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X-Men: Apocalypse - Spoiler-free movie review

Nathan Strum

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Well... I had completely lost any interest in seeing this movie after being completely underwhelmed by the trailers. But I was really bored yesterday evening, so I decided to go.

I thought the last X-Men movie was good, and I'd finally rented Deadpool the other week, and thought that was pretty good, too. So maybe Fox was going to do okay with this movie. As an aside, how faithful Deadpool was to the comic, I couldn't tell you. He came along after I had stopped reading comics. His movie was entertaining enough, although Ryan Reynolds gets pretty annoying after awhile, even if the relentless barrage of one-liners are part of Deadpool's character. Personally, I could have done without a pretty good chunk of the R-rated material in the film. Yes, I know that's supposed to be part of the character, but I didn't feel that it was all that necessary in order to make the film good. Some of it just felt gratuitous in order to get their coveted R-rating. Also, as with most comic book movies, if you think about the plot too much, it just doesn't make sense. But overall, the writing was pretty good, the action scenes were well done, and I thought it was worth the price of a rental. One thing that really didn't work though, was Colossus. As a fully CG character - he just looked like a big toy. Completely cartoony and fake. More fake than

. Plus, they played him as such a humorless straight-man, that there was nothing appealing left about his character (and yes - I know he was just a supporting character here, but they could have made him at least a little interesting). If I'd reviewed it in the theater, I probably would have given it a 7/10. But it wasn't a film that needed to be seen in the theater. Although apparently, I'm in the minority there.

So then, onto the Apocalypse.

Wow... if I had a dollar for every time I've said that.

Now, the very first thing that struck me as the movie started, as they went through this looonnng CG opening title, is that it really would have been awesome if when the title "Apocalypse" came on screen, that they misspelled it "Alpocalypse" and then "Weird Al" would have popped into frame, goofily waving, and saying "Hey everybody!"

That would've been awesome.

But they didn't do it.

But I defy you not to think about it now, if you go see the film. ;)

Anyway...

X-Men: Apocalypse certainly isn't the best film in the X-Men franchise, but it's also far from the worst. How you define the X-Men franchise is another matter though. Is this the third film (since they rebooted the series), the second film (since the timeline was altered) or the sixth X-Men film overall, or the ninth film featuring X-Men?

Well, it doesn't matter, because the X-movies' continuity is just as hopelessly shot now as it is in the comic books, so just throw out everything that went on before this one, and you'll be better off. They do reference X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past here, so in all likelihood, this is #3. Which is kind of amusing in a way, because at one point in the movie the characters make a reference to "third films" which was intended to be a dig at X-Men: The Last Stand, but sort of inadvertently applies to this film. Whoops. :ponder:

Once you just kind of throw away the original three X-Men movies, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, then you can just take it as a new timeline, featuring the same characters, but with a different future. Sort of like J.J. Abram's Star Trek, but without all of the lens flares and shaky-cam. And more scientific plausibility.

I actually enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse. Much more than I expected to. Is it on the same level as Marvel's Marvel movies? Nope. But Bryan Singer has nonetheless managed to create a unique world of superheroes that works anyway. It has its own feel, which is different, but consistent unto itself. Still, I couldn't help but think at times, "How much better would this be if Marvel were making it?"

But let's start with what I liked about the film. First, the characters we're familiar with from the previous two movies are back, and continue to work pretty well. James McAvoy as Xavier has some good moments, although it isn't until near the end of the film that I started buying him more as the classic Professor X. Michael Fassbender as Magneto is particularly good in the film, although the circumstances that cause him to make the choices he does are very ham-handedly written and directed. You can predict what's coming, and it's all too contrived. Evan Peters is back as Quicksilver and basically steals the movie again with another super-speed sequence that shows just how amazing superpowers could be. Unfortunately, they don't do enough of that in the film. But I'll get back to that. Jennifer Lawrence is back as Mystique, although she's under-utilized here relative to the previous X-movies, and some others return as well, but they're more perfunctory than anything. Beast is still too smurfy-looking. He should be darker blue so he doesn't look so much like bad makeup and fake fur.

There are quite a few new characters added, or rather, new origins to characters from the original three movies. Cyclops, Jean Grey and Nightcrawler are the most effective new introductions in the movie, and have some of the best moments. They aren't a team yet - but you can see them starting to work together and build the bonds that will lead to them becoming the X-Men. I thought that Cyclops and Jean Grey's developing relationship, although somewhat brief, was nicely handled, and showed why they have the closeness that they had in the comics. Also, their powers were the best handled ones in the movie, being the most faithful to the comics, and showing their abilities well (in addition to Quicksilver, of course). They were the most pleasant surprises of the movie. There's also a scene - one scene - in the movie which X-Men fans have been waiting for since the first X-Men movie, that we never got. Well - we get it here, and it was worth the wait. Finally. It's one of the things that made this movie work for me, and actually makes me want to see the next film.

Spoiler ahead (don't say I didn't warn you):


That said, the movie certainly isn't without its problems.

