Batman v Superman, Religious Imagery, and Nietzsche

Disclaimer: I’m not religious. My family is loosely Hindu, but I don’t believe in any god. Nor do I have an emotional connection to any religious text. Therefore, my understanding of religion – both as a concept and in regards to the specifics espoused – is limited and strictly academic, and even that academic knowledge doesn’t come from formal study. Similarly, I have limited understanding of Nietzsche, and this interpretation of his work is strictly my own.

Batman v Superman interestingly presented both themes where Clark represents a god, or a divine entity, and ones where he’s just a man. The story itself clearly takes the position that he isn’t a god, though perceived as one, while the visuals alluded to the divine, which I thought was a brilliant storytelling technique – we, as humans, see the symbolism and see the ways in which he could be seen as a god or Jesus figure, and through the story, we understand that he’s very much not. Both these angles are used in Batman v Superman to craft a loving analysis and intelligent critique of Nietzsche’s philosophy.

Clark was raised on Earth as a human by human parents. He has a regular job, one in which he’s a much more confident and assertive person than he is while in his Superman suit. He shares a regular apartment with his human girlfriend. He has extraordinary powers, but he’s just a regular guy there to help. He’s a Moses figure, the child sent away from his parents so he could be safe, the one that will guide his people to a better future.

Familial love – especially in regards to adoptive and found families – is an important motif in the DCEU, and in DC in general. Clark and Martha. Bruce and Alfred. Bruce and Robin. Clark and humanity. Earth is Clark’s world, and humans are his people. His adoptive family means everything to him, and when he’s forced to choose between his adopted people and the Kryptonians, he chooses Earth. That shifts the depiction of Clark a bit away from Moses, as he stands by his adopted people against his fellow Kryptonians against Kryptonian aggression, whereas Moses’s adopted people were the aggressors, but the loose parallel still stands. This idea – Clark representing a very human religious figure, rather than a divine one – helps illustrate Nietzsche’s points about God.

Creating a God

Nietzsche believed that man created God in his own image. I’ve seen it argued that BvS turned this neatly on its head by having man, Lex, literally create the Devil, Doomsday, out of his blood. While I do agree that this is a fair interpretation, I also think that BvS interpreted it in the figurative sense that the idea was originally intended, and in a more direct fashion, through Superman.

Clark Kent is a man. He has powers and abilities beyond any human, but he was raised not as an alien or a god, but a regular human being, and that’s exactly how he views himself. And other people see him that way, too – just a regular guy, trying to do the right thing. But when he introduces himself to humankind as Superman, we elevate him. He is worshiped as a god, even as people know he’s an alien. We create an idea of what he is that has little to do with the actual person.

Statue of Superman. Credit: Warner Brothers

God Is Dead

Nietzsche, of course, did not mean it literally when he claimed that God is dead and we have killed him, but in BvS, that statement was illustrated in both literal and figurative senses. Superman died by Lex Luthor’s hand. And when Clark Kent died, the world recognized that Superman wasn’t a god, wasn’t some omnipotent being. They finally accepted him as a man that was trying to do the right thing. The idea of him as a god was killed. Not through scientific advancement or better comprehension of the universe, but through greater understanding of and compassion for other people. And that was a very good thing.

And despite all of this, despite how much BvS illustrates Nietzsche’s philosophy directly and literally, it also challenges it, because God’s death isn’t also the death of humanity’s morality. It’s the cause of its return. Nietzsche discussed mankind’s dependency upon religion to define morality, which was alluded to in the montage of interviews and news clips. Superman’s existence challenges everything humans thought they knew and believed. But his death shifted them to a better way of thinking. Clark inspired Bruce and Diana to become heroes again. People weren’t dependent on him to define morality. They look to him as an example, as someone to help guide them to become better, to become the best they can be. Superman is the literal übermensch – he’s the man from above, the alien. By existing, he challenges all belief systems on the planet. Him being good enough to sacrifice his own life for a people that feared and ostracized him made people realize they didn’t have to be afraid – that they could be better, should be kinder. Mankind doesn’t rely upon Superman to tell us the difference between right and wrong, but he can help guide us so that we can join him in the sun.

