10 Characters The X-Men Movies Wasted

The X-Men film franchise has been a staple of superhero cinema, introducing audiences to a plethora of mutant characters from the pages of Marvel Comics. While some characters received the spotlight they deserved, others were sadly sidelined or underutilised, leaving fans yearning for more.

It’s a problem that Disney+’s X-Men ‘97, and potentially the upcoming film Deadpool & Wolverine, have sought to remedy. Now that Marvel Studios is rebooting the live-action films, the Marvel mutants are getting another chance to get things right. From iconic heroes to formidable villains, let’s examine 10 characters (in no particular order) the X-Men movies wasted, highlighting the missed opportunities and unrealised greatness within mutant cinema, and pray that Disney can do better.

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1) Angel

As one of the original five X-Men in the comics, Angel aka Warren Kenneth Worthington III is an underrated mutant figure that deserves more attention. Portrayed by Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) in X-Men: The Last Stand, Angel’s narrative arc is tragically limited despite his familial ties to the conflict between mutants and humans. In the comics, he went from original member to a member of the Defenders, and then on X-Factor, and after that, turning into Archangel where he ditched his feathered wings for metallic wings, and new powers.

While Angel returns in X-Men: Apocalypse, this time played by Ben Hardy (Bohemian Rhapsody), he still falls short of fully realising his narrative potential. Despite receiving a new pair of metallic wings, Angel remains largely silent and one-note, lacking the personality and development necessary to demonstrate the character’s depth.

2) Apocalypse

Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) plays the titular villain in X-Men: Apocalypse, who stands as one of the most iconic antagonists from the pages of the X-Men comics. Yet, his portrayal in the film suffers from lacklustre writing and development, failing to dive deeper into his complex psyche and motivations.

Furthermore, Apocalypse’s ultimate defeat feels anticlimactic and rushed, undermining the gravity of the threat he poses to the world. After building him up as an unstoppable force of nature, the film hastily dispatches Apocalypse in a disappointing final battle that fails to deliver the epic showdown fans were hoping for. This not only reduces him to a one-dimensional caricature of a generic supervillain but squanders Isaac’s strong acting chops. 

Thankfully, Isaac would later discover a more fitting opportunity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as the formidable Moon Knight, though the same cannot be said for Marvel’s first mutant.

3) Cyclops

Despite his crucial role as Charles Xavier’s top student and the leader of the X-Men, Scott Summers — better known as Cyclops — was sadly relegated to the sidelines in the original X-Men trilogy, where he was played by James Marsden (Sonic the Hedgehog). Cyclops is often depicted as little more than a punching bag, constantly getting beaten in battles and even in his romantic endeavours with Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, Taken), overshadowed by the larger-than-life presence of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman), leaving Cyclops to play second fiddle in his own story.

In X-Men: Apocalypse and X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Cyclops was portrayed by Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One), where not only is his familial relation to his brother Alex Summers (Lucas Till, Son of the South) aka Havok reversed, but the layers of tragedy and strong leadership that define his character remain missing.

4) Darwin

As one of the first mutants introduced in X-Men: First Class, Darwin’s power of reactive evolution made him a fascinating character with unlimited potential. However, for a character whose entire power set centres around adapting to stay alive, his untimely demise early in the film robbed audiences of the chance to see his abilities fully explored.

However, it would seem that Edi Gathegi, who portrayed the character, will get another crack at being a superhero, as he is set to play Mister Terrific in the upcoming James Gunn film, Superman.

5) Emma Frost

As one of the most compelling X-Men villains/allies, Emma Frost, also known as the White Queen, deserved better than her portrayal by January Jones (Mad Men) in X-Men: First Class. Her dull and one-note demeanour in the film is a stark contrast to her multifaceted personality in the comics, where she was evil, and then joined the X-Men, became one of their leaders and had an affair, and eventual relationship, with Scott Summers. 

In the film, Emma is reduced to a mere henchwoman with minimal development. Her defeat at the hands of the first generation of X-Men comes as a disappointing blow, squandering the opportunity to explore her rich backstory and dynamic relationships with other key players.

6) Gambit

Gambit’s inclusion in X-Men Origins: Wolverine was met with excitement from fans eager to see the smooth-talking Cajun on the big screen. But despite Taylor Kitsch’s (John Carter) best efforts, he failed to capture the essence of the beloved rogue, reducing him to a mere shadow of his comic book counterpart.

Moreover, a Gambit standalone film featuring Channing Tatum (Magic Mike) failed to take off, leaving audiences longing for more of the suave and cunning character they know from the comics and animated series.

7) Jubilee

Despite being a fan favourite in the comics and animated series, Jubilee’s appearances in the X-Men films were disappointingly brief and inconsequential, despite appearing in four films, played by three different actresses — Katrina Florece in X-Men, and Kea Wong in X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand.

Her role in X-Men: Apocalypse, where she was played by Lana Condor (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before), was largely reduced to that of a background character, lacking the depth and development her character deserved.

8) Kitty Pryde

One of the main disappointments regarding Kitty Pryde’s (Elliot Page, The Umbrella Academy) portrayal in the films is the lack of focus on her character development and storyline. While she played a significant role in the comics, especially in storylines like Days of Future Past, her presence in the films felt sidelined and overshadowed by other characters. Despite her importance in the source material, Kitty Pryde was often relegated to a supporting role, with limited screen time and minimal exploration of her backstory and abilities.

Additionally, the films missed out on showcasing the depth and complexity of Kitty Pryde’s character. In the comics, she is depicted as a strong, independent, and resourceful individual who plays a pivotal role in the X-Men’s missions. However, in the films, her character was often reduced to serving as a background character or simply a love interest for other male characters, failing to fully capture the essence of who Kitty Pryde is.

9) Psylocke

As one of the most skilled fighters and telepaths in the X-Men universe, Psylocke had the potential to be a formidable presence on screen and deserved a more substantial role than her brief appearance in X-Men: Apocalypse. Despite Olivia Munn’s physicality, the character lacked depth and development, portrayed more like a glorified henchman than the powerful mutant she is in the comics, leaving fans disappointed.

10) Storm

In the original X-Men trilogy, where she was portrayed by Halle Berry (Perfect Stranger), Storm never received the spotlight she deserved in the X-Men movies. While she showcases glimpses of her fierce abilities and her poignant friendship with Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming, Son of the Mask), these moments are fleeting, leaving audiences yearning for more of Storm’s electrifying presence. Ultimately, her character’s potential as a powerful leader and weather manipulator was often overshadowed by other mutants like Wolverine and Jean Grey.

Even in later films, like X-Men: Apocalypse and X-Men: Dark Phoenix, where she is played by Alexandra Shipp (Tick, Tick… Boom!), Storm’s true potential remains untapped, her character arc feeling incomplete and lacking the depth it deserves.

While the X-Men movies have introduced audiences to a vast array of mutant characters, there are several notable instances where potential fan favourites were wasted or underutilised. From iconic heroes to intriguing villains and supporting characters, these missed opportunities represent untapped potential within the mutant cinematic universe. As fans eagerly await the future of the X-Men franchise under the MCU, there is hope that these characters will receive the attention and development they deserve in future adaptations.