Tag Archives: X-men Apocalypse

Why Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique Is The Best Version Of The Character

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Everybody has at least one unpopular opinion that draws ire from the vast majority of people. I’m not referring to extreme political stances, though. Those who identify as full-fledged communists, anarchists, or theocrats are more defined by an ideology than an opinion. I’ve shared plenty of opinions in the past, some of which I’m sure qualify as unpopular.

Regardless of what those opinions entail, I’ve tried to make my point and most of the time, I can find a substantial group of people who share my views. It’s part of why I enjoy doing what I do. However, there’s one particular opinion I have that might be the most unpopular position I’ve ever held.

It has nothing to do with politics or ideology. It has to do with comics and superhero movies, another popular topic I’ve discussed many times before. I’ve shared it before in other forums and in almost every case, I have a hard time finding anyone who agrees with me. Knowing how dangerous it can be to share unpopular opinions on the internet these days, I’m going to take a chance and share it here.

I believe that Jennifer Lawrence’s take on Mystique is one of the best version of the character in any medium.

I’ll give X-men fans, comic book fans, and fans of superhero movies a moment to stop fuming. Take all the time you need. Believe me, I’ve heard and read all the vile insults you want to throw at me. Before you flood the comments section with a fresh batch of frothing hate, please hear me out because I feel like there’s a point worth making here.

If not, please take this stunning image as a consolation prize.

Before I get into the details of the comics and movies, I freely acknowledge that Jennifer Lawrence is one of those high-profile celebrities for which many have mixed opinion. Ever since she rose to fame, she has been a polarizing figure. People either love her or hate her with very little in between.

Regardless of how you might feel about her, as an actress, there’s no denying that she played an instrumental role in revitalizing the X-Men movies, beginning with “X-Men: First Class.” As Mystique, she succeeded a very popular version in Rebecca Romijn, who set the precedent for blue-skinned shape-shifters who favored nudity. However, there was one important distinction with Ms. Lawrence’s version.

Unlike Ms. Romijn, and every other version for that matter, Ms. Lawrence’s take on Mystique included a backstory that provided unprecedented depth for the character. That story, and the depth that came with it, proved critical in the role that this Mystique would play in “X-Men: Days Of Future Past.” I would go so far as to argue that both movies work largely because of how Ms. Lawrence carried this character.

I can probably find more than a few people who agree that Ms. Lawrence’s Mystique was important in making her first two movies in the role work. Where I probably lose those people is when I go a step further and claim that this version of Mystique is superior to most other versions.

Some might call that hyperbole and maybe it is, to some extent. I still contend that there is an argument to be made and anyone familiar with Mystique’s history in the comics can appreciate it. I doubt I’ll change anyone’s mind, but it’s that very history, or lack thereof, that helped make Ms. Lawrence’s take on the character so compelling.

Mystique, like many other comic book characters, has a history that is more convoluted than most. She’s been around since 1978, but in all that time, her character has never been developed beyond a certain point. In fact, in the grand scheme of Marvel’s vast universe, it’s remarkable that she has managed as well as she has with so little backstory.

There’s no canonical information about where she was born, who her parents are, or even how old she is. She has never appeared as a child or a teenager. She’s always been an adult who goes by the name, Raven Darkholme. It’s not even clear that’s her actual name. Being a shape-shifter, it’s impossible to tell.

Beyond her unexplored history, Mystique’s personality has been pretty flat over the years. She’s a villain. That much is made clear. However, her brand of villainy is not nearly as refined as others. She’s basically a sociopath whose only purpose in life revolves around tormenting the X-Men, especially Wolverine.

How she goes about it varies, but why she does it rarely gets explored. Granted, there have been times when she has joined the X-men, but it never lasts and often ends with her betraying them. It has happened so often that it’s somewhat predictable. Even when it seems like she has undergone some major growth, she always ends up regressing back to her psychotic ways.

She still looks sexy every step of the way.

That’s not to say she has no depth. Being the biological mother of Nightcrawler and the adopted mother of Rogue has been a major source of drama over the years. Her romantic and sexual entanglements have also been colorful to say the least, albeit not always in a good way. However, this drama rarely ever adds depth to her villainy.

While Rebecca Romijn’s version had some nuance, especially in the second movie, she didn’t deviate much from her comic book counterpart. For three movies, she was one of Magneto’s top henchmen and little else. Jennifer Lawrence’s version of Mystique dared to be more than that.

The first minutes of “X-Men: First Class” did more for Mystique’s backstory than three movies and four decades of comics had done to that point. It established her as a mutant who’d run away and had nowhere to go, something that has real-life parallels for certain minorities. From there, she develops a close sibling bond with James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier, which does plenty to develop his character as well.

However, what truly makes this version of Mystique special is how she grows over the course of several movies. Like her comic version, she shifts her allegiances repeatedly. She starts off as an ally of Charles Xavier. Then, she leaves and follows Magneto. Eventually, she returns to Xavier’s side, but not without undergoing major personal upheavals.

In both “X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men: Days Of Future Past,” she finds herself at a crossroads on multiple occasions. Sometimes, she walks a more villainous path. Other times, she’s more virtuous. They’re all contingent on difficult choices and, regardless of where they take her, there’s an underlying sentiment to those choices.

In “X-Men: First Class,” she chooses Magneto because she believes Charles wants her to hide her true form. In “X-Men: Days Of Future Past,” she choose Charles because she realizes the consequences of her actions. Friends and enemies alike try to influence her. When she finally makes a choice, it feels like something a real character would make.

