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Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart

Last week’s surprising, not-so-surprising news that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen would be returning to their roles as Professor X and Magneto in "X-Men: Days of Future Past" could’ve been predicted by any blogger with a pulse as soon as we found out months ago about that inkling of a notion of a rumor that Stewart getting in the ole wheelchair. To have it officially confirmed by Bryan Singer lent a nice little air of finality to the rumors, and should only amp up the anticipation for the film’s release, as did the other news that Hugh Jackman will be returning as Wolverine in some capacity.

Of course, Singer didn’t offer many words on how the returning heroes will be used. But given what we know about the time traveling elements in the mix, I figured I’d speculate on a few ways Stewart and McKellen could show up.

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Wolverine

For a while, I’ve been jokingly speculating in these pages about the inevitability of a crossover between X-Men past and present in some massive, budget-clearing event movie destined to make a disgusting amount of money. The producers of the "X-Men" movies, having clearly read each and every one of my carefully chosen words over the last few months, seem to have taken such jokes to heart.

I’d originally prepared a column about what the recently announced Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen could do in "X-Men: Days of Future Past" when a bigger bombshell dropped on Wednesday evening: Hugh Jackman, who’s currently getting in shape for "The Wolverine," is supposedly in talks to make an appearance in the 2014 film, both cementing the possibility for the film to be a superhero classic as well as opening up the story for all kinds of intriguing, fanboy-activating possibilities.

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All New X-Men

There’s an interesting concept playing out in the Marvel comic books right now, in which the original X-Men — Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel and Beast — have been plucked out of time from their teenaged years and dropped into the modern Marvel U.

I’ve no idea how it’s going to play out, because the storyline has just started and because I don’t have the password to Brian Michael Bendis’s e-mail account. But it got me thinking about what would happen if a similar thing happened in the X-Men movies, and how a similar thing probably will play out in “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” as a past and future incarnation of at least one of the X-Men are destined to interact with each other.

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Bryan Singer

Last week, the X-Men universe got a big surprise: Rather than returning to reprise his directorial role for "X-Men: Days of Future Past," Matthew Vaughn elected to jump ship to direct Mark Millar’s "The Secret Service," instead. (Though rumors persist that he left in order to become a frontrunner for "Star Wars: Episode VII," a nifty bit of heresy that nevertheless remains a blast to speculate over.) Replacing him would be the prodigal son come home, Bryan Singer, who famously left the franchise after directing "X2" in order to helm a not-entirely successful take on Superman. (A column for another day.)

Given the somewhat unexpected news, I wanted to talk about was how Singer’s return impacts the franchise in terms of vision and in tone. Doing that requires taking a look at his personal filmography, which is surprisingly short outside of the three comic book movies he’s done. While "The Usual Suspects" might be the best movie-movie Singer’s ever directed, it doesn’t feel entirely relevant toward what "Days of Future Past" is probably going to be about. (My guess: Not a whodunit mystery regarding the identity of a murderous psychopath, and certainly nothing to do with a Baldwin brother.)

But there’s certainly enough to chew on in those three films, enough to inform what Singer might do for his fourth.

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Sentinels

Now that Bryan Singer is locked in as "X-Men: Days of Future Past" director, let's focus on one of the other biggest news items surrounding the upcoming sequel: it's likely to feature Sentinels, as teased by Mark Millar.

"You've got robots, you've got time travel, you've got superheroes - it's got everything in one film," Millar said when discussing the movie recently. As the Sentinels were a big component of the original "Days of Future Past" storyline, this would seem to be a hint regarding their inclusion — if not, then the appearance of some other robotic-type villain for the X-Men to deal with. But I really hope it’s not that, because the Sentinels have been a sorely missing presence from the X-movies ever since the series’ inception, and because CGI technology should be good enough to do them cinematic justice.

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Wolverine

Anyone who's followed the slow development of "The Wolverine" over many years and directors has, or at least had, an idea of what the movie was going to be about. Riffing off Chris Claremont's landmark miniseries, the film was going to pick up with the Canuck in Japan, where he would find himself competing for the love of a Yakuza leader's daughter, while also continuing to sort out his whole loner thing.

But director James Mangold dropped somewhat of a bombshell this week when he revealed that "The Wolverine" would be set in present day — as in, following the events of "X-Men: The Last Stand," the last moment of modern X-continuity seen on the big screen.

"Where this film sits in the universe of the films is after them all," Mangold told Empire. "Jean Grey is gone, most of the X-Men are disbanded or gone, so there’s a tremendous sense of isolation for him."

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Logan

The value of a guru apparently can't be underestimated. Marvel Studios has Joss Whedon, who signed an exclusive deal to help oversee their film and television properties over the next few years. The X-Men, unofficially, have Bryan Singer, who's been involved in every one of their worthwhile properties. And a few weeks ago, 20th Century Fox announced that they'd hired established comics writer Mark Millar to oversee their properties, among which include the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

A long-time writer on titles like "Ultimate X-Men," "The Authority," and his own creator-owned properties such as "Kick-Ass" and "Wanted," Millar made a name for himself as one of the most entertaining creators in comics. When he was writing company-owned characters, Millar's talents as a writer quickly shown through: an eye for big picture plotting, unrivaled ability for choreographing arresting action scenes, a skill for using continuity and shared universe as complements to his own original plots, snappy characterization that swung for the fences rather than relying on the slow burn and an insistence on working with the industry's best artists, among others.

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Avengers vs. X-Men

Imagine, if you can, this highly titillating bit of fan service occurring in a future Marvel movie: The Avengers are on the ropes against some villain, be it Thanos or Ultron or Brian Michael Bendis (joking, I'll love "New Avengers" until I die), when they're temporarily overcome and can fight no further. And then, from a corner of the screen, a blur shoots across the audience's field of vision and collides with the villain in question, knocking him aback. The blur comes into focus to reveal none other than Wolverine, claws brandished, catchphrase in mouth. The camera zooms out to reveal the rest of the X-Men, and maybe more of the Marvel heroes — Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four — just as Captain America recovers his bearings to bellow "Avengers Assemble!" in all its galvanizing glory.

Cue defeated bad guy. Cue rapturous applause. Cue ecstatic message boards, overflowing with love.

Okay, okay: If a Marvel crossover is indeed to happen, it probably won't go down like that. What's shocking, though, is that it might happen at all.

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Famke Janssen

Is the band — rather, the group of super-powered genetic mutations — getting back together? We've known for a few weeks about Patrick Stewart's ambiguity toward whether he'd be making a reappearance as Professor Xavier in "X-Men: Days of Future Past," rumors that gained a little more traction in recent weeks.

Now, there may be more coming: Speaking with MTV News, Famke Janssen — a.k.a. Jean Grey, the Phoenix — teased the possibility of her return, despite the fact that she was technically killed at the end of "X-Men: The Last Stand."

"One never knows," she said. "Jean Grey, the Phoenix … she finds a way to reincarnate herself constantly, so one never knows."

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Wolverine

You have your favorite comic book movies, and I have mine. But were a rough consensus regarding the best character portrayals to emerge, it would surely include the following names: Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. (Last place: Ben Affleck as Matt Murdock.)

For easily excited comic fans, it’s always a blast when one of those versions gets trotted out in a movie, which is why "The Wolverine" has retained such interest even though it’s coming nearly four years after the last time we saw Logan on screen in any meaningful way.

In honor of the first promo photo showing Jackman’s updated look, let us tumble through the past to see how the ol’ Canucklehead has changed since he first hit theaters.

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