he is one of the most prominent examples of Half-Truth). He claimed he didn't own a droid in A New Hope, but did during the prequels (though apparently it was the Jedi Order's droid, not his personal droid). He apparently didn't know that Leia was Luke's sister at first, despite being present when they were both born and named. He never specifically stated that Yoda was his mentor, but it was certainly the implication in The Empire Strikes Back (before it's revealed that it was Qui-Gon Jinn, then subsequently patched up by showing Yoda trained young Jedi before they grow up and get another mentor as a Padawan). It is lampshaded in the Episode VI, when Luke asks to Obi-wan why he didn't tell the truth about his father having become Darth Vader instead of the story he was killed by him. The old Jedi explains that the one that Anakin used to be died metaphorically once he joined the dark side, so what he said was true, from a certain point of view.
    • Leia claimed to have remembered her mother in Return of the Jedi, but Padmé died in childbirth in Revenge of the Sith. Possibly explainable if she was thinking about her adopted mother Breha Organa, although Luke does specify "your real mother" when he asks, which implies Leia had a first adoptive mother or a nanny before Breha that she mistook for her true late mother. The novelization of Revenge of the Sith lampshades/handwaves this. When the twins are born, Luke is described as having his eyes shut tightly while Leia's are open as if trying to take in everything. Presumably, the Force then allows Leia to remember Padmé even though newborns don't have a working long-term memory. It's later addressed in Marvel's Princess Leia series, where she has a Force vision of Padmé while visiting Naboo, realizing at once that the former queen is her mother.
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader does not seem to recognize C-3PO, despite creating him in The Phantom Menace (and remarking in said film that he's incredibly unique). The Expanded Universe attempted to rectify this in a (non-canon) story called "Thank The Maker", where Vader reminisces about his mother and 3PO when he's at Cloud City. Of course, at a glance he looks like every other member of a fairly ubiquitous model line.
    • Revenge of the Sith reveals that it took roughly 20 years to build the Death Star (from the time Luke and Leia are born, a rough frame of the structure is being built) without anyone realizing it. In Return of the Jedi, the Death Star II only takes 3-4 years to be fully functional and mostly-built. The aptly-named novel Death Star tries to address this, going over numerous problems that came up over the course of its construction (including at least one instance of the superlaser having to be stripped out and redesigned). Death Star II, despite being somewhere between 2 and 20 times larger than Death Star I (depending on the source), could be built much more quickly because by that point the Empire actually knew how to build a Death Star. Gets a possibly unintended lampshade when an Imperial officer complains about the speed at which he's expected to finish the project. Making it worse is that in the original Expanded Universe (written before the prequels) there was a prototype built in the secret Maw Installation (having nothing to do with the Geonosians) before work on Death Star I ever started. It's later established in Rogue One that Galen Erso deliberately dragged out the process for as long as he could, and included that infamous exhaust port in the design.
    • Speaking of the Death Star, prior to the Legends consignment and Rogue One, one of the biggest snarls was "who stole the Death Star plans?" This was due to the fact that it was such a pivotal and easy story to cover (there's a reason Rogue One exists) that something like six or seven different stories were about the theft of the plans. Eventually, it was declared that pretty much everyone involved found bits and pieces of the plans, and the data R2 carried was basically all the assembled schematics that people had managed to scrape together. One official article jokingly noted "if you had to throw a dinner party and invite everyone who had ever stolen the Death Star plans, you'd be surprised at how many place settings you'd have to worry about."
    • Obi-Wan and Yoda supposedly left Luke on Tatooine with the purpose of training him later. When that day came, Yoda acted surprised and even argued with Obi-Wan as to whether or not Luke should be trained. While in the prequels, Yoda is explicitly shown teaching young children (and therefore may simply have assumed the plan had changed since Luke wasn't brought to him, say, ten years ago and feel that Luke is now too old to begin training), which suggests that he's upset because Obi-Wan (who was literally watching over Luke his entire life) didn't train him as he was expected to.
    • Within the original trilogy, Luke and Leia are set up as possible love interests (to the point that a deleted scene shows them about to kiss), only to be revealed as siblings later on. Neither of them has the slightest idea that they are, even though Luke's Force perception should have tipped him off at some point. The problem was that Han Solo clearly has a romantic interest in Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, and the last thing old-school George Lucas wanted was to end the trilogy with a messy love triangle.
    • Obi-Wan, and Anakin after he removes the Vader mask in ROTJ, are played by actors in their 60s and 70s, respectively, suggesting they would have been in their 40s and 50s when Luke and Leia were born. Instead, they were shown to be in their 20s and 30s. Possibly justified: With Vader, he was terribly scarred and had to resort to Bacta Tank baths in order to heal his burned skin, thus making him seem older then he looks. In the case of Obi-Wan, him being Younger Than He Looks could be explained as due to living alone on a Tatooine for 20 years as well as the stress of everything he has endured throughout his life taking its toll on him physically.
      • Obi-Wan was roughly as old as Alec Guinness as of Episode IV, though: He was born in 57 BBY according to canon, which makes him only 5 years younger than his actor. The confusion presumably comes from Ewan McGregor being 30 years younger at the time of III than Alec Guinness was at the time of IV, i.e. him being 5 years younger than "his" version of Obi-Wan.
    • Anyone who listens to the Star Wars Radio Dramas can't help but notice that Han shoots first and does not meet Jabba on Tatooine. These were two of the more infamous changes made by Lucas when he Re-Cut the 1977 film for re-release.
    • Star Wars: The Clone Wars caused a few continuity snarls, but the biggest was probably Wulff Yularen, a character who briefly appeared in the first movie as an Imperial Security Bureau colonel. The animators mistook him for a high-ranking Navy officer and made him an admiral during the Clone Wars. This led to an escalating series of retcons, as each attempt to reconcile his background created a new plothole somewhere else.
  • Most of the films which Quentin Tarantino had a hand in creating are part of one of two sprawling cinematic universes, the "Realer than Real Universe", and the "Movie Movie Universe", which consists of films that are meant to exist within the Realer than Real Universe. Sounds simple on paper, but the exact continuity is very messy when you look at the details. Officer Earl McGraw and his son Edgar show up in Death Proof, which is part of the Realer than Real Universe, but Earl also shows up (and dies) in From Dusk Till Dawn, and both McGraws show up in Kill Bill, both of which are in the Movie Movie Universe. So, it's possible that the characters in the Movie Movies are meant to be based on the real McGraws in the Realer than Reals, but the real problem comes from Planet Terror, which seems to takes place in the same universe as Death Proof (the two share several locations and characters) and yet those two movies don't mesh since Planet Terror depicts a zombie apocalypse and the second half of Death Proof would take place after this, yet there's no sign of zombies anywhere. So, does Planet Terror fit into the Movie Movie Universe and the whole cast of Death Proof exist in both universes the way the McGraws do, or does Planet Terror somehow exist in the Realer than Real universe and nobody happens to ever mention that one time zombies nearly took over the world? No matter how you try to piece it together, it doesn't make sense...though that's likely the joke, given that Planet Terror and Death Proof are both parodies of terrible old grindhouse movies which didn't care about continuity either.
    • The Machete trilogy is also possibly a part of the Movie Movie Universe, which complicates matters further because the title character of those films is officially the same person as Uncle Machete from the Spy Kids series. Are those part of the Movie Movie Universe too? We'll likely never get a straight answer.

Alternative Title(s): Film


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