Thursday, June 16, 2016

X-Men Apocalypse!


X-Men Apocalypse is a very entertaining movie. Lots of it doesn't really make sense but I didn't let that stop me from fully enjoying a nice cool calm day at the movies. The showing I attended was sparsely populated (maybe a dozen) and I was able to sit right in the front row in a nifty reclining chair. I never watched a movie in the theater in a recliner before, but I like it a lot. So the room was cool (hot and muggy outside so that was nifty) and the quiet (only one yard ape in attendance) and the movie unfolded in reasonable fashion.

I rather liked the two previous movies in this latest X-Men trilogy. First Class is one of my favorite superhero movies, right at the top of any list of those I'd care to make. It raised the bar on the sense of reality these things should aspire to. Days of Future Past was wildly entertaining and established the conceit that these movies would be set ten years apart in a nostalgic homage to the history of Silver Age and now it seems Bronze Age comics.


Apocalypse is set in 1983 and while filled with wonderful bits of pop cultural detail, I am left scratching my head about why the actors don't look all that different. Both Xavier and Magneto in particular needed some gray to help sell the change and a few other alterations here and there would've been dandy. But I'm reminded that eternal youth is a key element of most comic book realities so a little thing like that isn't going to derail a movie also filled with millennia-old mutant dictators, impossibly fast mutant offspring, teleporting mutant demons, shape-shifting mutant (mostly naked) femme fatales, and beer-drinking punk-lite angels. It's a quibble.


The movie kicks off quickly and rarely lets go of a pace which kept me involved all the way through. The Apocalypse saga from the late 80's was probably the last X-epic I read in the comics with any sense of real pleasure. I haven't bought a new X-comic in over two decades, and for me the movies have become the continuity I follow.

SPOILERS AHEAD. TREAD CAREFULLY.


Magneto has been a character in the comics who really frustrated me. When I started reading in the latter days of the original series, he was a bonafide villain, one of the really bad ones. Later in the hands of Claremont and others he got depth and became more an anti-hero type, a change I never really bought into in the comics. It always seemed forced. But the Magneto of the movies does have real depth of character and I love how he's been portrayed first by Ian McKellan and even more by Michael Fassbender. His character arc in the movies is compelling and when he's on the screen I cannot take my eyes off him for fear of what he'll do next.

The other X-folk are dandy. A young Scott and Jean are delightful to watch, though in this continuity I have to shake my head to remember that Scott is younger than his brother Alex. The seeming death of Alex does bring Scott into focus (pun intended) and his eventual role as leader of the team is evident though not harped on. Marvel Girl got my attention at the end of the movie when she unleashes her power and I really loved how they visually expressed it, the firebird evident in the imagery.


Angel confused me. Of course this cannot be Warren Worthington III, but according to notes it is. The Angel has had a hard go in these movies, left out of the first two and getting some memorable cameos in the third. He gets lots of great screen time here, but his death really makes a hash of any attempt I had to blend this story into what happens in the finale which we've seen. I know that the timeline has been altered and I assume this is to blame, but it makes watching them difficult as a piece. But that said, I rather liked how they used him here right up until he croaked.

The unleashing of Weapon X was wonderful. I saw the pages of Barry Windsor-Smith all through that sequence. I didn't expect to see Wolverine and didn't realize it was him when until the reveal. I know I should've given who gathered them up, but I didn't and it was a great and pleasant surprise. As he runs off into the snow I know it's all supposed to link up, but how can it. Who cares?


Psylocke has never been a favorite of mine, a pretty girl with a psychic knife/sword is kind little compared to the exotic powers the others have. She's always been pretty much eye candy in the comics, and as portrayed by Olivia Munn does pretty much the same here. We needed more on her, but there are lots of characters and if someone has to get cut she's the one I'd have picked too.

Really really enjoyed the prologue showing Apocalypse's attempted revival in ancient Egypt which goes awry burying him. The Four Horsemen who work and sacrifice to save him are impressive and their abrupt ends added to the menace he'd have later. When a leader can get his followers to dies so willingly for him, it makes him impressive and scary indeed. Sadly Apocalypse only loses stature as the movie progresses, but that's not atypical for a villain who must ultimately be defeated by movie's end.

The end where the assembled "X-Men" prepare under Mystique's tutelage to face the menace of the "Danger Room" was a real fanboy fun moment and right up there with Cap almost saying "Avengers Assemble" in the second Avengers movie.



END OF SPOILERS. 

All in all, I enjoyed it mightily. The X-Men franchise has been a really healthy one by and large and I'm actually sort of eager to see what comes next. A new dose of X-Men every two or three years is about what I can tolerate.

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