In the comics, you can always assume Mystique will make villainous choices and be right most of the time. With Ms. Romijn’s, you can assume she’ll choose whatever Magneto chooses and be right, as well. The choices of Ms. Lawrence’s Mystique are truly uncertain and for a character defined by her shape-shifting traits, that’s more than fitting.

It wouldn’t be accurate to call Ms. Lawrence’s Mystique a hero. In “X-Men: Apocalypse,” she resents that label. It wouldn’t be accurate to call her a villain either, even though she doesn’t always side with the X-Men. She adapts to whatever her situation requires, like anyone would expect of a skilled shape-shifter. It’s an understandable, and even admirable, take for a character in a superhero movie.

While her ultimate fate was tragic, as revealed in “Dark Phoenix,” her journey has been remarkable. Regardless of how the events of “Dark Phoenix” played out for everyone else involved, it’s still the most complete story that Mystique has ever had. That’s why I feel Jennifer Lawrence’s take on Mystique is the best we’ve seen to date.

That’s not to say she’s without flaws. I don’t doubt that her diminished role in “X-Men: Apocalypse” undercut her development. Even with those flaws, she’s still more balanced than anything the comics or previous X-Men movies have given us. Whatever happens with the X-Men as they joint he MCU, I hope Ms. Lawrence’s Mystique inspires the future of the character for years to come.

To all those who disagree with me, and I’m sure there are many, I welcome your comments and thoughts. I only ask that you keep it civil.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, Marvel, movies, superhero comics, superhero movies, X-men

The “Dark Phoenix” Delay: The Possible Reasons (And A Best Case Scenarios)

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It has been a week of roller coaster emotions for X-men fans. I feel like one of those fans who has ridden that ride one too many times and thrown up more than I care to admit. While our collective stomachs settle, it’s worth talking about what happened.

This week started with excitement and elation. The first trailer for “X-men: Dark Phoenix,” or just “Dark Phoenix” as it’s officially called now, finally dropped. As someone who has been eagerly awaiting this movie and written more than a few pieces about it, this moment was the biggest thrill I got since I first saw the “Avengers: Infinity War” trailer.

Then, just a few days later, Deadline dropped some frustrating news. The release date for “Dark Phoenix” is being pushed back for the second time to June 7, 2019. Originally, it was supposed to come out in November 2018, but it was delayed for entirely understandable reasons.

This movie boasts a cast of big names who are busy with major projects. Sophie Turner, the fiery woman tasked with bringing Jean Grey and the Phoenix Saga to life, was busy shooting the last season of “Game of Thrones.” Since you can only do so much with CGI and body doubles, the movie had to be pushed back to February 2019 to accommodate her schedule and that of the other stars.

I was okay with this. In fact, I thought it would be perfect. Now, “Dark Phoenix” was set to come out in mid-February, which has become a hot slot for movies in recent years. The massive success of “Deadpool” and “Black Panther” proved that this can be a viable slot for a major blockbuster.

On top of that, the Phoenix Saga is very much a love story. If “Dark Phoenix” could capture even a fraction of the heart that Chris Claremont’s original story did in the comics, then this movie could’ve gone onto be a true Valentine’s Day classic. Being both an X-men fan and a romance fan, I couldn’t have been happier with this situation.

Now, it seems, that ideal scenario is no longer happening. I’ve got nothing against a June release date. Historically, that’s when most major X-men films come out, going all the way back to the days of the first “X-men” movie. At the same time, though, this news has me worried, but not necessarily for the content of the movie.

As I’ve noted before, “Dark Phoenix” has a bit of a branding problem that it doesn’t deserve. Unlike other Marvel movies, this movie is assumed to be awful for the simple reason that it isn’t in the MCU, the gold standard for all superhero movies. A good chunk of the comments for the trailer are people whining that this movie doesn’t have Kevin Feige’s magic touch, among other things.

Never mind the fact that this movie is actively trying to undo the mistakes that were made in “X-men: The Last Stand.” Never mind the fact that the trailer already revealed that it’s doing the exact opposite of what its predecessor did, from embracing the cosmic elements of the Phoenix Force to giving Cyclops a major role. It’s still getting crap because it’s not in the MCU.

This latest delay is only going to give those people even more excuses to whine about it. It doesn’t matter if that whining has no basis in truth. They can claim that this is another sign that this movie is awful and, no matter how great it ends up being, they’ll cling to that notion until their dying breath.

I’m not going to try and convince those people that “Dark Phoenix” will be good or that this delay has a perfectly reasonable explanation. I don’t have any connections in Hollywood and I’m not a mind-reader on the level of Charles Xavier. I’m still hoping we’ll get some explanation in the coming days, but I doubt anyone will believe it.

Half the comments in the comments section will say, “Cancel the damn movie and give it to Feige!” They say this as though the people who work at Fox and Disney don’t like money and can just throw away a movie that costs $200 million. This isn’t Roger Corman’s dirt cheapFantastic Four” movie. This is a movie with major star power that can definitely turn a profit.

It even has the potential to be very good. Director/Producer, Simon Kinberg, has made it very clear that he’s trying to get back to the source material of the Phoenix Saga. Even so, people are still whining about it because his name isn’t Kevin Feige.

I’m still very excited for this movie, but I think this is the worst move Fox could’ve made. They’re just feeding the perception that this movie will be awful and even if it’s objectively good, those perceptions will sink this movie. Even if it makes a lot of money, it’ll be branded as that movie that was so bad that it got delayed twice.