Lex wanted to prove that Superman was neither all powerful nor all good. He sought to disprove the myth of Clark being all powerful to himself, by forcing Clark to bend to his will, and to disprove the myth of him being all good to the world, by framing him for the slaughter in the desert, implicating him in the Capitol bombing, and forcing him to kill Batman. And even though he did succeed in killing Superman, that Superman died for mankind convinced the world that he was good. By proving that Superman isn’t all powerful and is still willing to defend humans against threat, Lex demonstrated that there was nothing to fear. Clark’s neither a vengeful god nor some kind of Jesus figure – he’s flawed, he’s human, but he’s tries so hard to be good. He wants to help other people and be the best person he can be, and that – much more than his Kryptonian heritage or his powers – is what makes him Superman.

A Meaningful Death

God is dead, but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.

Clark’s death has a lasting impact. We as an audience know that he’ll return, but the people in universe don’t. Nietzsche viewed the shadow of God as a negative and religion as an ultimately destructive force. Here? Clark’s shadow is nothing but positive. The world changed when Superman flew in the sky, then again when he didn’t. He inspired people to be better. His death is going to bring the Justice League together.

batman v superman clark kent lois lane
Clark saying goodbye to Lois, drawing to mind the image of Christ leaving his mother depicted in many works of art. Credit: Warner Brothers

If you seek his monument, look around you. Before the Death of Superman, mankind sought to honour him through massive monuments. After, Diana said that they didn’t know how to honour him but as a soldier, with a military funeral for an empty casket. That’s true, but it’s also true that the government and general population recognized that they didn’t need to erect a statue, because the greatest monument to Superman’s achievements was that the people of Earth were still alive. Bruce chose to honour him by forming the Justice League and protecting the Earth, just as he did. I think this is the closest to a real Jesus parallel that BvS has, and it’s more a criticism of Christianity than anything – yes, there’s a great deal of imagery, but most of it is just that, because the story and Clark’s actions tell us that he’s not a God or Christ figure, he doesn’t see himself that way and neither should we. He’s one of us.

Death of Superman Batman v Superman
Lois holding Clark’s body, similar to Mary holding Jesus in the Pietà. Credit: Warner Brothers

Throughout history, people calling themselves Christians have fought to prove how devout they are through building bigger churches, or fighting wars, or criticizing other people’s faith or other religions, when none of that was part of Jesus’s teachings. To follow Jesus would be to follow his example. The same can be said for Clark – he doesn’t want people to worship him. He doesn’t want statues or monuments built for him. He just wants to live his life, to help people and for other people to do the same. Nietzsche disdained Christianity, but he had a healthy respect for Jesus. As he put it himself, “There was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.” At the end of BvS, the people of Earth stopped feeling the need to build statues. Stopped feeling the need to look up to Clark with fear or awe. They mourned him, the man that cared enough about them to give his life to stop a monster, with respect and genuine love.

There’s something very appealing to me about how decisive BvS is when it comes to making a point. How unafraid it is of going against the grain. I could be interpreting the movie and Nietzsche in a very different way than Terrio and Snyder intended, but the allusions to Nietzsche were clearly deliberate and left somewhat open for interpretation. BvS is never lazy or timid with its philosophy. It delves into the opinions of well known philosophers whose work is commonly known and doesn’t just parrot them at the audience. It’s not fake-profound. It’s legitimately meaningful because it examines and challenges philosophies rather than just repeating them. It comes from people that take care to interpret the text and counter it, rather than referencing these philosophies out of context, and on top of that, themes are presented in a way that forces the audience to think about them and the symbolism rather than just being spoonfed everything. There is something there, and it’s possible to disagree about what that is and debate the different meanings. That’s a good story. That’s real art. That’s why we’re still talking about it, more than a year after the release.

Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and the Concept of Superheroes

Seeing I’m tired of all the people giving Wonder Woman backhanded compliments by taking shots at the previous installments in the DCEU, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss how Batman v Superman – and to a lesser extent, Man of Steel – makes viewers uncomfortable by deconstructing the concept of superheroes, and in doing so, tells one of the richest and most important superhero stories ever told.

