We arrive at last at what is perhaps the most glaring problem with the progression of the X-Men films. Though it’s been lightly touched upon elsewhere in this list, an entire item should be dedicated to the one thing that must be done right above all else. That would be for writers to acknowledge what the X-Men story is supposed to be about, and making sure, if not the characters, if not the setting, that the message is correct. The entire point of the X-Men was that, in a world where their differences were met with hate, fear, and intolerance, they would strive to respond with love, and with a willingness to educate. That violence, though sometimes necessary, was an upsetting last resort, one that left many characters uncomfortable, and at odds with each other.
As so many of you are aware, the struggle of the X-Men, though it can be applied to almost any social minority, was originally a parable about the American civil rights movement. Professor X and Magneto, though a Caucasian Anglo-Saxon and an Eastern European Jew, were representative of the two sides of civil rights leadership, symbolized for many by the dual figures of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. On the one side, you have advocacy for understanding, and peaceful resistance, and on the other, a call to violently take up arms against an oppressive class. Though the message of pacifism is hard to read in a comic book where whole city blocks are regularly leveled for the cause, it is the overall exploration of this rich underlying material that has made the series an enduring part of pop culture.
I always felt that, of all the directors into whose hands the X-Men have fallen, Bryan Singer understood this best. There is no doubt in my mind that, as a gay man who is also a prominent Hollywood player, he had a firm grasp on what it’s like to experience being a minority in a culture that is overwhelmingly against you. The allusions to modern minority struggles, both those related to race, and those related to sexual identity, were definitely picked up on by the audience who saw the first two films, with favorable results. But the films have since wildly veered off course.
So, it’s time to correct the lazy writing, and unintentional slights. Instead of the startling, simultaneous display of pandering and bigotry that brought First Class into critic's crosshairs, future producing teams should go back to basics. Read the actual material, and read some of the smart, socially relevant, eloquent things that have been written about the material. What about some actual discussion of, not just lip service to, ethics? You know, that big, centralized theme in a lot of the strong X-books? A return to form isn’t staid when it’s the basis of your fandom. If it’s one thing the future X-films could use, it’s a solid core with a beating heart.
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