Logan: What Happened to the X-Men?

Days of Future Past was a great send-off for the X-Men, all things considered: although we’d watched them be systematically murdered over its two-hour run-time, the final scene (which showed the team alive and well) ended their story on a satisfying note. After six films of heartache, they’d finally gotten their happy ending. However, Logan shows us that we spoke too soon. The X-Men are gone a mere six years later, mutants are dying out and the gruff but heroic Wolverine is a battered shell of his former self. Even Professor X is a husk of what he once was, stuffed out of sight in an overturned water-tower and babbling incomprehensible Shakespeare. It makes you wonder where everything went wrong.

Discussing that takes us into spoiler territory, so be warned – come back later if you’ve not yet seen the movie. The reveal is handled brilliantly, so I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you here.

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No matter what, it’s a far cry from the X-Mansion – concept for Logan by Shae Shatz (via i09

Logan may not give us much to go on, but the scant information it does provide is nothing short of heartbreaking. We learn that several people (upwards of 600, in fact) were injured in an event the film calls the ‘Westchester incident’: as a news anchor points out after the climactic battle in a casino, the effects of this were eerily similar to those seen when Xavier has his seizures. More distressingly, seven mutants were killed in this disaster. Because Westchester is the location of Xavier’s famous school, the implication is clear.

The fact that Professor X’s illness left most of his students in danger is devastating, especially considering how many of them were children. Indeed, while most assume the mortalities were classic X-Men – and director James Mangold alludes to as much – it’s possible that some of those victims were children in the first place. It would certainly add more incentive for Wolverine to keep the truth from his ailing mentor. For a teacher whose pupils’ safety is their highest priority, this is more damaging than any supervillain could hope to be.

Either way, it’s a deeply tragic turn of events. The X-Men thought they’d escaped the end of days but it found them nonetheless. The horror of not knowing exactly what happened makes things infinitely worse, meanwhile: we’re left hanging when it comes to our favourite characters. Are the likes of Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm still alive? We’ve got no idea. As Logan’s writer points out, those deaths may not even have been of characters we knew.

That said, we can do some reading between the lines here. Jean is almost certainly a casualty. As one of the most powerful mutants out there, I can’t imagine she’d drop off the radar. Her demise would also emotionally destroy Wolverine all over again, adding to the cynicism that oozes out of his every pore in this movie. He went through hell and back to change the X-Men’s past, so things still going wrong would utterly break him. It’s a similar argument where Storm and Beast are concerned. They’re much too influential not to leave a footprint on Logan’s world, yet there’s little sign of mutants beyond Wolverine’s friends or the children they’re trying to save.

The only hero I can see making it out alive is Kitty Pryde, mostly thanks to her ability to phase through matter. Could she be hurt if intangible? Who knows. I suppose the likes of Cyclops could have survived and faded into obscurity too because of his penchant for angst, but I say that mostly because I’d love to see a story that adapts recent comics where he’s a Magneto-like extremist.

I don’t suppose it matters. Life sucks anyway if you’re a mutant by the time we hit Logan, regardless of whether you were present for the Westchester incident or not. Disturbingly, the mutant race went out with a whimper rather than a bang this time: thanks to foodstuffs that attack mutant-genes in carriers, no more can be born. In a dark twist, the DNA of older mutants is also co-opted as for experiments like Laura. Judging by our protagonist’s desperation to reach the Canadian border, we should probably assume that it’s one of the few countries with any protection left for Wolverine’s kind. Things are truly grim.

That’s a recurring theme of the ­X-Men franchise since Days of Future Past – the more things change, the more they stay the same. We see this clearly in Logan. While the timeline’s been altered, the events of prior films seem to have happened in one way or another in spite of the change. Professor X references the Statue of Liberty from the original movie, Wolverine still has his X-Men Origins dog-tags and he’s held onto the samurai sword from The Wolverine. One of the only alterations is the revelation that Wolverine had a drug-problem, a virgin career in cage-fighting and a position as an assassin when he was found by Xavier in this new reality. It’s reminiscent of the Ultimate comics version of the character, a series where he was employed by Magneto to kill Professor X.

We’ll probably never see how things shook out, of course – it’s much more powerful it’s left to our imaginations. The upside, though? We’ll just have to watch it again and see if there’s anything we missed. What a shame.

Check back every Friday for a new blog celebrating the characters, worlds and craft of geeky pop-culture.

If Thor and Superman are Aliens, How Come They Look Like Us?