It’s been more than a year since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out, and since then, a lot of people far more articulate than me have countered the common arguments against the movie, analyzed the layers and metaphors and symbolism. So I’m not going to do any of that. I’m just going to talk about why it means more to me than any other superhero movie I’ve ever seen.

Something remarkable about BvS is that nobody is neutral about it. People love it or hate it, but not many people saw it and thought nothing. And maybe part of that is the comicbook fan community’s penchant for dramatics and extremes, but I think most of it is a serious reaction. People remember they saw it. Even now, more than a year later, we’re still discussing it. Some movies are forgotten after a few weeks. Not this one. And I think a big part of the reason why is that it challenges viewers to think about what superheroes really mean.

As a child of immigrants, this story, especially as it pertained to the DCEU interpretation of Clark Kent, resonated with me. Zack Snyder deconstructed the concept of superheroes just by considering how people would realistically react to someone like Superman. Pointing out the xenophobia he would face rings far more true to me than everyone embracing the alien from another planet. Snyder tore down the idea of a classic superhero by letting him be vulnerable and willing to take responsibility, by building a world in which he’s not universally loved. He gave me a world where I can legitimately see myself in the hero and in which the narrative is on his side, and for that, I’m honestly going to love him forever.

This is a universe in which Clark struggles with his dual identity. He doesn’t know anything about Krypton in the beginning, only that he’s somehow different. Superman has always been an immigrant. But this story, for the first time, explored what that means. He actually chose – Krypton or Earth? And it was a clear choice, a bright line separating right and wrong. Zod the mass murderer, or an innocent family? But just because it was right, didn’t mean it was easy. Sometimes there are no simple answers.

And after that? After deconstructing Superman and posing the question of whether or not he can actually exist and stay good, whether or not his perspective on and approach life and heroism is the right one…Snyder reconstructs everything he questioned by simply answering yes. By saying that Batman – whom, from decades of pop culture, we’re all practically conditioned to believe is the awesome badass that’s right all the time – was wrong. That men are good.

We may not deserve Superman, but he cares about us anyway. He’s not a god – not some infallible being, nor a malicious entity to be feared and distrusted – he’s a child of Earth. He doesn’t want anything. He doesn’t expect to be thanked. He doesn’t like being revered as a god. He just helps because it’s the right thing to do. And him being that good man, sacrificing his own life because this is his world, even though people feared him and what he could do, was what inspired Bruce and Diana to come back from their lowest points and fight the good fight again. Bruce and Diana went to his funeral and they decided that they would form the Justice League in his honour. He inspired them to move past their darkest moments and become the heroes they once were again. And then at the end of the movie, the dirt on top of his coffin rose, because he will be back. There are heroes and good people. There’s fear and prejudice, but that can be overcome. People can lose hope, but still regain it. Suffering doesn’t last forever. Loss can be worked through. How is that not hopeful? How is that not idealistic? It’s not about being infallible and always smiling and perfectly optimistic and happy no matter what. It’s about continuing to strive to be better.

Throughout both MoS and BvS, it was made beautifully clear that Clark didn’t owe the world a thing. Having powers didn’t also give him responsibility. His parents wanted to protect him, because they were afraid for him. They wanted him helping the world to be his choice. It was never that they didn’t want him to save people, it was that they believed he mattered as an individual, not just as a potential saviour. Jonathan and Martha are parents – they’re human, they’re flawed and imperfect and so, so protective of their only child. They taught Clark his values and the importance of both helping others and protecting his identity. And that did cause Clark to struggle with what he should do. It was part of the reason he kept on the move so much. That doesn’t make any of them bad people. Because Jonathan did the best he could for his son and taught him the difference between right and wrong. Because Martha never tried to stop adult Clark from wandering the world or helping people or discovering his identity. Because despite being lost and uncertain, Clark still chose to help people because he could.

