No Apocalypse for the X-Men

WARNING – The following post contains some spoilers for the film X-Men Apocalypse. Please take caution when reading the following.

As many of you may or may not be aware, the most recent addition to the X-Men movie franchise was released in theatres worldwide on the 27th of May. It is the story of the evolution of Charles Xavier, a mutant professor with unparalleled psychic abilities, and his allies as they continuously battle against the threats of fear, ignorance, oppression, some potent enemies and in the case of this film we have the very first big bad daddy of mutant kind who has awoken after thousands of years of napping in a bed of stone to reap his bloody will and bitchy woes upon a the world.

To be blunt, it has been panned by critics and film goers the world over as a mediocre, bloated and disorganised mess that won’t be winning any awards for originality any time soon. Not that super hero movies tend to get nominated anyway, it’s not fancy enough for those shenanigans. Its current rating on the ever resourceful website Metacritic has it sitting at a steady 52 with generally mixed reviews. The other big aggregate review website Rotten Tomatoes has it a lowly 48% with similar sentiments attached. But to be honest, I don’t really understand the problem.

This is a film about the mutant Apocalypse and when fans of the X-Men, those who read the comic books and are deeply invested in the stories, characters and lore, think of this particular badass there is really only one type of story that comes to mind. He rises, gathers his horsemen and proceeds to attempt to bend and mould the world to his will, dismissing every adversary in his path as he goes about his rampage as a god like being. And that is exactly what this film delivers. Would you have expected any different? And if it were to have been taken in a different direction, would that story-line have truly satisfied those fans out there enough who have been waiting for this guy to make it to the big screen? Probably not.

Exactly what do you expect from a character that has had unrivalled power and the means to dominate everyone and everything around him for millennia. He has never been truly challenged enough to develop the need to feel true fear, rage, sorrow, hope or joy. As a result this level of character development is only ever going to yield someone who is one dimensional. There is and has never been room for him to grow. He sees himself as a god and gods are supposed to be perfect as they are right? So what else do you expect from him other than for him to talk and act as he has always done?

Now to address concerns of the bloated cast of mutants that some critics feel were too numerous in number. My response to this is that I couldn’t think of a single character that shouldn’t have been there. This film is supposed to be about the emergence of Xavier’s X-Men and so we have Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, a minor appearance from Jubilee and Beast. The mutant god known as Apocalypse always has his four horsemen and so this continues with Magneto, Angel, Psylocke and Storm as well as his ancient horsemen from the year 3600 BC. Jennifer Lawrence and her portrayal of Mystique is one of the primary anchors of this trilogy of films and so her absence would have been maligned had she not shown up to the party though an argument could be made for the necessity of her inclusion (she was the one who felt out of place to me). Evan Peter’s version of Quicksilver is a fan favourite now and his non-appearance would have pissed people right off, so he is there for obvious reasons and makes a brilliant contribution. Magda and Nina, Havok, Caliban, Colonel William Stryker and Moira MacTaggert played their roles as anchors for character introductions/development well so no issues here for me. And what X-Men film wouldn’t be complete without a cameo from everyone’s favourite angry mutant. Nobody seemed to complain about the vast cast of Captain America – Civil War and having to remember who and what everyone was doing there. And I feel like there were maybe a few more power funky folk as well as all of the norms running around in that film than there were here.

We are in the apex of a golden age of the super hero movies where comic book characters and their accompanying stories taken from years’ worth of material are being brought to life in ways that would have been deemed unimaginable not that long ago. Just think about some of those early attempts at adapting your favourite super heroes into a cinematic experience. Many of them were pretty good (Batman Returns and the first two Superman movies) and others not so much. One of the large differences between then and now is that the studios are pumping millions into the production of these pictures to bring them to life in big, bold and beautiful ways. Again, some of these films are fantastic (maybe not so for the Fantastic Four) and some are turgid poop stains best left ignored until they maybe go away. But we are now spoiled for choice as we are bombarded with film after film full of super men, mutants, squads with suicidal tendencies and rampaging wars lacking civility about some mild tiff or another. The key word here is spoiled and in my humble opinion I think that some folk are maybe taking some of these movies for granted. Maybe just a little bit.

I am all for constructive criticism, especially when some of these shit fests are nothing but research data and check lists to many producers and studio heads who only really care about making money, but I tend to huff a mild puff as the prospect of criticism for the sake of criticism. I saw the film last night with a friend and we both agreed that it delivered exactly what we expected. Nothing more, nothing less and it was quite entertaining for us as well. It wasn’t a classic by any means but I don’t think it deserves some of the negativity being thrown at it because it possibly didn’t quite reach the lofty expectations that some may have had for it. Perhaps many were hoping for something to match or exceed the truly excellent story from the previous film that was Days of Future Past? But that one had a unique complexity and a potent source of material combined with a hefty dose of nostalgia which would make it very hard to top. X-Men Apocalypse was really only ever going to deliver one type of story and as I mentioned previously, that was exactly what I was expecting and it was exactly what the film delivered. What more can you ask from an already admittedly bloated character riddled plot?

The point I am getting at here with this example is one that I have made before. Perhaps we should start appreciating something for what it is rather than what we think it should be. It wasn’t an atrocious mess that pissed all over the source material and delivered nothing but a weak adaptation that did nothing to truly progress the story of a popular character whilst almost ruining another fan favourite because the studio couldn’t keep their grubby little hands away from it (I’m looking at you X-Men Origins – Wolverine). And it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Catwoman (sigh!) or Batman and Robin (fucking bat nipples everywhere!), it’s all about perspective folks. It was good enough for me.

Forged From Reverie.

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