Back in the year 2000, comic book films were the plague. Then, a little movie named X-Men changed everything. Bryan Singer’s combination of smart storytelling, deeper themes, a realistic aesthetic, and strong characters broke the mold, ushering in the age of superhero movies that we’re still living in today.
Because the early X-Men movies set the standard, they didn’t have the advantages that contemporary comic book films have today: the X-Men franchise had to figure out for itself what worked, and what didn’t. All things considered, it’s insanely impressive how well the series holds up, nearly twenty years after its inception, with new additions like The Gifted, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and Deadpool still popping up today.
Whenever a new superhero movie arrive, legions of fans cry out “Hey, this was better in the comics!”… but let’s face it, in reality, that’s not always the case. Just as in the MCU, sometimes the movie characters are way better.
Surprisingly, some of the biggest X-Men characters have been improved upon in their film adaptations, with the movie versions of these characters being much stronger and more consistent than the source material. Other characters have been totally underutilized or misconstrued, to the point of being unrecognizable.
Let’s look back through X-Men history, and determine 8 X-Men Movie Characters Better Than The Comics (And 7 That Are Way Worse).
15. Better: Professor X
Charles Xavier is arguably the single most important character in X-Men canon, so it’s actually rather surprising that the movie version of Xavier is a better, more consistent, more relatable character.
A lot of this has to do with the nature of comics. The comic book Xavier is bogged down by decades of retcons, revisions, and weird stories. Writers have saddling him with a ridiculously long list of arrogant, evil deeds that compromise his character. These retcons cut away from the dream that Charles is supposed to represent.
The movie Xavier, on the other hand, is a believable figure who the audience empathizes strongly with. From James McAvoy’s young, flirty, troubled Charles to Patrick Stewart’s serene, saintlike elder statesman — as well as the pained, lost, dying Xavier in Logan — we’ve watched the entirety of Xavier’s life pass before our eyes. We’ve seen him grow, change, and make hard decisions that he sometimes regrets. He’s easily one of the best characters in comic book film history.
14. Worse: Deadpool (X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
No, we’re not talking about the Wade Wilson featured in Deadpool. Thanks to the efforts of Ryan Reynolds and Tim Miller, the movie Deadpool is now almost exactly like the comic book character, even in appearance. But the Deadpool present in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, back before Days of Future Past changed the timeline was easily one of the worst comic-to-film adaptations of all time.
Seriously, if there was ever a textbook example of how to butcher a popular character, this is it. Deadpool is famous for his barrage of jokes, so what did the movie do? Stitch his mouth shut. Wow, way to miss the point, guys. Add that to an array of extra powers, a totally changed appearance, and a removal of everything that makes the character interesting… and yeah, you end up with this monstrosity.
13. Better: Legion
No one ever expected to see Charles Xavier’s prodigal son David Haller, AKA Legion, ever appear in a movie — much less headline his own TV series! But thanks to the trippy, hallucinogenic series cooked up by Noah Hawley, starring Dan Stevens as a David Haller always one step away from a nervous breakdown, Legion is a household name.
The comic book Legion was always an interesting character waiting for the right series to break out, while the live-action David got that opportunity right at the start. He’s twisted, weird, and constantly unsure of who or what he is. Dan Stevens plays the role to perfection, with a constant nervous edge, grabbing the audience’s sympathy one moment and then raising doubts the next.
12. Worse: Sabretooth
The closest that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has to a true archenemy is William Stryker, the man who turned him into Weapon X. However, in the comics, Logan’s most personal foe has always been Victor Creed, the man who hunts Logan down on his birthday, every year — no matter where Logan hides — and beats him half to death.
In the first X-Men, Tyler Mane’s Sabretooth certainly had the right hulking, animalistic look — and he certainly seemed interested in those dogtags — but he was killed off before he could squeeze in more than a few sentences. Meanwhile, Liev Schreiber’s Victor Creed had all the venom, personal animosity, and intelligence of his comic book counterpart, but he had the bad luck of being stuck in the over-packed, undernourished X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Most confusingly of all, both Sabretooths are such drastically different figures that it’s hard to see how one could have possibly transformed into the other, or if they are supposed to be different characters.
11. Better: Jean Grey
In the comics, Jean is a good character who was at the center of a great storyline — namely, the Dark Phoenix Saga. However, the Jean Grey in the movies is a great character.
