As I sit at my “A Beautiful Mind” board stretching thread to thread, hoping to be interrupted by Jennifer Connelly before I go completely mad, I feel I must share something with you all: I love the X-Men. I grew up with and enjoyed the Chris Claremont run on the characters and as they grew in number, I grew with them. I read X-Force, X-Factor, Generation-X, New Mutants, Uncanny X-Men and all the rest of them. When it was announced that a live action X-Men movie was going to be made, I was excited. Finally, I was going to see my favorite mutants on the big screen. It’s been a rocky relationship ever since.
For too long, Fox has relied on two characters to sustain the world of the X-Men: Wolverine and Mystique. From a studio perspective it makes sense. You have two huge stars in Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Lawrence in your movies, guaranteeing that people will go see them. From a creative perspective, you’ve limited the stories you can tell and sacrificed story and character development. Every movie is either The Wolverine Show or The Chronicles of Mystique to the detriment of every other character in the X-Men universe.
The other thing that Fox failed to do was create a satisfactory villain. Every villain in the franchise has either been forgettable (Apocalypse), useless (Apocalypse and the Hellfire Club) or become good (Magneto and Mystique). What they need is an unrepentant villain who has had his hands in everything with an overall goal that makes sense to the world and these characters. That villain should be Mr. Sinister.
Nathanael Essex could be the ultimate villain behind the scenes manipulating events to his own ends across all the films. Having Sinister as the through line could finally give the franchise something that they’ve been trying to force for years: A reason to include The Dark Phoenix Saga.
Sinister has been manipulating genes and mutations for years. What if he applied the same principles to people? What if he discovered something that would take time and patience to bear fruit and he was manipulating everything behind the scenes in order to attain it? What if that thing was the Phoenix Force? How far would he go to obtain it? What steps would he take to get it?
You don’t make him a big bad, you make him THE big bad. You spread it out across the films to bind them together. You make him the Keyser Soze of the X-Men universe (something that will instantly excite Bryan Singer). Make him the master manipulator who has touched the lives of everyone in the X-men universe from first class to Logan for one purpose: contain and control the Phoenix force. You’ve already got the pieces in place. Here’s how it could work.
First, eliminate the original trilogy of films (Which Days of Future Past pretty much already did) and focus on the timeline established with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men First Class.
X-Men First Class
Sebastian Shaw is a Nazi scientist working in a concentration camp experimenting on prisoners to unlock hidden mutant traits. Why couldn’t Sinister, who has been alive since the 19th century have been the one to not only create the Hellfire Club, but encourage Shaw to pursue his research, even funding it through his fortune? Also, any scientist worth his reputation uses multiple controls during an experiment. What if Sinister created events that would lead a young Charles Xavier into the study of genetic mutation? When both of these factors come to a head, whatever the outcome, Sinister would be one step closer to his goal. If Shaw started a nuclear war, Sinister would have more genetic material to work with. If the war is prevented, he could simply obtain the material he needs from another source; Bolivar Trask.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
The premise of the film is that Bolivar Trask manipulated the genetic material obtained from Mystique to create Sentinels that can adapt to any mutant power. What if Sinister is behind Trask’s research? What if he’s been using Trask, along with government funding, to fund research that will help him to withstand and adapt to the power of the Phoenix Force? Sinister is a telepath. What if the unintended consequences to the timeline are his only misstep and he needs to manipulate Xavier into fixing it so he can bring back the two people he really wants: Scott and Jean?
I had to put in some effort to untangle this mess, but it isn’t that difficult if you think about it. Apocalypse is the self-described “first mutant”, so studying his genetic structure would be worth funding a group of religious zealots to dig him up. It would also provide the perfect cover against anyone asking too many questions. In the comics, Sinister controlled the orphanage that Scott grew up in. He could continue to manipulate Scott genetically causing him to have to be moved exactly where Sinister wants him, with Jean Grey. All this time, Sinister knew that the Phoenix Force was growing. He’s been tracking its progression for centuries until it coalesced in the body of Jean Grey. With all of the pieces in place, all he would have to do would be to help foster an event that would cause Jean to manifest those powers for the first time, like having to destroy Apocalypse.
There is a constant theme of genetic manipulation and experimentation throughout all of the X-Men universe films. Why not capitalize on that when crafting your narrative? It would be no small feat for Sinister to supplement his income by funding research into genetically enhanced soldiers sold to the highest bidder. (It bothers me that no one ever asks where all the funding for these experiments comes from. Seriously, if the actual government-funded research to the extent that the X-Men universe does, we could have had a cure for cancer decades ago.) Considering many of Sinister’s powers are derived from materials he’s procured from other mutants, Deadpool’s ability to regenerate could put him on Sinister’s radar for the next step in his plan.
Untitled X-Men Sequel
We all know that Fox is going to make another X-Men movie. We are all fairly certain that Phoenix will be a factor in it. Here’s how you can make it work. Have Sinister finally reveal himself and his plan. Have every scenario in the movie be a means of having Sinister manipulate Jean into manifesting her full powers. Have Sinister manipulate everyone into a scenario where the only way to stop his plan is destroy Jean and the Phoenix Force. It might not be the Phoenix saga we all want, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense than the way they’ve been trying to cram it down our throats since The Last Stand. You can even bring back the Hellfire Club, as they did play a role in the Dark Phoenix Saga. The cost of taking down Sinister once he controls the Phoenix force is the end of mutants and the beginning of the world Logan takes place in.
I’ve written before about how Pierce Brosnan could be an amazing Mr. Sinister. https://superpoweredfancast.com/2017/01/20/could-pierce-brosnans-role-in-the-fox-x-universe-be-something-sinister/
His role in Logan could answer many of the questions that I have about the film and effectively close the circle on Jackman’s portrayal. If it were determined that Sinister has been the author of so much of Logan’s past pain, it would be a fitting send off to have Wolverine give his all to regain some control of his life.
Let me know what you think. This is just another flight of fancy on my part. It’s the ultimate “What If” comic. I’m sure that the brain trust at Fox has a vision for their X-Men universe, I just wish it was one that included the X-Men.