Twelve Days of X-Mas, Day 2: ‘PROFESSOR X’

This feature originally ran at MCU Exchange in December of 2017.

Welcome to another installment of what I hope is an enjoyable, extended look at a series of films that I’d like to see used as a way to bring the X-Men and Fantastic Four universes into the MCU. I’ve spent a troubling amount of time in my own mind thinking about this and figured that if I was going to spend that much time, I might as well write it up and feel accomplished! In doing so, I know that I’ll push some buttons with some readers, so let’s be clear about a few things: these are only MY ideas and do not, in any way, represent insight into what we should expect; of all the films I end up writing about, there’s a very small chance ANY of them get made; you’re free to write your own fan-fiction about films you want to see.

With so much time between now and when we will first see the X-Men enter the MCU, there’s a lot of time for things to change (including my own mind); however, this “blueprint” is my current idea and one that I’ve attempted to base both in the kind of decisions Marvel Studios has made to date and on the types of changes we’ve seen recently. Unfortunately, in writing these I’ve discovered I am NOT cut out to do screenplays, so some of these, including this one, stray from convention in a few ways.

In the first installment, I took at look at how The Starjammers could potentially kick off Marvel Studios’ inclusion of the X-Men characters into the MCU. Following Marvel Studios The Starjammers, I think it’s time to dive into the history of Charles Xavier and get some insight into what motivated him to assemble a team of mutants and work to save the world.

Fox’s X-films have certainly given us some background on Charles Xavier, but I can’t say that I particularly love any of the contrivances they’ve injected into his story. While we’ve had two very talented actors portraying the man behind the X-Men, we’ve hardly gotten a comic accurate Professor X. We’ve seen a good man who had a few misgivings, but we’ve never seen the true Charles: a man with a dark past, innumerable secrets and the determination to due whatever was necessary to drive his agenda forward to victory. The Professor X from the comics is a man who, over time, was revealed to be as deceptive and scheming as nearly any of Marvel’s major villains, it’s just that he was supposed to be the good guy. In the words of Kitty Pryde:

We’ve had some back and forth behind the scenes on this feature and one of the things I’m hoping Marvel Studios is ready to do is to continue to blur the lines between hero and villain. I think a Professor X film offers just one option (I’ll be exploring others down the line) for Marvel Studios, but one that makes us fundamentally question how we think about good and evil. That’s a big of a departure from what we’ve come to expect, but it’s the kind of change that can really switch change things up for a studio often criticized for being formulaic and predictable.

For the purposes of this film, I’d be looking to cast someone in their late 30’s-early 40’s. A good portion of the film will be spent catching us up to present day and while we’ve seen some impressive de-aging technology, it’d be far easier to have someone who can just portray Xavier throughout his 20s and 30s and stick around for the better part of a decade as the X-films build. And as far as making sure we won’t get confused with previous Xaviers, there’ll be no British accent with this one given that he grows up in New York.

The film will open before Charles’ birth with an introduction to his father, Dr. Brian Xavier, his colleague, Dr. Kurt Marko and face we’ve seen before (although before was in the future relative to this film), Dr. Essex, who is currently working as Dr. Milbury. The three men, alongside the creepy Amanda Mueller, are revealed to be working for the government on Project: Black Womb, a project that finds them working on what is essentially the Mutant Genome Project in hopes of understanding the recent rise in the prevalence of the chromosomal x-factor. While he once again is not the main focus of the film, there’s enough time in the opening act to fill in more of his background, including his obsession with the X-gene that runs in a particular family: the Summers. Both his and Mueller’s long life spans can be revealed in this film, along with Mueller’s own interaction with the Summers’ family as the great-great grandmother of Scott and Alex.

