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Analyzing the Marvel Cinematic Universe Villains: Magento (X-Men)

MAGNETO

X-Men (2000)

I’m starting with this movie because this is the real inception point for the MCU. If not for this movie and its compatriot Spider-Man (coming up next!) there would be no Tony Stark or Avengers. So I think it’s important to examine the precursors and their staying power with audiences. I don’t think it was a great movie — the problem with the X-Men is that it’s character soup — but after the chintzy animated series, it was a gourmet meal.

Characteristics and Powers: Can bend and shape metal to his will. This includes stopping bullets in midair and some electromagnetism. And since just about everything in the world is metal, he can basically change anything in the physical world.

He has also developed a Spartan warrior helmet that, while funny-looking, prevents telepathy or mind control (as his old enemy Charles Xavier is wont to do). I like that his costuming has both practicality and style, so I’ll give points for this. It screams dictator. Is this what they want the costume to communicate? That’s up for the reader to decide.

Relationship to the hero(es): Magneto is not part of the X-Men, never was. But he did have a partnership with their leader. At some point, he and Xavier split up over ideology. Xavier wanted to live with the humans. Lehnsherr wanted to dominate them, as he thought mutants were a superior lifeform. I think this moral dichotomy is what made the X-Men (particularly in this movie) so popular. Neither side is right or wrong. But the execution of their plans is what makes one evil or good. This prevents it from being a dumb or cheap superhero flick like Batman & Robin or Steel. Friends-to-enemies is a powerful, rarely used trope and one I always enjoy seeing.

Goals/Motivation: The overall scheme is to mutate all the world leaders at a global U.N. summit in New York, using the Statue of Liberty as an antenna. By turning figureheads into mutants he expects some changes in their attitudes, to accept mutants. Or they’ll all die and that’s good too. Then the world will know what a threat mutants are. If you can’t be respected, be feared.

But it takes all of Magneto’s strength just to use it on one person, so he’s going to transfer his powers to Rogue who copies the powers of others. Magneto aims to rule the world and he doesn’t care who dies or suffers to get that. This is what makes him an evil man–that he profits from the suffering or death of others. He puts the burden on others to carry out his will, not himself.

Relatability: You can’t not sympathize with Magento when the first scene, right out of the gate, is him being separated from his mother in 1944 Poland. Victimization by the Nazis is a surefire way to give someone a “save the cat moment“. So you automatically understand his contempt for humanity when he’s seen the worst of them. You could say the same thing for The Punisher or Doctor Doom or Roy Batty. You really feel the pain when the fence is wrenched as much as his heart.

I think we’ve all had times where A) we’ve had friends who split apart because your ideologies were different and B) we’ve all thought that we could do a job better than the people in power. Heck, it’s happening in our country right now. One guy who claims to have all the answers, to always be right, is arousing the passions and hatred of others and using that to buy allegiance. “Follow me. Not because my policies are right, but because their policies are wrong.” That’s also why the X-Men remain popular. Because the way to peace is not going to be through making the other guy suffer.

Fun Factor: Magneto’s got a long tail so I’ll try to just focus on this movie. The world is made of metal so he basically has telekinesis over everything. Bullets can’t stop you, prisons can’t hold you. And by reversing magnetism, you get the ability to fly. It’s the same as Chronicle. He’s not exactly fun at parties, but Ian McKellan exudes a charisma in all his roles that is just lightning in a bottle.

Fatal Flaw: One of the common things you’re going to see in this series is supervillains overestimating how strong their power is. You think he’s got Wolverine, one of the most powerful X-Men, dead to rights because of his adamantium skeleton. Magento is willing to sacrifice others but not himself to achieve his goals. Whereas the X-Men (as demonstrated when Wolverine stabs himself to get free) are willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. That’s the flaw–that Magneto’s philosophy does not stand up to the goodness of people (similar to the ending of The Dark Knight).

Method of Defeat: The X-Men fight their way to the top of the Statue of Liberty as the mutation field is reaching Ellis Island. Magneto stops wolverine from breaking his machine, but Cyclops blasts Magneto with a pinpoint blast. Wolverine breaks the machine. Magneto is captured and taken to a prison of all plastic and glass.

Final Rating: Three stars

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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