Now that X-Men: Apocalypse has wrapped up, director Bryan Singer has finally called it quits and is all set to hand over the reigns to someone else, probably with a different vision for what these movies need to look like. Love or hate his work, Singer has done massive amounts of work to craft the X-Men film universe from his original vision in the first film from 2000, and sometimes sneakily obliterate the work that other people have done via retcon when he was feeling vindictive.
Nonetheless, it's time for some changes. Here are ten things we need to see in the upcoming X-Men 7... aside from relentless '90s pop culture references. Those are a given. Here are 10 Things We Need To See In X-Men 7.
10 Ditch Mystique For Good
Mystique went from seductive, highly-skilled villainess to vulnerable teen in the backwards jump from The Last Stand to First Class, turning her into a main character with a deep connection to Charles Xavier. Sure, it didn’t really mesh with anything we saw in the original trilogy, but she was played with all the competency of Jennifer Lawrence and there was still plenty of time to turn her into a villain.
Then Days of Future Past came along, and suddenly Mystique was a complicated anti-hero-villain-morally-ambiguous-freedom-fighter-temptress-slink-fu-infiltration-whatever, and the character just spun right off the rails. DOFP managed to play off her story as she transformed into the femme fatale Mystique we knew, but thanks to temporal tampering, she was instead lauded as a hero. Apocalypse rolled around, and it became pretty clear that it was the character of Jennifer Lawrence playing someone who happened to turn blue sometimes. Her transformation powers didn’t even come in that handy in the main plot, allowing her to get in one ineffective shot at Apocalypse and immediately spending the rest of the climax either being choked or rolling around on the floor. Hey, how about transforming into a less chokable form? Nope, just gonna dangle there and take it? Yeah, that’s fine.
She might have played a part in the First Class trilogy, but as Lawrence’s contract has expired, so must the character. It’s one thing to change a character from canon into something that better fits a film setting. It’s another thing entirely to allow star power to drag a character through the mud and have them emerge as something entirely unrecognizable. The X-Men have Beast and Professor Xavier to act as mentor, while Cyclops has a position of leader to fill once he’s grown up. Mystique no longer has a place; her story is well and truly over.
9 Cyclops as a Leader
If X-Men 7 makes the typical ten-year jump, that means major changes for most of the X-Men. Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Jean and Storm will have gone from teenagers to being in their mid-twenties, which, as anyone who’s ever been a teenager will tell you, is quite the leap. We’ve been told that we’re heading into the '90s, so they’re at least seven years older, and they will have been X-Men for all that time.
The original First Class characters (plus Quicksilver) have hogged the focus thus far -- fair enough, it’s their trilogy -- but now it’s time for the torch to be passed to some more iconic X-Men. Tye Sheridan and Sophie Turner already did a great job of elevating Scott and Jean above white-bread love interests, so it’ll be fascinating to see what happens when Cyclops takes his place as field commander of the X-Men. This is something we’ve seen precisely once before, in the mission to Liberty Island way back in the original. Even then, this consisted of little more than Cyclops barking at people to press buttons, stay alert and not get taken out like total chumps (so at least they got the first bit right). What we need to see is a more confident Cyclops, no longer a shy teenager with eye-laser angst but someone who’s taken a good few years to develop his natural leadership talent, along with those optic blasts.
And then it’d be nice if we actually got to see him use them, preferably while not being overshadowed by Wolverine for the umpteenth time.
8 Show Some Maturity
A few mutants have obvious excuses for not appearing to age. Mystique and Wolverine are at least somewhat immortal, which is a side-effect of their powers. Beast perhaps gets a pass for looking about the same age as his students despite being in his forties, since he switches back and forth from being a blue cat/wolf/ape man and his human form technically isn’t even natural.
Everyone else? Not so much. First Class was set in 1963, with Xavier, Erik, and Moira being around their mid-twenties or more (you don’t get to be a CIA agent fresh out of the academy) with Alex Summers being a bit younger. Come Apocalypse and they’ve all aged remarkably well… And while it’s possible for people to age gracefully (plus, mid-forties isn’t exactly snow-white hair territory), Havoc looking like a twenty-year-old when he’s pushing his fourth decade comes across as a bit odd. We’re just going to ignore how Moira McTaggert from The Last Stand (set in 2006) looks like a fresh thirty.
Setting the next movie in the '90s means that you have a bunch of teenagers jumping to adulthood, which means they’re going to need some real characterization outside the awkward flirting and light rebellion. Did something happen in the last decade that turned Cyclops into a rules-obsessed stick-in-the-mud? Has Nightcrawler shed his apprehension and become more confident? How does everyone feel about that one time when Storm did her best to murder all of them with lightning bolts?
