From the beginning, the X-Men movies have shunted aside most of their characters in order to keep the focus on just a select few of them. In the original trilogy, it was Wolverine. In the alternate timeline, it was Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique. That’s not to say it’s always bad – despite all my frustrations with the X-Men films, I’ve genuinely enjoyed most of them. I’ve had my complaints, but if I don’t think about it, they’re always good for at least one watch. However, there were a lot of characters that got cast aside that deserved to be a more prominent part of the films.
Jean Grey deserved so much better than what she got in the original trilogy. She was a person. She was a fully grown woman with a life, a job, a family by the time of X-Men (2000). She was going before Congress and testifying on behalf of mutants. She was working at the school. She and Scott were engaged. She moonlighted as one of the X-Men. But somehow, she got reduced to Logan’s lust object that we were somehow supposed to believe he was in love with. In the comics, during the Dark Phoenix arc, Jean chose to kill herself over risking the lives of the people she loved. The Last Stand took away her agency, and made that Logan’s choice, not hers, and her death ended up being about him, not her – how much he supposedly loved her, how much guilt he had over killing her.
The fact that Logan didn’t know the first thing about Jean was made incredibly blatant in The Wolverine. His hallucination of her wasn’t her or anything like her, it was just his perception of her. Logan considered himself more important to Jean than he really was. Sure, she liked him, and thought he’d be a good ally in a time when the X-Men needed all the help they could get and as such, wasn’t going to do anything to alienate him, but she didn’t know him, either. Her telepathy might have meant she knew him better than he knew her, but they still only interacted for a week. They were barely even friends. She certainly didn’t love him. Yet so often, she was reduced to the hot chick that he liked. He’d decided he knew her when they’d first met, and the narrative decided to go with that, despite it making no sense.
In X2, Jean got to do things and be a real person. She interacted with Scott and Ororo. Her full potential was unlocked and in the end, she saved everyone else. She made her choice to sacrifice herself because she was the only one that could. She deserved to be that much of a fully realized character in all the movies – to be the woman that loves her students, her friends, and her fiancé, that is an enormously powerful mutant that’s fiercely dedicated to the cause of advancing mutant rights, that’s willing to give up her life to do what she thinks is right. That’s Jean. That’s a great character that I want more of. As Scott put it during the Dark Phoenix arc, she is love.
Scott is the X-Men. I’ve talked about how much I love him before, and I’ll inevitably do it again. Similar to Jean being more than that woman Logan thinks is hot, Scott is more than just Jean’s boyfriend. I’m not sure exactly what it was that made the directors, producers, studio, whoever decide to shove him aside to centre the movies around Logan instead. Maybe it was that the work on these movies began at the height of the ‘90s Anti-Hero in comics, when everything was getting darker and edgier and Scott didn’t seem like he belonged in that. Whatever it was, Scott was barely an afterthought. Every single movie involving him also involved a string of bad decisions in regards to his character.
To be clear, I think a lot of Scott’s attitude towards Logan in the first movie was justifiable and in character – he was initially polite and friendly, only to get increasingly irritated by 1) Logan manhandling and patronizing him, 2) Logan harassing Jean, who wasn’t about to alienate a potential ally, and most importantly, 3) Logan stabbing Rogue, who by this point was a student under Scott’s care, through the chest. His behaviour in The Last Stand was also reasonable – as much as I disagree with that interpretation of Scott after losing Jean, his response to Logan condescendingly telling him to move on was completely fair. However, the lack of follow through in all the movies made him come across to a lot of people as a jealous boyfriend, not a man with very understandable reservations who’s something of a control freak that is uncomfortable with this stranger with anger issues and impulse control in his house and on his team.
In The Last Stand, rather than trying to help Scott with his grief at all – grief that everyone could see very clearly – everyone just went on with life without him. Logan talked to him, but Storm didn’t. Xavier not only didn’t talk to him, he essentially asked Storm to replace him because losing Jean had changed him – obviously he was a changed man, he was grieving. I can imagine that from comics Xavier, who was always a deeply manipulative person that used the people around him and spent years treating Scott poorly, but movie Xavier is a much nicer person. And yet he didn’t spend any time mourning his surrogate son after his death or caring about him at all besides in regards to his usefulness.
Arguably the worst offender, in terms of how Scott was handled, was Apocalypse. They took Scott Summers – straight-laced, law abiding, responsible, awkward, dorky, ultimate good guy Scott Summers – and on top of cutting out his entire comics backstory, they portrayed him as…not that. It seemed almost like they wanted to give themselves a shortcut for potentially a movie about him as the leader of mutantkind that he is in the comics without doing the real work to make it Scott. He may have gotten more screentime than the Scott in the original trilogy, but that Scott was at least recognizable as Scott.
In the comics, Scott becomes the leader of not only the X-Men, but of all mutants – he becomes their protector and general. He doesn’t do that because he’s a natural rebel that’s instincts are to fight and use force to achieve his goals. He does it because nothing else works, because he wants to protect his species. I’m willing to give Apocalypse Scott a chance to become that man, but I’m going to need him to become a genuinely responsible, good adult before he can push the boundaries to challenge the government and Xavier.
