As you may have guessed from the title, I saw X-Men: Apocalypse recently. I decided not to do a full review, since I’m a little late anyway, and I was ready for a change. So this time, I’ll be looking at specific angles of the movie, and explaining why they make this movie so damn good.
So, here’s the reason. It’s actually a comic book movie now.
That’s not a dig at the old movies, they were fantastic. Uh, most of the time. But they always had an air of seriousness to them, and there was never that much room to mess around. An analogy that I’ll be using today has to do with costumes. In the original X-Men from 2000, all the X-Men wore the same black leather, including a funny joke leveled at the yellow spandex of old. I understand why they did that, because the market for superhero movies had drained almost ten years before that, and a bevy of poor attempts soiled the good name of the movies that had come before. X-Men is the movie that is widely credited (and rightfully so) for beginning the big superhero movie boom of the twenty first century, and it was being made in a different time. There was no room to make mistakes, and an updated look for all of the characters was needed to lay the foundation for the comic-book movies we have today.
But for a while, the X-Men movies have been teasing us. They’ve been teasing us with what will come soon (closer alignment to the comics), but never quite moving past the function over form uniforms of the first movie. I’ve always said that at this point, the franchise is on it’s eighth installment, (nine if you count Deadpool, which I would) and I get the feeling that we as moviegoers can take some color in the costumes. It’s been over a decade and a half, I think you have your audience hooked enough to take a risk, Fox! But two prequels and a time travelling reboot later, the tides are finally changing.
Did I say changing? I meant changed. The tides have changed. Completely. Again, I loved the original X-Men movies not only because they’re very well done films, have great messages behind them, and can be a ton of fun at times. But, even over a decade after the first film broke ground, they still held onto their goal of being separate from the comic books. They were great adaptions, but they still had a distinct degree of separation from the source material.
Yeah, that’s all gone now.
X-Men: Apocalypse is incredible, and it’s all down to the fact that I wasn’t able to stop grinning like an idiot throughout the whole thing. I’m serious. This is the movie where we finally got the color and the fun and the uniqueness that makes every X-Men book a standout in Marvel’s library. Everything in this movie makes you know that it’s moving into the comic book’s territory, and I just sat back and watched it happen.
Next to the fun of watching Jean and Scott meet for the first time, Professor X stumble over his words, or seeing Quicksilver have to rescue all of the kids in the mansion in about four seconds, I’m sad to say the titular Apocalypse feels a little flat. It sucks, but when you watch the first X-Men movie to actually pay attention to Nightcrawler in over a decade, Apocalypse is going to be overshadowed. And, that’s good. It really is. Sort of. Hold on, I’ll explain.
Apocalypse was the big bad who had to take a hit while the new X-Men assembled, for lack of a better word. He’s the super serious villain, the straight-man, even, in a movie that prides itself on color and fun. Apocalypse accents the newcomers in the best way possible, giving them a chance to grow and to endear themselves to us in a dire, life or death setting. It’s what I love the best about the X-Men. They’re not soldiers, or trained masters. They’re random people, students and teachers, people from all walks of life, who decide to use their gifts (which may seem a lot like curses at first) to help those in need. Oh, I can shoot lasers out of my eyes? Better shoot that bad guy with lasers, I guess. What? I’m a telepath? Well, then I can get inside his head! Wow! I just exploded into a fiery phoenix!? It’s OK, just play it cool, I totally meant to do that.
I’m going to go on a crazy tangent right now. It’s going to seem weird, and out of place, but trust me, I’m a critic. I mean… It’s going somewhere. I recently watched Daredevil, the 2003 version with Ben Affleck. I think I know what you’re thinking, right now. “Why would you ever do that to yourself?” Well, it was late at night, I was out of options, and I wanted to mess with my sister, who’s a big Daredevil fan. That movie had a lot of problems. Like, a lot. But one thing I noticed that was a little more intellegent and critical than some of the others was that the final fight between Daredevil and the Kingpin was played off as being this super serious affair, just like the rest of the movie. It was so dark, and loud, and to an extent, full of itself. I realized to myself: “Why should I care about this? I don’t care about any of these characters, or this story, or anything to do with it!” Daredevil fundamentally failed at engaging me, and getting me invested in it’s world, conflict, and characters. So when the movie built to an intense climax that required audience engagement, it just came off as stupid.
X-Men: Apocalypse took itself seriously too. Dead serious, at times. But I was always engaged, because I cared about these characters. I loved Cyclops, and Jean, and Nightcrawler, and Quicksilver, and all of these newcomers and old friends meet up and help each other out. The whole movie eventually builds to a crazy climax and all I could do was sit back in awe because I was completely invested in everything that was happening due to the character work that completely succeeded in drawing me in, and keeping me there.
Because of how much raw fun I was having, I’m able to overlook some of the movie’s problems. Sure, the pacing was a bit off at times, the Horsemen were all a little underwritten, and Apocalypse was overshadowed by the X-Men. But none of that mattered, because the movie got the most important thing so undeniably right.
The last scene in the movie is in the danger room, with all of the new X-Men standing in a line while Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique acts as drill sergeant. That was nice, and it was good closure, until I took notice of the X-Men themselves, specifically, what they were wearing. (Yeah, I’m heading back to the costumes metaphor). Each one of them was clad in a completely unique costume, with full colors and personalities, and even with useless stylized “X”s plastered everywhere. It was incredible. We were finally here. The X-Men movies have finally embraced the comic books, silly costumes and all. And that was when the Sentinels started heading menacingly towards them.
I was excited for this movie, not really because of Apocalypse. I don’t have any connection to the Apocalypse storyline, I’ve never read it, but I knew it was big enough that it probably wouldn’t be able to be done justice in one movie. What really caught my eye was the new X-Men. I was so excited to see Cyclops and Jean and Nightcrawler back from the abhorrently awful doldrums of X-Men: The Last Stand and the uncertain rebooted potential of Days of Future Past, and I wanted to see them in action, to see the X-Men be formed again and move towards the future. I was more excited for what could be done with the X-Men after this movie than the main point of the movie itself.
And I was certainly not disappointed. 20th Century Fox is notoriously tight-lipped with the X-Men movies, so I have absolutely no idea what will happen next. And frankly, I don’t care. If my old friends are still there, then I’ll be there to cheer them on.