Whereas the comic book Jean accidentally stumbled into great power, the movie Jean was born with it, but had that power taken away from her against her will. That’s what makes the difference. When this Jean lashes out and becomes a “villain,” there are no cosmic forces at work: she’s striking out in pain, in anger, furious at the loved ones who lied to her, and want to cage her up again.
In the new timeline, it seems like the younger Xavier is trying really, really hard to not repeat the mistakes of his predecessor by teaching Jean to control her powers, rather than repress them. With X-Men: Dark Phoenix on the horizon, we’ll see how well she does this time around.
10. Worse: Storm (Halle Berry)
While the X-Men movies absolutely nailed Jean Grey’s characterization, they’ve really struggled with Ororo. In the comics, Storm is one of the most beloved X-Men heroes of all time: she’s a born leader, a powerhouse, and a mutant who was at one point worshiped as a goddess. When Storm speaks, people listen.
Though Halle Berry gave it her best shot, the Storm she played never lived up to her comics counterpart. In the movies, Storm is far less commanding, and struggles with her anger towards humans.
However, the Storm played by Alexandra Shipp in X-Men: Apocalypse, complete with mohawk, was much stronger, more forceful, and felt a lot more like the comic book Ororo. It’s a step in the right direction, and we hope to see this new Ororo a lot more.
9. Better: Magneto
Comics, movies, cartoons… no matter which way you slice it, Magneto has always been a fantastic character. He’s one of the best Marvel villains out there. Arrogant, totalitarian, and militant, but also likable, sympathetic, and broken — the movies have perfectly adapted the self-proclaimed master of magnetism in every way, whether he’s played by Sir Ian McKellen or by Michael Fassbender.
In fact, they’ve done such a great job, that at this point the movie Magneto is now better than the comics.
Like Xavier, the key factor here is that somewhere along the line, the comic book Magneto just got loaded with too much confusing backstory, retcons, and twist storylines. Comics Magneto has that whole weird de-aging thing going on, and he’s flip-flopped between good and evil too many times to count.
8. Worse: Jubilee
Back before the X-Men movies hit the scene, the Marvel mutant’s primary entry into pop culture was the ’90s cartoon, with its distinctive theme that most millennials still know by heart.
Jubilee was a central figure in this cartoon, and as hard as it may be to believe today, she was once one of the most popular X-Men out there. Back before the first movie came out, there was even fan discussion about who should play her.
But the spunky, rebellious teenager from the comics and cartoons has never really made it to the movies. Jubilee has appeared in multiple X-Men movies, but she’s been such a non-presence that you’d be forgiven for not even realizing it. At least in Apocalypse they finally got the yellow coat right, which is a start.
7. Better: Bolivar Trask
In the comics, Bolivar Trask is basically just the guy who designed the Sentinels. He was introduced in the Silver Age as a prominent mutant hater, and while his creations have played a major role in comics history, Trask himself soon regretted his actions, and sacrificed his life for the mutant cause. While Trask’s mutant prejudice was unique at the time of his introduction, later bigoted villains like William Stryker and Senator Kelly have proven far more interesting and nuanced.
However, the Trask played by Peter Dinklage is another matter entirely. Aside from the fact that any role played by Dinklage can’t help but be amazing, due to the actor’s talent, this Trask is a more unique character than his comic counterpart.
Rather than being a close-minded bigot, this Trask seems to possess no personal animosity toward mutants: he simply doesn’t see them as human, and believes that rallying mankind against them will create peace. The character is very human and very believable, which only makes him scarier.
6. Worse: Colossus
Piotr Rasputin’s tiny role in X2: X-Men United had fans excited for months, and he’s managed to pop up in a lot of X-Men movies since then. However, viewers who have only watched the movies would be surprised at how much of a fan-favorite this guy is in the comics.
Whereas the movie Colossus has largely been portrayed as a quiet American muscle man who occasionally draws, the comic book Colossus is a sensitive, introverted Russian artist with a heart of gold. In the X-Men movies, all the seeds are there for a great Colossus, but they never got the chance to bloom.
However, Stefan Kapičić’s heroic, Eastern European Colossus in Deadpool was definitely a major step in the right direction. The nationality is right, and this guy has the same prominent moral values. However, Deadpool doesn’t really delve too deep into Colossus. He’s getting better, but for now, the comic version is still king.