Storm was always there in the original trilogy, but it mostly seemed like she was there because the creators thought it would be weird to exclude her. She had some good moments, but it seemed pretty clear that Bryan Singer didn’t know what to do with her at all. He didn’t have a clear vision for what he wanted out of Storm, whether that clear vision was her role as a minor character or a major one. Halle Berry made a weak attempt at an accent for part of one movie, then dropped it the rest of the time. She barely had any lines. In X-Men, it seemed as if she was there mainly to help fill out the roster so it felt more like a team movie than a solo plus allies one. In The Last Stand, while she got a bigger role, it was also because with Jean and Scott gone, someone had to take up the extra space.
X2 was my favourite of the original trilogy by far. Part of the reason for that was that it had a better balance of characters than the others, even if it was still heavily tilted in favour of Wolverine. The characters got to interact with each other – Storm and Jean went on a mission together. They had a few great moments together and with Kurt. The scene where Storm and Kurt were talking about humans and the persecutions mutants face was excellent. Berry’s delivery of the, “I gave up on pity a long time ago” line really showed off what she could have done with the role if she’d gotten more out of the directors or the script. Quite a few of her scenes in the first two movies were about her fear of humans – with Kurt in X2, with Senator Kelly in X-Men. That would have been a fascinating direction to take her character – this is a woman who in the comics, was revered as a goddess. She’s one of the X-Men, and she fights to protect people that hate and fear her – people that she fears, despite her powers. But it was never really expanded upon.
I don’t know much about comics Storm. I find a lot of her behaviour frustrating, mainly because of how in a lot of comics, she’s used as more an author mouthpiece to complain about Scott than anything else. She’s more than that, though, and even if she wasn’t, she’d still have the potential to be. The movies didn’t care to go into all the things she could be at all. I guess when it comes down to it, you know she deserved better because the entire time Halle Berry was in the role, the name Ororo was only mentioned once.
Rogue got completely cut out of Days of Future Past. In the rest of the movies she was in, she alternated between being an afterthought and being a pretty major character. Her treatment really bothered me in The Last Stand.
X-Men: The Animated Series also featured the mutant cure and Rogue’s temptation to take it, and in some ways, I think they handled it better. Both her taking the cure and not taking it would have been valid choices. But they should have been made for her. Logan said that she should make sure it was what she wanted and not something she was doing for some boy, but through some combination of the script and directorial choices, it came across to me as something she was doing because of Bobby. Because she was jealous of him spending time with Kitty and that Kitty could touch him.
Rogue’s issues with her powers aren’t just about some boy. They’re about fear. They’re about a girl that wants to live an ordinary life and wants to be able to get close to people. Rogue gets the same fear and ostracization that all mutants do, but unlike many of them, she doesn’t even get a cool power that she wants to use with it. She can take anyone’s power she likes, but she doesn’t want that, because she doesn’t want to hurt people. She’s isolated. That’s certainly tied to her inability to touch people, but it’s not just about that – it’s that she’s constantly alert and afraid and having to be careful to not accidentally come in contact with someone’s skin. That would have been a cool way to justify her wanting to get rid of her powers – she wants to be able to relax, to not be afraid, to not be hated or to hate herself. It’s tied into wanting to touch people, but it’s not just for the sake of touching them.
In X2, we got a glimpse of Rogue starting to be able to control her powers – she kissed Bobby and got some of his powers without hurting him. She grabbed John to control the fires he’d set, and there seemed to be no negative side effects. Had they continued to pursue that, we could have seen her struggling to control her powers but refusing to get rid of them because they’re a part of who she is now.
Kitty is an odd case, because in the comics, she’s somewhat of a creator’s pet. Her presence in the comics increased ridiculously because of how writers that grew up on comics loved her. That’s totally fine – it’s always good to see a wider range of characters – but it would have been nice for that to translate to the movies as well.
Three different actresses played her. Ellen Page eventually stuck around to be more than a cameo, but the repeated recasting suggests that they didn’t care about her being there and just wanted some recognizable students to fill out the school. Kitty was certainly that.
As much as I love Days of Future Past, I had a major issue with how it handled Kitty. I didn’t mind that DoFP revolved around Xavier. I thought it was extremely well done, and that McAvoy pulled off a fantastic performance. But Logan’s role? As the heart, as the one motivating Xavier to be better? That should have been Kitty.
They simplified the story a great deal from what it was in the comics, but doing that resulted in it not exactly making sense. Kitty, the girl who walks through walls, got some completely different power out of nowhere that had nothing to do with her actual power set so that Rachel Summers could be cut out of the story. I get that Rachel’s backstory needed to be cut, because Jean and Scott both died in The Last Stand and seeing as they didn’t have kids, it would have taken more time than they had to explain who she was, but the obvious solution would be to either use a new character with similar powers or to just not go into her backstory at all. Giving that part in the story to Kitty didn’t make any sense, especially when her role in the comics version was what they gave Logan.
Was it really necessary for Logan to be the hero again? I think DoFP would have been much more interesting with Kitty in her comics role. She’s a genius and can phase through solid objects – she’d probably be more useful than Logan, and she cares about Xavier, the school, and mutantkind just as much as he does. The ending, at the school, where Logan sees Scott and Jean back from the dead was a great ending. I loved it. But it’s one that I’d have found that much more emotional from the eyes of one of their students.
There are certainly other characters that got shafted – Warren and Jubilee come to mind, as does Piotr – I can’t even remember if Piotr got a line at all. Really, most characters that weren’t Logan, Raven, Charles, and Erik got kind of sidelined. That’s not necessarily bad – several of the movies were excellent anyway. But I think developing the other characters would have made the stories much richer. They had so much potential and were played by great actors, but instead, got used as props rather than driving the story themselves.
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