By: Angelica Bastien
Sorry to disappoint you Storm fans, but the latest X-Men film has once again failed to make her the badass she deserves to be on screen. Storm is the most well-known and powerful black female superheroes, so why does she keep being sidelined?
X-Men: Apocalypse is a bloated, confused, hollow film. But what makes it downright tragic is how director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg squander the potential of introducing us to younger, different versions of characters like Storm and Jean Grey. Casting the now 24-years old Alexandra Shipp as Ororo “Storm” Monroe and getting to meet the character when she’s still struggling on the streets of Cairo seemed like a step in the right direction. She’s even sporting her iconic mohawk look that has the sort of edge and theatricality fans love in the character. But it seems Singer and Kinberg put more thought into Storm’s look than her storyline.
Since X-Men came out in 2000 it’s been pretty obvious Singer doesn’t care about Storm. The whole series is pretty much the Wolverine show while the newer films focus on Professor Xavier and Magneto. A lot of the blame has been laid at the feet of Halle Berry who portrayed Storm in four films. Sure, Berry’s accent changed as often as her terrible wigs. She routinely fell flat when the character should be a grand, imposing, goddess-like figure. But it’s hard to make that happen when the scripts don’t back that up.
What does Storm get to really do in the first four films? She gets a few somewhat interesting fight scenes. Supports Jean Grey and Wolverine a lot. But when you really think about it she doesn’t have much to do on her own. If anything she feels like emotional support for everyone else.
So, let’s get this straight. Storm, one of the most iconic superheroines from either of the big comic companies who has been on screen for sixteen years across five films, is treated like a second string pick. Getting her character right would go a long way to making these X-Men films feel memorable. But that requires more effort and imagination than apparently Singer and Kinberg have put together.
Somehow Storm comes off even worse in X-Men: Apocalypse. Alexandra Shipp definitely has the look down and there are moments when she actually seems to be having fun with the role. But despite being a supposedly important ally for Apocalypse, the oddly boring yet ridiculously superpowered mutant played by Oscar Isaac, she doesn’t get all that much to do. She glowers. She shoots some lightning bolts. She flies. In an interview, Shipp says that “Storm has a darkness to her.” It’s a shame that doesn’t really seem to show up in the film. There’s the beginning of an interesting story for Storm buried underneath everything else going on in the film. She looks up to Raven “Mystique” Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence) and it’s this admiration that leads to an important third act shift for Storm. But this idea isn’t fleshed out enough to work.
The failure in adapting Storm is just one part of the X-Men series’ issues with race. Despite the fact that these films rely on the ideas of the Civil Rights Movement as a metaphor—just look at how often the actors mention Professor X and Magneto being allegories for Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X—they don’t care about their characters of color. POC are ultimately props for the white (and occasionally blue) characters that are really the center of these films. They can be discarded when necessary and never have storylines of their own. There’s something deeply disturbing about how Apocalypse has the main evil come from Egypt, utterly destroys the pyramids, and can’t give any of the POC characters a well-thought out storyline. It’s not just bad writing, it’s offensive.
On the other hand Black Panther (who Storm was once married to in the comics) has become a lightning rod for how black characters should be done thanks to Chadwick Boseman’s performance in Captain America: Civil War. Every time he walked onscreen Civil War became a better, more complex film. Anytime Storm appears in Apocalypse I was reminded that despite the immense amount of superhero films coming out we’ve yet to see one do a women of color justice.
Since her introduction in 1975, Storm has proven herself to be strong, capable, and supremely intelligent. She’s led the X-Men before, saved the lives of her teammates, and been a caring, important force in Marvel comics. None of that shows up on-screen. If we keep going out and supporting these films that don’t support characters that look like us, nothing will change. Given the response to Black Panther, it’s important to be very vocal about what works and what doesn’t work onscreen. Alexandra Shipp definitely tries her hardest to embody Storm. And it’s obvious she loves the character whenever she is interviewed.
There are moments when she’s almost there. But she isn’t given enough to do to make an impact. But it’s long overdue for her to finally embody what makes Storm so amazing in the comics. The only way to do is to demand it. Maybe we should start a hashtag, #whereisstorm, because she definitely doesn’t seem to be anywhere in X-Men: Apocalypse.
Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox (trailer)