This post contains spoilers for X-Men: Apocalypse, and Deadpool 2.
The other day, my partner and I got to talking about spoilers. I don’t mind spoilers. As film critic April Wolfe says “It’s not what happens but how it happens that matters”. My partner made a point about how spoilers change your expectations of any movie, and really, he’s right.
But to me, this is not always a bad thing. And I used X-Men: Apocalypse as an example. Any instance of fridging in a movie these days more or less instantly ruins it for me. But if I know it’s coming, I can lower my expectations. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t see a movie, but I’ll be able to avoid the rage I get from an unsuspected fridging. I knew that they fridge Vanessa in Deadpool 2 and because I knew going in, I liked it fine. Now, in my less than humble opinion, Deadpool 2 is a far superior movie to X-Men: Apocalypse, but that’s beside the point.
In response to my point about X-Men: Apocalypse, my partner made a joke about how the family was dead as soon as it got involved with Magneto. Which got me to thinking; what if Magneto’s family didn’t die?
In case you haven’t seen Apocalypse, and like me, don’t really care about spoilers, here’s a short summary that covers only Magneto’s part of the plot. After the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past, Erik Lehnsherr has given up his Magneto self and gone into hiding in Poland as Henryk something or other, a humble steelworker. He married a woman named Magda and they have a daughter named Nina who more or less controls animals.
What could have happened
So what if Erik Lehnsherr’s family didn’t die? The film ties this loss very directly to the loss of his parents in his youth at Auschwitz. But it’s not really the same. The nazis killed his family because nazis are evil. His wife and child ultimately died because of what Magneto did. But it wasn’t even an active choice on the part of the humans who came to arrest him. Just a slapdash release of an arrow that really shouldn’t have had the momentum to even reach the wife and child, let alone pierce both of them. Ahem. I may still be somewhat angry about this choice.
Anyway, what if, instead of killing his family they actively rejected him? Magneto’s done some pretty awful shit in the past. The writers try to do away with this with a quick line, where Erik says “I told you who I was the first night when we met”. But can you imagine that conversation? “Yes, hello beautiful non-mutant, we have just met, and spent a wonderful evening together. I need to tell you that I’ve killed dozens of people for the crime of not being mutants.” But you’re different from those people, I would never hurt you.” I don’t know about you, but I find this suspect.
Magneto’s muggle wife finds out exactly who he is and that he’s killed a lot of people just like her. She takes off, taking their mutant daughter with her, because let’s be honest, he’s not the best parent in existence and he’s in the middle of getting arrested. He can kill the officers all he wants but that won’t bring his family back to him. He can look for them all he wants, but doing so he’d prove that he doesn’t respect his wife’s decision and by extension her as a full human, because that’s what his crimes against non-mutants were about anyway; those people are not fully human, not like we are.
Humanity wanted a monster, so they’re getting a monster. Humanity has rejected Erik over and over and over again, so when En Sabah Nur comes looking for him with open arms, it’s easy for him to accept. When Quicksilver and Mystique come looking for him, it’s his found family. And actual family, as well, but he doesn’t know that yet. What matters is that there is a family that has chosen him over and over again and they’re being attacked by this person he barely knows.
I think they were already trying to say this in the conclusion, but the deaths undercut the message. The reason he wanted to kill all of humanity, is no less dead at the end. It’s not non-mutants who come to get him, it is his chosen family of mutants. Nothing changes, unless the family he loses in the beginning, lives on.
Your turn, dear reader; what is your most hated plot-wire trope? How would you fix a story that uses it?