Growing up watching the animated series X-Men: Evolution, I was introduced to a whole new world of superpowers given how I had mainly only heard of Superman. Back then I struggled with the difference between Marvel and DC. As I saw young teens manifest fire and ice out of thin air, I was awestruck by the abilities a certain red-headed girl possessed. With telekinesis and telepathy at her disposal, the character of Jean Grey fascinated me. Soon after, I stumbled upon the two live-action movies available at the time. I was excited. And then I wasn’t.
I watched the 2000 film X-men and honestly, I failed to recognise Jean Grey at first. After watching a teenaged Jean booming with power, I was watching a grown woman, still struggling with her abilities. X2: X-Men United instilled new hope that the following movies would do justice but the worst was yet to come.
Before I set my eyes on the tragedy that was the misshapen X-Men: The Last Stand, I was all caught up with the comics. It was then that I realised that nothing I have ever seen has ever been able to portray her correctly. The destructive force at the dispense of Jean was unimaginable. Being an Omega-level mutant, Jean Grey’s telekinesis is off the charts. Her telepathy was inhibited by Professor Xavier but her powers grew stronger to the extent where she could go toe-to-toe with Charles himself. She was one of the first and strongest mutants alive of her era yet, in the movies, she can’t even fly, loses battles against Toad, and is unable to free herself from Wolverine’s chokehold.
After becoming a host to the Phoenix Force, her powers advanced to a cosmic level. Not only was she one of the most powerful humans, she became one of the most destructive forces in all creation. She gained the ability to absorb power by devouring celestial objects. As the Dark Phoenix, she absorbed an entire star, destroying their solar system and killing billions of inhabitants. And what did the Dark Phoenix do in the movies? Took about a half-an-hour to blast Xavier’s body and lifted up the Grey Mansion. Or even worse, she couldn’t blast Logan off when he approached her to end the Phoenix. Do you see how scaled down that is?
Then came another animated series that didn’t last at all; Wolverine and the X-Men. It was hardly satisfactory to see Jean sidelined throughout the one season the show ran for but knocking an entire city unconscious in one telepathic wave is something the show got right about her.
X-Men: The Animated Series, which is often deemed the most aligned with the comics, understood her importance and gave her the attention she deserved (if you ignore the first two seasons before the Phoenix took over her). But she was much more than that. Even now, when people seem to recognise her, they do so because of the Phoenix Force and not for her own accomplishments.
The latest movie, X-Men: Apocalypse, ignored her throughout the plot only to bring forth the Phoenix-Ex-Machina. I think I know where they’re headed. Planning to exploit the Phoenix plotline again in another boring reboot, to butcher the greatest mutant’s saga, yet again.