It leads me to wonder why Fox made this decision and why their soon-to-be overlords at Disney let it happen. At the moment, I can only come up with three scenarios. One is the best possible case. The other is the worst possible case. The third is probably the most likely. Again, I claim no inside knowledge. This is just me speculating on what could be at work, based on what little information we can get from Google.


Worst Case Scenario: Fox Has No Faith In This Movie, But Has Faith In “Alita: Battle Angel”

Lost in the whining about what the trailer did or didn’t have, there’s another detail to the delay of “Dark Phoenix” that’s worth mentioning. Its previous release date, February 14, 2019, is now the release date of another Fox movie, “Alita: Battle Angel.”

This $200 million spectacle has James Cameron’s name attached to it so you know it carries weight. Its former release date also happened to be in the middle of December, which is packed with some heavy competition from multiple studios. As a movie that has also been delayed before, “Alita: Battle Angel” is a potential franchise that Fox wants to succeed.

Again, look no further than “Deadpool” and “Black Panther” to see how a franchise can blossom in February. The fact that Fox delayed “Dark Phoenix” implies that they think “Alita: Battle Angel” has more potential. Given how the X-men franchise has made $5.7 billion worldwide, that’s a pretty big downgrade.

Dark Phoenix” coming out in June means that Fox is just willing to dump the movie in the middle of crowded summer box office that will already be burnt out by “Avengers 4” and “Captain Marvel.” On top of that, it has “Toy Story 4” and “The Secret Life of Pets 2” as competition. Since the X-men are heading to the MCU anyway, they’re just throwing it away and hoping to scrap what little profit they can.

That’s the worst case scenario. Once a studio gives up on a movie, it really shows. Josh Trank’s “Fantastic Four” is proof of that and no movie, especially not “Dark Phoenix,” deserves that.


Best Case Scenario: The Delay Is Intended To Set The Stage For The X-men’s MCU Debut

This is probably the only reason I and even the most ardent detractors of the movie will accept. If it turns out that the reason for this delay is to set up a teaser for the X-men’s arrival into the MCU, then I would totally be okay with that. In fact, that would probably bump up the box office for this movie in a big way.

While I doubt this is likely, it’s worth pointing out that June 2019 is exactly 18 months after Disney and Fox announced they were merging in December 2017. At the time, it was said outright that the merger would take 18 months to complete. For all we know, the day “Dark Phoenix” premiers is the day the X-men are officially under Disney’s domain.

That means they could use this extra time to tac on a few scenes to connect “Dark Phoenix” with the MCU. Given the universe-shattering events of “Avengers: Infinity War,” it’s not that crazy an idea. Trust me, if fans saw a hint of Thanos’ finger snap at the end of the movie, their jaws would hit the floor and they would throw all the money in their wallets at Disney as thanks.

Now, this is unlikely for a very good reason. As far as we know, Fox and Disney still haven’t completed their merge. That means that legally speaking, Disney still can’t mention mutants in their movies. However, seeing as how Feige got his start at Fox, it’s not inconceivable that he would try to pull something like this.

If Fox could do this and move “Alita: Battle Angel” out of a crowded holiday season, then that’s just icing on the cake.


Most Likely Scenario: It’s Just A Mundane Marketing Decision

This is the most boring, but likely scenario. At the end of the day, it all comes back to marketing. Delaying “Dark Phoenix” had nothing to do with agendas, Disney conspiracies, or production issues. It was all about marketing.

Unlike the previous two scenarios, this one has some actual merit. In the same Deadline article, there’s this quote.

“Summer is not only a better date, but again, it gives the film a better shot to have a bigger opening in China. Why? The trailer clocked 44 million views in first 24 hours of release online this week out of China. Also, premium screens previously reserved for Gambit will be in play and provide an even bigger upside for the film.”

It makes a bland bit of sense. The long-delayed “Gambit” movie was slated for a June 7, 2019 release and that movie hasn’t even started production. On top of that, it’s not as close to other major Disney/Marvel movies. February 14, 2019 is just a few weeks before “Captain Marvel” drops and “Dark Phoenix” could end up undercutting it, which is not what Disney wants.

In addition, if launching the movie in summer means a bigger opening in an overseas market, which has become a big deal in the movie business, it’s just more practical in the long run. That still won’t stop people determined to hate this movie from finding an excuse to hate it. Those people aren’t the millions of Chinese movie-goers this movie is now aiming for.

I’m still hoping we’ll get a more complete explanation from someone like Simon Kinberg or Sophie Turner very soon. In the end, though, I doubt it will matter. It certainly doesn’t matter to me. I’m very excited about this movie. I’m determined to see it. If it’s as good as I hope, then I’ll gladly praise it. I just worry that too many people have already made up their mind and won’t stop looking for excuses.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, movies, superhero comics, superhero movies, X-men

The Dark Phoenix Trailer: What’s There, What’s Missing, And What’s Uncanny

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It’s finally here! It was subject to delays, bogus leaks, and misinformation about the extent of reshoots. None of that matters now because it’s really here. The trailer for “X-men: Dark Phoenix” has finally arrived in all its fiery glory.

Before I write another word, let’s all just take a moment to watch it again and appreciate the promise of a movie that may actually do justice to the Phoenix Saga.

I’ll give everyone a minute to process it again. Whether you loved it or hated it, there’s no way around it. This movie is coming, despite the rumors that claimed otherwise. On February 14, 2019, this movie is coming out and I hope to be among the first to see it. That had been my intention since the movie was announced, but this just gave me more incentive.

