It's no secret: I'm a huge fan of the X-Men. This was the team that introduced me to comics in the early '90s, and while my reading is far wider-ranging twenty years later, they remain some of my favorite characters. I'm incredibly proud that this is the franchise that launched the live-action superhero renaissance back in the year 2000, and I look forward to every new film with excitement.
However, I've also made no secret of how unimpressed I was with the first three movies, much like every other long-term fan. Despite some decent casting (and some truly inspired casting in the form of Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart!), there just wasn't enough respect paid to the characters, and the trilogy fell far short of the awesomeness that is X-Men. (Don't even get me started on the Wolverine movies.)
In the past few years, however, things have been changing. As comic-book flicks dominate the box office, studios are learning what works in a superhero movie: that fans need to feel like the writing mirrors the source material, that comedy and action should balance, and that when the ingredients are there, comic book movies can break box office records. Fox has been building a sort-of-reboot for the franchise, using the wonders of time travel to reset our timeline and allow for certain roles to be re-cast (while keeping the best casting choices intact).
Now that First Class and Days of Future Past have set the stage, I have no doubt that Apocalypse will be the best film in the franchise so far - in no small part because we get to return to the core team that so many fans love.
Jean Grey, Cyclops and Storm have been re-cast as teens for the next movie, and I cannot wait to see what they do this time around.
Sophie Turner on Being Cast as Jean Grey
One of the most exciting actresses in the new, younger, team is Sophie Turner, best known for her stunning portrayal of Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones. As soon as I heard the casting news, I knew that she would be perfect for the role, and the more I hear from her, the more confident I become.
Now, DigitalSpy spoke to her at the world premiere of the latest season of Game of Thrones, and it seems that she is going to be giving Jean Grey "a bit of a twist."
In just a few quick sentences, Turner has made me even more confident that she will absolutely rock this incredible role.
For one thing, she does say that she will be playing a Jean Grey with a little more naivety, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Part of this, surely, is because of the age at which we will meet the talented telepath. First Class was set in the '60s, and Days of Future Past in the '70s (well, it was set all over the timeline, but you know what I mean!), which means that we can assume that Apocalypse will take place around the '80s, with Grey as a young teen.
Thus far in the movies, Jean has been a massively underdeveloped character - the existing films introduced her as a fully formed and capable teacher-type, ignoring so much of what makes her wonderful and fascinating. More than that, they raced her into a version of Dark Pheonix and killed her off within a single film! There is a reason that Jean is one of the best known X-Men, and it's about time that we see her struggling with her powers, working with Charles to cope, and developing a relationship with Scott Summers. All of this necessitates some naïveté, some fear and uncertainty, and I am so glad to hear that Turner is aware of this.
Which Comic Books Is She Reading?
She also confirms that she is "hitting the comic books," which should really be a given for any superhero role, but I'm still thrilled to hear it every time. Of course, I do wish that she was already a fan, but I know how unlikely it is to have every actor who looks the part and can play the part also just so happen to be a long-standing comic fan!
A huge question, of course, is which books she is hitting? Unlike some smaller characters, Jean Grey is huge, appearing in over five thousand issues. There is simply no way that Turner could cover all that ground, and I can imagine that she is feeling a little overwhelmed! I'm hoping that she is watching the animated series, because it reached so many fans who were not necessarily comic readers, but also because it loosely covers so many of the major story arcs from the books. I'm also hoping that she reads much of the original stories - I would love to see Marvel Girl appear in this film, and I feel like the "origins" of Jean Grey are often overlooked.
Turner has previously talked to IGN about seeing a "darkness" in Jean Grey, and how the character will struggle with her power and being accepted. It seems that the Jean Grey being painted by Turner's comments is going to be far more relatable and appealing than the poised and capable Jean Grey of the first three films, and I think that this is absolutely the perfect way to go with her.
What about Rogue?
I'm also looking forward to seeing Tye Sheridan as Cyclops and Alexandra Shipp as Storm, but there is one huge question in my mind. What. About. Rogue.?! Gambit (Channing Tatum) is rumored to be appearing in the new film ahead of his solo outing, and I just can't see this team without the Southern Belle. Add to that, of course, that I think she was terribly written and the worst cast of the original actors (nothing against Anna Paquin, she just doesn't work for me), and that I have been waiting for my favorite of the X-Men to be given a second chance for years, and you can understand why I was tearing my hair out when news of the re-casting didn't include her.
I have to assume that she may not be making an appearance in this movie (sob), and if that is the case, at least I can rest easy that Turner's Jean will be phenomenal.
X-Men: Apocalypse hits theaters 27th May, 2016.