Why Jennifer Lawrence is killing the X-Men movies

They say you always hurt the ones you love, which might explain why Jennifer Lawrence is hurting—and killing—the X-Men. Oh, not on purpose, of course—she does her darndest in X-Men: Apocalypse, just as she did in First Class and Days of Future Past. But still, she's destroying the franchise, not in spite of her love for the series, but because of it. Here's a spoiler-heavy look at just how and why I think Jennifer Lawrence is killing the mutants we all love so much.

She's the new Wolverine ... and that's a bad thing

When the original X-Men came out way back in 2000, Hugh Jackman became a sudden breakout superstar thanks to his eye-popping (and claw-popping) role as fan favorite Wolverine. So, naturally, the next film featured even more Wolverine. And then in X-Men: The Last Stand, pretty much the entire movie was about Wolverine, with the other characters reduced to cameos, or even getting killed off screen (sorry, Cyclops). Needless to say, that film stunk.

In other words, the X-Men franchise became a victim of Hugh Jackman's popularity. Now the same thing is happening with Jennifer Lawrence. When First Class came out, Lawrence was more or less an unknown. But as she's gotten more and more popular, her role has increased to the point where in Apocalypse, she's now the focal point of the entire series. The film suffers for it, and if history has taught us anything, it's going to keep getting worse, the longer she's spotlighted.

Mystique just isn't that interesting a character

Keeping the focus on Mystique might be okay if she were actually an interesting character. But … you know … she's kind of not. At least, not as they've portrayed her so far. When it comes to morally conflicted anti-heroes, she's severely overshadowed by Magneto. And when it comes to do-gooding hero-heroes, she overshadowed by Professor Xavier. Heck, in my book, she's even overshadowed when it comes to blue mutants by Beast.

Sure, they've positioned her as the fulcrum between Charles and Eric, but that simply makes her less of a character, and more of a necessary plot device. She's almost never had a chance to do much more than shade the interaction between Xavier and Magneto, helping their bromantic character development at the cost of her own. In Apocalypse, they try to address this by giving her a new Mutant Savior sheen, but that's also mostly stuff projected onto her by others, rather than projected from within. As a result, it doesn't really ring true. Unless they make some serious changes to the character, then as long as Mystique is at the center of the franchise, it will be hollow at its core.

It means we get the same story over and over

The other big problem with the fact that Mystique is little more than a prop in the interaction between Magneto and Xavier, is that it leads to retelling the same story over and over. Oh, Xavier and Magneto end up on opposite sides of a struggle, and nothing Charles says can convince Magneto to come over to the good side. But then! Mystique intervenes and appeals to him as both a friend and a woman. He wavers and switches sides! Hooray!

Yeah, okay, great. We get it already. Once was interesting, but three times is two times too many. Unfortunately, Jennifer Lawrence takes up so much bandwidth that there's just no room for other stories. Every movie, it seems we get introduced to a dozen new and potentially awesome characters, but most of them only get maybe one token scene to show off their cool design (hello, Archangel) before being shunted to the background in favor of yet another retelling of the Xavier-Magneto-Mystique triangle. What other, new stories might these other, new mutants have been able to tell if Mystique wasn't bottlenecking the plot? Hopefully we eventually get to find out.

Welcome to the Hunger X-Games!

Lawrence's massive worldwide popularity is great for the box office bottom line. But that also brings its own set of new issues, which play out all too obviously in Apocalypse. With a whole new fanbase coming over to X-Men from the Hunger Games series, there's a different demographic to please, with different expectations. And the folks at 20th Century Fox are doing their best to satisfy those expectations. Just take a look at X-Men: Apocalypse, which often plays out more like X-Men: The Hunger Games, what with its focus on a new batch of teen heroes and their internecine death match with Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen.

Fans of Lawrence went into the theater wanting to see a Lawrence movie. Well, they got it. But did they get an X-Men movie? I'm not so sure.

She's simply too big for the franchise

At its heart, X-Men is an ensemble. It's about the team, not about any one character … or actor. The bigger Lawrence gets, the bigger the issues are behind the scenes. First, there's the matter of her contract—having a worldwide superstar headlining your movie doesn't come cheap, and it's not getting any cheaper. That might seem like a problem for the studio and not the fans, but it impacts profit margins and that impacts the studio's decision to make a sequel or not.

There are also scheduling issues, of course, but perhaps the biggest potential problem with allowing the star to become more important than the franchise is that, if she decides she wants out, suddenly you have nothing. Look at the hoops Marvel has had to jump through to keep Robert Downey Jr. on board for their films. If you give her the keys to the car, she might drive it, or she might crash it. I, for one, would rather have an X-Men movie starring a bunch of unknowns, than wait on Lawrence's whims to see if we have any more X-Men movies at all.

How about you?