Granted, this isn't a problem unique to X-Men: Apocalypse. It's been persistent for sixteen years, ever since the release of 2000's X-Men. In the original trilogy of films, the focus fell completely on Hugh Jackman's Wolverine. And naturally, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was all about the Ol' Canucklehead.
X-Men: First Class changed things up a little bit. Instead of focusing on Logan, viewers were instead treated to a focus on Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Which is good for a film like First Class—the ideological conflict between these two characters has been a major driving force in the comics for decades. Although the emphasis on Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique as a middle ground between the two was somewhat baffling.
Given Jackman's announcement that the upcoming Wolverine film would be his solo outing as the character who made him famous, I'd hoped this meant a broader focus on the other characters that make up the X-Men. But judging from the X-Men: Apocalypse trailers, it seems that 20th Century Fox has simply traded Jackman's Wolverine for Lawrence's Mystique.
Now don't get me wrong, this is nothing against Lawrence. I think she's a wonderful actress and in the X-Men films, she's done a remarkable job with what she's been given. Hell, I'd go so far as to say that if you don't love Jennifer Lawrence, then you're flat-out wrong.
But I don't love the version of Mystique she's playing. And I certainly don't love that her version is quickly replacing Wolverine as the focal point of the X-Men films.
Mystique is extremely important to the X-Men mythos. As is Wolverine. As are Professor X and Magneto. But they are not the only ones. Mystique herself is often portrayed as a foil to the X-Men. Yes, sometimes they fall on the same side, but more often than not, they are in opposition. Yet in the final trailer, we have Nicholas Hoult's Beast tell her that she's the one the students look up to.
The cynic in me says that Fox saw how high Lawrence's star had risen following The Hunger Games that they chose to give her an elevated role in both Days of Future Past and now Apocalypse. It's now gotten to the point that in the movies, Lawrence seems to spend less time in the Mystique make-up (something which renders her "mutant and proud" self-discovery at the end of First Class completely irrelevant).
But the X-Men are about more than one person. As important as Professor X and Magneto have been to the X-Men, they have never been the sole focus of the team. Wolverine has been a major player in the group dynamics pretty much since he first joined. But again, part of what makes Wolverine so great with the team is how he interacts with his teammates.
Sadly, we're now approaching the debut of the sixth X-Men film. Yet we still only really know about Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine, and Mystique. Everyone else is largely wallpaper, only to be trotted out for an action scene.
Fox needs to stop treating the X-Men films as solo character pieces and they need to start treating them as ensemble movies. This isn't Wolverine and His Sidekicks or Mystique and Her Freaky Friends. Nor is it The Tragic Tale of Charles and Erik's Doomed Bromance.
This is supposed to be the X-Men. Fox needs to take a cue from other ensemble pictures. The obvious one is Marvel's Avengers films or Guardians of the Galaxy. Whatever flaws they may have, Marvel went out of their way to portray each character as someone integral to the team (okay, they dropped the ball with Hawkeye in the first one).
Or go past the superhero genre. Akira Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai is pretty much a master class in how to handle an ensemble movie. The Dirty Dozen is another great example.
Under writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne, The Uncanny X-Men went from a B-list title fighting cancellation into a sales juggernaut. So much so that at the height of the title's popularity, you couldn't swing a dead cat in a comic store without knocking down a dozen or so books with an X logo on the cover.
Claremont and Byrne were able to turn the X-Men into such a massive force in comics because of the character work. This was a ragtag, motley crew of superheroes. They were from different cultures, different backgrounds, of different temperaments. It was soap opera with superheroes and it was amazing.
Fox needs to take that same approach. I love that Wolverine, Mystique, Magneto, and Xavier have gotten plenty of chances to shine in these films. And I'm ecstatic that they've been given great portrayals by very talented actors.
But I want to see Storm taking charge of the X-Men. I want to see Nightcrawler acting as both the comedy relief and the heart and soul of the team. I want to see Colossus doing more than uttering three lines and standing in the background. I want to see Cyclops as the born leader.
And most-importantly, I want to see Jean becoming the Phoenix in a way that isn't half-assed.
There are so many wonderful opportunities to explore with the characters. Such a well of stories that have barely been tapped. And yet, we keep going back to Xavier/Magneto/Mystique/Wolverine.
The X-Men are capable of more, Fox. So give it to us.