Yesterday 20th Century Fox released the second trailer for Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse. And whilst it has some fans applauding, hyping and anticipating another instalment in the confused X-Men franchise, it has me worried and afraid about an IP I actually like very much.
First of all, here’s some context. My first introduction to the X-Men came via the 90s animated show. It was goofy yet awesome for a child that was left bamboozled at one pixel of superheroic action. My mother would often flick on the cartoon to get my fat arse to eat. The way she saw it – if I was watching the show, my mouth was agape and she could shovel whatever she had made into my gullet. Nevertheless, when Singer Matrix-ed the X-Men with leathery costumes, ruining characters like Sabretooth and Cyclops, I was sad, which is in stark contrast to the people who seemed to love the unofficial fourth instalment of The Matrix.
Then X-2 came out, suffice to say, I was not a fan. So, whilst everyone was cheering Singer’s sequel as a huge improvement, I was left loving the opening Nightcrawler sequence and snoring through the rest.
The third, X-Men: The Last Stand, ruined everything that, in my eyes, was already ruined. It doubled down in cheesy lines, wrongful depictions and horrible performances. However, ironically, it’s failure forced 20th Century Fox to think fast. They needed to reboot, but they did it in a very smart way.
X-Men: First Class is the best X-Men movie to date – and yes that means better than Deadpool. First Class is cute when it needs to be, its fun when it needs to be, its dark when it needs to be and it features incredible performances from Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. I can talk about how director Matthew Vaughn got the story right for once. I can talk about how the characters felt familiar. I can talk about how it just felt right. But what I want to talk about is something Fox has ignored since First Class; the fact that Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique is a side-character, a bit part sub-plot that should’ve stayed that way.
X-Men: First Class kept the focus on Erik and Charles. It kept the focus on the X-Men and it was better for it.
X-Men: Days of Future Past, whilst considered the best one yet by everyone except me, ruined everything First Class set up. It demoted the beautiful performances of Fassbender and McAvoy, for much of the film, and put the focus on Jackman’s Wolverine, which I didn’t mind, and Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, which I did mind.
Now don’t get me wrong; I really like Jennifer Lawrence and I really like Mystique. Jennifer Lawrence is an awesome actor, her Academy Award love isn’t a joke, and she deserves a superhero role. Mystique is just as engaging, but only as an eventual bad guy, as the loose cannon, as the wildcard.
The second trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse makes it overtly clear: the protagonist is Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique. Logistically it makes complete sense. Lawrence is bank. She has ruled the box office with Hunger Games and audiences love her but logistics come first only when it doesn’t interfere with the narrative.
The thing is, Mystique’s story was done by the end of First Class; she wrestled with her mutant life (Erik) and her human life (Charles) and she chose to side with her mutant side. It was great seeing Lawrence wrestle with that in one film and I liked the conclusion. But then, undoubtedly with a nudge from the analysts and studio executives, the writers explored the exact same paradigm in Days of Future Past. Mystique was once again confronting who she really is and what she wants to be. We had all seen it before but it was crammed in to keep Lawrence’s face on the screen.
And guess what guys? Lawrence’s Mystique will once again, confront her place in the world with Apocalypse. The trailer, which is the studio’s honest representation of the movie, puts Mystique front and centre. It makes it profoundly clear – your hero is Mystique. And whilst the film will also feature Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Angel, Psylocke and many more, Mystique will undoubtedly have the most lines in the film. Sad face.
I would much rather spend time getting Cyclops right for once. The studio has cast an amazing actor on Tye Sheridan. Use him to get one of your most beloved characters right. Sophie Turner joins the franchise as Sansa, and if her performance on Game of Thrones is any indication, she’ll knock it out of the park. Nightcrawler is one character Singer knows, lets exploit that. Apocalypse is one of the X-Men’s greatest villains; lets see that reach its full potential. And you have McAvoy and Fassbender, two of the best actors in the business, let’s not demote them below Lawrence, when they are all of equal quality. Apocalypse will feature these things, I know it will, but they will all be secondary to Mystique and to Jennifer Lawrence.
If Apocalypse does well, and general audiences eat up Mystique, she’ll be back. The next film will see her role stay the same and Mystique will continue to ruin X-Men.
But it isn’t only Mystique that is ruining X-Men, Singer is doing that as well. I guess we’ll see with Apocalypse, Singer’s fourth go at the franchise, but as of now, the usually competent director – he did The Usual Suspects and Valkyrie after all – has run out of ideas with Apocalypse. Aside from the spectacular Quicksilver sequence in Days of Future Past, the film was bland, boring and old-hat. The trailers have done nothing to sway me from that opinion.
So, I’ll watch it. I’ll go into X-Men: Apocalypse hoping to be surprised, that’s what happened with First Class, but the trailers really don’t paint a good picture.