The older crowd don’t have to change all that much -- though a dusting of talcum powder in Nicholas Hoult’s hair won’t exactly go amiss -- but the new characters are almost blank slates once the movies hit the '90s…and that’s some vast territory to explore. Once again, the black hole that is Wolverine probably won’t be around to make it all about him for once.
7 The Dark Phoenix (eventually)
Apocalypse has probably the most fan-geared climax out of any X-Men movie, in that it ends with Jean unleashing the Phoenix within and solving everyone’s problems. Sure, it’s still awesome, but casual viewers who started with First Class will be left wondering why the red-haired girl with mind powers is suddenly an all-powerful firebird.
Then again, perhaps this is set-up for something much greater: the Dark Phoenix saga. Again. But better.
There’s no rush to the storyline, if they’re planning on tackling it at all. In fact, further seeds could still be laid in the next movie without the Phoenix being a significant player, or even glimpsed at all. However, the timeline has still diverged massively, with Professor X encouraging Jean to embrace the Phoenix instead of locking it up in her mind like a stash of dirty magazines and actively encouraging her to be afraid of her own power. This is a whole new Jean, one who might be able to wield the power of Phoenix freely as her original comic self did, at least until the Phoenix revealed itself as a cosmic entity. One potential plot might involve a sort of neo-Hellfire Club, playing more of a role as they did in the original story. The cosmic side of the Phoenix Force is also up for some interpretation, though that would involve the X-Men going on a jaunt into space. Speaking of which…
6 Space (but not too much of it)
Because there are only so many times the X-Men can clash with Magneto, the comics often had them blasting off into space and sticking their noses into the affairs of some alien race. These worked well enough as comic book stories, but it’s not something the film universe is quite ready for. The X-Men are about proving themselves to humans who hate and fear them, and having the Shi’ar land on their front lawn and whisk them into a space opera adventure just doesn’t mesh with what they’ve tried to create.
There’s still some wiggle room, however, with some groundwork laid for some space-related stories. It’s not been revealed where Apocalypse got his technology and bitchin’ armor in the first place, but it’s clearly not of ancient Egyptian design and his comic book incarnation did indeed receive his duds from technology the Celestials just left lying around, because as all comic book readers know, the Celestials and their flakiness have kick-started many a story. Meanwhile, the X-Men have made a few trips to the Blue Area of the Moon in the past, which is the remnant of an ancient civilization. The plot doesn’t have to involve clashing with hordes of the Brood, or Ord of the Breakworld, but having the team discover the remains of an alien civilization would be a nice bit of flavor, as well as a nod towards the comics.
Meanwhile, we have the aforementioned Phoenix Force just hanging out inside Jean for now. The Last Stand had it portrayed as simply Jean’s super-powered evil alter ego, but there’s a good reason that movie has been obliterated from existence. It wouldn’t be hard to retcon in some cosmic connections, even if the story boots out the Shi’ar, Starjammers, M’Kraan Crystal and everything that made the saga too convoluted for film in the first place.
5 Gambit, Finally
While Channing Tatum sits by the phone, thumbs twiddling as he waits for the call to say they’re ready to start filming, it looks like the Gambit solo movie might have been put on the back-burner. Honestly, a lot of fans could do without Gambit getting a movie all to himself…but he’s still a popular member of the X-Men ensemble, so it’s about time he finally showed up in a movie.
Which he has never done.
It’s never happened.
Never. Not once.
Even if he'd already made a cameo somewhere, like, say X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this X-Men universe is no stranger to retcons. In the last few years we’ve gotten two Psylockes, two Jubilees and two Angels, none of whom could possibly be their earlier counterparts due to ridiculous age differences. Bringing in a new version of Gambit, around the same age as Cyclops, Jean and the rest, is by no means a difficult ask. He even comes pre-packaged with a personality, skill-set and a character arc, which would be that one time he betrayed the team and nobody’s since let him forget it.
By now, pretty much all the core members of the X-Men have been done, and there’s about zero percent chance that we’re making it to the end of the next X-Men movie without being introduced to a few new mutants. Tatum or no Tatum, it’s about time that Gambit made a proper debut in the X-Men universe -- preferably played by someone with at least a passable Cajun accent.
4 A Few More Sneaky Retcons
Speaking of new mutants (but not New Mutants - they’re getting their own movie), with the X-Men movie timeline now resembling a slinky that’s taken one too many tumbles down the stairs, there’s quite a bit of freedom to make some positive changes to canon. Deadpool already showcased a Russian Colossus, while from his exactly three lines spoken throughout ever other movie, we can infer that he was previously supposed to be American. This leaves the slate pretty much clear for any other time-warping hijinks, so it’s possible that we could be seeing an X-Men roster similar to how it’s been in the comics.
