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We don’t know when, we don’t know how, but eventually the X-Men will make their way to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And when they do, there are certain staples of the mutant team we are expecting to see. Among them is Cyclops, the frequent leader of the X-Men, first played on the big screen by actor James Marsden. Whoever steps into the part as Scott Summers, James Marsden hopes that the MCU’s Cyclops can overcome the role’s biggest challenge. He explained that challenge saying:
The biggest challenge was that, the audience and other actors never being able to see your eyes. Definitely was a handicap in bringing a persona to the character, and an energy to the character. To a character who is also very, by nature, very by-the-books. Kind of a Boy Scout, ‘do the right thing.’ He’s a foil to Wolverine’s character, who is more fly by the seat of his pants, a little more unpredictable, and aggressive.
Speaking with Collider, James Marsden highlights the biggest impediment to both playing Cyclops and making the character really pop onscreen. Unfortunately, that biggest challenge is also an unavoidable one given the nature of the character and his powers. Cyclops’ mutation is that he projects force blasts from his eyes and as such, he has to always wear a visor or sunglasses with ruby quartz lenses. Unless he obliterates everyone and everything he looks at.
The problem with that is that, from an acting and performance standpoint, it means that we the audience can never see Cyclops’ eyes. The eyes are the windows to the soul as they say and to James Marsden, that barrier of not being able to see them is the biggest challenge to the role of Cyclops. Whoever plays Cyclops will always have their eyes covered and that makes it difficult for the actor and his co-stars to perform together and play off one another without that connection.
Furthermore, James Marsden believes that not being able to see Scott Summers’ eyes makes it more difficult for Cyclops to really endear himself to the audience. He can’t convey things with his eyes so delivering the kind of persona and energy necessary for the character to stand out has to be done through other aspects of the performance and that is easier said than done.
James Marsden also notes that Cyclops is kind of handicapped to begin with to a degree, because of the perception that the character is a boy scout. Cyclops is the do-gooder who follows orders while his teammate Wolverine gets to break all the rules and say cool stuff and just be badass. So bringing energy to the character with the personality contrast of Wolverine ever-present is another challenge to playing Cyclops.
Just because playing Cyclops has its challenges though doesn’t mean no one can excel in the role. James Marsden has some ideas about what the MCU’s Cyclops actor should do, saying:
I would just say lean into it. Own it. And carve out your own thing. The fans of the books are going to tell you ‘it needs to be this’. Find a new way to make it interesting. Because it is tough to like get something interesting and cool and different across when no one ever sees your eyes. Which is obviously, you know, the main part of the character.
James Marsden’s advice for whoever plays Cyclops in the MCU is to make the character their own and experiment. To him, the MCU Cyclops shouldn’t be bound to any sort of strict adherence to what the fans want from the character based on the comics. Instead the next actor to play Cyclops needs to try new things.
The idea is that maybe by making bold choices, the MCU’s Cyclops can hit on a way to really make the character interesting and cool and overcome the challenge of the audience not being able to see his eyes. You can’t suddenly make Cyclops able to shut off his powers so that we can see the actor’s eyes without completely changing who Cyclops is. But what you can do is find other ways to stand out and connect with the audience.
It’s solid advice from James Marsden who was a good Cyclops in his own right, if not exactly what fans of the character from the comics wanted. We have no idea how the mutants will be portrayed in the MCU. So perhaps there will be room to experiment like James Marsden said. Also, there are already two great example out there of how despite the challenges, Cyclops can work and be awesome.
First is The Mandalorian. We couldn’t see Mando’s eyes or even his face for the majority of the season, but he still conveyed a powerful and interesting persona. We’ll at least be able to see Cyclops’ mouth. And secondly, Chris Evans’ Captain America has shown how a character that is viewed as a boy scout, can still be badass and a fan favorite. The MCU’s Cyclops would do well to look to these two examples, as well as James Marsden’s advice for guidance.