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Tony B.

X-Men: The Last Stand

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X3 proved to me a pet theory I've had for a long time: Phoenix makes no fucking sense in the X-Men mythos.

 

I have never considered the X-Men movies remotely good, but at least till X3 they had a thematic self-consistency that the comics have always lacked: they actually dealt with the mutant/human conflict that supposedly is the core of the comics... supposedly because the X-guys spend more time in space with the Shi'iar than on Earth doing anything that might further their socio-political, whatever agenda.

 

X1 did something no X-comic had done before (and which Morrison was quick to copy): it actually dared to fill the fucking school with mutant students! Imagine that, a school full of students... not 1 Kitty Pride, not 1 Jubilee, not even a handful of kids called New Mutants (who also spent a reasonable amount of time in space and sometimes in a demonic dimension), but hundreds of students who were actually students, going to classes and shit, and not just junior X-Men. I saw that as a sign that perhaps the movies had potential.

 

And bad plots aside (X3 had the only one that made any sense to me: a mutant cure? Great! A lot better than turning everyone mutant in X1), the movies seemed to understand the point of the comics better than the creators and subsequent writers ever did.

 

And then Phoenix comes!

 

Even before the whole confusing Jean-is-dead-Jean-is-alive-Jean-is-Phoenix-Jean-is-not-Pheonix debate, Phoenix was a pretty pointless character in the X-Men comic. I'm sure it could have made a lot of sense in The Avengers - which actually recycled the idea with Mantis in a big cosmic nonsense saga that I love - or in Fantastic Four, but what does an omnipotent cosmic creature have to do with guys who should be making the world safer for mutants? It's a great saga, I don't deny that, but it just doesn't make sense in an X-men story. Claremont got away with it I guess because a) no x-writer ever seriously followed the core premise, b) by then readers were used to X-Men stories not having anything to do with the premise (unlike movie goers, I think), and c) in monthly comics you can't reject any idea unless you don't want to print next month's issue.

 

But until X3 the movies focused on the essential details: there are the X-Men, there's Magneto, there are evil humans, mutants are feared, mutants need protection, etc. You didn't get the Brood or Inferno demons, thank heavens! So why did they put Phoenix in there? Perhaps the filmmakers felt they owed the comic fans something, perhaps they thought it was too big a stapple in X-history to ignore (not that the millions of people who watched the movies and didn't know the comics would miss it), I don't know. But it didn't work. You can see two diverging forces here: on the one hand, they want Phoenix, on the other they want to keep the movie clear for those who don't read the comics. So bye-bye cosmic birdy evoking mythology, hello split personality (called Pheonix, of all names). In the comic she was attached to a storyline that didn't have anything to do with the X-men other than the fact that it had, you know, the X-Men in it, but fans wouldn't complain so long as they got their monthly fix. But when they put her in a story that actually has something to do with the premise, she falters. She walks zombie-like, poses menacingly, and dies.

 

Of all flaws, this is what bugs me the most, the complete pointlessness of the Phoenix character in the movie, and the suspicion that the movie franchise is losing its focus.

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The X-Men lost their purpose round about issue #5 of the series, Luis.

Stan Lee came up with a brilliant idea, quite simply as a way to avoid having to tell origin stories for all of the characters. He admits as much.

"What if, they're just mutants? Like, born with those powers? That'll save me a lot of time!"

No one had any idea what to do with the concept after that, at least not full time. Mark "Feared and hated by a world they've sworn to protect." in each issue, and you've taken care of the theme of the series.

Other than that, they really just slipped into regular superhero mode throughout the rest of the series.

 

Chris Claremont loves his space opera pet themes, so he introduced a load of sci-fi concepts into X-Men when he started writing the book.

 

Why did those themes not work in a superhero comic? Because you can't do a mainstream superhero comic about the battle against racism. There's two ways you can go, A.)depressing stories about the X-Men always losing (and there's enough angst in X-titles already!) or B.)a utopian story-line completely removed from our reality, which would never hold the readers' interests.

Instead, Marvel went with the approach of "If we beat up Magneto and his Evil Mutants, people will love us!" Tolerance through violence.

Only so far you can drag that sort of nonsensical plotting.

 

So, you're right. Phoenix never belonged in the X-Men, but hardly anything in the X-Men other than Magneto and the Sentinels really ever belonged in X-Men.

 

Why did the movie use this as a theme? Because "Dark Phoenix Saga" is by far the most famous X-story of all time. Like you mentioned, it was probably the greatest story ever written for an X-Men title. It'd be hard for the movie franchise, appealing to the core demographic of comic fans, could ignore such a pivotal story-line.

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