Monday, June 6, 2016

X-Men Apocalypse

I've never really loved the X-Men movies, but I kind of enjoyed The Last Stand. I tell you this now so you know to take my opinion with a grain of salt.


Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the world's first mutant, was worshiped as a god by ancient Egyptians. The power he was born with was the ability to transfer his consciousness from one body to the next, rejuvenating himself whenever his current body neared death. As an added bonus he retains the superpowers of all the people he possesses. While performing his latest ritual of transference, which will place him in the body of a mutant who possesses healing powers like Wolverine's, his enemies manage to bury him deep below the ground.

Fast forward to 1983 and Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) stumbles upon a group of dumb asses who revive Apocalypse. Once the big blue cheese-ball is free he decides to "cleanse" the world of non-mutants. This guy can kill ya just by glancing in your direction (unless you're a leading character, naturally). Despite his limitless powers he decides he needs four guardians—or "horsemen," if you will.

It's immediately clear this movie wants to cram in every first- and second-rate mutant from the source material it can. Angel is probably the lamest of them. He simply isn't a character who translates well to the screen, which is just as apparent today as it was ten years ago (yes, it really has been ten years since The Last Stand). And I know a lot of fans were excited about Psylocke's authentic look in this film, but because Bryan Singer has already established his "superheroes must wear black" rule she sticks out like a sore thumb in a movie that's all thumbs from the get-go.

So Magneto has been lying low since the events of Days of Future Past. He has a wife and child now. I'm sure you already know how that's going to turn out. Long story short: Magneto, Storm, Psylocke, and Angel form Apocalypse's modern horsemen and they have absolutely no problem with his genocidal tendencies. It's an idea that probably sounded cool in the writing room, but requires all kinds of logic-deflecting to make it work. A Holocaust survivor probably isn't going to jump on board with a villain whose plan feels so Final Solution-y, but it's not the first time Magneto has shown signs of cognitive dissonance.

I haven't even gotten to the good guys yet. Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique is one of those bored action heroes who's too cool to react to anything with any kind of human emotion. Sophie Turner's Jean Gray is already being nudged toward Dark Phoenix territory. Once again the best part is the Quicksilver scene, but we've been there, done that. Meanwhile James McAvoy's Professor Xavier is a snore and it feels too late to salvage the romantic subplot between him and MacTaggart, but they try anyway.

So the most striking aspect of X-Men Apocalypse is its absurdity. If Roger Corman had been known for excessively expensive films he could have made movies which felt a lot like it. It's a good thing he didn't because the overproduced slickness of Apocalypse works against its B-movie charm. Otherwise it's one of the best dumb movies I've seen a long time. So much of this stuff feels exactly like the kind of mindless storytelling I would have concocted with my action figures when I was eight.

I'm okay with that. I just can't believe something so goofy could be made in this age of Brooding Superman and Dark Fantastic Four. It turns out it's as refreshing as a cold drink on a summer day even though it can't hold a candle to Captain America's most recent outing. Bryan Singer has just confirmed what I've long suspected: he is a massive dork. There's just something extremely satisfying about seeing legitimate movie stars act so serious in a ridiculous action movie. Outside of the Quicksilver stuff the intentional jokes are terrible, but you're going to laugh a lot anyway.

Good show, Singer, but making fun of The Last Stand was a low blow. You either die a hero or live long enough to become Brett Ratner.

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