Why Onslaught should be in the next X-Men movie
The X-Men film franchise is the Epic Meal Time of superhero movies: A large quantity of delicious ingredients (fan-favorite characters, comic-based plots, jaw-dropping special effects, iconic villains) and bacon (Wolverine – Canadian, duh) mixed together in the same predictable fashion as pretty much every other recipe before it (Wolverine snikts! Cerebro malfunctions! Magneto’s character development goes out the window!), resulting in meals that, while visually satisfying, are too messy and greasy to consume and digest properly.
Now, the problem with doing exactly the same thing again and again is that no matter how many good things (yes, even bacon) you add with each new attempt, people are bound to get tired of it. That’s exactly how I felt after I watched X-Men: Apocalypse. I don’t know if it’s the lackluster portrayal of Apocalypse, the moronic shoehorning of Mystique into the “lead hero” role, the infuriating waste of Archangel’s character (the SECOND time in a decade), the continuation of Magneto’s annoying, franchise-wide ping-ponging between good and evil, or the frequent – and sometimes pointless – displays of wanton destruction that left me cold. To say that I was underwhelmed is actually an overstatement, because I didn’t even feel anything. In some ways, that’s worse than having to sit through a disappointing movie.
To their credit, the folks at Fox are trying new ways of handling their Marvel licenses, with some attempts becoming much more successful than others. In the case of the X-Men films, we got time travel, cosmic entities, and even a series-wide reboot that, in true comic book fashion, tried to fix the missteps of prior films.
The last three films – First Class, Days of Future Past, and Apocalypse – were set in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, respectively. These all featured period-appropriate villains and aesthetics, and were intended to show how the team has been growing through the decades. Unsurprisingly, the next film in the series will take place in the ’90s, the home of grunge rock, sitcoms, and oversized neon shirts.
Apocalypse‘s post-credits stinger hints at none other than Mister Sinister as the next movie’s main baddie, which would be great if the entire point of the next film were to find a villain even more boring than ol’ Poccy. “Evil immortal geneticist obsessed with the Summers” isn’t exactly an impressive CV as far as X-Men villains are concerned, especially since half of that bloodline went kablooey in this film.
Of course, they could (and are probably going to) change his back story a bit – hell, maybe they’re just bringing him in to introduce X-23, female Wolverine clone and the perfect character to take Hugh Jackman’s place in the spotlight after his contract expires – but I still think he lacks the “wow” factor to carry a movie by himself. It’s like making the Chameleon a solo villain in a Spider-Man film. It just doesn’t feel grand enough.
Thankfully, there’s a solution to this problem, and it’s so damn perfect that I’m surprised they haven’t announced it yet: Just put Mister Sinister in the upcoming Old Man Logan movie (hell, he can be a flashback for all I care) so that X-23 can be introduced properly, and use this guy as the next X-Men film’s villain instead:
For the uninitiated (and for people who never played the Marvel vs Capcom games), Onslaught is the all-powerful psionic combination of the worst aspects of Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto, born out of the former’s attempt to shut down the latter once and for all. He quickly became one of the biggest threats the Marvel universe has ever faced, and it took the combined efforts of the X-Men, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four to put an end to him, at the cost of the lives of the latter two teams (or so it seemed at the time – more on that later).
He’s also notorious for being the main villain of one of the most poorly received and overly bloated X-Men stories of all time – a blatant cash-grab of a crossover event, running on variant-cover-fueled insanity.
“Why him?” Some of you may ask. “Why do we need the next titular X-Men villain to be the floating embodiment of almost everything wrong with the ’90s?”
Let me give you six reasons why.
6. Onslaught is period-appropriate.
If Fox is looking for a formidable threat for its ’90s X-Men film, Onslaught is the best candidate, hands down. Sharp spikes, metallic colors, glowing eyes – trust me, no X-Men villain can out-’90s this guy. Every aspect of him is so ’90s it hurts, from his overly complicated armor to his ridiculously unbalanced power set. How could you not want this overcompensating thing of grotesque beauty to be realized on the silver screen?