For the next several days, there will be plenty of talk about the reaction to this trailer. I already have a pretty good feeling of how it’ll play out. X-men fans, like, me who were deeply disappointed by how this story was handled in “X-men: The Last Stand” will be elated. Those who just want the X-men to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe will whine about how this movie is a waste of time.

In between it all, there will be trolls and assholes who will find an excuse to hate the trailer and this movie, but that’s to be expected of any movie these days. There’s no helping those people. Instead, I’d rather focus on what we can and cannot glean from this trailer.

It goes heavy on the drama, which is perfectly appropriate for any movie involving the Phoenix Saga. It also answers some questions about the details of the story while posing a few others. I won’t break down every frame, but here are a few key insights that should get X-men fans like myself very excited.


What’s There

In short, there’s a lot. In fact, I would go so far as to say this trailer had more elements of the original Phoenix Saga from the comics than the entity of “X-men: The Last Stand.” Most importantly, this trailer established that the story of Jean Grey becoming Dark Phoenix will not be relegated to a side-plot.

That’s something I belabored last year when I listed several critical ways to avoid screwing up this movie. In fact, it was near the top of the list. One of the many mistakes “X-men: The Last Stand” made was trying to squeeze the most iconic X-men story ever written into several other plots involving completely unrelated themes. That’s just one of the many reasons it turned out so poorly.

This trailer starts and ends with Jean Grey’s struggle against the emerging darkness. That’s not just key for the basics of any Phoenix Saga. It makes clear that the main plot of this movie will focus on her and give Sophie Turner plenty of opportunities to show off her fiery persona. That, alone, is very promising for those hoping for a competent movie about this iconic X-men story.

In addition, the trailer offered hints that this movie will actually develop the Cyclops/Jean relationship that’s so critical to the emotional weight of the Phoenix Saga. That was another massive mistake in “X-men: The Last Stand.” A big part of why this story is so powerful is because it’s fueled by a love story between two characters trying to overcome obstacles of cosmic proportions.

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Those are two critical factors in ensuring that this movie has the necessary elements to make a Dark Phoenix movie work. The trailer also hints at a few other details that aren’t related to the main Phoenix story, but nicely connect with other moments from the recent movies.

The most ominous scene, in my opinion, was the brief shot of Beast and Mystique. If you saw the “Rogue Cut” of “Days of Futures Past,” you saw that these two have had some romantic undertones that began way back in “X-men First Class.” From the looks of it, something happens to Mystique that sends Beast over the edge. That could also be what pushes Jean further down the path of the Dark Phoenix.

It’s hard to say what this means, but the shots of a funeral do not bode well for Jennifer Lawrence’s character. The fact that Beast is siding with Magneto later on in the trailer hints that he does not agree with how Xavier is handling Jean’s situation. Considering how Beast helped defeat Magneto in “Days of Futures Past,” that would be a major shift, but one that could add even more weight to the story.

There are so many hints and clues as to how the story will play out, but I’d rather not speculate too much. This trailer does manage to avoid excessive spoilers, but it’ll be interesting to see what else will be revealed as the release date draws near.


What’s NOT There

There’s not a lot, but I don’t deny that this trailer did have some glaring omissions. The biggest one, in my opinion, has to do with Jessica Chastain’s still-unnamed character. The only thing we know about her is that she plays the main villain of the story. While some took that to mean she would be playing the alien queen, Lilandra Neramani, that has since been debunked.

On her IMDB page, her character is only named Smith. That could mean any number of things. She could play a shape-shifting Skrull, who have clashed with the X-men many times in the comics. She could play Deathbird, an alien hunter with close ties to Lilandra’s alien race, the Shi’ar. She could be someone else entirely. We really don’t know.

Other than Chastain’s character, we don’t see much of Storm, Quicksilver, or Nightcrawler. They’re clearly present, but they don’t get to say or do much. That’s to be expected, though. This is a Dark Phoenix movie, after all. The focus should be on Jean Grey, Charles Xavier, and Cyclops.

That said, the other glaring omission in the trailer has to do with the Phoenix Force itself. While we do get some signs, we don’t get anything like the fiery display Jean showed at the end of “X-men Apocalypse.” We also don’t get any signs of the more cosmic elements of the Phoenix. While there are a few shots that hint of a scene in space, it’s only a tiny part at most.

That’s to be expected, though. This movie just finished up reshoots so I imagine the effects aren’t fully polished yet. There’s plenty of time between now and February to make it look as beautiful and stunning as a Dark Phoenix movie should. Perhaps a second trailer will reveal more. It worked for “Venom” and it can definitely work for this.


What’s Uncanny

More than anything else, this trailer showed that Simon Kinberg, Fox, and everyone else who got crap from what happened in “X-men: The Last Stand” is making a concerted effort to right the wrongs of the past. Kinberg has said in the past that he did not like how things played out in that movie. I’m all for giving him a chance to do so.

This trailer doesn’t prove he managed to fix everything. However, it does offer hope that this time will be different. This time, the Phoenix Saga won’t be a sub-plot. The story won’t be radically changed to make it all about Wolverine. It’s going to genuinely try to tell this iconic X-men story in the most complete way possible.

As much as I hated the first attempt, I’m more than willing to give this one a chance and then some. I know as well as everyone else that this will be the last X-men movie of the era that began back in 2000. It has already been confirmed that Kevin Feige, the architect of the MCU, is going to take control of the X-men’s cinematic future after the Disney/Fox merger.

Some are already looking forward to a completely rebooted X-men movie, complete with a new Wolverine who isn’t played by Hugh Jackman and a new line of stories that’ll give the X-men a chance to participate in the global juggernaut that is MCU. I’m excited for that too. However, that makes it all the more important that “X-men: Dark Phoenix” be the best, most uncanny movie it can possibly be.