The idea of Batman was also rebuilt with this movie, and I think this is the first time live action has ever gotten him right. Some people want to see Bruce as his pop culture caricature – rich playboy that’s also a badass that goes out at night to beat up criminals, AKA the escapist Batman power fantasy. Others, like the people that enjoyed Batman: The Animated Series, do want to see his compassion. But BvS went so much farther. It mixed both ideas and pushed further to explore who he really is.

At his core, Bruce Wayne is a deeply damaged and traumatized individual. He’s obsessive and paranoid and obsessed with control. He’s a deeply compassionate individual that cares about his city and helping people, yes, but the DCEU version of the character is one that doesn’t have a Robin. Bruce’s children ground him and remind him of what he fights for. They give him hope. They keep him sane. But in BvS, he’s lost Jason. We don’t know what his relationship with Dick is like, but it’s probably not good. Tim hasn’t showed up yet.

Bruce in BvS is alone. He’s scared. He doesn’t want what happened in Metropolis to ever happen again. His emotions are totally understandable and fair. But how far he takes it? The way he becomes so violent and brutal he scared the victims as much as the criminals? How he’s willing to kill Clark because of his powers being dangerous? That crosses a line. His fear of and vendetta against Superman began because of one little girl that lost her mother. His return to caring about collateral damage, about the victims more than the criminals, that comes about because Clark is willing to sacrifice himself for the world.

What I really don’t get is that the same people who complain about the movie being overly grim and dark also complain about the Martha scene. That makes absolutely no sense to me. Bruce didn’t back off because of the name, and he and Clark definitely didn’t decide to become friends because of it. Bruce just paused for a second because he has intense PTSD, and the name was not only his mother’s name, it was the last thing his father ever said. It was Lois putting herself between him and Clark that made him put down the spear. It was her telling him that Martha is Clark’s mother’s name, that Superman does have a human mother that he loves and that was in danger that made him stop. Made him realize what he was doing. And after that, Clark trusted him because he had to. That scene was beautifully written and beautifully shot, and very possibly, my favourite scene in any movie, comic book or otherwise, ever.

I really don’t understand where people are getting the idea that this movie lacks heart. At its core, it’s about two men that love their mothers and a villain that’s never had that love. It’s about a man that was once a hero being torn down to his worst self out of fear and loss and grief. It’s about that man realizing he was wrong and actively seeking to become a better person again. It’s about another man that loves the world, even when much of it rejected him. It’s about a woman that’s emphatically not a fascist believing in accountability and not taking unilateral decisions. It’s about another woman realizing that she can’t just do nothing. It’s called Batman v Superman, but it’s about so much more than that.

Batman v Superman was heavily based on The Dark Knight Returns. And I personally do not like that comic. I think it’s poorly written and presents Bruce’s actions as morally right. But this? This took it and made it incredible, because it allowed Superman to have depth, and didn’t ever glorify Batman’s violence, and gave every character clear motivation.

This story is political, embracing all the questions of what it means to be a superhero in the real world, while never justifying Batman’s extremist, insane bigotry. It takes a perfectly reasonable stance – Superman must take responsibility for his actions, but not those of others. He can’t be judged on the basis of what he might do, only what he has done. The parallels to our own world are obvious. Maybe not to everyone, but as someone who’s experienced people looking at her twice because of the colour of her skin? They couldn’t possibly be clearer.

People are uncomfortable with a movie embracing the fact that Clark Kent is more than an outsider – he’s an immigrant, a refugee. They don’t like that story being presented, loud and proud. They don’t like the idea of Batman legitimately having a mental illness. They don’t like the idea of a movie based on comics being taken seriously and approached as meaningful art. But that’s what Snyder does, and in doing so, he’s crafted a masterpiece. It’s heavy, absolutely, and maybe not something I have the emotional capacity to watch all the time, but whenever I want to watch something honest something that tells me, “hey, the world’s a flawed, tough place, but it can be better and there are people trying to make it better”, I’m absolutely turning to Batman v Superman.

Now look, I love Wonder Woman. I think it is a very well done movie. But it does both the movie itself and the DCEU as a whole a disservice to ignore how they fit together, the running themes and the parallels between the characters. Diana is Steve in Batman v Superman – she’s become jaded and cynical, and at the end, she had to do something because she already tried doing nothing.

