Almost 20 years ago, Bryan Singer introduced to us a bunch of super-powered outcasts who the world hunted because it was scared of them.
Each of them was unique in a hundred different ways but the world saw them as one singular entity, a threat to those having a dominant status in the society.
That there is the story of every marginalised group in the world, be it the people of colour in Europe and America or the minorities back home.
X-Men was way ahead of its time. And through the course of the last 2 decades, despite its obvious and astounding lack of continuity, has managed to stick it to the core problem of fearmongering and harassment of those ‘so different’ from us.
More than anything else, it gave birth to the modern generation of superhero movies.
Sure, if anything lasts as long as 20 years, there are bound to be some bad days. They screwed up pretty damn bad with X-Men Origins: Wolverine and butchered Deadpool!
And then there was X-Men: Apocalypse. Which was… I don’t know how to describe something that bad.
But their good days were goooood!
They found some redemption with the Deadpool reboot and it was freaking awesome.
Logan had no political message. It didn’t bother with the larger than life plots and characters of superhero movies.
But it broke our hearts. Logan was superhero filmmaking at its peak. And then there was X-Men: Days of The Future Past.
X-Men: Days of Future Past was a bit of a soft reboot, cleaning up the mess that was made before it. It followed no cinematic formula and took risks and quite possibly is one of the best sci-fi superhero movies of all time.
Another movie that somehow gets lost in the chaos is X-Men: First Class.
And even after all these years, no film made in this genre has tackled societal issues as accurately as this film.
This is also the movie that gave us the Wolverine, the ‘REAL’ Wolverine not the PG-13 bullshit before it.
Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen portrayed Charles Xavier and Erik Lennsher in the first 3 movies, two characters loosely based on Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, with the complexity that only legends of their calibre could.
But even when the series sort of rebooted with 2011’s X- Men: First Class and cast James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the younger version of the patriarchs of the X-Men, it was perfect.
McAvoy was flawlessly charming and Fassbender looked good killing Nazis.
X-Men has always preached about the complexity of its characters. And it never shied away from showing it.
Professor X could control everyone’s mind. And he did it quite often and on most days, he wasn’t even using his powers. He engaged everyone who trusted him towards achieving a goal he believed to be the best way to co-exist.
Magneto, an idealist at heart, always struggling between rage and serenity always fell for the quickest way to solve a problem – murder it.
Their rivalry, despite having a common cause has been the centrepiece of this story for the last 20 years and it shows, even in Dark Phoenix.
Dark Phoenix deals with the original conflict from the comics but quickly updates to the age-old philosophical crisis of peace or freedom.
Jean Grey, since she was a child, was the most powerful mutant the film’s leads had ever laid eyes upon.
In The Last Stand, Charles manages to suppress the Phoenix inside her because he believed it was an unstable power source and was dangerous for her. The story is not so different in Dark Phoenix either.
That being said, Dark Phoenix focusses on Jean Grey and her resistance to patriarchal meddling in her life.
Even Mystique repeatedly calls out Charles Xavier over his ulterior motives and his know-it-all attitude which makes him take decisions by himself for the people in his life.
He did it for Mystique when he asked her to hide her true self from the world and be one of them. And he’s been doing it to Jean for quite some years.
Jean and Mystique may be the only two distinct female voices in the movie, but they both happen to be exactly right.
And in doing so, the film talks about (at least in a manner of speaking) the men in all our lives who believe they know what’s best for the women they are surrounded with.
*Ahem ahem men-making-abortion-laws ahem ahem*
In the last 20 years, the series has dealt with a variety of issues, ones where human nature has been at the epicentre of all cruelty suffered by the world.
From racism to fascism to patriarchy to even revolution, X-Men has managed to slip several political messages into movies about men and women in spandex.
Humans will always be drawn to the darkness of ostracising their fellow humans. It’s a testament to human nature, a circle of unending social evil.
Sometimes, I wish the movies adapted more than just themes from the comics. They were more beautiful and diverse. But I ain’t complaining.
This franchise went into a direction that superhero movies won’t even touch with a 10-ft pole.
At the end of Dark Phoenix, we see Charles and Erik playing chess as they did at the end of the first film implying that they are forever stuck in a moral war to achieve a semblance of unity and peace in an era of injustice.