While partners on the project, Dr. Marko is shown to be a jealous and hateful man, though his genius is the equal of Xavier’s. Though both men had sons of the same age, Marko’s arrogance, anger and tendency to get lost in his work had cost him his first wife. The contrast to Xavier’s home life is key as their two sons will be at the center of not only this film but key MCU events for the next several years. Having found what they were looking for, Milbury and Mueller leave the project leaving Xavier and Marko with no funding and no direction. The two continue their work until a lab accident takes Xavier’s life. At this point, things will be quite uncomfortable for the audience and the characters involved. Kurt marries Xavier’s widow and their two sons, Cain Marko and Charles Xavier begin a journey that will keep their fates intertwined for decades.

From here we will see the two boys growing up in the ancestral Xavier mansion as Cain, who has a history of violence and insubordination, come to live with his father and his new step-family. Brothers by law only, the two boys aren’t close and Cain grows to resent Charles. Kurt abuses and neglects his own son at the expense of fostering Charles’ incredible intellect. Cain feels betrayal at the hands of his father and begins bullying Charles and it is during one such incident that Charles first becomes aware of his telepathic abilities. Charles unintentionally enters the mind of Cain and is terrified of what he sees there and in an act of kindness, tries to talk to Cain about it. This not only increases Cain’s hatred of Charles but also plants the seed of fear of what his step-brother can do. With Marko wrapped up in his work once more, Charles’ mother succumbs to her grief and dies. Angry with Marko, Charles intends to confront him at his lab where he overhears Kurt and Cain fighting. As the fight turns violent, Charles attempts to use his powers to subdue the two only to cause Cain to fly into an uncontrollable rage that results in an explosion. Kurt Makro perishes in the fire, leaving the two boys on their own and Charles as the rightful heir to the Xavier fortunes. From here on, though fully aware of the extent of his powers, Charles remains largely reluctant to use them.

The second act will follow Charles as he begins his post-secondary education. Charles’ prodigious intellect pushes him quickly through his graduate work and he finds himself jumping across the pond to pursue Ph.Ds in Genetics and Biophysics, hoping to gain some insight not only into his own abilities, but the work his father was doing. As his knowledge grows, so does his curiosity and as he begins to dig into the work done by his father and Marko, he eventually comes across the names of two of their colleagues: Milbury and Mueller. Charles finds himself now at a tipping point and, if not for him happening to meet someone who will become one of the most important people in his life at just this time, things could go quite differently for Xavier. It is at this point that Charles meets and quickly falls in love with Moira Kinross. The two find they are both deeply interested in genetic mutations, though Charles keeps his hidden from Moira, and it is through their discussions that the seeds of Charles’ future plans are sown. Though they have feelings for one another, Moira is clearly wary of entering into a relationship and we learn that she’s been in a tumultuous on-and-off relationship with a man named Joe McTaggert, who is currently stationed abroad as a Royal Marine. Despite her concerns, Moira finds herself falling for Charles and the two fall in love.

Back at Xavier’s ancestral home, Cain Marko continues to live a life in which he becomes increasingly isolated and violent. Though the two aren’t close, Charles has allowed him to stay in the home and attempts to maintain contact, but on a return trip to America one summer, he uses his powers to access Cain’s mind only to find that his step-brother has given himself over to his baser instincts and has made quite a reputation for himself as a mercenary. Reaching out to help him, Charles approaches Cain about what he knows only to have his step-brother attack him for using his gift to read his mind. The two fight and Cain holds nothing back. While Charles holds his own, he puts an end to the fight by mentally disabling Cain. When he recovers, Cain leaves the mansion, his hatred for Charles and his abilities driving him towards becoming even more of a monster.

Returning to Oxford, Charles finds that Joe McTaggert has returned. After a brief confrontation, Moira tells Charles that she is leaving him for Joe. Enraged, Charles reads both Moira and Joe’s minds and finds Moira terrified of the abusive Joe. Broken and alone, Charles finishes his work at Oxford at returns to America. Seeing people oppressed at the hands of a dictator, Charles enlists in the US Army and becomes a part of Operation Desert Storm. His time in the war opens his eyes to the hatred, violence and destruction that man unleashes during war. As the war winds down, Charles and army pilot Carmen Pride find themselves behind enemy lines during a rescue mission. As things begin to take a turn for the worse, the opposing army is mowed down by a band of privately contracted soldiers led by Cain Marko. Charles learns that his brother’s team has been sent to loot an ancient temple under the cover of war. Charles puruses Marko into the temple, attempting to stop him from taking treasures that rightfully belong to the people. Marko arrogantly grabs the largest ruby in the old temple, claiming it for himself. In a pretty Indiana Jones scene, the temple begins to fall around them as Charles watches Marko become transformed into something superhuman. As Marko’s rage is unleashed, the temple collapses on top of him, and the last thing Charles sees of his step-brother are his glowing, red eyes.

