The X-Men Movies And The Case They Make For Self Contained Stories

The X-Men film universe gives me a headache.

I know intellectually that I should take them in in the same way I do comic books – not worrying about the timeline, just relaxing into the story and not questioning it – but there’s something about having an adaptation, live action or otherwise, that makes that harder. Even though I know it doesn’t make sense, I find myself questioning timelines, questioning how the thing that happened in one movie ties into what happened in the previous one, trying to find in-universe explanations for retcons or inconsistencies. I get a little tired of the constant debate of how different things – even those that are explicitly not in the same universe, like The Gifted and Legion – fit into a timeline that at best can be interpreted loosely. And that doesn’t even get into how exhausting continuity lockout can be. A movie should be a complete story on its own. It should stand alone without needing to watch three other movies and read all the companion material. A multiple part story is one thing, but even then, that story should have a clear beginning, middle, and end, based on a pre-existing plan, not an endless number of instalments tacked on, because comic book movies are not comic books. Having more self contained stories, rather than pushing the idea of a “cinematic universe”, would solve all these problems.

Having a predetermined number of movies with a clear overall arc would lessen the debate of how things fit together, because there’d be a clear answer: they don’t. If it floats your boat, you could make a case for how they could, but when it comes to the actual story, the answer is they don’t. It would allow for viewers to just go in and watch the movie or the series without having to watch a bunch more movies to avoid confusion. It would allow for more creator freedom, because their work would depend on, at most, a couple other movies in a series, not a dozen of highly variable quality and comprehensibility. For the viewer, it makes it easier to just reject what you didn’t like. It seems to me like a much more enjoyable experience.

I’m sorry, but I didn’t enjoy Logan. From my perspective, it relied too heavily on existing fondness for the Hugh Jackman Wolverine and Patrick Stewart Xavier, because neither of them were very sympathetic in the film itself. It was more manipulative than well written. I didn’t like the concept, because it felt disrespectful to all the other X-Men and Old Man Logan doesn’t do it for me. And it wasn’t particularly well thought out, either, because when asked if it was in its own universe, everyone involved gave a different answer. But you know what? If it had been explicitly an separate story – with different actors, maybe, something to show that it’s a different universe – all that could have changed.

Part of the reason it bothered me so much was because of what it means for other X-Men movies. It wasn’t all of it, but it was certainly some of it, because it meant we were never going to see the original cast again. They’re never going to get the sendoff they deserve, that I was hoping for after we saw them again in Days of Future Past. So I’ve thought a lot about what it would be like if Logan were in a different universe and hadn’t slammed that door closed. In that case, it wouldn’t have turned a whole franchise into something even more annoyingly Wolverine-centric. It wouldn’t have turned the whole franchise into a giant Shoot the Shaggy Dog story where nothing the X-Men did in past movies or will do in future ones matters. It wouldn’t have presented Logan as the most important X-Man, despite the fact he’s arguably barely an X-Man and doesn’t fit at all with the metaphor for the oppressed that they’ve been since Chris Claremont defined them. Saying, hey, this is a movie about Wolverine and Professor X that has nothing to do with those other movies about them would mean it could be judged as a story, not as an entry into a franchise, on its own merits, rather than being Hugh Jackman’s swan song. In that case, we could have learned if it was actually good beyond the emotional manipulation. I might have actually liked it.

On a similar note, we have Days of Future Past. Now, I love this movie. I think it was one of the peaks of the franchise. But it also has a lot of glaring flaws. Some of these, I think, would have been fixed by making it and First Class a separate duology, or maybe even adding a third movie to put it into a trilogy that had nothing to do with any other movie. What’s one of the biggest complaints about that movie? That’s easy: Kitty Pryde being sidelined from being the lead character of the story to being Wolverine’s Uber driver. But every time that gets brought up, people jump to defending why it “had to be Wolverine”. There are two ways they use to argue this – Watsonian or Doylist. Intradiegetic or extradiegetic. In-universe or real world.

The in-universe answer is that Wolverine was the only one alive at the time they had to go back to that could handle the trip and for the way the story’s version of time travel worked, they couldn’t send someone else. For argument’s sake, let’s ignore the fact that the writers could change those time travel rules. Setting it in a separate timeline from the other movies could make that not true – boom, done, Kitty was alive in the time she needed to go back to, she could go.

