Way back in 2000, audiences watching X-Men gave a knowing chuckle when a leather-clad Cyclops asked Wolverine, “What would you prefer, yellow spandex?” At the time, even those of us who love the Canucklehead’s traditional duds understood the point. In a world where Superman’s blue and red suit disappeared from screens in 1987 and only Batman’s nipple-y but dark suits remained, the lavish X-Men costumes of the comics wouldn’t fly with general audiences.
For all the successes across the 13 films in the Fox X-Men franchise, concessions to a general audience not inundated with superheroes meant that the studio felt the need to cut some corners. Some of the revisions worked, especially the tall, handsome Aussie Hugh Jackman’s more romantic take on the short, ugly Canadian Wolverine. Others, however, left much to be desired.
As the X-Men make their way into the MCU and hopefully leave the Fox movies behind after this year’s Deadpool 3, the studio has the opportunity to do right by the characters. That means not just yellow spandex for Wolverine and, well, any clothes at all for Mystique. Rather it means an opportunity to show off everything that Marvel’s Mighty Mutants has to offer, especially with characters who got the short shrift the first time around. Here are the characters who truly need a do-over in the MCU.
It has to start with Darwin, the victim in one of the most embarrassing scenes in the Fox X-Men franchise. Portrayed by Edi Gathegi in X-Men: First Class, Darwin was recruited by a young Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) for his ability to adapt to any threat. A constantly evolving mutant, Darwin is essentially unkillable, as he reflexively changes his body to deflect any threat. And yet, what happens when Sebastian Shaw attacks the burgeoning team in X-Men: First Class? Darwin dies.
Even if we leave aside the fact that director Matthew Vaughn killed the Black character first (and we really shouldn’t), the scene fundamentally misunderstands the main thing about Darwin. He absolutely cannot die. Yes, that’s a hard power for a writer to deal with, but the joy of Darwin isn’t from the fear that he might die. It’s from watching the crazy way his body changes in response to various threats, something the MCU version will hopefully understand.
Quick, when you think of Storm in the Fox movies, what comes to mind? Is it something about a Toad? Getting struck by lightning? That terrible, terrible line (reportedly a remnant from a Joss Whedon runner in previous drafts of the movie) has overshadowed everything else that Storm does in those movies, whether she’s portrayed by Halle Berry or Alexandra Shipp.
That’s an ignoble track record for one of the best comic book characters ever created. The Storm of X-Men comics has been a goddess, a thief, and everything in between. She has won the hearts of leaders such as Black Panther and Doctor Doom, but no one has contained her. Not only does she possess extremely powerful abilities, but she bested Cyclops and led the X-Men for years after being depowered. When Storm comes to the MCU, she deserves a portrayal that, at the very least, makes people forget the dumb “toad” line. Although even coming close to matching the glory of her comic book characterizations would be nice.
As disrespectfully as Storm was treated, at least she did something memorable in the X-Men movies. The same cannot be said of Cyclops, the first and longest-serving leader of the X-Men. To be fair, Cyclops often appears as a one-note character in the comics, a straight-laced do-gooder who served as the voice of a calming force on a team that included some outsized personalities. Despite the incredible charisma of James Marsden, the first actor to portray the character on screen, Cyke spent most of the original trilogy of movies on the sidelines. He was a wet-blanket third-wheel in the romance between Jean Grey and Wolverine.
It’s unlikely that the MCU will give viewers the revolutionary Cyclops who appeared in comics over recent years—the guy who has given up on realizing Professor Xavier’s dream of coexistence between humans and mutants, devoting himself instead to fighting against humans for mutant liberation. However, they can play up the qualities that eventually drive the comic book Cyclops to those extremes: the desire to do whatever he can for his people and a brilliant tactical mind. Even as an uncomplicated hero, those aspects make Cyclops a compelling character, far more so than he was in the Fox movies.
In another world, this entry would be different. For years, Fox planned to produce a Gambit movie with Channing Tatum as the Ragin’ Cajun, a film that would have done justice to the roguish charm that won the heart of his best girl… um, Rogue. However, despite Tatum’s undying enthusiasm for the part, the movie never came to be. Instead Gambit appeared only as a miscast Taylor Kitsch, who was overshadowed in his handful of scenes by the overstuffed nature of X-Men: Origins: Wolverine.
To be fair, Gambit is a tough character: a guy who seems like the coolest thing in the world to anyone aged eight to 16, and then seems like a tired poser, the ultimate dork’s idea of a cool dude once you hit adulthood. It takes someone with actual effortless charm and some self-deprecating humor to pull it off, and those folks are in short supply in this age of the fading movie star. But the MCU’s mutant ability has always been casting, so maybe they can find the right person to do Remy LeBeau right.