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Filed under movies, superhero comics, superhero movies, X-men

How Negative Expectations May Ruin “X-men: Dark Phoenix” (For The Wrong Reasons)

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There’s an important, but understated difference between negative expectations and a self-fulfilling prophecy. Expectations are like reflexes. They’re somewhat involuntary, reflecting our assumptions and understanding of a situation. A self-fulfilling prophecy involves actual effort. Whether intentional or not, it guides our perceptions in a particular direction, one often associated with a particular bias.

To some extent, a self-fulfilling prophecy is akin to self-hypnosis. We convince ourselves so thoroughly of a particular outcome that to consider otherwise would be downright shocking, if not distressing. That’s why it’s so difficult, at times, to escape a particular expectation, especially if it’s negative.

I bring up expectations and self-fulfilling prophecies because they do plenty to shape our reactions and attitudes, especially in the media we consume. For better or for worse, often varying from person to person, we tend to determine how much we enjoy something before we even experience it.

Sometimes, it works to the benefit of a particular movie, video game, or TV show. The powerful brand of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is built heavily on the expectations that a long list of quality, well-received movies have established. Conversely, the DCEU struggles with negative expectations, thanks largely to a catalog of movies that have failed to consistently deliver.

Then, there’s “X-men: Dark Phoenix.” It’s a movie for which I’ve made my passion and my excitement very clear over the past year. It’s also a movie that is in the midst of an emerging crisis. It’s not the kind that involves negative press, actors melting down on set, or sordid sex scandals, for once. Instead, it’s an issue that involves negative expectations that may very well become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As big an X-men fan as I am, I don’t deny that the X-men franchise is not on the same level it was in the early 2000s when it dominated the box office alongside Spider-Man. Even though I loved “X-men: Apocalypse,” I can’t deny it under-performed and underwhelmed.

Despite that, “X-men: Dark Phoenix” has more going for it. It’s attempting to tell the Dark Phoenix Saga, the most iconic X-men story ever told. Moreover, it’s attempting to tell that story after it botched it horribly in “X-men: The Last Stand.” Even the director, Simon Kinberg, has gone on record as saying that he wants to “X-men: Dark Phoenix” to succeed where the last one failed.

Given how rare that kind of humility is in Hollywood these days, X-men fans and fans of superhero movies in general have every reason to expect better things from this movie. Given how low the bar is after “X-men: The Last Stand,” I’m more optimistic than I dare to be when it comes to comic book movies.

Unfortunately, that sense of optimism seems to beg getting less and less prevalent. Whether due to the underwhelming performance of “X-men: Apocalypse” or a growing impatience to see the X-men join the MCU after the Disney/Fox merger is complete, there’s a general sentiment that this movie is going to be bad.

I see it on popular YouTube channels. I see in the many comic book message boards I frequent. The overall consensus is that this is a Marvel movie that isn’t part of the MCU. Therefore, it’s going to be terrible. That is, by every measure, a terrible excuse to dismiss a movie, especially when we haven’t even seen a trailer.

To make matters worse, a recent string of leaks from an alleged test screening revealed details that have only fueled those negative expectations. For reasons that I’ll make clear in a moment, I won’t list the details of those links. I will, however, offer a direct quote that aptly sums up the prevailing attitude for this movie.

“I do believe some things won’t change. What can’t change is the movie being really underwhelming. Really lower your expectations because this one is not good.”

This news, if accurate, is not encouraging to anyone hoping to see a well-done Dark Phoenix Saga on the big screen. To make matters worse, those who already had negative expectations about this movie have even more excuses to resent it.

As I’ve noted before, people tend to cling to excuses that justify their preconceived notions. It doesn’t even matter if the excuse is true. Once they have it, they cling to it. It’s usually not done out of malice. It’s just a lot easier to keep thinking what you’ve already thought rather than adjust your expectations.

In this case those, the story surrounding the leaks has already confirmed to be untrue. That leak came from a Reddit post, of all things, which is akin to getting your news from 4chan. On top of that, and this is a testament to Reddit’s users, the mods have stated outright that the user was not credible. This is an exact quote.

Apparently test screen guy is Atlanta Filming, created an account and sent fake spoilers/leaks. Trying to discredit other bloggers because he wants to be “the only legit source”.

If that weren’t telling enough, it was already announced back in March that the movie was going to undergo reshoots in August. Now thanks to “Justice League,” reshoots have gotten a bad name, but they’re a fairly common practice. Even the heavily-hyped, positively-perceived “Avengers 4” is scheduled for reshoots.

Even if those leaks were accurate, chances are the cut of the movie shown at test screenings isn’t the final cut. Kinberg himself has said that the reshoots are intended to shore up the final product, as one would expect of any piece of art. It sounds so reasonable and logical.

That still doesn’t matter, though. It doesn’t change the expectations. This movie still isn’t meeting the impossible set of criteria that fans spoiled by the MCU have so unreasonably set. It’s not in the MCU, nor is it being guided by Kevin Feige. Therefore, it must be terrible.

It’s unfair, unreasonable, and just plain asinine to judge “X-men: Dark Phoenix” by those standards, especially with reshoots to come and no official trailer. At this point, the negative expectations are so heavy that they’re starting to sound more and more like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

With that being the case, I feel like I can predict the reactions from people once the trailer drops. Sure, there will be some like me who are eager to give this movie a chance after what happened with “X-men: The Last Stand,” but I think there will be more comments like this.

