Jubilation “Jubilee” Lee has been a fan-favourite Marvel character ever since her debut in issue 244 of The Uncanny X-Men in 1989. Jubilee is a Mutant who can release firework-like energy from her body (typically her hands). Since her debut, she has been a mainstay in the Marvel universe and like most popular Marvel characters, creators have spawned many iterations and alternate versions of her, including a version where she is a member of the Captain Britain Corps.
It would only take three-years for Jubilee to become a part of mainstream media because in 1992 she was one of the main characters of FOX Kids’ animated series, X-Men, where she was voiced by Alyson Court.
In 1997, she made her first live-action appearance in the pilot episode of FOX’s Generation X, which would have launched the first live-action X-Men television series had it been successful. Here, Jubilee had the same abilities and was once again the youngest and newest student at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngers, however here, she was inexplicably made to be white instead of Chinese-American.
Fox would try again with a live-action X-Men project, this time in the form of a motion-picture helmed by Bryan Singer. X-Men would go on to be released on July 14th, 2000, and gross just under $300 million against a $75 million budget, enough for a sequel and eventually long line of other X-Men related films.
In X-Men (2000), Jubilee is played by Katrina Florence, she makes a non-speaking appearance in a few classroom scenes and is only addressed by name in a deleted scene. In X2 (2003) and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Jubilee is recast with Kea Wong, who has a somewhat “expanded” role. In X2, Jubilee is one of the children kidnapped by William Stryker and Storm (Halle Berry) can at one-point be heard calling her name during the rescue operation. Jubilee does use her powers in a rather redundant museum scene, where she explores the mutation exhibits and randomly starts using her powers – it’s not surprising that this scene was deleted. In X-Men: The Last Stand, she is once again relegated to classroom scenes and nothing more.
We don’t see a live-action Jubilee again for a whopping ten-years despite there being a further four movies in that time, and like the very first X-Men movie, she was considered to be a part of the team in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), we can see this in concept art where artists used the likeness of Jamie Chung (who would eventually take over the role of Blink from Days of Future Past’s Fan Bingbing) to create how Jubilee could potentially look in the dystopic future, but once again Jubilee found herself on the chopping block.
Now we finally come to 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse, where Jubilee makes a triumphant return, this time played by her fourth live-action actress, and third in the X-Men movie franchise, Lana Condor, who you may know as Lara Jean from the To All the Boy’s I’ve Loved Before movies.
In X-Men: Apocalypse, Jubilee is a teenager in the ’80s rather than the early 2000s due to the X-Men’s convoluted timeline (I’m not going into it the mess that is the Fox X-Men timeline). We see Jubilee is a student and this time she is close friends with Cyclops, Jean Gray, and Nightcrawler, so naturally, we can assume that she’s finally part of the movie’s big adventure…
She is once again sidelined in favour of other characters and spends a large proportion of the films main events knocked-out with the extras, adding insult to injury she has one scene where we see her use her abilities, and like before, it was deleted from the final cut. Thanks to this, Condor only has roughly around one minute of screen time. Jubilee hasn’t been featured in an X-Men feature-film since…
On March 20th, 2019, Disney completed its the acquisition of 21st Century Fox, and with it, they became the owners of 99% of the Fox media catalogue which included the film rights to Fantastic Four and the X-Men, two properties that were locked away from Disney prior to their 2009 purchase of Marvel. It wouldn’t be long until the mouse house would shuffle the former Fox/Marvel properties into their card deck and put a Fantastic Four film into development. Mutants are also confirmed to be coming to the MCU… although maybe one already has?
While we don’t know how the Mutants will be brought into the fold, I know one thing that they should definitely do – make Jubilee one of the main characters, and I know someone who should play her – Lana Condor.
It’s not out of the realms of possibility that Condor could potentially return as Jubilee, after all, the Fox X-Men franchise is its own universe that is separate from the MCU, who’s to say there isn’t another Jubilation Lee out there that looks just like Condor’s version of the character? And with Deadpool returning for an MCU-based Deadpool 3, plus we have an upcoming multiverse storyline that will include Spider-Man 3 and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Marvel literally have many excuses they could come up with if there already isn’t a version of the Jubilee in the MCU.
While I’m one of the people that believes X-Men should be rebooted with a new cast, I do think there should be some exceptions to the recasting of the characters, and Lana Condor is one of them. I’m not going to pretend to be an X-Men connoisseur, but I thought Condor was excellent as Jubilee and she did her best despite the little she was given. Since her fleeting appearance in X-Men: Apocalypse (also her film debut) she has shown that she is a very capable actress with the depth and humility needed for a leading role in an ensemble Marvel movie. That’s not even mentioning how much she looks the part because if they did one thing right with Apocalypse it was the spot-on casting of Jubilee.
Side-note: I want to acknowledge that Condor is Vietnamese-American, not Chinese-American, so there is an argument to be made that Jubilee should be played by someone of Chinese descent. In which case, if Marvel chose to cast an actress of Chinese descent, rather than keeping Condor, I most certainly would not be opposed.
It wasn’t until 2018 that we saw our first Black-led Marvel movie, and it won’t be until July 9th, 2021 that Marvel will see its first Asian-led movie with Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and that’s only providing it’s not pushed back again due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s release also depends on whether or not Black Widow is delayed again.
In recent years, diversity has been one of the top things on Marvel’s mind. In the past, the X-Men movies over-relied on the Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp incarnations of Storm with a few other characters of colour sprinkled around in the background. A rather confusing decision considering that the original comics were inspired by the America Civil Rights Movement – in case you didn’t know, Professor X and Magneto were based on Martin Luthor King and Malcolm X. So it was a shame to see a character of colour like Jubilee sidelined time-and-time again, never truly making it past the concept stage and always being cut from the script. A character who we only see use her powers in the live-action movies twice, both in deleted scenes totalling her power screen time to just a few seconds.
X-Men is the perfect opportunity for a diverse ensemble movie, something we will actually see later this year (again, keeping the pandemic in mind) with Eternals, but the thing about the X-Men is that whoever will helm the next version of the series has the privilege of using a catalogue of literally thousands of X-Men characters that Disney previously did not own the rights to, so in reality, there isn’t any reason why the team can’t be diverse.
Jubilee has been played by three actresses in four movies, and only in one, she isn’t just an extra with a name. However the Marvel team decide on how they bring Mutants into the MCU, Jubilee should be there right alongside her X-Men colleagues, and Condor should be given a second chance at a role she should have had in X-Men: Apocalypse. A role where we see her use her powers outside of a deleted scene, a role where she’s a part of the climactic battle, a role where she is integral to the team as she is in the comics and animated series.
Jubilee is too much of a fan-favourite character to be unlovingly dismissed and tossed aside once let alone five times, especially when she’s a character that can bring so much to the table in terms of diversity of characters and actors, powers, and storylines.
Here’s hoping that we see Jubilee introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the other X-Men in the near future…
Let me know what you think, and what other X-Men characters deserve the “main character treatment” on Twitter or in the comments below!
And if you’re needing an X-Men fix, all of the movies and cartoons including X-Men: The Animated Series, and X-Men: Evolutions are on Disney+ (region depending).