5. Onslaught’s a great way to develop existing characters AND set up future films.
Onslaught works extremely well, both as a foil for the entire team and as a plot device for some actual character development. Don’t believe me? Let’s focus on three of the most important characters in the X-Men film franchise: Charles Xavier, Magneto, and (thanks to the events of X-Men: Apocalypse) Jean Grey.
There’s no getting around it: For decades in the film universe’s continuity, the self-proclaimed Professor X has managed to get away with abusing his powers. One can argue that he truly believes that everything he’s done so far has been for the greater good – and yes, that’s most likely true – but it doesn’t erase the fact that his methods are questionable at best and a clear violation of human rights at worst. Mind-wiping Moira MacTaggert? Mentally controlling government officials? Reading minds without getting permission? Paralyzing people with but a thought? Well-intentioned or not, these incidents demonstrate a remarkable level of hubris on Charles’ part – one that can only be effectively punished by his transformation into Onslaught. By becoming the thing which he hates most, Xavier will be forced to learn a harsh lesson on using his powers responsibly, as well as the consequences of his decisions. Provided, of course, that he survives the experience.
What about Magneto? His almost nonexistent character development in the X-Men movies irritates me to no end. At least the comics had the decency to let him grow beyond a wishy-washy villain and actually become a full-time member of the merry mutant roster. In the films, poor Erik is perpetually stuck between “I hate you, Charles” and “Save me, Charles.” Heck, Darwin from First Class has arguably had more character growth in half a movie than Erik’s had in six. What could really change the way we look at him, though, is if he somehow went from the X-Men’s sometimes-enemy, sometimes-friend… to their headmaster. Incorporating elements from the Age of Apocalypse comic book story arc, Erik realizes that it’s up to him to train these young mutants to save the world from the man who never gave up on him… the man he once called “friend.” Wracked with guilt over the corruption of an upright man and truly seeing the light at last, Erik tries his best to step up and take over the responsibility of preparing Xavier’s students to go to war against their teacher. The air of mistrust all over the campus, serving as a backdrop for Magneto’s genuine desire to stay on the side of the angels for once in his life, would make for excellent drama, and would truly challenge the Master of Magnetism to become much more than what he is. Mixing it up with Apocalypse helped him unlock his full potential as a mutant; dealing with Onslaught may help him discover what it truly means to be a man.
Lastly, Jean Grey. We all know that the Phoenix/Dark Phoenix storyline’s coming, and there’s not much we can do about it. Why not find a way, then, to make the side story that Apocalypse started progress naturally over the course of multiple films? The climax of the big battle between Onslaught and everyone could feature Jean Grey locked in intense mental combat against the monstrous entity, while heroes and villains alike throw everything they’ve got at him, even if it kills them. This mental battle between Jean and Onslaught could very well be the trigger that pushes her Phoenix powers off the edge… and way into Dark Phoenix territory in the next installment.
4. In the right hands, Onslaught has unlimited potential.
Mention Onslaught to longtime X-Men comic book readers, and you’d probably trigger nightmares to last them for days. The Onslaught mega-crossover pulled virtually the entire Marvel universe into a sea of variant covers, exaggerated musculature, and bad storytelling. For many fans, it was the product of everything that was wrong with Marvel at the time (well, aside from the Clone Saga – oh wait, they DID somehow manage to pull Spider-Man into this mess, too), and it opened the floodgates to a number of reality-bending reboots that were eventually undone.
However, I think that in the capable hands of people who actually care about good storytelling, a movie focused on Onslaught could actually have a clear narrative AND a deeply compelling story.
