Dear Future ’90s X-Men Movie,
We’ve got to talk about some stuff – some X-Men stuff.
You see, we all just saw X-Men: Apocalypse, and it was . . . fine. To quote fellow Agent Justin in his post, of which this current post is but a companion piece: “It was an X-Men movie,” which is damning with faint praise if I’ve ever heard it.
X-Men: First Class brought a vampire’s secret bloodbank full of fresh blood to the franchise, from director to writer to the entire cast. And it succeeded! Mightily! It had a great period-piece hook, it made sweet love to the Charles/Erik romance, and somehow it made Mystique into the main character. It was quite a feat, let me tell you.
Days of Future Past brought old-hand Bryan Singer back (alongside a gaggle of OG actors), and it kicked ass with a fantastic sci-fi premise and great character work all around. Magneto’s “I’m a good guy, wait, I’m a bad guy” felt a little bit like a retread of his character arc in First Class, but it had future-Magneto (Ian McKellan) as an unequivocally good older version of the character to balance the flavors a bit. Plus, it pulled the audacious trick of retconning X-Men: Last Stand and X-Men: Origins (and possibly X-Men: Wolverine as well), meaning it was a great movie that erased three bad movies. That’s like, a +4. That’s good math, right there.
So, here comes X-Men: Apocalypse and . . . woof. It’s not a bad movie, by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t really tell its own story. It’s kind of a mish-mash of movies that came before, including dialogue and flashbacks and even tweaked scenes right from the old movies. I know the intent – Bryan Singer wanted to kind of “close the loop” on the whole thing – end where he began, Cyclops and Jean and Storm at the X-Mansion, ready to begin a modified version of X1. I get it, we all get it, but somewhere in the process it falls flat.
In a way, the movie feels like a cover band doing all your old favorites. I mean, hell, the movie takes a completely unnecessary 30-minute detour just to set up and execute a Wolverine cameo. The whole sequence at Alkali Lake could be lifted out and the story wouldn’t be any different.
So, what’s the problem, you’re asking? Here’s the problem: the franchise has become too complicated. It’s become, dare I say, too “up its own ass.”
So, dear future ’90s X-Men movie that will no doubt come next . . . .
Cut the shit. And I mean that in a loving way, because I enjoy the X-Men movies. Even the bad ones. Yeah, really. Is X-Men: Last Stand a shambling pile of garbage that had sex with a truck full of baboon corpses? Yes. But it still has a few incredible scenes in it (like the Wolverine/Phoenix skin-ripping to suicide – tears).
It’s time to make a simple, straight X-Men movie. You can even use the line-up you set up at the end of Apocalypse. I’m going to illuminate the best way to make a clean, good X-Men movie, with no bullshit, naval-gazing, self-referential orgies, or repetition.
Don’t include Magneto. Give the guy a fucking break. How many times can we see Erik sprint through the revolving door of morality? He does it again in Apocalypse, leaping from good to bad to good with gleeful abandon. Let him rest. He doesn’t need to be in every goddamn X-Men movie, no matter how great of an actor the Fass is.
Don’t add to the X-Men lineup. Seriously. Cyclops, Jean, Storm, Nightcrawler, and Quicksilver are more than enough. Resist the urge to cram as many mutants into every scene as possible. Resist. Unless you FINALLY include Jubilee. I’ll allow it.
Don’t give Mystique a big role. She ended as the X-Men drill sergeant, and that’s fine. Give her a couple training scenes, a quiet wisdom-imparting monologue to a downtrodden team member (probably Nightcrawler), done. Cyclops needs to step up as leader, and he’s never gonna do it with TWO bosses over his head, especially when they’re both played by huge stars.
Don’t do time-travel, first mutants, missile crises, mutant registration acts, Sentinels, or anything world-destroying. We’ve yet to see what a normal mission looks like for the team – to quote a classic bit of wisdom, KISS. That’s “Knights in Satan’s Service.” Wait, no, that’s not right. It’s “Keep it Simple, Stupid.” The X-Men need a simple movie that focuses on the X-Men.
Don’t sideline Charles Xavier. The older X-Men movies made an art-form out of rendering Charles Xavier, the most powerful mutant in the world, useless. X1 – Brain-fucked by black Cerebro goo. X2 – Brain-fucked by hallucination goo. X3 – Disintegrated by Brett Ratner. Instead of doing backflips to try to get him out of the story, just leave him at the X-Mansion. He’s got to teach, and he has to learn to trust Scott and the other X-Men to solve their own problems. And if you keep the stakes relatively small, it works better because the audience isn’t asking “Why isn’t Charles fixing this?”
Don’t include Cerebro. Just don’t. Havoc blew it up, let it rest. Cerebro has now been used like three times to do something evil / almost kill everyone on Earth, so just cut it out. Plus, it hasn’t been visually interesting for like four movies. The first time was cool, now it’s like “oh here’s that big metal testicle scene.”
Don’t do the Dark Phoenix Saga. I know Apocalypse set it up hard core, but there has to be more to Jean Grey’s story than her going Phoenix and dying. I know even the COMICS don’t agree with that statement anymore, but believe it or not there were a good 17 years of Jean Grey stories before the Phoenix showed up.
Don’t do Wolverine. Just let Hugh Jackman take a vacation, the guy has earned it.
Do include the friendship between the X-Men. They’re a social group first and a superhero team second. They’re family – a fucked-up family that has a lot of sex with each other – but a family nonetheless. The crux of the story NEEDS to be the X-Men themselves and not the CGI effects. We’re talking love, betrayal, trust, loyalty, manly hugs, cat fights, dick-measuring, the whole thing. First Class got this right more than any other movie so far, and it only got interrupted by the whole Charles/Erik/Mystique thing. Imagine that level of interaction without those characters sucking up screen time and you’ve got yourself a truly fantastic X-Men movie.
Do have Cyclops as the leader of the team. I know most people think he’s as boring as soggy white toast sitting on top of a National Geographic Magazine being held by a caddy during the PGA tour, but he doesn’t have to be. When good writers get a hold of him he’s an awesome leader who serves as the “only sane man” for his walking asylum of friends. See Joss Whedon’s “Astonishing X-Men” run. Be warned: Cyclops may accidentally become your favorite X-Man. Bold words, I know, but trust me.
Do let Quicksilver’s broken leg become a permanent injury. Quicksilver as depicted in First Class and Days of Future Past is essentially a god. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a hilarious god that has, like, the best scenes in both of those movies, but there’s a reason he’s a one-scene wonder – if he’s a regular character in on the action, he makes the rest of the team pointless. However, since Apocalypse fucked his leg up good, it should slow him down to normal Quicksilver levels.
Do make Storm interesting. She’s finally being played by a good actress, give her a meaty part. It’s hard, because I hate Storm, but I think a good writer could give her something to do besides “brood boredly” and “shoot lighting with a bored expression on her face.”
Do keep it small. It can’t be said enough. Ideal villains include Omega Red, Mastermind, the Church of Humanity, the Purifiers, the Freedom Force, the Hellions, or even Fabian Cortez. Someone to provide roadblocks to the heroes, facilitate a few epic fights, and then lose to superior teamwork in the very end (after the X-Men get over their interpersonal problems in a poignant, clutch moment).
That’s it. If that’s the ’90s X-Men movie, I guarantee you’ll have a hit on your hands. It’ll probably also cost less than the big end-of-the-world X-Men movies, too.
Also please include at least one song by the Cranberries and another by Young MC. Oh, and if you work some version of the ’90s theme song into a rad moment I will kiss you and your dog on the mouth.
Agent Bobby (and probably Agent Justin, lets be real)