While said roster is an ever-changing carousel of whoever the writers think is cool, several have stood out as icons: Shadowcat, Rogue, Gambit and Iceman, just to name a few that we haven’t seen in the new timeline. While all except Gambit have been a part of the team already, there’s still room to sneak them in once the next movie rolls around. Deadpool’s Colossus seemed to be a mentor, which means we could be seeing a younger, less confident version. Shadowcat, Rogue and Iceman are trickier, since they were supposed to be teenagers in the original films, but the timeline could be shuffled back a bit to let them join in the '90s as new recruits.
In short, there’s room for retcons, and if they lead to a more solid X-Men team that truly acts as homage to the originals, then we’ll maybe forgive a few kinks in the canon to allow it to happen. The whole thing is kind of a weird, wonderful mess now anyway.
3 A Fully Fleshed-Out Villain
Apocalypse was never quite the menacing villain he should’ve been, instead coming across as a permanently sad-faced fish-out-of-water with a massive god complex. The fact that they didn’t even think to give him some thick-soled boots didn’t help, leaving him trying to intimidate folks with all of Oscar Isaac’s 1.74 meters.
We may have been spoiled with Ian McKellan’s Magneto, Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw and possibly Brian Cox’s William Stryker, leaving the movie universe in a bit of a bind as it scrambles to replicate the formula. At least, we think that’s what they were going for with Viper and Silver Samurai. It’s entirely possible their characters were written by pulling character traits from hat and adding the motivations later.
The post-credits scene for Apocalypse wasn’t exactly stimulating, especially if you weren’t a hard-core comics fan, but it did tease the introduction of Nathan Essex, better known as the villainous Mr. Sinister (in case you were wondering if he was perhaps the other, heroic Mr. Sinister). Essentially a genetically-altered mad scientist, Mr. Sinister has been a constant pain in the butt, neck and many other parts to the Summers family and their friends, constantly creating strife with clones, monstrous abominations, brainwashing and many other nefarious plots.
He’d have to be handled carefully as an X-Men villain, since he shares many traits with Apocalypse (primarily their belief in the rule of the strong) and pretty much every movie plot thus far has been set in motion by evil science. However, his obsession with the Summers family could give Cyclops some much-needed focus, while Sinister’s complex past could provide some much needed complexity to the X-Men rogues gallery. Put simply, these movies are in need of a complex and competent villain once again. Mr Sinister could fit the bill, if he’s done right.
2 The Purifiers
While we’re on the subject of villains, there’s a fresh group that have yet to make an appearance: the Purifiers. Portraying religious zealots will always be a touchy subject, but it could still be a fascinating avenue to explore: what if some people are so far gone, they believe that mutants are an abomination to be wiped from the face of the Earth? They aren’t government-sponsored like the sentinels, and aren’t even that great in numbers. The purifiers are just a terrorist group, led by William Stryker, who will stop at nothing in a war of hatred and ignorance and tons of explosions.
Apocalypse had Stryker escaping the base while Wolverine tore apart his entire operation, leaving his status unknown. He wasn’t given a huge amount of characterization in this particular movie, but DOFP confirms him as the anti-mutant bigot we all know and intensely dislike, and the intervening years have done pretty much nothing to dull those feelings, given how he had Wolverine locked up in a cage and wearing a stupid computer headband. His formation of the Purifiers could very well have happened in between Apocalypse and the next movie, with them serving as the foot-soldiers for the X-Men to beat up while Mr. Sinister manipulates them from the shadows. It’s all speculation, but the Purifiers could serve as a very different kind of villain, as opposed to some other evil mutant once again.
1 A Trained X-Men Team (and a chance to show it)
Given how much time they’ve supposedly spent in the Danger Room, the movies so far have been remarkably coy about showing the X-Men fighting as a cohesive team. The closest we got in the original movie was the whole team getting curb-stomped by Toad, of all people, while perhaps The Last Stand has come closest to showing us the team all fighting together. There have been semblances of team fights, but these have been either piecemeal, depressing Sentinel murder-fests or with students who have yet to discover their powers or receive training.
The end to Apocalypse has therefore promised great things by giving us several crucial puzzle pieces: a Professor X with a full understanding of the importance of the X-Men, a team training to fight together in the Danger Room (against sentinels, no less) and some great-looking suits. Even if it’s just a slam-bang opening to the next movie, we’re due for a team battle. Not just that, but a battle where we can really, truly see how ten years of training have caused this ragtag bunch of teenagers to grow into a super-powered fighting unit. We’re talking combination attacks. We’re talking creative uses of powers. Heck, at this stage we’d be happy with an Age of Ultron-opening-style battle shot with them all in some cool pose. Six movies in, and we’re still waiting for the X-Men to finally BE the X-Men. Whoever takes the directorial reigns, first and foremost, needs to at least make this happen.
Anything you're looking to see in the next X-Men movie? Let us know in the comments!