Move over, Black Widow. Take a break, Maria Hill. There is another Marvel movie woman who has changed the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since she was introduced in the X-Men films: Mystique.
Sure, she’s not in a licensed Marvel movie (hear that Fox, could you give them back now please?) but the First Class films have revitalized the X-Men franchise after the awful crash that was X3. Now, with the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past, mutant fans have to wonder: is there a place for a Mystique solo film.
You might wonder why Mystique should get her own movie when there are so many other mutants out there. She’s a villain, you might say. She’s not even one of the biggest names in the film. Shouldn’t there be a Magneto film first? I say sure, we’d all love to see Michael Fassbender hunting Nazis and building the mutant brotherhood in his own movie. But in Mystique, mutant fans are presented with the opportunity for a unique movie, featuring a brilliant actress exploring one of Marvel’s unsung, complicated women.
The Many Faces of Mystique
Mystique, aka Raven Darkhölme, has one heck of a checkered past, even for a comic book villainess. Voted the 18th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time by IGN in 2009, Mystique has been an assassin, a terrorist, a freedom fighter, an X-Woman, and a host of other things in her time in Marvel comics. First introduced in 1978’s Ms. Marvel #16, she showed up as the head of a new incarnation of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Mystique lead her team to battle against Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) after infiltrating the government with her shapeshifting abilities.
Over time, it was revealed that Mystique is over a hundred years old, had a long-standing love affair with Irene Adler (aka Destiny), and mothered three mutants: Nightcrawler (with Azazel), Graydon Creed (with Sabretooth) and Rogue (whom she adopted with Destiny). She has hopped the fence back and forth between the bad guys and good guys more times than anyone can count, and is always considered a complicated woman to be distrusted and feared.
Mystique remains one of the most impactful mutant villains in the comics, packed with depth and nuance in her relationships. It’s that ever-changing nature and the complexity that made Mystique so intriguing over the years and made her a perfect addition to the X-Men film franchise. Although she got a decent amount of screentime in the first three X-Men films, the older Mystique (played by the vampy Rebecca Romijn) was not much more than a sexy, shapeshifting plot device, played with an alien remoteness that stripped out much of the details of Mystique’s life. Sure, she gave us some fun action sequences, but like many of her appearances in the comics, Mystique had become a prop, a cool blue action star with no real storyline of her own.
Enter Jennifer Lawrence in Blue
If Mystique had remained as inaccessible a character as the one brought to the screen by Romijn, there wouldn’t be a case to make for her getting her own film. Then came the resurrection of the X-Men franchise with First Class, and Mystique was given a reprieve.
The prequel film streamlined her story to make Mystique more accessible to the audience, and in doing so positioned itself to capture the complicated Raven Darkhölme perfectly. Gone was the hundred-year complicated backstory, replaced instead with the earnest origin of a confused little mutant girl who was always forced to deny who and what she is for the sake of ‘being good.’ Presented with options at the height of her awakening as a young woman, Mystique struggles to stand up proudly for who she is in a way that is right for her. First Class is as much the story of Charles Xavier and Magneto and their evolution as it is a coming of age story for little Mystique, discovering what makes her “mutant and proud.”
That portrayal would arguably not been half as good without a powerhouse actress behind the performance, and we find a fully realized Mystique with Jennifer Lawrence. Just before bringing Katniss Everdeen to the big screen in The Hunger Games, Lawrence gave a vulnerable yet assertive performance as Mystique. Her Raven is assertive and sexual, yet also conflicted; she is a young woman searching for where she belongs while pushing back against the men in her life that constantly tell her what is right for her. By the end of First Class, Lawrence has arguably stolen the show with a beguiling performance that left us wondering just what would happen to turn her from the earnest girl into the hardened assassin she would become.
With Days of Future Past and more X-Men movies planned beyond, we’ll get the opportunity to see more of Lawrence’s Mystique. But one might wonder: if we’ve had multiple movies telling the story of Wolverine, why not give Mystique a chance?
The Case For Mystique: The Movie
What would a Mystique movie look like? Situated just after the events in Days of Future Past, there is a giant swath of time between the original three X-Men films in our modern day and the 1960s and 1970s adventures of the young X-Men. Mystique has years of stories to explore, and Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is powerful enough to carry us through an entire film. The question would be to find the best script to bring out the complexity of Raven Darkhölme while still giving audiences the badass action we expect from the X-Men franchise.
It’s not like screenwriters don’t have lots of story arcs to choose from. If they were looking for adventure and excitement, Mystique spends a good deal of her time infiltrating the government to protect mutants from destruction. She teams with a lot of interesting characters along the way, and with the newly formed Brotherhood, the options for guest star mutants are endless. A favorite might be the introduction and origin of Juggernaut, whose conspicuous absence in the First Class films so far has left many wondering if his relationship to Charles Xavier as a half-brother had been written out and replaced instead with a close relationship to Mystique.
The adventures Mystique could have are almost endless, but it’s the personal relationship stories that would carry a solo Mystique film. A film centered around Mystique’s pregnancy with Nightcrawler and the difficult decision to give up her child would make for great personal drama that Lawrence could play beautifully. If the screenwriters also wanted to be true to the comic character’s roots, they could explore Mystique’s relationship with Irene Adler and introduce Destiny’s clairvoyant powers as a part of the plot. Not only would this be a great story arc, but it would bring a positive LGBT relationship to a film franchise that so far is sorely lacking in diverse representation.
Mystique's story in First Class is a beautiful expression of the struggle to claim personal identity. Raven’s battle to come to terms with herself and accept herself as beautiful and worthwhile is a story that is relatable to so many. While Wolverine struggles with his inner beast and the loss of control he feels, Raven’s fight is to find a way to love herself as a mutant and a young woman, tackling issues of body image and self-confidence that makes her story an important one for a female audience. And with a powerful actress like Jennifer Lawrence behind the blue prosthetics and make-up, Mystique’s coming of age story could be an amazing contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
With several independent movies suggested for the ongoing X-Men franchise, we’ll just have to wait and see if our favorite blue shapeshifter appears beside Gambit and Magneto as a possibility. Fox would really be losing out if they overlooked their opportunity for a kick-ass, sexy, heartfelt and powerful action movie with Mystique.
Some Fun Mystique Facts:
- Originally Chris Claremont wanted Nightcrawler to have been the product of Mystique and Destiny’s relationship, with Mystique having transformed into a man for the conception to take place. Unfortunately Marvel nixed the idea, since there was a comic book code of conduct at the time that made their relationship illegal to publish.
- Mystique gets together with the biblical-era mutant Azazel in the comics after her husband, a German count, is found to be infertile. Mystique murders the count after he questions whether the tiny blue-furred elf child Nightcrawler is his. With Azazel on Magneto’s team at the end of First Class, this storyline (minus the dead german count) might still be possible.
- Mystique is credited with going back in time to assassinate her own son Graydon Creed after he grows up to become the mutant-hating leader of the Friends of Humanity.
- Mystique’s clothing in the comics is actually a part of her body, so it changes when she changes form. This was changed for the films, which led to the blue body paint look sported by first Rebecca Romijn and then Jennifer Lawrence.
- In the Ultimate X-Men universe, Professor Xavier has an orange cat for a long while in the beginning of the comic series. The cat’s name? Mystique. You do the math.
Shoshana Kessock is a comics fan, photographer, game developer, LARPer and all around geek girl. She’s the creator of Phoenix Outlaw Productions and ReImaginedReality.com.