“It’s not the MCU. I’ll pass.”

“X-men Apocalypse sucked! I’m not even giving this one a chance.”

“To hell with this movie! Just let Marvel have the rights back already! Fox can’t do anything right!”

Now, far be it from me to defend Fox, the same company that gave us “Wolverine: Origins,” but these are all intensely petty reasons to judge a movie. I say that as someone who is guilty of setting low expectations for movies, cartoons, comics, and TV shows. Hindsight has done plenty to reveal which of those were the result of self-fulfilling prophecies. That still doesn’t make the expectations any less absurd.

Even for those who aren’t just ardently opposed to any superhero movie that isn’t a product of the MCU, I think I can predict the criticisms they’ll probably levy against this movie even after it comes out. Chances are, they’ll be every bit as petty and include comments like this.

“It’s too dark and not cosmic enough!”

“It’s too cosmic and not grounded enough!’

“It’s too much like the comics!”

“It’s not enough like the comics!”

“It doesn’t have enough [Insert Favorite Character Here]!”

“It has too much [Insert Intensely Hated Character Here]!”

There will probably be plenty more excuses for hating this movie, far more than I can list. It doesn’t even matter how subjective they are or how empty they may be. People who are determined to hate something will find an excuse that satisfies their psyche and vindicates their feelings. Anything else would require that someone actually re-evaluate their expectations and that’s just untenable.

It’s frustrating and tragic that a movie or any piece of media would be subject to this kind of debasement before it’s even completed. It’s one thing for a movie to face skepticism because of production troubles, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” being the most recent example. For a movie whose primary crime is not being in the MCU, that’s just plain absurd.

In terms of the bigger picture, it’s good for superhero movies, as a whole, if “X-men: Dark Phoenix” succeeds. It’s unhealthy for the genre if the MCU is the only acceptable avenue for quality superhero movies. We’ve seen with “Wonder Woman” that it is possible for a superhero movie to succeed in a world that doesn’t have Robert Downy Jr. or Chris Pratt.

X-men: Dark Phoenix” deserves the same chance. That’s why I intend to keep my expectations high, but cautious for this movie. Even if it turns out to be good, though, I worry that it’ll be undercut by too many people who are too eager to hate it. It would be both a tragedy for the movie and all those involved, as well as a bad omen for the genre as a whole.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes, media issues, movies, X-men

How To NOT Screw Up X-men: Dark Phoenix

If you’ve been following this blog in any capacity, then you know I love comic books and superheroes. I try to work them into many topics, from effective superhero tactics to sexy female heroes who are uniquely sex positive. Assume, for the future, that if there’s sexy topic that can be related to comics, then I’ll find a way to discuss it.

In addition, those who follow this blog also know that I have a special affinity for the X-men. I tend to cite them more than most, whether it’s discussing a romance among equals, the future of female villains, or candidates for UN Ambassadorship. Again, I’ll use any possible excuse in any sexy topic to cite them again. I’m both a passionate erotica/romance writer and a passionate fan. I make no apologies for that.

So when some major news regarding superhero movies, particularly X-men movies, comes up, I’m going to discuss it. I may even belabor it. I know that may not be the reason some people visit the blog of an aspiring erotica/romance writer, but superhero movies, especially those involving the X-men, are important to me.

Keep in mind, the X-men also have characters like Emma Frost so that means there’s plenty of opportunities for sex appeal. This news, in particular, has its share of sexy and romantic connotations so it is relevant for erotica/romance fans. If you need proof, I have just two words for you: Sophie Turner.

I’ll give “Game of Thrones” fans a second to stop smiling. I’ll give X-men fans another because some of them, myself included, are still buzzing at her limited, but spectacular performance in “X-men: Apocalypse.” Other than Ryan Reynolds, the man who brought Deadpool to life, Ms. Turner may very well hold the key to the future of the X-men movies.

Whereas we only got one X-men movie this year with “Logan,” 2018 will bring us two. While “Deadpool 2” is sure to generate plenty of interest and dick jokes, it’s “X-men: Dark Phoenix” that will likely determine the fate and future of the X-men movies. Other than Sophie Turner’s sex appeal, there’s a lot of uncertainty about that effort.

That’s because “X-men: Dark Phoenix” isn’t just attempting something bold. The Phoenix Saga it’s based on is, by far, the most iconic and acclaimed X-men story of all time. Talk to any X-men fan in any capacity and most of them will agree. The Phoenix Saga is the gold-encrusted adamantium standard by which all X-men stories are measured. It also happens to be the story that Fox woefully botched once before.

It’s true and it still gives X-men fans nightmares to this day. Back in 2006, Fox attempted to tell the story of the Phoenix in “X-men: The Last Stand.” The end results were so poorly received that they ended up erasing it completely from the timeline in 2014’s “X-men: Days of Future Past.” Yes, it really was that bad.

I could do multiple blog posts on why the movie was so terrible. In fact, I already did one that covered the nauseatingly awful love triangle involving Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. However, that was just one in a long list of unforgivable crimes that “X-men: The Last Stand” committed.

Chief among those crimes, for X-men fans, was how it handled the Phoenix sub-plot. The mere fact that it was a sub-plot was a huge problem. As I said before, the Phoenix Saga is the most iconic, respected, and beloved X-men story of all time. To treat it as a goddamn sub-plot, while wasting the acting talent and sex appeal of Famke Janssen, is both tragic and infuriating.

