The X-Men are like my second family. For the past 18 years, since the release of the first film in 2000, I have grown with these characters and seen myself in them, (Charles Xavier’s knock at the door was very much my Hogwarts letter). For me, their narrative is a microcosm for so much of the world and its own issues in society; from the extended metaphor of segregation, to the controversy of the ‘cure’, for what is simply not a disease. The films don’t have the most amazing track record, especially when it comes to a coherent plot, but there is no shortage of strong women. However, they don’t always get them right. What’s ‘right’ of course is totally subjective, everyone has their own idea of how a beloved character should be portrayed, from script to costume. But there’s something to be said for altering the trademark personality of a comic book hero to something almost unrecognisable. So, let’s talk about Rogue.
In the fondly remembered X-Men: The Animated Series, Rogue is a fan favourite. A mainstay of the team through every iteration of the series and films, she brought the sass and quick-wit that balanced out the group. A regular southern belle, Rogue’s powers enabled her to absorb those of other mutants and drain the life force of anyone who touches her skin. With the ability to take powers from others, she is arguably one of the most powerful mutants. So, why in the films is she so diluted and weak?
In the original film trilogy (consisting of X-Men, X2, and X-Men: The Last Stand), Rogue is introduced as a central character. We first meet her as a teen discovering her powers; she puts her boyfriend in a coma after an innocent kiss and runs away from home. After being found by the X-Men and introduced to people just like her, she is targeted by Magneto, and what will inevitably become the Brotherhood of Mutants. Magneto plans to heighten her abilities to affect everyone in a specific radius, inducing mutation in normal people. I understand that she is young, and we’re seeing her at the start of exploring her powers. However, this is not Rogue yet, she is weak and very much a ‘damsel in distress’. In the final act of X-Men, she meekly asks Logan to promise that he’ll take care of her. Yet the Rogue we knew before could take care of herself, and she would make sure everybody knew it.
Anna Paquin’s Rogue resents her abilities and would do anything to be rid of them, the animated version of the hero we knew before was well aware that they make her special. She is powerful and loves it, this poor portrayal just felt like a huge downgrade. I should clarify, by the time I saw the animated series for the first time, X-Men: First Class was out, so I wasn’t even of the generation that grew up with such a great female hero. Rogue saw a brief return in X-Men: Days of Future Past (The Rogue Cut), a version of the box office success that saw an entirely separate DVD & BluRay release. It immediately felt like a cop-out for the fans, maybe even just a marketing ploy to prompt them to buy a special edition. If Rogue was important to the plot, they would have put her in the final cut, it’s that simple. It’d be an awful shame if that’s her final outing, she deserves so much more.
Now that Marvel Studios seem to have ownership of the X-Men, it’s more than likely that they would try their hand at a reboot. But Fox still have X-Men: Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants scheduled for release next year, so I’d imagine we’ll be waiting a while. If Marvel bring back Rogue, I hope with all my heart that she returns as a fiery and flirtatious badass, rather than a weak victim who resents her abilities. And entirely from a fangirl perspective, I’d love to see her iconic romance with Gambit. My advice? The past films gave us Anna Marie, a girl who is not yet Rogue. If she is finding herself and growing with her powers, simply wait to give her that name and the weight it carries.
What are your thoughts on Rogue and the cinematic future of the X-Men? Let us know on Twitter @HeroesDirect!