Jean Grey and Scott Summers are one of the most iconic couples in all of Marvel. Marvel isn’t like DC in that superheroes and their love interests are inextricably linked – the characters tend to have a wider range of romantic partners, or they break up with their love interest much more often than in DC. Superman has Lois Lane. Batman has Catwoman. Even people that have never picked up a comic in their life know that – these are pop culture icons, a staple in not just comics, but movies and TV shows. The Marvel equivalent is Spider-Man and Mary Jane. Jean and Scott aren’t on that level of iconic, but they’re still one of the couples that a member of the general public will be able to name. I’ve talked before about how Jean and Scott individually got raw deals, but I think a lot of the reasons they were portrayed badly are tied together.
Jean didn’t have much of a character of her own in the original trilogy, as I pointed out in my other post. Most of her scenes were about how Logan was attracted to her. I heard an argument once that Scott was also a part of this – that Jean’s character had to do with him, that he and Logan were just having a pissing contest over her in the first movie – but I don’t think that’s true at all. In the first movie, Scott was perfectly polite and friendly until Logan manhandled him for no reason and started harassing Jean. And his active dislike for Logan didn’t start until, you know, Logan stabbed a student under his care in the chest. And in Last Stand, Scott was grieving, and he was doing that because he knew her. Not all grief is manpain. This was him having lost the woman he loved and not knowing how to deal with it. Jean was his fiancee, his partner, his friend, and the woman he had a psychic connection with. Logan’s so-called love for her couldn’t compete with that – he knew her for a week and came up with some idealized image in his head that had nothing to do with who she actually was. We can’t equate those relationships at all.
This portrayal of them – barely interacting, Jean as so passive with few real stances of her own after Logan showed up, Scott as a jealous child that was so dependent on her he literally couldn’t survive with her gone – was a disservice to them and the years they’ve known each other. They aren’t just random people that barely know each other that are dating because it’s convenient. They’ve known and loved each other for years. They were friends, partners, and X-Men.
The Last Stand partially adapted the Dark Phoenix Saga, and in doing that, failed to do the most famous Jean Scott story justice. It tried to do two things at once, and it didn’t end up doing justice to either of them. Neither was well developed, and either could have been a good movie on its own. It tried to make a story centred around the mutant cure, and it tried to make one about Jean becoming the Dark Phoenix. Because they tried both, Jean as Dark Phoenix was pretty much just her siding with Magneto instead of Xavier and having stronger powers. The tragedy that defines the Dark Phoenix arc wasn’t there for me, and the deep philosophical issues that should be involved with a story about the mutant cure were barely even touched upon. The Dark Phoenix arc revolves hugely around Jean and Scott and how much they love each other, but Scott was killed off rather than being the reason for Jean coming back to herself. They had all the parts necessary to make something amazing, but the movie we got was instead borderline incoherent.
It could have been a story about the mutant cure and all the mutant rights issues going along with that. That would have been great. It could have been about Scott having to deal with grief over losing Jean and still having to teach and lead the team and protect his people, while also confronting the fact that as much as he hates his powers at times, he won’t ever even consider taking the cure because he’s needed. The leader of the X-Men, and the general of all mutantkind, has to be a mutant. One of the flaws of the X-Men movies was that Scott, the leader of the X-Men, was mainly portrayed as Jean Grey’s jealous boyfriend who goes down first in every fight. He’s so much more than that. He loved Jean, and there is some canonical evidence of him having a hard time functioning outside a relationship, but she wasn’t the only thing in his life. Having a movie centred around him dealing with the mutant cure and civil rights would have established him as his own person, while also paving the way for a future movie about what Scott as the mutant revolutionary he’s been for years now.
It could have also been Dark Phoenix story, with Jean losing control of her powers and being brought back to herself because of love. The Dark Phoenix Saga is a beautiful tragedy about a woman trying to find her place in a world that hates her for what she is. She’s manipulated and hurt and still wants to protect the innocent – we saw that clearly with her stopping the Hellfire Club from attacking the newly manifested Kitty. It’s about love, and how much Jean loves her family, the world, Scott. It would have been an amazing exploration of who Jean is as a person. It would have focused on her. It would have been more of a straight action movie and character piece than the philosophical civil rights issues that would be raised by a cure story.
I think it would have best had they done both. I’d have wanted the cure storyline first, because it should have been Scott’s. It’s a concept that ties in beautifully to who Scott is and what he does. Scott’s character can be summed up as “guy that loses people he loves constantly and has to protect mutants from persecution regardless of any personal issues”. By all rights, The Last Stand should have been about Scott mourning Jean and having to keep fighting for mutants despite having lost her, and the franchise as a whole should have had more Scott. In the comics, Scott is always the important character when it comes to the existential threats mutants face. He’s the one that keeps them alive. Not Logan, not Xavier, not Mystique. And despite being what I consider a better, more complex character than any of those three, the original X-Men films cast him aside for them and play to the common misconception that he’s boring, while the alternate timeline changes his character to something completely different to make him conventionally interesting – and that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one.
I love Jean. And I do love the concept of an awesome, powerful woman whose boyfriend/husband/whatever loves and adores and respects with all his heart. But I hate the idea of that being the extent of it, of there being nothing more to said woman’s partner than loving her and following her to the ends of the earth, just as much as I hate it when female characters are flat and exist to be a romantic interest. That’s not Scott at all. Killing Scott would absolutely be a valid story choice, but it has to be for a reason. He needs to be dying for a cause, or to protect someone else, or while doing what he does – not murdered by his fiancée after being so grief stricken after losing her that he couldn’t teach his classes or lead his team or focus on anything he had to do. He loves Jean, but he’s not just her boyfriend, just as she’s not just his girlfriend. Both the cure story and a properly done Dark Phoenix story would have showed that off beautifully.
Both these stories would have revolved around Jean and Scott loving each other, something we barely saw in the movies we got. And that’s a damn shame. These two characters comprise what’s arguably the single most iconic X-Men couple, and the conclusion to a film trilogy about the X-Men, an adaptation of a movie about them, portrayed their relationship badly for the third consecutive movie.