With the war ended, Charles completes his service and decides to stay in the Middle East, choosing to live in Cairo. Reaching out with his mind one night, Charles connects with Moira and finds that life has brought her many ups and downs, but that she is now separated from Joe and working at her own research facility on Muir Island, off the coast of Scotland. Digging deeper, Charles finds that Moira has a mutant son and, though the boy is very young, she is already terrified of him. A distraught Charles takes to the streets of Cairo where he becomes aware of the thoughts of a young pickpocket targeting him. As Charles connects with the mind of the young girl, he identifies her as a mutant before he is overwhelmed by another, darker presence in her head and looses consciousness.

Charles awakens in the lair of Amahl Farouk, the crime boss of the Thieves Quarter of Cairo. Here, Charles gets a good look at the young pick pocket, Ororo, and many others who are clearly under the control of Farouk. Farouk greets Charles and tells him he became aware of his presence in Cairo when he connected with Ororo. Recognizing Charles as a strong telepath, Farouk tells Charles of his criminal enterprise and invites him to be a part of it. For the first time, Charles recognizes not only the equal of his abilities, but also the opposite: someone who is not only willing to use them, but also to use them to commit acts of evil. While Charles’ powers have grown, he’s uncertain of their full extent; however, when he refuses, he finds out the full extent of Farouk’s.

Farouk quickly shows Charles that while he himself is a powerful mutant, he’s long been bonded with an entity known as the Shadow King. Brought to life as a manifestation of the terrors of early humans, the Shadow King has lived on people’s fears and feasted on their terror. In Farouk he has found a willing and powerful vessel and hopes to bring Xavier’s powers to his stable by inhabiting his mind. As Xavier resists, he finds his mind opens a gateway to another dimension where his likeness is projected: the Astral Dimension. Here Charles quickly learns the power of the Shadow King as his every fear is turned against him (the death of his father, his failure to save Marko and his failed relationship with Moira). In what will become his first act of great violence and a memory that will long haunt him, Charles, reminiscent of what he had seen in Cain, turns the fear to rage and battles back. Unprepared for the immense power unleashed against him, Farouk is beaten. As he attempts one final attack, Charles enters into Farouk’s mind and destroys it entirely, killing Farouk, driving the Shadow King from him. Before Charles returns to his body, we see one final shot of the Shadow King, a being of fear who now knows it.

As he recovers from his battle with the Shadow King, Charles realizes that while an entirely foul creature, Farouk is certainly not the only mutant out to do evil. It is at this point that he becomes determined to protect others from those who would do evil and to begin to protect and train young mutants, such as the one he met in Cairo, so that they couldn’t be used as weapons. Reflecting back on the life of his step-brother, Cain Marko, Charles knows the dangers that the outcast, orphaned and down-trodden face and begins Project Cerebro, a way to identify mutants that he might train.

Post-Credit Scene #1: A few years later, Charles has completed work on his third Ph.D, in Psychiatry, and is traveling the world again while continuing to work on Project Cerebro. Seeking to help the survivors of the Bosnian genocide, he works at a refugee clinic in Austria where he meets another volunteer: Erik Magnus.

Post-Credit Scene #2: Cain Marko, alive and well, boards a plane in an Israeli airport.

Fan Cast: For some odd reason, I just can’t get this picture out of my head. I’m not sure that it has to be JGL, but there’s something about it that I like.

A little (or a lot) unconventional I know, but this film sets so many wheels in motion that it had to happen in my mind.

Professor Xavier will return!

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