Monday, May 23, 2016

Real Name: Max Eisenhardt (aka; Erik Lehnsherr, Magnus)
First Appearance: X-Men #1 (September, 1963)
Fight Club Ranking: #351

Featured Fights:
- vs X-MEN: X-Men #6 (Jul 1964)
- vs SPIDER-MAN: Amazing Spider-man #327 (Dec 1989)
- vs X-MEN: X-Men #25 (Oct 1993)
- vs APOCALYPSE: X-Men Omega (Jun 1995)
- vs ZOMBIES: Marvel Zombies #1 (Feb 2006)

Having just espoused the joy of a heroic Magneto during the Age of Apocalypse [see; X-Men Omega], I'm sticking with the theme for Hero of the Week, but not necessarily the same sentiment!

As you may know: X-Men: Apocalypse opens in American theatres this Friday (May 27th). It's the sixth installment in the main X-film franchise. Ninth overall, if you include spin-offs starring Wolverine and Deadpool. Of the six X-Men films so far; Magneto plays a major role in... six of them.

The Master of Magnetism returns in Apocalypse as a man running from a dark past towards a darker future. In the last film, he staged a very public attempt on the life of the President of the United States of America. In this one, he's back to become a Horseman of the ancient Egyptian mutant: Apocalypse. One could safely assume Magneto will reunite with his former allies in the X-Men before the end of the film, to thwart the mutual threat of Apocalypse's grand villainy.

FOX has a lot of problems developing beneath the surface of its expanding X-film universe. Sixteen years of superhero movie dominance has seen a lot of standards change, and the X-Men have been slow to evolve since staking their territory in the early days of the era.

In February; Deadpool defied expectations to become the biggest monetary success in the X-pantheon. Its strengths lie in the introduction of a strong new character pulled directly from the four-colour pages of comics. There was levity, action, and striking visuals. It was by no means a perfect movie, but it broke the mould just enough to be an exciting development.

The fact that the world had to endure the mangled miosis of X-Men Origins: Wolverine before getting to a definitive vision of Deadpool speaks volumes to the foundational problems FOX has had.

Arguments can be made that the pioneering of films in 2000 (X-Men) and 2003 (X-Men 2) were justified in their muted approach. X2 was the film the original wishes it could've been. Stripped of its hokey super-villainy, and refined in its understanding of characters, it remains one of the strongest entries into the series. It was the first time we saw Magneto in an outright heroic context in the films. The impulse to return to the master of magnetism - reasonable, given the potential for building on themes, and exploiting the charismatic stardom of Sir Ian McKellan.

Magneto was a bad guy again in X-Men: The Last Stand. A sequel besieged by a flood of comic book competition, and the departure of key talents, including director Bryan Singer.

I tend to think of Singer as a restrictive influence who does as much harm as he does good. A confessed comics philistine from the start - his detachment from the characters, genre and material has meant an increasingly deformed depiction that neither embraces the filmic qualities and character study of the early films, nor the over-the-top superheroics that have finally taken over the screen.

I'm torn as to whether or not the appeal of Magneto is one of several self-made problems the franchise is now hampered with.

There's been a compelling case to keep Magneto involved at most steps along the way. X2 corrected the Saturday Morning Cartoon aspects of the first film's depiction. The third film promised to utilize his star power and conclude an arc of the third film. Even the much discussed X-Men meets The Pianist idea of a Magneto Origins spin-off seemed like a very interesting idea. It ultimately evolved into X-Men: First Class -- which I would consider to be the greatest of all the X-Men films.

Like Deadpool; X-Men: First Class was colourful, reminiscent of comics, and balanced its drama with a healthy dose of levity. It also brilliantly cast, had a vibrant film sensibility, and wove a pretty tight story. You could really only penalize the movie if you dwell on the order of events, and by that point, the adaptation of comic book canon was already well and truly off the table. In isolation, it was a shift in tone and focus that was well worth it. A compelling new layer to the Xavier/Magneto story that has ultimately become the series' foundation. Taking a macro view of the films, however, it may have made things worse.

Magneto is just one of the X-Men's great villains. The impulse to utilize the character may have been correct, but I think the franchise could've done a world of good by allowing the character to step away, and/or become a greater evil. By trying to have it both ways, Magneto has been made far less effective. Fassbender is very charismatic in the role, and I would've loved to see him in the costume, or a version of it, as promised by the end of First Class. Instead, he's about to be a drab looking lackey for Apocalypse. A character I can't foresee Magneto being beholden to. Which may mean more half-measures.

Magneto really has been a strong film character. I'll be hoping for the best. Early indications seem to be X-Men: Apocalypse is headed for a fall. Bryan Singer probably needs to go. A shift in focus could be the ticket, and with FOX promising New Mutants, X-Force, and more Deadpool, maybe things will work out. What ever the course, I hope we can move on to bigger and better things.

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