5. Better: Mystique
This is a tough one. While the comic book Mystique is a terrific character, the movie Mystique has become a pop culture icon in a way that the comic version never came close to.
Part of the reason for this is the character’s revised appearance; rather than just blue skin, Bryan Singer’s reinvention of the villain as a scaly, naked, reptilian mutant is distinctive, unforgettable, and creepy, particularly in the first two films. In the original trilogy, Mystique is a sleek, silent force of nature, seemingly impenetrable.
This mysteriousness is exactly what makes the Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique in the prequels so interesting. In these movies, we see a Mystique who hasn’t (yet) become the cold, emotionless reptile that Trask’s torture will turn her into, lending an element of tragedy to the character. The young Mystique is tormented, but hopeful. Her split loyalties form a fascinating middle ground between the philosophies of Xavier and Magneto, making her one of the most important characters of the whole series.
4. Worse: Viper
Yeah, we don’t know what the deal was with this character. Her whole reptilian motif feels like the filmmakers wanted to use Mystique, and couldn’t. Her motivations aren’t really discussed. Furthermore, she has absolutely nothing in common with the comic book character other than her name, and a fondness for a green wardrobe.
The comic book Viper isn’t even a mutant, for the record, and though she’s had some big storylines with Wolverine, she’s not really an X-Men character. The comic book character is a Hungarian woman named Ophelia Sarkissian, and she’s often referred to as Madame Hydra… because, well, she’s the leader of HYDRA. Yeah, that HYDRA. The one that’s a big deal in the MCU.
Cutting Viper’s HYDRA affiliation totally changes the character, which accounts for the weird alternate Viper seen in The Wolverine. Luckily for fans, a more faithful adaptation of the villain later appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where she used the Madame Hydra moniker.
3. Better: Pyro
He’s always had a cool power, but in the comics, Pyro was never more than another Brotherhood member until he contracted the Legacy Virus, a fatal disease that only infects mutants. After that, the dying Pyro’s storyline became a lot more interesting, particularly when he died sacrificing himself to save mutant-hating politician Senator Kelly.
On film, Pyro plays a key role in the original trilogy by showing how a combination of frustration, stress, and self-consciousness can make even a decent kid turn to the bad side. This Pyro begins as Ice-Man and Rogue’s friend, but spends the majority of X2: X-Men United being pushed aside, told not to use his powers, and feeling like he could do more. This leads him right into the hands of Magneto, whose famous quote of “You are a God amongst insects” will live on as one of the more significant scenes in X-Men history.
2. Worse: Cyclops (James Marsden)
The comic book Cyclops rubs a lot of people the wrong way. He’s closed off, stiff, bossy, unfaithful in his relationships, and definitely can be a major jerk. But one thing that Cyclops has never been is a pushover, which is why the movie Cyclops is so off the mark.
James Marsden is a good actor, but the characterization of movie Cyclops is just completely wrong. The comic book Cyclops is a skilled commander with poor social skills, who avoids conversations about his feelings, and is likely to hit Wolverine with an optic blast if he comes within ten feet of Jean. Again, he’s kind of an asshole, but one with a spine. Meanwhile, movie Cyclops is an ineffectual, smarmy, “nice guy” who mostly gets sidelined.
So far, the young Cyclops played by Tye Sheridan has a lot more potential. He’s rebellious, edgy, and shows natural leadership skills with the other young X-Men. Hopefully, Sheridan’s Cyclops will get the chance to redeem this character’s legacy on film.
1. Better: X-23
Again, this is another close one. The Laura Kinney that exists in the comics is a fantastic character, with a great back story, excellent character development, and a proud legacy of rising up to take on her “father’s” mantle as Wolverine.
But the fierce, aggressive, and loyal little girl played by Dafne Keen in Logan is already becoming an icon, and for good reason. She has a simplified origin story, and she’s younger, making her ferociousness all the more impactful. Furthermore, her placement in the timeline gives her a major importance that the comic book character simply can’t have: whereas the comic Laura rose to become a member of the X-Men, the movie Laura was born after the mutants already met their end. T
his means that in the movie timeline, Laura’s survival is not only the assurance of Wolverine’s legacy, but also the legacy of Xavier, the X-Men, and the entire mutant race. Whether we see her again or not, she stands out as one of the best movie X-Men ever.
Which X-Men characters do you prefer in the movies? How about in the comics? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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