As I mentioned, the set up for Magento's story is very cliché in a contrived, predictable, comic-booky sort-of way. There are other new characters introduced (or promised), which never pay off. Some are just not well utilized at all (Storm, Psylocke, Angel), their backstories are completely glossed over, their powers are never explained (admittedly, Angel is pretty obvious), and they're just there to fill up supporting roles that could have been done by any character. Another - Jubilee - who is featured prominently in advertising, is never even mentioned by name, never uses her powers, and is only there for... I don't have any idea, actually. Marketing? Apocalypse's powers are never really explained either, although they appear to have something to do with manipulating dirt. Oh, and he can supercharge other mutants. Or help them unlock their full potential. Or something. But he can't do mind control. We know that, because they remind us of that repeatedly. But that doesn't explain why the characters who become his four "horsemen" - actually decide to follow him. Seriously. That's never explained. Does having their powers supercharged somehow affect their judgement? Were they all just a bunch of really angry jerks looking for a reason to destroy humanity? It just doesn't make any sense.

And then there's the villain. He's formidable, or rather, his followers are. But he's just not... dynamic. Or charismatic. This should be someone where you watch him, and you see the convictions of his reasoning. You should have some sort of connection to him - whether positive or negative. The best movie villains are like that. And while Apocalypse has his reasons for what he does, he just doesn't seem to be all that into it. Destroy the world to save it, only the strong survive, you know, that whole thing. James Bond's villains did that all the time. But the best ones were the ones where the villains had personalities that were fun to watch. Here... not so much. He's menacing, deadly, powerful... but not interesting. He's just sort of there. Only at the very end does he start to come alive. Not the best makeup, either.

The way Apocalypse is released into the modern world is patently ridiculous, too. He apparently has had a devoted group of followers worshipping him for millennia, yet he effectively gets released from his captivity by accident. Ugh. I hate lazy, sloppy writing like that.

Speaking of lazy writing, some of the plot of the movie is quite predictable, too. There are unexpected moments, but not really unexpected outcomes. The movie treads some all-too familiar ground (although to be fair, so do comic books). For a fair amount of the movie, you're just waiting for the inevitable to happen.

Also, the movie is set in 1983, for no apparent reason. Maybe it's to let us know 10 years have passed, and things are apparently somehow better now for mutants, but it never really goes into anything that has actually happened over the last 10 years. And apparently, nobody has aged. For that matter, nobody has aged since 1962. (Okay, to be fair - they've aged five years.) There's really no reason to set the movie in any particular year, really. They would have been better off not even mentioning it.

Although it is kind of cool that I went to high school at the exact same time as Cyclops, and if only my mutant ability to overstate the obvious had manifested itself then instead of 2005, I could have become an X-Man!

That would've been sweet. I bet I totally could've been on the team. Superheroes are always overstating the obvious. I'd fit right in! "Look out! We're all in terrible danger!" "Here come the Sentinels!" "Wolverine is in a bad mood again!"

Yeah. I totally could've done that. Although I would've been the guy to die in, like, the second issue. And everyone would've been sad for maybe two or three pages, and then I'd just be a footnote on some article listing all of the X-Men ever. Right there with Thunderbird.

So I guess it's just as well. Besides, the name I'd have wanted to use is apparently already taken.

Where was I?

Oh right... the movie.

Anyway, I went into X-Men: Apocalypse with low expectations, or rather, no expectations, and I came away from it pleasantly surprised and well-enough entertained. While not among the best superhero movies, it was still a pretty-good one, it still had some fun moments, and I didn't leave feeling like I'd completely wasted my evening or had the memories of my favorite superheroes completely ruined. I think the best thing X-Men: Apocalypse managed to do though, is to finish rebooting the franchise. At the end, they leave the characters in a place where I want to see what happens to them next. We're ready to start up again. And with some of the groundwork they laid here... it looks like this time they might get it right.

X-Men: Apocalypse gets a 7.1/10.

(I know... I'm splitting hairs with the score. But I gave Man of Steel a 7/10, and this is better. One of these days, I need to revise my movie scores.)



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I liked how they finally showed us that Magneto is so much more than just a metal-bender and even gave some explanation why he didn't do stuff e.g. like magnetic (force-) fields before - he only just got buffed from Apocalypse.

I see also lots of quirks, like e.g. all the bad guys standing on their rock, frozen in their poses for like 20-30 minutes - and I saw enough flying metal for another two movies, but overall I loved it ;)

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Didn't you posted something about Colossus more recently than this and the Avengers entry? I put it to my Wish List at Amazon after reading something about it, believe it was about it now being available in region 1, and added it to my most recent order that arrived today.

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Aha, so I did remember correctly! Apparently search ignores blog comments :|

 

About 30 minutes left in Handbrake, with a few PAL season 17 Doctor Who episodes enqueue behind it. Probably won't be able to watch the movie until this weekend though.

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Wish I could - the blu-ray died in my PS3 yesterday while I was watching a disc somebody lent me. DVDs still work, so it's probably the blue laser that failed.

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