The other argument for why it “had to be Wolverine” is the real world answer – people were attached to Wolverine, not Kitty, who only had about fifteen minutes of screen time in the series. So sending back Wolverine made for a more poignant story. You know what that indicates? Precisely my problem with Logan – a story that’s manipulative and relying on existing fondness for a character, rather than actually giving them an arc that we can be invested in. If DoFP was a “standalone” (though part of its own, shorter series), none of this justification for not sending Kitty would be valid, because Wolverine wouldn’t have any more history in the story. All history would have to be built in the movie itself. Every minute would have to count. And that’s how you can tell a good story from something that’s not – a good story can make the audience sympathize and root for and feel attached to the character on its own. It doesn’t need a whole preceding series.

It’s funny – the original X-Men trilogy was hugely important for the development of superhero movies. They demonstrated how great sequels to these movies could be. They very probably paved the way for shared universes as it pertains to superheroes, all of them existing together. Without them, there would be no MCU or DCEU. It doesn’t matter whether or not you love them, you have to acknowledge that they matter. But I think they also have reached a point, eighteen years in, where they make it clear that this really isn’t necessarily the best way to go. Logan  and Days of Future Past clearly demonstrate the value of standalones.

It reminds me of something that there was a lot of debate about which on Twitter recently – Zack Snyder’s comment that, in his five movie plan, he would have killed Batman. A lot of people were shocked and glad that didn’t come to pass. But I think that’s just another indication of what Snyder’s preferred method of storytelling is. And I think that method of storytelling would work amazingly for the X-Men.

Snyder believes in story arcs, not universes. He draws inspiration from various sources, blending them into one coherent story, where instalments connect to each other, but there’s also an end in sight. His movies have very little excess bulk, with every minute of footage serving a specific purpose. He makes bold choices, such as killing off iconic characters like Bruce Wayne, in a way that all Snyder fans know would be respectful and poignant. Some people were talking about how Dick Grayson could become Batman after Bruce’s death- an idea which I love, Dick as Batman is one of my very favourite things – but I don’t think that’s the point here. The point is that Snyder’s vision wasn’t more and more instalments with more and more characters that ended up all sharing the screen. It was thinking through all the details, planning ahead, and making a story that doesn’t go on forever. It’s not really a style loved by executives in this age of sequels and remakes. It’s very different from the MCU brand. But it’s fascinating to watch. It’s a beautiful style from someone that believes in self contained stories, the kind that would be perfect for the X-Men.

The X-Men movies have felt a bit like the result of a bunch of unplanned sequels being tacked on to a finished product, for no reason other than they make money. For someone that loves the X-Men and loves quite a bit of what’s in the X-Men movies, it’s kind of heartbreaking. I know they’re going to reboot. And presumably pretty soon. I just wish that when they do, it would be in a way that follows the tradition of self contained movies or trilogies, rather than the MCU brand of sticking everything together, because who cares about art when there’s money to be made.

It’s unlikely that we’re going to go back to the age of standalones any time soon. Not after the MCU has demonstrated how much money there is to be made like this. But I hope someday we do. The cinematic universe model has been a great experiment, and it was fun while it lasted, but I really would like to go back to self contained series now.

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Lorna Dane, Ororo Munroe, Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, and Rachel Summers: Marvel, Treat the X-Women Better

I’ve whined about Marvel’s treatment of Jean Grey before. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the myriad of other ways in which she’s been mistreated outside of the Dark Phoenix saga, in terms of comics, cartoons, and movies alike. But as poorly as she gets treated, there’s something to be said about the fact that people at least remember she exists and know to include her. I’ll admit, as a Jean fan, that isn’t much of a comfort, when it involves so much of her getting treated as just an object in someone else’s story with no agency of her own, to the point of her role in The Wolverine being “a figment of Logan’s imagination that he apparently forgot he’d only known a week during which she wasn’t into him”. But it’s something, and compared to the other X-Women? It’s kind of a big deal.

Lorna Dane, 1968. Ororo Munroe, 1975. Kitty Pryde, 1980. Emma Frost, also 1980. Rachel Summers, 1981. None of these are new characters. The youngest of them has still existed for more than thirty five years. But they still don’t get treated with as much respect as they should. So, in the order of their first appearance, an explanation of why they all deserve more.

Lorna

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Let’s make a list of characters Lorna has been around longer than, shall we? Wolverine, of course. Nightcrawler. X-23. The list goes on. Nightcrawler has been in cartoons, in movies, and had lots of his own storylines. Wolverine is literally everywhere and I’m sick of him. X-23 was one of the main characters in Logan and has had plenty of issues about her and even a solo title, despite only being introduced in the X-Men: Evolution cartoon in 2006. For the most part, Polaris only exists in the background.

