Mystique has long been a fan favorite X-Men character, even before the mutants made their debut on the silver screen. In the Marvel Comics, Mystique was a bold, tricky, and vicious villain, and one of the key characters in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But while she followed this path in the first X-Men movie trilogy, X-Men: First Class shifted Raven's fate significantly.
Going from outcast to revolutionary, to would-be assassin, Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique has had a compelling journey through the most recent X-Men trilogy. All the marketing for X-Men: Apocalypse so far has positioned her as one of the main protagonists, as she trains the new X-Men to fight their latest foe.
In the wake of Days of Future Past, it seems as though the world sees Mystique as more hero than villain. How she will live up to this will surely be explored in Apocalypse, before Lawrence (presumably) departs the franchise. So, has Mystique made the full transition from villain to hero, or is she still something of an outcast?
Mutant And Proud
In many ways, Mystique's character journey is representative of the mutant experience, and the themes in the X-Men saga. When we first meet her in X-Men (2000), Mystique (played by the fabulous Rebecca Romijn) is little more than Magneto's sneaky sidekick. And yet, we can see her strong pro-mutant views in the first X-Men trilogy, which are echoed later in First Class.
Nightcrawler: "Why not stay in disguise all the time? You know, look like everyone else."
Mystique: "Because we shouldn't have to."
Whichever side she fights on, this has always been at the core of Mystique's motivations: She wants to combat the oppression of mutants. Her methods in the first X-Men trilogy were ruthless, and her allegiance to Magneto meant that she leaned towards villainy. At the same time, we could understand why she did what she did, and although the second trilogy sees Mystique take up a more sympathetic role, her core motivations remain unchanged.
In First Class we got to see Raven's origins as Xavier's adopted sister, as she struggled with accepting her mutant abilities. As they sought out other mutants, Raven was the one to suggest forming a hero team that would later become the X-Men. But ultimately, her point of view was more radical than Charles's, and she ended up following Magneto.
Many fans expected this conclusion to lead into Mystique's role in X1 and 2, but then Days of Future Past reset the future. This film was crucial to Mystique's journey, focusing on her mission of vengeance against Trask. And while this marked the first time we saw Lawrence's Mystique parallel Romijn's ruthless villain version of the character, the end of Days of Future Past directed Mystique onto a new path.
Fighting For The Cause
Apocalypse takes place 10 years after the events of the previous film, and it seems as though Mystique has become something of a mutant legend. By saving the president in Days of Future Past, Mystique helped humans accept mutants, becoming a beacon of heroism for mutantkind.
According to screenwriter Simon Kinberg, this responsibility weighs heavy on Mystique in Apocalypse.
"I think the movie explores her struggle, which is sort of the result of Days of Future Past. If you think about the end of Days of Future Past, in front of the entire world she stops Magneto and saves the President and cabinet, and so this movie certainly explores 10 years later what it is to wear the mantle of that responsibility."
We caught glimpses of this part of Mystique's story in the Apocalypse trailers. Charles talks about how she helped to make a better world, and Nightcrawler seems to recognize her when she saves him, saying "it's you" in a hushed tone.
But for all that she's become an icon, it seems that Mystique might have stepped into the shadows. In their May issue, Empire reported that in the interim between the two films Mystique has been "working to free mutants from slavery and exploitation," though we still don't know whether she carried this mission out in secret.
The really interesting thing about Mystique is that ultimately, her motivations can direct her towards being a hero or a villain. At the end of the day, all she really wants is to protect mutants from harm at the hands of humanity. Sometimes that means leading a team of young X-Men to battle fearsome villains, and sometimes that means attacking humans themselves.
Apocalypse seems set to continue the ambiguity of Mystique's story. This time around, she might be taking up a more heroic role, but in general she's more of an antihero. And what does this mean for her future? It's likely that after fighting Apocalypse with the X-Men, Mystique will shrink back into the shadows again, finding the best way to fight her own cause.
Mystique is fascinating, bridging the gap between heroes and villains, representing the clash between humans and mutants, and ultimately finding some kind of middle ground. Even if this is the last we see of Mystique on the big screen, Apocalypse sees Mystique come full circle, returning to her First Class origins as one of the X-Men, while setting her up for an independent future. Which is the best we could ask for one of X-Men's most interesting characters.
Do you want to see Mystique in more X-Men films after Apocalypse?
[Source: Collider, Empire's May print issue]