Budgets are a chastity band for the imagination. If you work in entertainment, money (or a lack of it) can put the kibosh on many great ideas. Deadpool’s the perfect illustration. Writer Rhett Reese told io9 that they ‘basically had Deadpool forget his guns as a means of getting around’ an expensive battle in the climax. Its script actually references this elephant in the room when he visits Xavier’s school; it’s pointed out that he only ever sees Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, almost as if ‘the studio couldn’t afford another X-Man’.

Aliens are a prime example of cost-cutting, too. Prosthetics are cheaper than CGI and animatronics, so they often aren’t much better than humans with a splash of makeup (like Star Trek’s Vulcans). This opens up a whole can of worms. If you ignore the practicality of moviemaking, the fact they’re a dead-ringer for us is distracting. Science suggests that we’re lucky to exist as it is, yet we still look indistinguishable from a civilisation which evolved light-years away. It’s a bit of a stretch.

Thor explores Asgard's history - concept art by Craig Shoji
Thor explores Asgard’s history – concept art by Craig Shoji

DC’s Kryptonians and the Asgardians from Thor face that same problem, even if their appearance can be attributed to comics rather than a lack of funds. Strip away a lifespan which far outshines our own and you’re left with what is essentially a normal person. Why?

I appreciate that this is a pedantic argument. However, it lays the groundwork for some intriguing theories. One explanation would be convergent evolution. As explained by Science Daily, it’s ‘the process whereby organisms not closely related… independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments’. They point out that you can see evidence of this on our own planet; the flight of insects and birds is alike, despite having evolved in isolation. Seeing as most fictional aliens live on worlds that’re comparable to Earth, it’s logical they’d echo us.

It still doesn’t justify how we’re exactly the same, though. There would be differences, regardless of whether these seemed cosmetic. Luckily, a crackpot theory might do the rest. While it makes sense to be sceptical about claims that humanity resulted from alien intervention, such a conspiracy is plausible in the Marvel and DC universes. Both have history with interstellar travellers, raising the possibility of a common ancestor.

This is easy to explain within The Avengers mythos. During Guardians of the Galaxy, we see footage of those who crossed paths with the Infinity Stones. In one clip, armoured giants lay waste to all in their path – including some who are undeniably human. That genocide took place eons ago at the other end of space, meaning humanity’s history is far from straightforward. That’s especially true when you consider that these giants (known as Celestials) are supposed to have tampered with our ancestor’s DNA in the comics.

Alternatively, Thor: The Dark World lets us know that the humanoid Dark Elves were kicking about before our galaxy began. As with the Celestials, it’s implied they came from an older dimension which went on to form ours (modern thinking goes that a singularity from an imploding universe caused the Big Bang) Is it possible these proto-humans spread across the cosmos, mingling with our ancestors? That’d plug any missing links in the evolutionary tree, potentially making the Asgardians and Xandarian Empire (who arrest Chris Pratt’s Star Lord) offshoots of this precursor race as well. They don’t look like us; we look like them.

The same explanation could be levelled at Krypton from Man of Steel. As indicate by the surrounding ice, the crashed scout ship Superman finds has lain dormant on Earth for around 18,000 years. Because one of the pods is open and empty, it’s highly probable some of the ancient Kryptonians escaped. Funnily enough, 18,000 years ago is roughly when homo sapiens first appeared – a species whose direct predecessor we’re still uncertain of. The implication seems obvious.

This kind of revelation would upend everything we know about us. Just think of the impact such knowledge would have on religious communities; it contradicts the Bible more than evolution already has. Accordingly, faith in the world of Marvel and DC must be a sore, contentious topic.

This is why budgetary limitations can be a force for good; they demand that we think harder. As director J.J Abrams said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, you realise ‘that the money you don’t get forces you to rethink something and challenges you to figure it out in a new way’.

SOURCES: Science Daily, io9, Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki, Wikipedia, The Los Angeles Times

Was Jesus a Mutant in the X-Men Universe?

It’s a bold move to list off deities who were apparently inspired by your villain, yet that’s precisely what ­X-Men: Apocalypse does. In a world where there’s outrage over a Captain America plot-twist or the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, I’m surprised that suggesting your antagonist was the inspiration for Yahweh (which is the Hebrew name for God) didn’t result in a degree of uproar.

Apocalypse also lets us in on a secret. It’s a commonly held belief within the franchise that mutants are a recent development, sped up by the coming of nuclear power. Colossus owes his steel skin to the Chernobyl disaster, for instance. Yet this film reveals that they’ve existed for longer than we thought. Apocalypse claims to have been there at the dawn of civilisation, which places his origin in or prior to the Sumerian era. For context, Sumer – known as ‘Shinar’ in the Bible – was a kingdom within Iraq that the Ancient History Encyclopaedia says is ‘generally considered the cradle’ of society. It existed from around 4,500BC, though the Sumerian people may have settled the land far earlier.

