Lee, Shane and Maria can’t seem to justify why they loved X-Men Apocalypse, but they sure do try anyway!
“X-Men: Apocalypse” has numerous issues; perhaps too many issues for the average movie-goer. Critically, it’s difficult to defend. It’s formulaic: a cookie-cutter superhero plot where there’s a bad guy who literally wants to take over the world, so the good guys beat him up. It’s clichéd: the anti-hero with a change of heart at the last minute? The never-seen-before family who are introduced pretty much just to act as a set-up device for one of the movie’s villains to get back in the game? Not to mention some truly derivative dialogue, with lines like “this is war!” and “that’s why I’m here: to fight!”
It’s long. It takes a while for things to get going. It has too many characters, a number of who are introduced and say little to nothing throughout the entire film, while others are simply poorly characterised relying frequently on foreknowledge of the previous films or the comics they are based on. It has an entire prison break segment that feels like it came from a different movie, somewhat plugs a future movie and has almost no bearing on the overall plot whatsoever.
X-Men also remains the one superhero franchise that refuses to lighten up in overall tone. Characters are often miserable, and it doesn’t feel like they’re making much progress on that mutant rights movement they keep pushing.
It’s a flawed movie, and makes for difficult recommendation to even fans of the series, as it lacks a lot of the bigger character moments that have so far defined the post-“First Class” entries. There’s no big change in the status quo, no deeper analysis of the world of X-Men or the characters within it, no real shocking game-changers. So it’s safe to say if all of this sounds like a put-off for you, perhaps you’re better watching it on Netflix when the times comes.
For those still with us, I want to quickly divulge a few theories of mine on why “X-Men: Apocalypse” has been probably my favourite film of the year so far.
From beginning to end, I had a blast watching this movie, and that’s perhaps due to two factors you might not consider positives: the “camp” factor and the “soap opera” factor.
While I’ve never been much on actual soap operas, I’ve always had a soft spot for the comic book take on the form. Weekly dramas and adventures, usually not changing much in the status quo, with a huge roster of intermeshing characters making simple, everyday decisions can always be improved with laser beams and winged people. X-Men: Apocalypse had me wishing for a full-on live-action X-Men TV show, where I could follow these characters more regularly and spend more time getting to know them, while also seeing them blow stuff up for my amusement.
It makes for simple pleasures, but that’s the point. My mind felt instantly at home with these characters, and perhaps that’s due to us being stuck with them for over eight movies at this point, but it still feels good to visit the memorable faces and support them in their latest adventures, no matter how minor or formulaic.
What really pulls that idea through, however, is how camp the series has gotten. And I mean this with every positive tone I can muster. Comic books, especially with the few X-Men comics I’ve read, are often bright, colourful affairs full of one-liners and cool-guy poses and fabulous super people being fabulous. To see the movies get so much closer to laying all chips of the table and saying, “yes, we know this looks ridiculous, just live with it” is such a great step forward for the medium that I’m happy to overlook so many more flaws by the grandeur of the motion.
Apocalypse, the title villain, seems to have only one interesting goal: form the greatest glam metal band in the world and pose in amazing over-the-top costumes. The character himself is already a strangely Shakespearian purple guy who loves making speeches and calls everyone his “children”. Enter blue guys like Beast, Nightcrawler and Mystique; have Magneto don the red helmet and fly around in his wonderful cape; get Archangel some metal wings and Storm some bad-ass white Mohawk action and we have the most fabulous glam-band album cover of all time. Not to mention Cyclops’ laser-eye nullifying Ray Bans.
It’s not justifiable, of course: the negatives all still stand. But I left X-Men: Apocalypse with the same stupid smile on my face as when I entered. And the audience we were with laughed right up the end, so clearly there are those among you who should watch this film.
For me though; I just wanted to see them get their bright comic costumes. And they do. And they’re amazing. That’s worthy of an A from me.
[This review contains spoilers for both X-Men: Apocalypse and the Avengers series of movies, including Captain America: Civil War]
Before I start my review on X-Men Apocalypse I must admit to two biases I have that influenced my opinion on this movie regardless of what the actual storyline was.
Bias Number 1:
I do not like Jennifer Lawrence as an actress.
We give a lot of grief to actors and actresses who totally abandon their acting ability for the sake of raking in some capital from the masses (see: Robert Patterson & Kristen Stewart in Twilight, Jamie Dornan in 50 Shades of Grey). These people I get, and the fact they know what they’re doing is shameless allows me to relax and criticize the terrible writing and direction while giving them a free bad-acting pass.
On the other end of the scale are those apparently-talented actors and actresses that gave everything they had to an indefensible movie, and the results were just as poor. Examples include: Anne Hathaway – Princess Diaries 1, 2 (and soon to be 3 for god’s sake Anne stop); That girl from 50 Shades of Grey – 50 Shades of Grey; and worst of all, Hollywood’s totally loveable golden child – Jennifer Lawrence. My full thoughts on why will come with a retrospective review on The Hunger Games as a whole. Anyway moving on.