Here’s what the Fox movies taught us about the Juggernaut: he is the Juggernaut, bitch. Yes, one of the all-time greatest villains in X-Men history was reduced to an already forgotten viral video, and then into yet another character for Ryan Reynolds to play as a snarky wiseacre against. At least Deadpool 2 had the dignity to pair him with Black Tom, even if it made Black Tom a standard prison tough instead of the dashing Irish cad he is in the comics.
Then again, one can easily see why filmmakers would take the easy route with Juggie, especially with a stacked cast of mutants. So many characters have hard-to-explain powers, so why get into the minutiae of Xavier’s half-brother who turns into an unstoppable beast after discovering the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak, which he connects to his helmet? Of course the answer to that question is: because it’s awesome and adds a lot of pathos to the beast-like man. And given Doctor Strange’s connection to Cyttorak, Juggernaut in the MCU gives Kevin Feige and company more of a reason to delve into the complexities of the Juggernaut.
For all the kvetching done about the MCU taking the Dave Filoni route and bringing the animated X-Men into live-action (mostly by yours truly), there is one character who excelled in his cartoon version: Apocalypse. Even defenders of X-Men: Apocalypse (again, yours truly) have to admit that the otherwise great Oscar Isaac failed to capture the majesty of the first mutant, En Sabah Nur. Simply put, staring at a TV and purring “learning…” has nothing on declarations such as, “I am the rocks of the eternal shore—crash against me and be broken!”
Most internet chatter has Mr. Sinister as the first villain for the MCU X-Men, a fine choice for many reasons. But Apocalypse should also show up early in the franchise if only to explain how mutants have been around in the MCU for so long without us really seeing them before. Even better, Poccy’s god complex and penchant for megalomaniacal speeches lets him fit right in alongside recent MCU greats, such as High Evolutionary and Thanos.
Okay, I get that some think Multiple Man was used exactly right in X-Men: The Last Stand. In both of his scenes, Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man makes duplicates of himself and cracks wise, the bare minimum one expects from him. However, over the past few decades, Madrox has become one of the more compelling characters in the Marvel Universe. Thanks to his prominent role in Peter David’s X-Factor, and a great solo mini-series by Matthew Rosenberg and Andy MacDonald, Multiple Man has gained depth and pathos, the perfect combination for his bizarre power set.
When they finally come to the MCU, the X-Men will be debuting in front of an audience that has seen it all already. Wolverine has claws; Cyclops and his optic blasts; even Storm’s weather-controlling will be old hat. Multiple Man wouldn’t be the first set of clones ever seen on screen, but the combination of humor and identity formation makes him more interesting than those also-rans while also providing the visual complexity that a great movie needs.
“Wait,” you might say, “when was Quentin Quire used in a Fox X-Men movie? I don’t remember seeing him.” Of course you don’t, despite the fact that he was played by great character actor Ken Leung. That’s because he was only billed as Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand and seemed to have the power set of Quill, not Quire’s psychic abilities.
Kid Omega debuted in Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men as a snotty brat and incredibly powerful psychic, whose “stick it to the man” attitude created more than a few problems for Xavier. Over the years, Quentin has become a fan favorite, as his contrarianism grows less reckless but no less pronounced, adding a fun dynamic to any group unfortunate enough to include him.
Like Gambit, Bishop joined the X-Men in the 1990s and immediately became the coolest guy on the team. He had a giant gun, a flowing mullet, and a tattoo over his eye! Even better, Bishop came from the future, the same future seen in the classic story “Days of Future Past.” Even after his ‘90s heyday passed, Bishop remained a constant in the X-Men orbit, serving as a detective in Mutant Town in the early 2000s and most recently operating the War College on Krakoa, training mutants to defend their island paradise.
Despite that pedigree, Bishop had only a single, unimpressive appearance in X-Men: Days of Future Past, portrayed by Omar Sy. Despite getting a moment to use his energy absorption abilities, Bishop died almost immediately at the hands of the Sentinels. A gun-toting, bad-attitude character may not fit in with the MCU aesthetic, but Bishop’s time-traveling gimmick fits right in with the multiverse-heavy approach of the franchise’s most recent films. And working a fan-favorite into the MCU X-Men would help rebuild the momentum they so badly need.
On one hand, Sunspot has appeared in not one, but two Fox X-Men movies, first played by Adan Canto as another Sentinel victim in Days of Future Past and then as a main character in The New Mutants, where he was portrayed by Henry Zaga. The latter did feature many elements from Roberto Da Costa’s comic book versions, including his Brazilian heritage, his wealthy background, and his mutant power to grow stronger by absorbing energy from the sun.
However, Sunspot’s actor Zaga is caucasian, not an Afro-Brazilian like the character from the comics. Not only does that replace a character of color for another white character, of whom there are already many, but it misses an essential part of Sunspot’s background. His powers manifested in response to racist taunts during a soccer game, leaving him conflicted about the vindication and guilt that followed. The MCU has been surprisingly frank in dealing with racism, as demonstrated by the Black Panther films and the Isaiah Bradley arc in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. An MCU Sunspot would restore this aspect to the character, making him more rich in the process.