The different movies in the DCEU tell different parts of one story. They reference each other and tie into each other, as well as referencing comics and mythology and literature. They are stories that I can appreciate as a comics fan as well as someone that likes media to respect her intelligence. So far, they’ve deconstructed the superhero genre and begun to put it back together, and I absolutely cannot wait to see where they go from here.

The Cohesive DCEU Story

I love the way all the movies in the DCEU tie in to each other. Not just through characters, but through themes and the story. They don’t need post credit scenes to reference other movies – there’s direct cause and effect, and the movies are woven together much more tightly. Batman v Superman occurred because of Man of Steel and all the destruction caused by the Kryptonian fight. Suicide Squad described the world after BvS. Wonder Woman went back in time and explained how Diana became the woman we saw in BvS.

Each movie has its own style and setting and even genre, but they work so well together. They’re all essentially love stories at their core. I love that Wonder Woman is being acknowledged as such, but I’m still perplexed at how people don’t see that Man of Steel and Batman v Superman are as well. People claim that MoS and BvS are too dark and gritty and grim for the sake of being grim,  but I’m not convinced those people watched the same movie as I did. These movies are all about love and hope in the darkest of times!

In MoS, Jor El and Lara loved Clark enough to send him away so that he could survive the destruction of Krypton and build a better world than theirs. Jonathan and Martha took him in and raised him to become a good man. He travelled the world and helped people, despite not knowing anything about who and what he was because it was the right thing to do. Out of love of humanity, he destroyed the World Engine and killed Zod.

In BvS, Bruce charged head on into a disaster zone because there were civilians and his employees trapped, and he refused to sit back and do nothing. His fury towards Superman began with him seeing a little girl lose her mother. It was hearing his own mother’s name that made him pause long enough to listen. Lois loved Clark enough to stand between him and a maniac with a spear. Lois and Martha brought gave Clark hope and inspired him to keep going, reminded him of why Earth is his world and why he’s willing to die for it. His sacrifice made Bruce and Diana become the heroes they had once been again and form the Justice League.

Justice League is going to be the culmination of a trilogy that began with Man of Steel. They are past their darkest moments now. They’re going to become their best selves, inspired by love and sacrifice, and they’ll be the team of heroes the world needs. I, for one, can’t wait.

Adaptations, Source Material, and Viewer Satisfaction: My Complicated Feelings About the X-Men Movies

The X-Men movie franchise has existed for most of my life. I’ve grown up watching these movies, I have a lot of appreciation for them and looking back on them very fondly, and I think it’s important that we credit them for reviving comic book movies and allowing them to be big budget successes. And yet, when I think about them critically and objectively, I find it very hard to give a simple answer to the question, “Are the X-Men movies any good?”

Part of that, of course, goes back to the fact that they’re adaptations of comic books. The X-Men have existed for decades. There are a lot of different versions of the characters, and everyone has a different way of interpreting them. It’s impossible to please everyone. But in addition to that, there were a lot of other issues that made them a poor and unsatisfactory adaptation, at least to me. Some of the dialogue, in the original trilogy especially, is stilted. The costume design was boring. A lot of parts felt forced. There were a lot of plotholes.

What I’ve always found the most important part of the X-Men is that they’re a team. They’re a close knit family, bound together, and determined to protect both their kind and a world that hates and fears them. The movies rejected that notion. Instead of showing them as a team, they focused on Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto and sacrificed everyone else in the process.

hated having to watch everyone else’s important storylines just given to Logan. He essentially took Scott’s place as the main hero and romantic lead during the Dark Phoenix arc when Scott was unceremoniously killed off by Jean in the first half hour of the movie. He took Kitty’s place in Days of Future Past, resulting in Kitty getting a new power that made absolutely no sense and pretty much just sitting still for the entire movie. Logan may not have been the main character of Days of Future Past – that distinction goes to Charles – but he was the heart and the character whose perspective the story was told from. It apparently wasn’t enough that Logan got three solo movies while no one else even got one – he had to get all of everyone’s storylines as well. The X-Men movies weren’t about the X-Men, they were just Wolverine and Friends.