Lorna’s profile has risen due to The Gifted. Sure. That’s to be expected – generally speaking, adaptations have a wider audience than comics and people become aware of different characters through movies and shows. But despite how long Lorna has existed, she’s never had a solo title. Never appeared in the movies. Only briefly appeared in the animated series. She did play a pretty big role in Wolverine and the X-Men, but that one is known for being so stuffed with characters, that it wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to claim just about every character that had more than one appearance in the comics got at least a cameo. It’s kind of weird – there really aren’t many characters like that, that are that old but so underused. It comes across feeling like people at Marvel have something against her.

Lorna was the second X-Woman. This year is her fiftieth anniversary. You’d think that would mean something special happening – whether that be a miniseries, a one off, or a merch release. As far as I know, there isn’t. Now, I’m a DC fan at heart, and I don’t follow Marvel accounts on social media, so for all I know, Marvel isn’t about that “celebrate characters’ birthdays” life – though I think I remember Spider-Man getting something when he turned 50. But DC does make a point to commemorate its characters. For Superman’s 75th anniversary, we got an animated short of the character through the years. That year also had Man of Steel come out. A similar thing happened with Batman – the year he turned 75, there was an animated short released. The first season of Gotham started to airProduction on Batman v Superman started. There were variant covers. Wonder Woman made her silver screen debut on her 75th anniversary and got a special issue with new stories and art. It’s not at all unprecedented to celebrate.

Of course Lorna doesn’t have a profile as high as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, or the like. So naturally, her fiftieth isn’t going to be as big a deal as them turning 75. And to be fair, as far as I know, Havok isn’t getting a celebration either. He was introduced the same year she was, and for quite a while, she’s been treated as…like…his pet girlfriend, thinking about him and focused on him even when she has much more important things to worry about, so I wouldn’t have been all that surprised if this year was advertised as his fiftieth anniversary without any mention of her. It hasn’t been. But even so, most characters get something special happening on major anniversaries. A comic, a rerelease, even a Tweet, acknowledging that it’s their birthday. It doesn’t look like that’ll be the case. Sure, Lorna still might get something in October acknowledging that she’s a great looking fifty year old. But she’s spent decades consistently treated as a perpetual second stringer with none of the same attempts made at pushing her into the A-List that other characters get. I’m not expecting anything.

One thing we can often count on when it comes to the X-Men is writers latching on to a specific character, whether that be a new kid or a little used character that they want to get to create the defining version  of, and trying to make them popular. Kitty, of course – she was the first of those and by far the most successful. But also Jubilee, Quentin Quire, and the like. Despite the long stretches of time in which Lorna doesn’t get much to do, or where she just disappears because people forget about her, I can’t think of any writer that latched on to her.

Lorna’s stories often revolve around her being Havok’s girlfriend/ex/whatever their status is now or Magneto’s daughter. And yes, those things do matter for who she is. But I’m still looking forward to the day where we get more exploration as to who she is and why she matters outside of the men in her life.

Ororo

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Storm is one of the most iconic X-Men characters. That much is indisputable. To the general public, she’s more recognizable than many characters that have existed longer. I’d be willing to bet that more people recognize Storm than they do Angel, Iceman, or Polaris. Be that as it may, Storm is more an icon than she is a character to a lot of people. She’s a symbol. Look at the reaction after Black Panther came out – how many people were jumping up and down about how Storm needs to be in the sequel because they were married in the comics? A lot. But either these people haven’t actually read any of the comics or don’t care about Ororo as a character, because that relationship ended terribly, T’challa never deserved her, and it was written poorly from the get go.

Storm is a mutant. That’s important to who she is as a character. She is not an accessory to T’challa, she’s one of the X-Men. T’challa? He’s aligned with the Avengers. And for a long time now, the Avengers have treated the mutants terribly. It would be hugely offensive to her long history as an independent character to have her be okay with that. In concept, there’s nothing wrong with their relationship – it could actually be really good – but the divorce was bad, she was used more as a prop in the comics during their relationship than a character in her own right, and there’s something gross about how they were on different sides of a war where the Avengers brought an army to try to destroy the Phoenix Force and a country for mutants.

The reason most of the people want them together in the movies is that they recognize the name Storm, know she’s one of the X-Men, and think they would be an awesome power couple. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong about that, but it’s got very little to do with her as a character. While I can’t really blame comic writers for how Storm is perceived by the general public, I can criticize the people behind the movies and cartoons. A lot of the time, she’s there for a combination of reasons: to make whatever the adaptation in question is less white, to fill out a roster, because she’s supposed to be there. It’s not about actually contributing anything to the story or getting interesting development, it’s about putting her there for the sake of putting her there. She deserves to have an actually fleshed out role and character development, rather than just being around to throw lightning and look cool.