Beyond just relegating it to a sub-plot, “X-men: The Last Stand” basically looked over all the major themes of the Phoenix Saga and basically threw them out like expired milk. The Phoenix Saga is a story built around love, humanity, untamed power, and sacrifice. “X-men: The Last Stand” had none of that. It only used the Phoenix as a way to make Wolverine get all whiny about a woman he barely knew. That’s it.

The handling of the Phoenix was so bad that longtime X-men producer, Simon Kinberg, admitted earlier this year that they screwed up. Think about that for a moment. A big-time Hollywood producer, someone with unlimited access to blowjobs and cocaine, admitted a mistake. He didn’t make an excuse, as so many people in power tend to do. He owned his mistake. For that, Mr. Kinberg earns my respect.

I also believe that Mr. Kinberg does not want to go down in history as the man who botched the most beloved X-men story of all time. That kind of reputation can permanently destroy his credibility among a vocal audience. Just ask Joel Shumacher how nasty it can get.

Moreover, Mr. Kinberg already has the resources he needs to make a Phoenix Saga work. He laid the groundwork with “X-men: Apocalypse” by having Sophie Turner shine more in one scene than Famke Jannsen ever could through three movies. He also has an immensely-talented actress in Ms. Turner to bring out the passion and drama that is so vital to the Phoenix Saga.

In other words, Mr. Kinberg and the powers that be at Fox have no excuses this time. They didn’t have any last time with “X-men: The Last Stand,” but the stakes were lower then. The market for superhero movies is going to be very crowded in 2018. Having already screwed up the Fantastic Four, they need to show they can learn from their mistakes.

Being the passionate comic book fan and X-men fan that I am, I want to help in whatever way I can. Given that I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer with precisely zero influence on anything outside this blog, that’s not saying much. I don’t expect anyone from Fox to ever read this blog or know about me. The most I can do is just put the information out there so I can say I did what I could.

With that in mind, I’m not going to offer a wish list on what must occur in a “X-men: Dark Phoenix “movie. If you base the value of a movie or comic book on something specific, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.

Instead, it’s better to lay out what to avoid, thereby allowing some creative flexibility along the way. No matter how passionate a fan you are, it’s important to be somewhat flexible. Otherwise, you’ll just find yourself among fans whining about how Finn Jones is too white play Iron Fist.

So for X-men fans, comic fans, and superhero fans in general, here’s my list of tips on how to avoid botching the Phoenix Saga again. I write this hoping that the people at Fox understand that X-men fans are a forgiving bunch, but messing up the most iconic story in X-men history twice would be pushing it.


Tip #1: Embrace AND Unleash The Passion

This should be the most obvious, but it somehow slipped everyone’s mind in “X-men: The Last Stand” so it’s worth putting at the top of the list and belaboring to no end. At the core of the Phoenix Saga, which is also its greatest appeal, is the passion behind the story.

It is, in essence, a story about overwhelming power guided by overwhelming passions. Within the story, Jean Grey is possessed by a cosmic entity known as the Phoenix Force, which pushes her psychic powers to the limit, beyond, and into the depths of space. That’s not an exaggeration either. She actually goes into space with this power.

Now doing that in a movie would be tricky, but Jean doesn’t have to go into space to realize the theme here. She just has to get a chance to emote and lament about the sheer breadth of this power. Her passions are what drive it. They create the huge, emotional spectacle that helped make the Phoenix Saga so iconic.

Famke Jannsen never got a chance to do much in “X-men: The Last Stand.” In fact, all she really did was stand around, look deadpanned, and that’s about it. She never even flashed any Phoenix-like symbolism, which is pretty pathetic since Fox managed to squeeze it in with “X-men: Apocalypse.” A Phoenix Saga with flat emotions is like sandwich without bread. You just can’t have one without the other.


Tip #2: Make Any Sacrifice Feel Genuine

This is somewhat unique to the Phoenix Saga mythos in general. In addition to overwhelming passion and immense power, sacrifice is at the core of what makes a the Phoenix Saga so iconic among X-men fans. In the end, Jean Grey makes a heroic sacrifice for her friends, the world, and the man she loves. It’s one of the most emotional, dramatic moments in the history of comics.

Again, “X-men: The Last Stand” found a way to completely screw this up. In fact, saying they screwed up would be too polite because they didn’t just undermine this critical moment in X-men lore. They did the exact opposite.

Jean Grey does not make any sacrifice in “X-men: The Last Stand.” What she does is basically an act of pure cowardice. She doesn’t heroically sacrifice herself to save the ones she loves. She makes someone else kill her, specifically Wolverine. She doesn’t beg him. She makes him. There’s nothing heroic about that. Hell, that’s a dick move, even by Wolverine standards.

For any Phoenix Saga to work, there needs to be some sort of sacrifice along the way. That sacrifice also has to be genuine, dramatic, and heartfelt. That’s what makes it so endearing. Nobody ever felt any kind of endearment to a coward. Since the X-men are superheroes and all, there’s no room for that kind of cowardice.


Tip #3: Embrace And Expand The Cyclops/Jean Romance

I’ve talked about this romance on multiple occasions and for good reason. It is, by far, the most important, iconic romance in the history of X-men. The romance of Cyclops and Jean Grey goes all the way back to the earliest days of the X-men, as created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It’s a romance that has resulted marriage, death, resurrection, and multiple children. You won’t find many romances with this kind of depth.

Unfortunately, nobody who saw the original X-men movies ever would’ve suspected as such. Those movies gave the impression that the romance only existed to cock-block Wolverine and Jean Grey only existed to be a piece of ass for him to achieve. The love triangle is toxic enough in the comics, but the movies took it to a level so egregious that both the X-men fan and erotica/romance fan in me wants to vomit violently.

