20th Century Fox is reportedly moving forward with a trilogy of films planned for release in 2018 as part of its ongoing cinematic X-Men franchise. Further details will be announced for the Deadpool sequel, as well as casting announcements for New Mutants and Dark Phoenix. Already we’ve learned that Josh Brolin will be playing Cable on top of his Thanos duties, New Mutants has picked up Maisie Williams (a.k.a Arya Stark) for a more horror-centric film, and Simon Kinberg is taking over as director for Dark Phoenix as it delves into the cosmic universe.
These are a lot of promising projects for the franchise. A franchise that's in dire need of a fresh revival following the underwhelming performance of last year’s Apocalypse, the departure of the series’ most beloved actor and character in Hugh Jackman as Logan, and with Bryan Singer officially passing the reins to Kinberg.
Fox has also recently released the cast list for #XMenDarkPhoenix, and perhaps it's not a surprise that the roster includes many of the newcomers from Apocalypse, as well as current actors behind Professor X, Magneto and Mystique. Jennifer Lawrence indicated some time ago that that she, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender had formed something of a solidarity pact, and Fox seems to have obliged. After all, the studio wouldn't want to lose out on what is now the franchise’s biggest star.
Does This Franchise Really Need More Mystique?
This presents several issues for the X-Men film franchise, all of which can be distilled down to: #JenniferLawrence. With confirmation of her role in the coming Dark Phoenix, we've officially reached the point where she's becoming a problem, even a hindrance, an active detriment, to the series she’s supposed to be serving.
There's a substantial degree to which this is the same for Fassbender’s Magneto. While he's provided a brilliant interpretation of that character, there’s no reason for him to appear in the next part of the X-Men universe, as it has very little to do with Magneto. For all that he's a tremendous villain, his role is not as pivotal to the future X-Men trajectory as the films might have you believe. There will likely be no new dimension added to Dark Phoenix by including him in it, except taking screen time away from what looks to be an already bloated cast list.
And this is a far bigger problem with Lawrence. Fassbender is likely being retained because of his prestige and reputation as an actor, and there’s no doubt that Lawrence's place as one of the industry’s bigger stars is why Mystique will also be appearing in this movie. And just to be clear: Mystique has no place whatsoever in a movie adaptation of the "The Dark Phoenix Saga."
'The Dark Phoenix Saga' Doesn't Have Room For Her Character
It’s not just that these two characters will be appearing in a film based on a story that has no place for them, in what is already an overstuffed cast. It’s that, due to the notoriety of those two actors, they’ll inevitably be given priority in terms of story material and screen time. So what should be a story of Jean Grey grappling with the Phoenix, her relationship with Scott Summers, and the team’s various connections to the Shi'ar Empire, runs the risk of turning into yet another Magneto and #Mystique tale — of which we’ve now had half a dozen.
And this reflects not just larger problems in the franchise, but Fox’s approach to X-Men as a whole, where it's difficult not to feel like the studio is catering more to movie stars, rather than trying to find the best actor for the role. That Fox is letting box office results overtake creativity. This is one of the many areas in which Apocalypse went so wrong.
Lawrence Isn't Famous Because Of Mystique
Part of the problem is that Lawrence didn’t become a star because of the X-Men franchise the way that Jackman did, so Jackman’s longevity was an easier thing to maintain. What's more, his fame and popularity were a direct result of being the perfect person to play the character, in what is almost undisputedly the best interpretation of #Wolverine we could’ve hoped for. This also made it less of a problem when much of the franchise was reframed around his character.
But while Lawrence first found notice for her Oscar-nominated turn in 2010 drama Winter's Bone, her worldwide fame arrived after her first foray into the X-Men universe in 2011, and not as a direct result of her role as Mystique. And not only is her portrayal a poor offering of the character, it's not a great character to build the franchise around in the same way that Wolverine was.
For all her talents, Lawrence isn't particularly compelling in the role, as this interpretation varies radically from the comics version of Mystique. And the longer Lawrence stays, the more the producers are forced the navigate the character even further from her roots in order to cater to that star power, which is to say, Lawrence's star power is actively making Mystique into a worse character.
Mystique is one of the best, most complex villains — not just in the X-Men universe, but in all of comic bookdom. She's manipulative and cunning, and she knows how to use her powers to effectively control the people around her. She's self-serving, an outcast among her own kind, a bit of a sociopath. She also has immensely fascinating relationships with her children Rogue and Nightcrawler, all of which is built upon her villainy and leadership of the Brotherhood of Mutants.
But Lawrence’s Mystique at this point bears little in common with the character other than name and powers. And the changes weren’t made to provide an alternate, interesting take on the character, but rather, to service the biggest star so as to not risk putting off mainstream viewers who don’t want to see Lawrence playing one of the bad guys; even though it means robbing Mystique of everything that makes her so great to begin with.
One can only imagine how much worse this might get with her being shoehorned into #DarkPhoenix. Since she's a substantially bigger star than Sophie Turner, there’s even a risk of her stealing the movie altogether — and not in a good way. And Fox will have failed in its attempts to adapt "The Dark Phoenix Saga" a second time.
There's no doubt that Lawrence's reputation as a big deal is well deserved, and putting her in a film means guaranteed box office returns. But that’s not what a good franchise should be built on. As #Marvel has demonstrated, you cast the right person for the right role, and audiences will come. We’re well past the point where Lawrence is contributing anything meaningful to this particular franchise, and now that she’s actively hindering it, it’s past time to let her go.
A good film willing to take risks and value the needs of the creativity will let Mystique and Magneto move on, as they have nothing further to contribute at this juncture. But a film that plays it safe and values money over creativity will needlessly inject the two of them into starring roles.
The world of #XMen is expansive and complex, with a myriad of fantastic characters and relationships — far beyond what exists from the likes of Mystique and Magneto. It’s time for them to move on to other things and allow other great players to finally take the spotlight.
Deadpool 2 is set for release on June 1, 2018, followed by X-Men: The New Mutants on April 13 and X-Men: Dark Phoenix on November 7. Do you want more Jennifer Lawrence in the X-Men films? Please share in the comments below.