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Continuity Snarl / Live-Action Films
aka: Film

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Continuity Snarls in live-action movies.


  • 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.

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  • 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 Friday the 13th series has a huge one in part V (which takes place after Jason Voorhees gets killed but before he becomes undead). Some murders are happening and Tommy Jarvis (who killed Jason as a kid in the previous movie) is afraid Jason has come back from the dead. At one point the Mayor tells him Jason was cremated and he's "nothing but a handful of ash". This would be contradicted in the very next film where Tommy goes to Jason's grave, digs him up, and rams a metal rod through his heart in order to destroy him forever, only for lightning to strike that exact spot and reanimate Jason as an undead. This can perhaps be Hand Waved by saying the Mayor was lying to make Tommy feel better, but that doesn't answer how he found out Jason was really buried and where his grave was. Later films would basically just cover this error up by never mentioning it.
  • 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)
    • 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.
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    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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 existence. 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.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Film


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