The ‘Dark Phoenix’ Trailer: A Pretty Good Summary Of All My Issues With the X-Men Movies

The Last Stand was kind of a mess. Decent action movie? Sure. But it also had a confused plot, several different things crammed into what should have been multiple movies, and it had no respect for the source material. A major part of Days of Future Past was undoing that. When Logan went back, he gave Xavier his memories so he could avoid the mistakes he made the first time around. And he did. In Apocalypse, Xavier told Jean to unleash her power instead of trying to bottle it up. To not be afraid of who she was and what she could do. To embrace it. And yet, here we find he was making the exact same damn mistakes he made in the original timeline – lying to Jean and manipulating her for the sake of “protecting her”.

I mean, sure, that’s probably the closest thing to comics Xavier movie Xavier has ever been. Pretty much all his comics self ever did was lie to people and manipulate him. But said comics self also just blocked off young Jean’s telepathy temporarily, so she could focus on mastering her telekinesis first without having everyone’s voices in her head. I’m all for straying from the comics. But it has to be done in a thoughtful way. This? It feels more like it’s there because it was there in The Last Stand than because it’s a good storytelling technique that fits with the Dark Phoenix Saga.

I’m all for straying from the comics. I even wrote a post about it. Movies are movies and comics are comics. What works in a comic may not work in a movie and vice versa. And it’s more interesting to watch a story where you don’t know how it’ll end, or every plot point that’ll get you to that ending. But straying from the comics has to be done in an thoughtful way, in a way that has a clear purpose, whether it be for character development reasons or plot reasons. This doesn’t look likely to be that.

I can buy Magneto’s presence in this movie. While I can’t know until I watch the actual movie, I can imagine a lot of ways in which he could benefit the movie. Even though I would much prefer to see Utopia than Genosha, because this should centre around Jean and Scott, it makes plenty of sense that Erik’s reaction to Charles – someone that’s supposed to be helping mutants – lying to Jean and trying to block off her powers would be to create a place for mutants where no one can get to them. But Mystique? A Mystique that is absolutely nothing like her comics counterpart, played by an actress that never even seems like she wants to be there? A Mystique who took on a role of ” leading and training the X-Men” that absolutely should not be hers? I’m not into this at all.

I’m over all these endless movies of Charles telling Erik there’s still good in him, or the two being on the same side for about five minutes, or neither of them acknowledging that there’s a middle ground between sitting there and doing absolutely nothing and killing everyone standing in their way. I’m especially over their conflict happening in a movie that’s supposed to be about Jean – again. It’s gotten really repetitive. My investment in said conflict will be for one petty reason and one alone: that comics Xavier is the worst and I’m happy to see movie Xavier finally being acknowledged as a deeply flawed, manipulative person – though, going back to my first point, it really doesn’t work as part of a series and does a great job demonstrating why studios producing comic book movies should be making more standalone films and elseworlds tales, rather than instalment after instalment in a never ending franchise (that’s one of my many drafts. It…might get done).

My biggest worry about Dark Phoenix was that it was going to go the “crazy Jean that lost control route”. And from the trailer, that seems like a safe bet. I find that so unbelievably exhausting – they’re going cosmic. They’re bringing in the Shi’ar and the Phoenix Force. But they can’t avoid the gross sexism – that didn’t exist in the original comic – of “crazy chick with more power than she can handle”? I get not bringing in the Hellfire Club, but cutting out everything about Emma Frost and Mastermind manipulating her? It’s tiresome.

As I’ve said before – at this point, more times than I can remember – I’ve never been big on this idea. I love the X-Men and I love the Dark Phoenix Saga and I love Jean Grey, but I wasn’t a fan of giving this arc another try, even back when I first heard the rumour that it was going to happen. As much as I love the original comic, I have hugely conflicted feelings when it comes to everything else that’s ever pertained to the Phoenix. Maybe that means I went into watching the trailer biased against it, expecting it to be bad, and I should be more open-minded, but believe me, I’ve tried. Sure, it could be a great movie – we can’t know one way or the other until we see more – but for me, it’s kind of painfully reminiscent of The Last Stand, what with the focus on Charles and Erik and big action scenes that look awesome.

It differs from The Last Stand in a lot of ways – focusing on the Jean and Dark Phoenix story, rather than having an entirely different storyline thrown in; a different kind of action because it’s not 2006 anymore; thankfully no Wolverine – but there are still enough similarities that it seems to me like Simon Kinberg is trying to say something like I was so right back in 2006 and you all were just too dumb to see it, here, let me rework it until you get it. I wrote a post about the repercussions of misremembering the Dark Phoenix Saga on all kinds of X-Men material, and this trailer drove one thing home for sure: the public perception of the Dark Phoenix Saga as a story about a crazy woman that can’t control her powers and destroys a bunch of stuff and is manipulated by the people she cares about rather is about to be cemented, probably forever,

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The Best Parts of the X-Men Film Franchise

I whine about the X-Men movies a lot. I know, I’m sorry. It’s not that I think they’re bad movies so much as I’ve grown up on the X-Men, and since this film franchise is the only one, I’m sad that I’ve never gotten to see characters that aren’t Wolverine, Magneto, or Xavier – including my favourites – done justice. Despite that, I still recognize the importance of these movies and know that they do a lot of things right, and you know what, positivity is more fun than negativity. So, here’s a nonexhaustive and unordered list of things that are fantastic about them:

  1. Awesome casting. I mean, they have Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan as Xavier and Magneto. That’s pretty badass, and it resulted in the next item on this list.
  2. Wonderful performances. Enough said.
  3. In the original trilogy, Jean was played by an actress considerably older than the actor that played Scott. Sure, she didn’t really look it, because Famke Janssen is, like, whoa, and they were meant to portray characters pretty close in age. But in a world where so many young women play the love interests of men decades their senior, it’s nice to see the actress be older.
  4. The longest running superhero film franchise. Yeah, I’ve made quite a few snide comments about that, but still, it’s quite an accomplishment.
  5. Some of the fight scenes are phenomenal.
  6. That Nightcrawler in the White House scene in X2 is one of the reasons why X2 is my favourite movie in the franchise. Beautifully choreographed, excellent choice in music, and so on.
  7. They’re not afraid of letting emotional scenes breathe without needing to punctuate them with a joke to lighten the mood.
  8. For every visual effect that looks sloppy and poorly done, there’s an awesome one. It may have been a bit role, but Angel’s wings in The Last Stand looked great.
  9. On a shallow note, everyone was super attractive in X2, especially Jean and Storm. A+ job, makeup department. You guys are fantastic.
  10. Magneto killing people in creative ways is pretty awesome. The ripping the iron out of the security guard’s blood and using it to break out of his plastic prison was hardcore.
  11. The first movie opened in a freaking concentration camp. That was one of the boldest openings to any comic book movie ever.
  12. The last stand (no, not the movie) of all the mutants in Days of Future Past was super fun to watchespecially Blink’s use of portals.
  13. The best word I can think of to describe Patrick Stewart’s narration is relieving. I don’t know what it is, but even in DoFP, when it was super bleak, it was wonderfully satisfying because it felt so familiar. The same thing applies when other people are doing the voice over. I just love that voice over.

Anyone have any favourite parts of the movies? Let me know!

How The X-Men Movies Did A Disservice to Jean and Scott

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.