I appreciate the changes made to Xavier’s character. The movies made him more of a hero. In the comics, he was deeply manipulative, essentially a trainer for child soldiers, and did very little to actually further the mutant cause while still being hailed as the best of them. Here, he’s legitimately heroic. I love manipulative characters that are willing to use other people as pawns to achieve their goals, but the narrative has to point that out, not gloss over it to pretend those characters are perfect heroes. Would it have been cool to see comics Xavier, with attention being drawn to his myriad of character flaws? Sure. But I’m totally fine with the version of the character that’s far less flawed and is doing the best he can to create a better world.

A lot of the performances were fabulous. Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan – they managed to demonstrate to the audience that their characters had a long history and a complicated relationship without ever needing flashbacks or a lot of expository dialogue. For all my issues with Logan’s character, I’ll still admit that Hugh Jackman is a great actor. But a lot of the actors were also wasted – James Marsden and Famke Janssen come to mind.

My favourite X-Man has always been Scott. I’ve talked about that before. The adult version of the character has never really had a solo title, but he’s been absolutely crucial to the X-Men as a team – he’s essentially the main character of the entire X-Men mythos. More than Xavier. More than Magneto. That’s how important he is. But if your X-Men knowledge comes from the films and not the comics, you end up seeing Logan as the main character, Logan as the hero and team leader, not Scott, because in the movies, he doesn’t get to do anything. He’s an adaptational wimp that never gets to be a leader or use his brilliant tactical skills and ability to beat people up with his eyes closed. He never gets to be seen as the important pillar of the school, the teacher. There’s less focus on his relationship with his love interest than there is on Logan’s relationship with her. He doesn’t even get to grieve for his fiancée’s death. James Marsden was an excellent casting choice, but he was cast to the side.

Famke Janssen is a superb actress that completely owned her role, but she got very little to work with. The Dark Phoenix saga from the comics is highly acclaimed. It was a beautifully done story, and it was about Jean loving the world, her family, Scott. It was about her choosing death over hurting them. But The Last Stand took away her choices and her agency. It didn’t pay any attention to Jean and who she was, just what she was to Logan.

Somehow, the films made the Jean Logan relationship, something I hate in the comics, an even worse concept. The directors, writers, whoever – they tried to make the audience take Logan’s creepy obsession with Jean seriously, make us view it as a tragic, romantic love story, but he knew her for a week. He knew nothing about her as a person. He thought she was hot and had an image of what she was like and decided he was somehow in love with her, but he didn’t know her. She was engaged to Scott the whole time, and the two of them were in a long term, happy relationship! Logan’s behaviour was borderline harassment at best that we were supposed to believe was love.

I’ve seen most people agree that The Last Stand wasn’t a good movie, that the first two were much better. I think it could have been great, and that in fact, a lot of the action sequences were well done, but a lot of the rest of it fell flat. X-Men United was really good, and I wanted the follow-up movie to deal with the events that happened. The story I wanted was one of grief and pushing through it. I wanted Scott missing Jean, who was his best friend and teammate in addition to being his girlfriend, but working through his grief because his team and the school still needed him. Instead, his adoptive father asked someone else to take over the school instead of bothering to talk to him about his loss and how to start moving on; he got killed off half an hour into the movie; and no one really even mourned his death.

The filmmakers tried to cram too much into the movie and didn’t do justice to any of it. The concept and morality of a cure would have been a great story to go into. The repulsiveness of the idea of suggesting that a natural part of a segment of the population is a disease to be cured and that something is wrong with that segment of the population. The reminder that it’s a complex issue and that some mutants might want to take it. The weaponization of the cure and forcible administration. I would have loved to see Scott returning from wallowing in his grief to his calm, rational, strategic self to try to deal with this. It could have been the start of a real friendship and trust being forged with Logan. It could have been a solid story that was a great character study as well as an action movie. But they killed Scott and also crammed in the Dark Phoenix arc.

