X-Men: Apocalypse is the latest entry in Twentieth Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, having just opened a few weeks ago, and the film really isn’t doing well at the box office. It’s opening weekend only brought in $65,769,562 and has yet to hit the $200 million mark domestically. The X-Men box office numbers aside, the film did not earn a lot of high praise critically, unlike its predecessor X-Men: Days of Future Past.
X-Men: Apocalypse is the seventh X-Men movie (if you want to count Deadpool, it would be the eighth) to be released in 16 years, yet this franchise continues to squander its most powerful characters, regurgitate and repeat character arcs, and doesn’t really seem to be too interested with touching on current socially relevant issues and movements. These films may have been decent summer action films, for the most part, but they’ve always been terrible X-Men films. Characters on screen don’t resemble their counterparts from the comics, physically maybe, but not their personalities and definitely not their powerset.
Spoilers for X-Men: Apocalypse and X-Men: Days of Future Past up ahead.
With nearly every X-Men movie, we’re seeing the broken and fractured friendship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr. It’s a guarantee that at the beginning of the film, Magneto will start out good or evil and the audiences watches to see if he’ll swing the other way. At the end of Days of Future Past, Magneto pulled a baseball stadium onto the lawn of the White House and proudly showed his Mutant pride to the world, and called for his fellow Mutants to come out of the shadows and join together. When Apocalypse starts, 10 years later, he’s married (to a homosapien, strangely) with a daughter, working a factory job trying to hide his Mutation and live a “normal” life.
We don’t get to see those 10 years, which means the audience is left with no clue as to how Erik makes that transition. But he apparently has a family only so they can be predictably taken away from him and give him a reason to side with Apocalypse. And sure enough, by the end of the film, he’s friends (somewhat) with Charles again. This same arc has been repeated now so many times, with Charles always thinking he sees the best in his friend and that he doesn’t have to turn to the dark side. If these movies are not revolving around Wolverine, they’re revolving around Professor X and Magneto, and it’s gotten old.
Take the Marvel Studios approach. They’re no longer interested in making the typical “superhero movies,” but now are taking these superhero characters and placing them in really interesting genre narratives – a spy/political thriller, space opera, geopolitical action/adventure, a heist film. There is plenty of wiggle room here that has been opened up by the Marvel movies, Fox could get inspired by this idea and do something different with these X-Men films.
Maybe it would be wise to touch on #BlackLivesMatter or #SayHerName, given that this series was born out of the civil rights movement. That would be something no other superhero property is tackling right now, and there are certainly millions of people/women of color (especially in the LGBTQ community) who would love to see that. Imagine a number of the Mutants in Xavier’s school gathered around the television, watching the trial of a police officer who has raped/killed an innocent Mutant – only for him to walk free. A scenario like this playing out in one of the movies is just so painfully obvious – yet it’s never happened and it’s ridiculous.
The term “mutey” has not been used in this franchise, at all, which is pretty silly. This is simple X-Men discrimination 101. We’re seeing a rise in feminism; Black, Latino, Asian and Indigenous/Native people loudly protecting and defending their culture…and none of this is reflected in any way in these X-Men movies. Perhaps Bobby Drake sitting in his living room with his parents, as his mom asks if he has tried “not being a Mutant” is good enough for you – but not for me. Not even close.
Combined, the X-Men franchise has brought in well over a billion at the box office, sure, but individually? Not one has gone over a billion or even reached that much. X-Men: Days of Future Past has made the most world wide, with $747,862,775 – but even that movie didn’t hit a billion. Meanwhile, a Marvel movie is expected to earn a billion or more – but nobody expects this of the franchise that’s been in existence for 16 years? Based on the biggest-selling comic book of all time?
The X-Men deserve better.
[Image via 20th Century Fox]