Kitty

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Kitty is a weird case because she was a childhood favourite of so many people that are today running the asylum. So in general, she gets treated pretty decently in the comics. But outside of that? It’s been years, and I’m still mad about how Kitty was treated in Days of Future Past adaptations. This applies to both the movie of the same name and the animated series. Let’s start with the movie.

The Days of Future Past comic was Kitty’s first major story. It’s very highly regarded and pretty much the most well known story featuring her in a major role. So of course, the movie shoved her out of her own role and pushed her into Rachel’s so that Wolverine could take her spot. Let’s set aside the fact that that didn’t even make sense, and focus on the ludicrous reasoning given for why she didn’t get to be the central character. The claim was that it couldn’t be her because of the way it was the mind that went back and not the body and only Logan was alive then, but that’s clearly nonsense. They were okay with completely changing the story, but not with changing the time travel rules, or even just time to which someone had to go? Everyone involved did a whole lot of mental gymnastics to justify removing Kitty from the story.

She wasn’t used in the cartoon adaptation, either. I think she was one of the only then X-Men to not make a single appearance in the entire show, which in itself demonstrates why she deserves better. In terms of the Days of Future Past arc specifically, Bishop took her role. That bothered me quite a bit less than the movie, actually, even though it was basically the same concept. Partially, that’s because of all the simplification that went into adapting the story, but more so, because Kitty wasn’t in the animated series. It wasn’t that she was there and they weren’t using her, she was just not present, which was bad for a different reason. And they wanted to use their recently introduced and pretty popular character. I get that. What I found more frustrating about the show was that Kitty was in general replaced by Jubilee – AKA, the Kitty of the 90s. It didn’t usually bother me, because the similarities seemed mostly at the surface level, but the episode “Jubilee’s Fairytale Theatre” was obviously an adaptation of a comic about Kitty. Now, I have nothing against Jubilee, and but the way to popularize a character can’t just be to try and mimic a different one.

Kitty was the ultimate escapist character. She was wish fulfillment. She was the naive newcomer that readers of the time watched grow up and rooted for as she went from sidekick to hero in her own right. She was essentially the X-Men equivalent of Robin. But we’ve never gotten to see that outside the comics. Obviously, adaptations aren’t the be all end all. Comics are not a lesser form of art, I love reading them, and characters can still be treated well without adaptations. How else would we get all those lists of characters we want to get a solo movie? And I don’t especially want Kitty to get one. The movie she allegedly has (had?) in development doesn’t excite me. But the fact remains that she’s perceived as important enough to merit appearing, but not so much that she gets to keep her most famous storylines to herself, and even in the comics themselves, she spends so much time hooking up with writers’ author avatars that it actively detracts from her individual story.

Emma

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Oh, Emma. The queen of inconsistent writing.

Yes, different interpretations are inevitable when it comes to comic book characters. Of course. Comics are a collaborative medium, with lots of different writers and artists working together to create each character over a long period of time. And at some point, it would probably get boring if we only saw the same aspects of a character explored and handled in the same way. But even so, there has to be some level of continuity, some consistent character traits that hold throughout. Emma doesn’t really have those. Not really.

I have very complicated feelings about Emma. When she’s written well, I do like her. In the hands of a competent writer, she’s interesting and entertaining and complicated. Her ambition and brilliance made her manipulative, but she still cared deeply for her students, and losing them turned her into someone that spent years trying to make up for what she’d done. But her years of character development have been thrown away repeatedly by different writers. Look away for a second and she swings from flawed woman that cares about mutants and is trying to do better to spoiled brat villain whose intelligence and qualifications are ignored in favour of painting her as the “sexy, evil teammate”. To an extent, that character derailment happens with every character, but it’s frustratingly and glaringly obvious with Emma.

The “ice queen” thing, or the fire ice contrast with Jean, the “Frost” vs “Summers” contrast with Scott – none of that existed until Morrison. Frost was just her name with nothing to do with her personality until he decided it did. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s helps demonstrate the way writers change aspects of her at a whim. She’s existed since 1980. She’s been the atoner for most of that time now. She’s hasn’t been a real villain since Generation X in, what, 1994? After that, she became pretty much a textbook example of Good Is Not Nice. She has always cared about her students and been fiercely protective of them. Grant Morrison…made her a sex therapist whose “telepathic affair” with Scott felt uncomfortably rapey and whose treatment of him was handwaved because she was in love with him. How he handled Emma is in large part why I have such mixed feelings about his writing. All Star Superman is absolutely incredible, and I adore Batman and Robin, but dear God, his X-Men work is…something. It involved the character assassination of every vertex of the Scott Emma Jean love triangle, and that doesn’t even touch what he did to Magneto. She was derailed even further in the whole  Inhumans vs X-Men arc.