The Dark Phoenix as well could have been a great movie. I’ve heard they’re going to make another one about it, but I can’t be very excited for that, because a) Jean has been involved in far more stories than just the Dark Phoenix and deserves so much better and b) it’ll probably be with Sophie Turner and not Janssen, which disappoints me for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into now. But it, as it was portrayed in The Last Stand, wasn’t really a Dark Phoenix story. It wasn’t about Jean. It was pretty much about her choosing to follow Erik instead of Charles and giving Logan something to angst over. It could have been spectacular. But it wasn’t. The entire movie just left me cold and disappointed.

When we look at the second trilogy, the alternate timeline one, my conflicting feelings deepen. Because First Class was a story about Erik and Days of Future Past was a story about Charles, and I thought both were very interesting movies with a lot of heart. But as an X-Men fan, it felt like a slap in the face for a movie to be called First Class and not include the original X-Men. Scott, Jean, Bobby, Warren – none of them was anywhere in sight. Hank was there, sure, but the rest of those characters? Nowhere. They even decided to stick Scott’s traditionally younger brother on the team in Scott’s place. Very few of those new characters were well developed. They killed off Darwin, their only black character, despite the fact that that makes no sense with his power and that his power would have made much more sense as the lynch pin of the next movie than Raven’s.

Days of Future Past was probably my favourite movie on the franchise as a whole, and that’s only partially because of how it completely undid The Last Stand and brought Scott and Jean back to life. As a movie, I think it was the best one by quite a large margin. It wasn’t necessarily a great adaptation, but it was an exceptional movie. It was a movie about found families and fighting through hard times. It was a movie about doing the right thing. It demonstrated the Erik-Charles dynamic beautifully, showing that they both have very different perspectives that stem from their personal experiences and that are both understandable. It showed how necessary and important the school is. And above all, it ended well. It ended happily and it gave them all a second chance. There were a few plot holes and continuity issues, but on the whole, I can’t really complain about Days of Future Past.

Apocalypse was much more divisive than either First Class or Days of Future Past, but while I had my issues with it, issues that were deeper than mine with Future Past, there were actually a lot of things that I appreciated a lot. The most important of them was that Logan showed up for a couple minutes, then left, and that was it. He didn’t hog the spotlight in this one. We got teenage Scott and Jean and Kurt, which was lovely – finally, some other characters got some screen time – but deeply flawed, as the interpretation of Scott was so different from the classic version of him, he felt like a totally different character that just happened to have the same name. It didn’t really focus on a specific character, so it felt more like an X-Men ensemble movie at long last, even if a lot of the characters were underused and Mystique got more screentime than she probably should have.

But even beyond too much focus on a few characters, and a lack of care being put into the details, and my frustration with them as adaptations, my main problem with the movies is how exhausting they are. There hasn’t been a real happy ending since the very first one. When you’re telling a story about a persecuted minority, of course you need to go into the struggles the people belonging to said minority face. But having all of mutantkind wiped out twice, and not facing the societal and political challenges instead of the dramatics since 2006?

I don’t have a problem with emotional weight and bittersweet endings. It’s why I love the DCEU – the movies might be too heavy for me to watch all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It just means that sometimes when I’m exhausted and need something light to cheer me up, I’m going to turn on Legally Blonde instead.

So much of the franchise is excellent and enjoyable and generally well done, but there are still so many flaws that are more and more noticeable with every rewatch, it gets very frustrating and exhausting.

All of my issues with the franchise culminated with Logan. While I enjoyed watching it, after I was done, I was so tired. I was sick of Logan as a character. I was sick of never getting to see other mutants or the X-Men as a team. I was sick of the characters never getting a lasting victory or moving forward in a meaningful way.

Logan was the end of an era. It was the last movie with Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine. It was the last movie with Patrick Stewart playing Professor X. By extension, it’s very probably the last movie with any of the original actors. I’d be delighted to be wrong about that, but I very much doubt we’ll ever again see Marsden Scott, Janssen Jean, or Berry Ororo. Logan was the end of that era, and I think that while the movie may stand well on its own, isolated from the rest of the franchise, it was a weak, unsatisfactory ending.