This article contains spoilers for “X-Men: Apocalypse,” which is now in theaters.
“X-Men: Apocalypse” is in theaters now and, as reviews have pointed out, the end result is mostly a mixed bag. As the third chapter in a trilogy of quasi-prequels and the sixth overall X-Men team film, “Apocalypse” feels burdened by the weight of two different movie continuities. Not only does this film attempt to bring closure to the Professor X/Mystique/Magneto trio we’ve followed since 2011’s “X-Men: First Class,” it also circles back and re-introduces viewers to the trio of X-Men (Cyclops/Jean Grey/Storm) that kicked off the franchise way back in 2000’s “X-Men.”
But “X-Men: Apocalypse” isn’t a total misfire or wasted opportunity. While there’s likely to be debate about how well this film sends off and welcomes cast members, one thing is for sure: the film ends with arguably the most X-Men moment ever put on screen, with a streamlined team of X-Men — wearing individualized and colorful costumes — standing ready to train with Sentinels in a proto-Danger Room. While we don’t have an official announcement about the next X-Men film, we do know that it will be set in the ’90s. With that in mind, here are the things we need to see in the next X-Men film.
Out With The Old
It’s no secret that the contracts for Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Nicholas Hoult are all up now that this trilogy is over. This may be a risky move, but Fox should consider not renewing any of them. These characters have been heavily explored in the latest trilogy of films, mostly to the detriment of every other character in the cast. The first trilogy shined a spotlight on Wolverine, and the second one almost exclusively focused on the fraught relationship between Professor X, Magneto and Mystique. It’s time to move on.
“X-Men: Apocalypse” ends with these lead characters all at some level of peace. Magneto has worked through the trauma of losing two families in three movies and reconciled with Charles, and Mystique has finally come home to the X-Men and accepted her role as a symbol of mutant rights. Xavier has his adopted sister Mystique back, and he’s on good terms with Magneto too. This is a great place to leave those characters. The case could be made for Beast sticking around, as Hoult’s furry scientist didn’t get nearly as much screentime as the others. If he stuck around for some continuity, that wouldn’t be so bad.
In With The New
“X-Men: Apocalypse” succeeds in introducing a new cast of X-Men that seem more than capable of heading up a new franchise — and for the first time in X-Men movie history, we’re talking about a team of actual X-Men and not just one or two mutants. Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Storm and Quicksilver make for a solid lineup of X-Men, and the new actors in those roles seem eager and ready to really cut loose.
We watched Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops suffer setbacks and personal tragedies that will undoubtedly mold him into the no-nonsense leader of the team. Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Nightcrawler is delightfully endearing and much less tortured than the Alan Cumming version; he can easily grow into the heart of the group, Nightcrawler’s rightful role. Storm was woefully underused in the film, but Alexandra Shipp’s take looks to be as strong, powerful and intriguing as Ororo Munroe should be. And Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey is the right mix of relatable and otherworldly; she sold the dual terror and power that Jean Grey possesses.
So what we need to see next is these mutants form a real team — not a back-up band for a clawed lead singer, which is what we got before. And the last three X-Men films have starred random groupings of characters that only briefly — and disastrously — called themselves “X-Men.” Judging by that fantastic ending, the next X-movie has a real opportunity to show a team — a family — of characters working together, hopefully without any one character stealing the all the focus. And since the movie will take place a minimum of seven years after “Apocalypse,” it’s incredibly plausible that this team of teens will have grown into a honed unit that doesn’t need to be watched by Mystique or Xavier.
Let The Ladies Lead
The X-Men movies have spent a lot of time dealing with, to put it bluntly, manpain. We’ve seen so many shots of Magneto and Wolverine screaming into the void over the dead women in their lives, and “Apocalypse” just adds two more bodies to that. And then there’s Professor Xavier’s unquestionably invasive use of his powers to erase Moira MacTaggert’s memories — a plot point involving aggressive manipulation that’s played for laughs in “Apocalypse.” Even Mystique’s character arc through three films strictly involves her relationships with two men. It’s time to let the ladies lead the franchise.
This shouldn’t be a stretch, either, because the X-Men comics are home to dozens of nuanced female characters with agency that have taken on major leading roles. “X-Men: Apocalypse” even sets this up at the very end when Xavier passes the torch to Jean Grey, and she lights up the Phoenix Force all over Apocalypse. Then it’s Storm’s lightning bolts that finally hold the villain in place long enough for him to be obliterated. The film’s climax hinges on the power of two female characters — and the next X-Men film needs to keep that going. Give Jean and Storm plenty to do, and also focus on showing off their canonical best friendship. Heck, even reintroduce Rogue into the franchise — and make her the team’s powerhouse.
Additionally, it wouldn’t hurt the franchise to bring back Lana Condor‘s Jubilee in a greatly expanded role. Jubilee’s snarky attitude and quirky style make her a completely different type of hero, and she’s one that really deserves to be given screentime.
A Villain That Resonates
There’s a reason why Magneto has stuck around for six X-Men films; he’s a complex character, one that believably vacillates between ally and nemesis. Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse will likely be a divisive figure; his comic-accurate look might delight diehard fans while confusing everyone else, and his plans were too grandiose for him to be a sympathetic villain. There’s a way the X-Men franchise can handle losing Magneto while also avoiding creating another unexciting villain like Stryker or Sebastian Shaw.
The most famous, and some would say greatest, X-Men story of all time sees one of the team succumb to ultimate power and have to pay the ultimate price. 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand” tried to adapt parts of this story, but ultimately fell very, very short. That’s why the brains behind the X-Franchise essentially want a big do-over when it comes to the “Dark Phoenix Saga.”
This would solve a number of problems. It would pay off what we see of Jean Grey’s powers in “X-Men: Apocalypse” and it would allow a female character to take the lead. But, simultaneously, “Dark Phoenix Saga” is about the X-Men as a team. The reason Jean’s struggle with absolute power is so terrifying is because she is so beloved by her team — her family. The only way for Dark Phoenix to work is if the film spends time showing us how close these characters are to each other. And “Captain America: Civil War” proved that you can sidestep the villain problem by having the conflict arise from within; seeing the X-Men — not just Wolverine, like in “Last Stand” — fight to save Jean would make for some high-stakes character drama.
This is the major one, and it acts as an umbrella over every other point on this list. It’s time for someone else to be in charge of the X-Men film franchise. Through four films, we’ve really seen what director Bryan Singer values when it comes to the X-Men and where he places emphasis. After sixteen years and two consecutive films, it’s really time to see what someone else would do with the franchise.
Never is this more apparent than all the recent reports of what was cut out of “X-Men: Apocalypse.” The entire mall sequence, which would have added much-needed fun and camaraderie to the film, were cut out. Instead, a largely superfluous trip to a Weapon X facility was left in so that a Wolverine cameo could be justified and numerous scenes of worldwide destruction were left in. Wolverine cameos and mass destruction are staples of X-Men comics, sure, but so are ridiculous mall montages. Under Singer, the franchise continually focuses on the most dramatic parts of X-Lore (dystopian futures, tragic sacrifices, politics) and almost never gets to the fun parts (baseball games, mall trips, school hijinks). It’s time to see a different take on the team.
Director Matthew Vaughn injected a lot of swingin’ ’60s style into “X-Men: First Class” — and it worked. It would be great to see what other filmmakers could bring to the franchise and to see other, equally valid X-Men tones explored onscreen. It might be hard to work fun into a story like “Dark Phoenix Saga,” but come on — there’s no better way to start an X-Men movie than with a baseball game. Make it happen, Fox.
What do you want to see from the future of the X-Men on film? Let us know in the comments!
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