Emma is treated as an object more often than not. She’s used as eye candy. Her intelligence is discounted. She’s both put in revealing costumes for the fanservice and mocked for them. She’s written so inconsistently, it’s impossible to tell whether it’s mostly good or not. Emma needs more women writing her. Maybe it won’t help with all the issues with her writing, but it would at least help in making everything about her feel less exploitative. I don’t know if I’d be as interested in Emma or care so much about well written versions of the character if she didn’t get mistreated so often, but I would love to find out. She deserves enough good writing that people can actually tell if they care about reading her stories.

Rachel

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Rachel’s not a new character. She’s only a year younger than Kitty – a year is nothing in comics – but unlike Kitty, she’s never showed up in an adaptation (unless you count a brief cameo with no lines. I don’t). People responsible for adaptations clearly love Rachel’s stories. And yet she keeps getting adapted out.

She wasn’t in the Days of Future Past movie. I seem to recall someone saying they introducing her would have taken too much time away from the story. My response to that is why? Yes, I’ll admit, I’d probably have grumbles about it had she gotten no attention and just maybe a brief, hey, this is Rachel, she can send you back, but far less than I’m complaining now. And even if they did properly introduce her, it wouldn’t have taken that long. Days of Future Past isn’t her story. It didn’t have to be a huge thing.

While one could argue that they couldn’t use her because Jean and Scott both died in The Last Stand with no kids, I would respond by pointing out that they didn’t have to name her, leaving her as just a cool cameo for the fans. There were plenty of characters that had cameos that didn’t get named in the movie. And Rachel’s last name wasn’t revealed in her first comic appearance anyway. They could have behaved as if she was a new character that was just an expy of Rachel. They could have done any number of things, because it’s not like they care about the timeline anyway. First Class was supposed to be the start of a soft reboot, but that, combined with Days of Future Past, resulted in such a messy and nonsensical continuity, that the general rule has become don’t think about it. They were wiling to go with any number of contrived coincidences to get Patrick Stewart’s Xavier back for the movie. They gave Logan back his adamantium claws after he lost them in The Wolverine with no explanation. But Rachel was the deal breaker? I guess they had to draw the line somewhere.

The villain of her backstory was the central villain of the first season of The Gifted. Ahab and the Hound program weren’t just mentioned in passing, they were deeply involved in the story, to the point when I figured more than once we were about to meet Rachel. I remember at least two for sure – 1) when everyone’s powers stopped working, and I doubted they were going to use Leech, and 2) just before the first episode with Esme aired and all we knew about Skyler Samuels’s character was that she was a telepathic refugee. But we never did. While I know it probably wasn’t intentionally misleading, it felt that way.

Matt Nix said something about not wanting to step into movie territory when explaining why they never use Magneto’s name, and I was talking to someone a while back that speculated that was why Rachel didn’t show up – they’re saving her for the movies. We had a whole debate over who counts as an important character”and how that pertains to who gets what rights – operating on the basic idea, of course, that the biggest names might go to the movies, while the lesser known ones go to the shows. But the thing is, the X-Men aren’t like the Justice League. They can’t be separated into different cities and only meet up for big crossover events. They’re a team, all connected by the fact they’re mutants, or through the mess that is the Summers family tree. They work because of their relationships with each other. And continuing this idea that the major characters should go to movies is a further propagation of the idea that television is lesser than film. Separating the universe into “major” and “minor” characters doesn’t work, and even trying to do that will inevitably leave characters like Rachel in Limbo – she’s a “major” character, so the shows won’t use her, but the people behind the movies have spent the past two decades demonstrating that they don’t care about anyone in her family by not properly using any of them.


Comics can be frustrating, because they’re full of writers that write a character they personally hate badly to try to make other people feel the same way, resulting in a vicious cycle of a character being hated for the worst writing they’ve had. Readers deserve better than to have characters they’re interested in derailed and mistreated with no regard for their development over the years. It’s disrespectful to them, the characters themselves, and writers alike.

When it comes to the X-Men, appealing to the white male demographic means that the women get some of the worst of it. Polaris, Storm, Shadowcat, Emma, and Prestige all deserve way more than what they get. They deserve to be treated as more than just disposable objects whose long character histories don’t matter. They deserve to be written by writers that actually care about them. I doubt that’ll start happening any time soon. But when it does, I’ll stop catching up on comics five years after the fact.

5 X-Men Characters That Deserved Better

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.

1. Jean

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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.

2. Scott

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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.

3. Storm

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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.

4. Rogue

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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.

5. Kitty

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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.