If This Is the X-MEN: APOCALYPSE, Then Does That Mean the End Is Near? Superhero movies aren’t supposed to make you think. Yeah, yeah, it’s good when they do, like in the recent CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, or in Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman. Pretty sure I did some thinking the first couple times I saw X-Men movies too. Mostly, I’d say it was thinking about how well or how badly they had cast the parts of these characters I had loved since childhood (Wolverine and Xavier were exactly as they should be, but Rogue, Cyclops, and Jean Grey left something to be desired). Of course, I was thinking about what the X-Men meant to teenage mutants, like the one I had been from middle school on, but those were merely the usual comic book kinda thoughts. And the comic books could make you think. But when they turned them into movies, for me, that was more about being thrilled than all that thinkin’ stuff. But I started thinking a little bit during X-MEN: APOCALYPSE. Not a lot, don’t get me wrong. There was a lot to see in this movie, which was epically huge and had a bunch of different characters to keep up with. It opens in ancient Egypt, where the life-force of En Sabah Nur is being transferred into a new body via sacrifice, sunlight, and USB cables, or something like that. But, you know, shit happens. He gets sidetracked for a few thousand years, then reawakened by a CIA agent who mistakenly leaves the planks off his hiding place so the sunlight can reach him again. Or something like that. Needless to say, he does come back, and, when he does, he’s one bad mo-fo. Yeah, he’s got powers, like, a lot of them, you don’t even know. He’s been soaking them up from under all that Egyptian rubble. Or something like that. So this bad mo-fo, he wants to rule as a god, like he did way back in the land of Tut, the boy king. This big, humorless god – let’s forget about that hard-to-remember Egyptian name and just call him Apocalypse – he can do stuff. Like, he can activate all the nuclear weapons in the world and shoot them up into space. That sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? It almost sounds like he’s not such a bad guy after all, but we’ve already established that he’s one bad mo-fo. Bad mo-fos never really come bearing peace, now do they? So, this Apocalypse guy who can do damn-near anything, he starts to collect his four horsemen . . . wait, if this guy is so powerful, which he seems to be, then why does he need a gang of four to ride with? Hmm, yeah, so that’s the first time I started thinking. Those aren’t the kind of thoughts you really want to start having in the middle of a superhero movie. Oh, but look, here comes Magneto. He’s been great in all of these movies, whether it was old Magneto or young Magneto. Looks like he’s living a peaceful, non-villainous life with his wife and daughter now, working in a foundry. You know that’s not going to last. Now, Michael Fassbender is, obviously, a very good actor. I think it’s actually impossible for him to give a bad performance, no matter where they stick him, and he’s probably the one used most effectively in this movie. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to, but he’s the one I most identified with. His performance is moving, full of pathos, and hints at lots of deeper things to think about. Even though no one who worked on the movie is really thinking about them all that much. Just a quick aside here: almost every review I’ve seen, even in passing, criticizes the scene where Magneto returns to the now abandoned Auschwitz (where his story began) and proceeds to tear it apart. Apparently, it’s considered cheesy and disrespectful. I didn’t have a huge problem with it, as it made sense in terms of the character. Maybe not so much in terms of the plot, but look at how great he’s emoting in that scene. I mean, I really feel his pain. So don’t think about it. Peter Maximoff (known by his “real” name of Quicksilver), played again by Evan Peters, is the most fun. He’s the character that you’d most want to hang around with, playing video games and never needing to buy a gallon of gas again. He was kind of like Wonder Woman in that awful Batman-Superman thing, not deeply ingrained in everything that was happening, but just kinda here to have some fun in the heat of battle. He was probably my favorite, and I didn’t do much thinking when he was around. There are some other characters here too. Professor X is doing his Professor X thing, and he’s just fine. He finally ends up bald in this one, so that’s a good thing. Jennifer Lawrence is here again, though she’s not blue for that much of the movie. She does wear some tight pants, though, and that’s definitely a good thing. Some new dudes are playing Cyclops and Nightcrawler, and they’re just fine, while some hot chick is Psylocke, who doesn’t really get to do that much. There’s a new Storm, and, no offense to Oscar-winning Halle Berry, but she fits the part a little better for me. Sansa Stark makes a good Jean Grey too. I never thought she was hot on GAME OF THRONES, but she’s kinda hot here. And she’s younger than the other Jean was, so she can be all angsty. I did think about that whole Phoenix thing – because they pretty much make you think about it – and I’m already hoping they don’t screw it up again. Oh, and that Poe guy from THE FORCE AWAKENS is here too. Apparently, he was the bad mo-fo Apocalypse, though it was hard to tell under all that Egyptian god junk he was wearing. Infighting. It’s the In-thing for superhero movies these days, and that’s basically what’s happening here. CIVIL WAR did it the best, BATMAN V SUPERMAN did it the worst, and this one falls somewhere in between the two. The thing that made Cap’s last movie (and most of the Marvel Studios outings) work so well, was that they spent some quality time on characterization in between the superhero smack-downs. We need reasons to care who’s going to win when powers go up against other powers. That’s why the Vision was, you know, hanging out, drinking tea with the Scarlet Witch before everyone met up on the tarmac battleground. There’s so much story coming together here that, even at two-and-a-half hours, we don’t have enough of those quiet moments. I think the Professor