Concept art for X-Men: Apocalypse
Concept art for X-Men: Apocalypse – by 20th Century Fox

Despite being known as the first mutant, Apocalypse clearly wasn’t alone. As seen during the film’s prologue, he’s been accompanied by supernatural disciples (his ‘Four Horsemen’) since the time of the pyramids. If mutants existed during this era, they’re bound to have cropped up throughout history in the years since. Although we should bear in mind that this is a fantasy universe before getting carried away, there’s a wealth of ‘evidence’ for these individuals. Namely, religious figures from every age display what can only be described as superpowers. Can you see where I’m going with this? Should they have existed at all, it seems possible they were mutants in the X-Men’s world. That would certainly explain how Moses can part the ocean, the inexplicable life-span of Methuselah and why Jesus is able to heal the sick. It’s not out of character for 20th Century Fox to be so bold; the movie already suggests that Krishna, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, is simply another name for the film’s villain.

This helps contextualise the fanaticism displayed by Magneto and his Brotherhood, not to mention Sebastian Shaw’s Hellfire Club from X-Men: First Class. Perhaps they believe they’re somehow favoured by God. If Christ was potentially ‘one of them’, how can their powers not be a sign of divine intervention? It’s suddenly understandable that they’d call themselves ‘homo superior’ (besides the ability to spew fire, anyway).

X-Men: Apocalypse is significant in other way – but there are mild SPOILERS here, so be warned. At the beginning of the movie, we’re introduced to the character via the latest in a long line of rituals. During the ceremony, Apocalypse’s consciousness travels from an aging body into another mutant. In doing so, he absorbs their abilities. However, this ‘Transference’ doesn’t seem to be powered solely by those gifts. Consider this; it can be carried out by normal, garden-variety humans without a whiff of the paranormal. That’s demonstrated by the chanting cultists who awaken him in the 1980s.

This is plausibly thanks to Apocalypse himself, yet I beg to differ; he’s been comatose for centuries, unaware and oblivious. It’s also possible they’re completing the process his Horsemen started eons ago, except that doesn’t make sense either. Those mutants are long dead, and their powers died with them. So what completes the procedure?

Taken at face value, magic is a likely candidate. The one who kicked things off was a witch, for want of a better word. Secondly, the words spoken by everyone involved bring to mind occult rites. That said, I’m leaning toward the idea of unknown technology. Bearing in mind the pyramid beneath which it must take place, gravity-defying gold, glowing hieroglyphs and Apocalypse’s sci-fi armour, it seems rather alien. And maybe that’s what it is.

Before you laugh this theory off, it’s worth pointing out that it’s very much in line with the source material. The comic book Apocalypse encountered extra-terrestrial ships many times in his youth, discovering them hiding in plain sight or crashed (there’s a whole plotline about a time-traveling baddie pretending to be a Pharaoh, but we won’t get into that). The latter even gives him his trademark outfit, forged from its machinery. If that’s the case in the movie, it’d clarify the origin – and never-explained importance – of his suit.

Moreover, it sheds light on other oddities. If Apocalypse came from a time of parchment and candles, how was he able to pull knowledge from a TV? It’s feasible that this isn’t the first piece of technology he’s encountered. If that’s the case, what were aliens doing on Earth in the first place? Once again, an answer lies within the comics. They created mutants in the books; an elder race called the Celestials fiddled about with humanity at the dawn of their existence, leading to the mutant genome.

Although it’s not necessary in the slightest, this gives a reason for the X-Men bending laws of reality by shooting laser beams from their eyes. The films have always toyed with science via evolution and DNA, but that doesn’t cover how mutants are able to teleport or become sexy blue shapeshifters.

The mystery then is ‘why’. It’s possible that later movies will take inspiration from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, where the Inhuman race (who bear more than a passing resemblance to mutants) were made by the Kree to serve as soldiers in a coming war. This helpfully opens the door to the X-Men’s more outrageous space adventures, rumoured to be the franchise’s next port of call.

Whether that’s a good idea is another matter, of course. Judging by fans’ anger at the smallest of tweaks, such a monumental shift may not go down well.

Sources: Ancient History Encyclopaedia, Marvel Wikia, Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki, 25 Moments.com, Encyclopaedia Britannica