X-Men and Character Development

I’m sure there are going to be people screaming at me from their computers that I haven’t the slightest idea what I’m talking about  and I will be the first to agree that I absolutely don’t. I did not read the X-Men comics, nor did I watch the show growing up.

I remember when the first (“first”?) X-Men movie came out, and I was excited to see it. While I’ve never been a comic book person, I’ve certainly enjoyed getting to know them via their theatrical display. I remember it so clearly. I was at my friend’s house, and her whole family gathered around to watch it. And at the age of 12, while I was still young enough to attend sleep-overs and debate with my friend the English vs American version of Harry Potter, I was disappointed with the movie.

For years, whenever X-men came up, I just rolled my eyes at it. Oh that. Enjoyed it, did you? I would think with my opinionated, judgemental raise of the eyebrow. I could only see it as some testosterone-driven movie where things blew up and people had magical powers because they were mutants. It was just a mashing of cool tricks allotted to each individual character.

Recently, my boyfriend and I have been on a Marvel kick, going through all the Marvel films and watching them. After already going through Captain America, the Avengers, Iron Man, the Hulk, and so on (this, by the way, is what unemployment does to you), we arrived at X-Men. Reluctantly, I agreed to watch it.

Yes. Still the same.

A mash up of cool tricks coming together to make things explode.

We continued through them all – X-Men 1, 2 and 3 – and I still had no sympathy or enjoyment of any of the characters, the plot line – in fact, the only thing that I did feel something for was Patrick Stewart’s eyebrows. I had no idea they took up so much of his face. It was the one thing I could find focus on, and would just be mesmerized by.

My boyfriend pressed me further to continue the theme. We went on to X-Men Origins.

And there it was.

While the movie went over where Wolverine came from, the battle between him and his brother, the development of his invincibility – I was intrigued by the story. At long last! I found enjoyment in something X-Men related!

I put it down to it’s beginning taking place in the 19th century, as I quite enjoy historical fiction. That must have been it. Of course, that was what had peaked my interest, and by some magical formula, the story managed to keep my attention.

Last night’s film was X-Men: First Class.

Again, I really enjoyed it – more than Origins even.

What on earth was it that set these two films a part from the first three? Why did I find myself actually caring what happened to the characters?

That was just it – the characters.

In the first three movies there was hardly any character development whatsoever. Whatsherface was already married to Cyclops, and an automatic love triangle came out of nowhere with no time for it to develop, as well as a rivalry between Wolverine and Cyclops. The viewers were just supposed to know the twisted relationship between Charles and Eric from the get-go, and so on. There was a slight background – such as how Rogue’s abilities were discovered and how they got to the school, but not too much. While she was also the one they spent most of the beginning of the film following and giving a past to, she was not that important of a character.

There was no hero’s journey. Part of what makes a story engaging is the reader discovering along with the character. The viewer need to be able to relate, on some level, with the character to feel as though they are making the journey as well.

In the film I watched last night, you follow the development of Charles, of Eric, of Mistique – some of which is fairly important to be able to understand the first three movies made. But most importantly, the viewer begins to understand the complexities of their relationship – how Magnito got the idea that mutants were the better men, how Charles believe every individual – mutant or not – had the ability to be the better man.

These films were prime examples to me of the importance of character development in a story, and whatsmore – the how of character development. It made me realize things that should not be skipped over, how to make the characters more engaging – or relatable, and how you can create a character that people love to hate.

 

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