and Jean should have sat down for some tea, because I’m pretty sure that I’d really, really like them both. I have started to tire of the entire world being in jeopardy. That’s why ANT-MAN and DEADPOOL were so much damn fun for most of us. I mean, seriously. They can’t save the whole goddam world every single time. That being said, this one required the full-on global apocalypse. It’s kind of implied in the title, you know? In this case, it meant more destruction than we’ve seen yet in an X-Men film. It’s strange to think that this Bryan Singer is the same one who directed THE USUAL SUSPECTS, APT PUPIL, or, really, even the first two X-Men movies. But, whatever. It was still fun to watch, as long as I didn’t think too much. Let’s just hope that the next one, which will most likely tackle the Dark Phoenix storyline again . . . well, that one needs to have the quieter moments of heartbreak and sacrifice. That one will require the old Bryan Singer, or maybe someone else. I’m not sure if I should consider this the third film in the second trilogy, the sixth film in the X-Men franchise, or the ninth part (if you count DEADPOOL) of the saga overall. But most of us could agree that X-MEN: THE LAST STAND was the least satisfying film of the bunch. Therefore, it’s really funny that, as a few of the young X-Men are leaving the theater after seeing RETURN OF THE JEDI, one of them makes the crack that the third film in a trilogy is always the weakest. Is that a dig at the movie Fuller didn’t direct, or at this one, which he did? I’d like to think that they were crackin’ on the very film they’re in, which would throw a bit of self-awareness into the mix. But there I go again, thinking just a bit more than I should. There are some weak moments here, and some definite gaps in logic, but none of them were insurmountable for me. None of this was as bad as X3, or as bad as the new Gold Standard of bad which was BATMAN V SUPERMAN. Which is to say that there wasn’t anything so glaringly stupid that it fully kicked my brain into motion. There were questions, of course. If such mutants really existed, wouldn’t they be on reality TV? Considering his powers, and his desire to be normal for a while, wouldn’t Erik have preferred to work in a plastics factory? Why is a character who can fly killed in a plane crash? Why must Apocalypse return to rule the world? Wouldn’t, say, a small crime syndicate have been enough? Or maybe a really kick-ass office manager job where no one in their right mind would ever challenge him? These are just the kinds of things I start thinking about when I’m not given enough cinematic food for thought. And, if some of the things I’ve said contradicted each other, then consider how the X-Men storylines have woven themselves into knots and . . . just let it go. It’s all so much more enjoyable when you let it go and just stop thinking. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Shawn EH I enjoyed this film a lot more than I expected. It was definitely Bryan Singer finally wedding the two time eras together (by staying in 1983 or wherever? Ms. Pacman, Six Million Dollar Man, Rush references abound), or at least benefiting from the reset at the end of Days of Future Past. He is starting to repeat himself a bit, though, with Statue of Liberty/Magneto; Stryker’s Base/Jean; Cairo/Pyramid/Magneto/Jean/Pokkylips all playing out fairly similarly. Still, I have questions and comments: 1) I think ranking this film between BvS and Civil War is on point; that Cairo battle has the excitement of the Avengers fighting at the airport without the forced darkness of Snyder’s nonsense (or a sense of humor, except maybe for Angel vs. Nightcrawler), and good call on the similar fun of WW and Quicksilver in both films. By far my favorite Evan Peters performance ever. 2) I was very worried about how our new hero Poe Dameron could also be the X-men’s worst villain, but I should have had faith in Oscar Isaac. He played him as just shy of campy, giving me shades of Boris Karloff’s Mummy, Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, and even Palpatine. You really hit the nail on the head with “humorless” though! Do not give En Sabah Nur a birthday party! 3) Having Pokkylips be the key for opening mutants to their full potential, but for the wrong reasons, was the really thoughtful part of the story for me. It really came down to Charles teaching them to control their powers, and Pokky demanding that they raze the field. Pokky was actually more interesting when he was stealthily recruiting his team, beaming them all over town, than when he finally came out with his destruction goals. 4) Loved that Magneto’s lines of force looked like Cockrum used to draw them in the comics, and that even Quicksilver wasn’t fast enough to get through his force field. Not sure why he didn’t tell him who he was, though? Wisdom or fear? Also got hints of the denouement of Morrison’s New X-men, with the Magnetic destruction of Manhattan and Jean being key to his defeat. Too bad no cuckoos were around. 5) Speaking of Jean, I guess they didn’t try to go Dark Phoenix, just Phoenix herself (but I think Apocalypse finally saw the power he craved as she unmade him). I loved all the visuals and music for the film, especially how Singer let them speak for themselves so often. Jean walking on air, the sunlight triggering the Egyptian hard drive transfers in gold, the sheer fun of Quicksilver outracing the explosion and saving goldfish along the way. 6) Genuinely felt teary when Erik and Jean rebuilt the mansion together (though wouldn’t they need an architecture degree, powers or no?), but maybe Jean did a civil engineer’s mind download for both of them, a la the Matrix? 7) McAvoy’s performance was the equal of Isaac’s, fittingly, and Lawrence felt more committed here than she did in the last Mockingjay film. The controversy over Apocalypse strangling here, I get it taken out of context, but there’s no way the film itself was about abusing women or misogyny, not with Jean, Jubillee, Psylocke, Storm and Moira playing such integral roles. 8) I want a DVD extra about the mutants of Pokkylips time in 3600 BC; like that woman who saved him from the pyramid collapse, what’s her deal, and what about his four horsemen back then? They looked cool!