Here’s how I would do it:
The first ten minutes of the next film (let’s call it X-Men: Onslaught) shows Magneto going off the deep end again, whining about humanity for the nth time. This time, however, he ends up accidentally killing Mystique (sorry, JLaw fans). Xavier then completely LOSES it, somehow managing to destroy Magneto’s helmet and give him the mind-wiping migraine of a lifetime. This sudden outburst puts tremendous mental strain on Xavier, though, resulting in an explosion of psionic power that leaves both men comatose. Months later, they both awaken – Magneto seemingly a changed man, and Xavier with a dark, somewhat evil aura about him. Almost immediately after this, a mysterious psychic presence makes itself known to the world, first by getting into the minds of the students at Xavier’s school – at first, they think the school’s haunted – and eventually wreaking havoc in the minds of the world’s leaders, causing chaos on a global scale and pitting country against country. This would be an ongoing mystery for about 2/5 of the film. Onslaught would then reveal himself, after which Magneto and the X-kids would be forced into an uneasy alliance. There’d be a 20-minute battle scene, with Onslaught taking control of an army of Sentinels (the traditional, recognizable “metal men” kind, not the slimy black “future robots” from Days of Future Past) and sending them to annihilate the X-Men, while the X-Men – every surviving member from every film, plus all the popular mutants who haven’t appeared in the films yet, divided into two subteams (Blue Strike Force and Gold Strike Force) – would all get the chance to shine, using their powers to totally demolish the robots. The film ends with Xavier sacrificing himself to end Onslaught, Jean Grey getting a significant (and dangerously strong) power boost, and Magneto (and Cyclops) left in charge, trying his best to keep Xavier’s dream alive.
Now, tell me you wouldn’t watch that. And I’m not even a professional film writer.
3. X-Men: Onslaught can be the film that establishes Fox’s own Marvel Shared Universe.
As I mentioned earlier, it took the combined efforts of the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and the Avengers to beat Onslaught. The latter two teams threw themselves into Onslaught to destroy him. The world thought they were dead; in reality, the heroes fell into a pocket universe, “rebooted” for all intents and purposes, until their triumphant return to their real Earth. Imagine that – three of Marvel’s heavy-hitting teams had to join forces to beat this guy.
Waitaminute – doesn’t Fox have access to two of those teams?
Much like how the Onslaught event paved the way for Heroes Reborn, X-Men: Onslaught could be the beginning of Fox’s own Marvel film-verse. That Fantastic Four/X-Men crossover that we’ve been waiting to happen? This could very well be it.
Oh, and this solves ANOTHER important problem, because…
2. X-Men: Onslaught could be the best way to fix the Fantastic Four.
Looking for a way to reboot the Fantastic Four franchise yet again, while still paying respect to the Fant4stic cast? Well, this is it.
Have the Fant4stic guys team up with the X-Men and sacrifice themselves to kill Onslaught. This time, however, when they fall into that pocket universe, they become different people (thus giving the studio a reason to recast).
For the next Fantastic Four movie, Fox can hire writers and a director who actually UNDERSTAND the source material AND what it takes to make a good superhero blockbuster (the director could be someone who’s had a shot at making a film set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe). The new film wouldn’t be an origin story (an opening montage drawn by Alex Ross, like the one he made for Spider-Man 2, would be more than enough); rather, it would be a day-in-the-life kind of film, pitting the “reborn” FF against the Mole Man and the Puppeteer and ending with them finding their way back to the main Fox Marvel Earth (where the X-Men are).
Oh, and call the new film Fantastic Four: Heroes Reborn.
1. It can make the next X-Men film truly different, not just among X-Men films, but among superhero films in general.
At the beginning of this article, I brought up how the X-Men films run the same gauntlet, so to speak, every couple of years or so. Well, X-Men: Onslaught could very well be the game-changer, for one simple reason: It’ll be the first major comic book film that depicts a drastic role reversal between its franchise’s biggest hero and biggest villain.
This time around, Xavier’s the villain, Magneto’s the hero, and the film’s ending will have lasting consequences for the future of the franchise. It would leave us all with a sense of awe and uncertainty, and would make future X-Men films much more exciting.
Simply put, in the same way the very first X-Men film was credited with jumpstarting the superhero movie genre, X-Men: Onslaught could give it a much-needed shot in the arm.
That’s it. X-Men: Onslaught.
I’ll wait for my check in the mail, Fox.