I’m between a rock and a hard place here. We’ve decided to do these articles, covering who played who better in the X-Men series- now that there’s two of everyone- and I’ve drawn the blue straw. Both of them (I’m doing Beast as well). So who do you pick between Jennifer Lawrence and Rebecca Romijn?
My first experience of Mystique came from X-Men The Animated Series, which played in the 90s and repeated on early morning BBC by the time I was about seven. Mystique is really weird in this series, as she shows up as a sort of slave to Apocalypse, which is pretty far from any depiction in the comics. Plus, as this clip will show you, the actor playing her wasn’t exactly putting her heart and soul into it.
So for me, I’m putting my first proper experience of Mystique down as Rebecca Romijn in Bryan Singer’s original X-Men movie. As mutant-hating Senator Kelly’s aide morphed into the bright blue Mystique, I was in love. Not just because oh my god, it’s Rebecca Romijn wearing very little at all why am I justifying this, but also because she quickly proves herself to be absolutely no-nonsense, smashing Kelly into unconsciousness. A stunning plan, carefully executed and with such style, was my introduction to this character, and the main reason why I hold such regard for Romijn.
Apart from that, Romijn suffers a bit, partially because she gets very little to do. Granted, when she’s solo, she gets some awesome action on screen. I’m a particularly big fan of her appearance in X2, as she injects a guard with a metal supplement that leads to his death later in the film. But whenever her scenes are shared with Magneto, she tends to just be standing next to him, looking amazing but doing little. I understand the temptation to just wind up Ian McKellen, let him go, and watch the scenery get eaten; but this isn’t justification enough to silence a female character on screen!
Because of the lack of material, it’s a little hard to judge Romijn’s performance. What I can say is that when hse has something to do, she does it veyr well, and her look perfectly complements the slimy, sneaky nature of Mystique. She also has incredible courage to take so revealing a ‘costume’ and wear it without a hint of shyness, fighting off bad dudes in the buff. It’s a fierce choice, where something that could easily be sexualised becomes another sign of an animalistic violence. This subtlety passed me by somewhat when I was 10, but watching the films now, it’s amazing how quickly you forget that she’s naked and focus on her raw fury. Brrr. Spooky.
Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique is quite a different animal to Rebecca Romijn’s. For one, in most of her first film, she’s nice! N’aww. She first turns up at Charles’ house, a cute-as-a-button little girl (not played by Lawrence), and grows up into a cute-as-a-button Mystique (definitely played by Lawrence). X-Men: First Class charts her journey from nice mutant to nasty mutant as she gets brought over to the dark side by Magneto himself. This is significant, as it makes her probably the most dynamic character in the film, even more so than Professor X.
X-Men: Days of Future Past, on the other hand, finds her much more like the Mystique we know and love (to hate?): she’s kicking ass and taking names from second 1, busting into a US army camp in Vietnam by pretending to be William Stryker himself (which in itself adds a nice touch of backstory to the bit where she throttles him with chains in X2).
This is a marked turn back in the right direction for her characterisation as she seemed to spend most of First Class just banging a drum and leading a cheer for her chummy bro Xavier and his mutant boy scouts. Is this enough to change my feeling about her? Not really. She still does a lot of doe-eyes in Days of Future Past, even if they’re at a man as she’s choking him to death as opposed to at Beast.
Don’t get me wrong, Lawrence is clearly the better actress, and her portrayal of the journey from Raven to Mystique is excellently characterised. It’s hard to imagine Romijn doing such a good job. But her whole performance in both films hinges around getting us to understand why Raven becomes Mystique, why that’s a viable choice, why we should question whether she’s on the right side or not. But she’s up against all the awful stuff she did in the first movies; we as an audience know that she ends up being a baddy, even if she’s just a morally conflicted anti-hero now.
Who Played Mystique Best?
Jennifer Lawrence. But only just, on a technical basis, as in ‘she’s a better actor’. And it hurts me to say it, because if I had my way, Mystique would never have played the role she did in First Class, and would have just spent any screen time smashing her way through 60s prison guards as opposed to modern ones. Ultimately, Lawrence is the better actor, but Rebecca Romijn kicks more ass. ‘Nuff said.
Who do you think played Mystique best?