Bias Number 2:
There is just something about Ancient Rulers who were there for early civilization that I just find highly enjoyable regardless of how weak its use is. (I’m looking at you Crystal Skull and Prometheus.)
All-in-all, I think these two biases should cancel each other out for a nice impartial opinion, to make room for my many other polarized opinions.
X-Men: Apocalypse succeeds in many of the areas that The Avengers continually fall flat. Believable relationships are the main source of that point. A good example for comparison is the Black Widow/Hulk relationship compared to the relationship between young Scott Summers and Jean Grey.
The Avenger relationship is born out of the highly attractive Black Widow essentially flirting so hard at a socially awkward scientist until he feels it would be more awkward not to fall for her.
Yes, I’m sure there are plenty of lonely nerds who can’t see anything wrong with this picture, but for the rest of us it just seems a tad hard to believe without more time spent on how and why these feelings develop. Unfortunately, when you’re making a film with a dozen or so main characters, you would have to justify this need over action-packed superhero fight scenes and justify it, they did not.
Now take the relationship between Scott and Jean in ‘Apocalypse’. Scott is a good-looking cool-guy and Jean is a good-looking intelligent girl. In ‘Avengers-verse’, the couple would have already shipped off to Brazil together and we would now be watching Captain America punch a communist alien in its laser-jaw face, but for the X-Men they don’t just stop here.
They have issues to overcome. Initially Scott doesn’t much appreciate Jean’s mind-invading abilities, as he is too blind (literally) and arrogant to realize that Jean isn’t the mind-invading, power-abusing weirdo that he initially believes her to be. We then spend the remainder of the movie with the two of them playing off each other, and we get to see them actually grow closer.
It is certainly arguable that the intensely complex and insecure relationship that develops between two psychologically damaged adults is a much more interesting concept to watch than the typical boy-meets-girl story found in your typical action movies and you would be right. But if you only have 6 minutes of spare screen-time to set these kind of foundations, simpler equals more effective.
In ‘Apocalypse’ there is no outward recognition of feelings between Scott and Jean but you can feel it the entire way through. It’s well handled. Meanwhile, in ‘Avengers’, they knock you over the head with the idea there’s something between Hulk/Widow, but without dedicating the time to telling it right, it fails absolutely at convincing us.
Another aspect in which ‘Apocalypse’ trumps ‘Avengers’ is in its dealings with loss. I think the audience mourns the passing of Quicksilver in ‘Age of Ultron’ more authentically than the Scarlett Witch does (at least I still missed his presence in Civil War, Scarlett!). The feeling of heart-wrenching loss felt by Magneto in Apocalypse is put across really well by Michael Fassbender. We had such a short amount of time to become invested with Magneto’s new humble abode but they truly made those minutes count. Humanity is awful; you’re right Magneto, kill’em all!
All that said; “X-Men: Apocalypse” isn’t perfect. I think ‘Avengers’ still knows how to make a far superior action sequence. There was a point when Beast was fighting SamuraiWhipGirl (?) that I just thought: “Who in God’s name thought this deserved screen-time?” They were painfully uninteresting to watch, as a whole I think the modern four-horsemen were a massive let down.
Magneto is awesome whether you call him a horseman or not, so he doesn’t count. ‘Apocalypse’ looked at the easily finished horsemen and said “Pathetic.” And he was right! But if they were so pathetic, why not take 20 minutes out of the eternity you will live for to find mutants with better powers? Why limit it to four? The answer to this question is, ultimately, “because it wouldn’t fit into the plot.” Not a great excuse, X-Men…
I don’t know what else really needs to be said about this movie apart from “go watch it!” It’s fun; Scott and Jean have never had a more enjoyable relationship and we’re really starting to see the team come together! Fox are really giving Marvel a run for their money here!
- Kurt Wagner grew up in Bavaria, West Germany; the first shopping mall in Bavaria was built in 1967. He either knew what a shopping mall was and pretended not to, or they have rewritten his character to be East German in which case his rampant Catholicism doesn’t add up too well.
- Quicksilver was great in this iteration too!
- Wolverine’s entrance was predictable and I loved it.
- Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t that annoying in this movie.
X-men was a really camp, stupid movie that I laughed out loud at too many times to be ok for a non-comedy. The capes, oh the capes. Everything was flashy and cheesy and colourful for no reason whatsoever. I thought the film opened too slow and that Apocalypse didn’t seem threatening. I had no idea what Magneto was trying to do with his magnets at the end. Glad to see he had his helmet back though, helmet > living family.
Sansa was really good as Jean Grey, definitely my favourite actress/ character overall. Some awkward scenes for J-Law and N.Hoult in there. I’m pretty sure Cairo was destroyed with millions of people in it, but there were no bodies and no one seemed interested in finding the mutants that did it after? Rose Byrne I love you but you had no need to be in this film. I still don’t remember her in First Class despite actual flashbacks being shown in the film. Quiksilver was grand-o.
Jennifer Lawrence’s face is starting to annoy me. Glad to see the team together at the end. Terrible storyline. Best part is when Magneto and Jean Grey rebuild the school using planks of wood and mind powers.
[Lee and Shane’s reviews were originally posted 22/05/16]