There’s no real depth between Wolverine and Jean Grey, especially in the movies. There is, however, a powerful and important dynamic between Cyclops and Jean Grey. Theirs is a uniquely balanced romance, one where they both stand together in ways that isn’t typical of superhero movies or romance movies in general. They’re both heroes. They share in one another’s struggles and burdens.

Most importantly, though, they complement each other. They inspire one another to be better. That’s what we saw, at least in a limited capacity, in “X-men: Apocalypse.” That movie didn’t just thrust them together and proclaim that they’re star-crossed lovers. They actually laid a foundation for a deeper connection. By the end of that movie, it was easy to see a romance between them blossoming.

In the comics, the Cyclops/Jean romance was central to the Phoenix Saga. Their romance was a catalyst for so much of the drama that to remove it is to remove a critical element of what makes the story work.

X-men: The Last Stand” tried to work around it by thrusting Wolverine into the role of Jean’s love interest. That failed miserably though because again, there was never a single goddamn reason for anyone to believe that there was any meaningful chemistry with them.

It was the history and extent of Cyclops and Jean Grey’s romance that made the Phoenix Saga so meaningful in the comics. At one point in the story, they even talked about getting married. A deep, passionate romance is what helped make the Phoenix Saga so impactful on so many levels.

That kind of romance can’t be forced. “X-men: The Last Stand” tried and failed miserably. A Dark Phoenix movie cannot make that same mistake again. The foundation is already there thanks to “X-men: Apocalypse.” The Dark Phoenix movie just has to crank up the passion. Sophie Turner’s sex appeal will do the rest.


Tip #4: Make The Phoenix The Primary Plot

After what I said earlier about how “X-men: The Last Stand” treated the Phoenix Saga, this should be a no-brainer. Then again, the sheer stupidity of circumventing the Cyclops/Jean Grey relationship in the first three movies should’ve been a no-brainer too so I’m not going to assume too much here.

The Phoenix Saga is too dramatic, too iconic, and too emotional a story to relegate to a sub-plot. “X-men: The Last Stand” tried and failed so miserably that no one could really blame Jean Grey for wanting to die in the end. Fox and Mr. Kinberg cannot let that happen again. The X-men, Jean Grey, and the Phoenix Saga deserve better.

From the moment the opening credits begin to the moment the generic 90s grunge music plays at the end, Jean Grey and the Phoenix Force should be the central focus. There can certainly be plenty of sub-plots, as there always are in every superhero movie. However, the Phoenix Saga must take priority. If it doesn’t tie into that story in a meaningful way, then it should be tabled for another movie.

The Phoenix Saga is a big enough story to carry the whole movie. In the comics, it unfolded over the course of several years, diverting into plenty of sub-plots along the way. A movie doesn’t have that kind of flexibility, but it still has plenty of time to set up and execute the drama that makes the Phoenix Saga so endearing.

Movies are plenty capable of creating that level of drama. Movies like “Titanic” and “Terminator 2” are able to do it all within a cohesive narrative. More than anything else, the Phoenix Saga should feel complete by the end of the movie. Other sub-plots can linger for sequels, but the Phoenix Saga must get first dibs.


Tip #5: Introduce New Villains And Tie Them Into The Phoenix Story

This might actually be the easiest part of making X-men: Dark Phoenix awesome. Chances are that’s already part of the plan and not just because there’s no hint that Michael Fassbender wants to return to play Magneto again. Now I love Fassbender as much as the next straight X-men fan, but his role as Magneto has been done to death, going all the way back to the first X-men movie.

The X-men have a long and rich library of villains. Very few of those villains have had a chance to grow within the movies. Some, like Mojo, are woefully impractical. Others, such as a devious figure named Mr. Sinister, are ripe for development. Even Walter White himself, Bryan Cranston, has expressed an interest in playing Sinister. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about his potential.

On top of that, Mr. Sinister has close ties to Cyclops and Jean Grey. It really wouldn’t take much to involve him in the Phoenix Saga. While he did not participate in it directly in the comics, he did go onto influence a great deal of stories that expanded the Phoenix mythos in X-men. Putting him in the center of the conflict in a Dark Phoenix movie makes too much sense.

There are other lesser villains like the U-men and the Purifiers that could find their way into the mix. So there should be no concerns about not having enough villains. The key is tying these villains into the main Dark Phoenix story. If done well, especially with the aid of Bryan Cranston’s acting prowess, then the movie has everything it needs to succeed.


There’s a lot more to consider in making an X-men: Dark Phoenix movie. I’m just a passionate fan so I’m hardly qualified to evaluate every one of them. If I were, Fox probably would’ve hired me and underpaid me by now to make this movie work. Since they haven’t, I can only hope there are much smarter, much more passionate people working tirelessly to make this movie great.

As a fan, I want to see this movie succeed. I want to see Fox and Mr. Kinberg make up for their mistakes in “X-men: The Last Stand.” It would be both an accomplishment and a service for which fans would be forever grateful. Grateful fans are more willing to give money to those who please them. That is, after all, Fox’s ultimate goal.

The incentives are in place. The story is there. The iconic characters are there. The passion is there. The love, heart, and emotions are there. It’s only a matter of bringing them together into a single, cohesive story that will thrill audiences, evoke tears of joy, and soak panties.

It can be done. I pray to whatever cosmic forces are out there that Fox can pull this off. As an X-men fan, a comic book fan, and a fan of iconic love stories, X-men: Dark Phoenix deserves to be that awesome.

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Filed under Comic Books, Jack Fisher, Superheroes