I was thinking…
…when Bryan Singer released the first X-Men film in 2000, he blatantly pointed out his comic book-based movie was not going to be a direct translation of the comic book itself. When Wolverine is trying on his uniform for the first time, Cyclops comments, “What did you expect? Yellow spandex?”
The funny thing is, with each successive X-Men movie, the characters are clothed more and more like their halftone counterparts.
More noticeable than that, however, are the movies mirroring one other major aspect of the comics: continuity gaps so big you could fly the X-Men’s Blackbird through them.
I recently watched all the X-Men films in preparation for X-Men: Apocalypse and I cannot, for the life of me, figure out just how the old Charles Xavier still looks like Patrick Stewart and is still confined to a wheelchair. Can someone fill me in on that? And don’t feed me that crap from the commentary about him actually being his twin brother. Or that the last film wiped out everything that happened in X-Men‘s 1 through 3.
Man, I’m confusing myself now.
Massive, massive plot holes aside, X-Men: Apocalypse picks up a few thousand years, uhh, before Days of Future Past. In ancient Egypt, a mutant called En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac—Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Ex Machina), is about to undergo a ceremony that will add to his mutant abilities and extend his life.
Betrayed and sabotaged by some of his followers, the mutant is buried alive and remains entombed until the 1980’s.
Back in the…less past?, Magneto (Michael Fassbender—Prometheus) is living in relative obscurity in his home country of Poland. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence—The Hunger Games series) is being lauded by mutants the world over as a hero. And in the U.S., Alex Summers (Lucas Till—Walk the Line), learns his brother Scott (Tye Sheridan—Mud) is manifesting his own mutant abilities, so he brings the young man to Xavier’s school.
As En Sabah Nur enlists four lieutenants to replace his ancient ones, Professor X (James McAvoy—Victor Frankenstein) uses Cerebro to discover his location. The process backfires, however, as the ancient mutant hijacks the professor’s powers, forcing a launch of every nuclear weapon in the world.
With that taste of ultimate power, En Sabah Nur endeavors to abduct Professor X in order to absorb his powers and attain godlike status.
After driving my Mack truck through the plot hole, we come through the other side to the land of casting choices.
Perhaps the most annoying issue with casting in the X-Men films is the re-casting. There are some characters who have been played by no fewer than four different actors. Primary and secondary characters are represented by such a changing frequency of actors, even when they are not re-cast between films, we assume they still were. Unfortunately, there is no end in sight to this aggravating practice.
Not as vexing, but equally dubious, are the costume choices in Apocalypse. But the comic-faithful apparel and accoutrements notwithstanding, the characters’ normal, everyday clothing choices (and hairstyles) leave one shaking one’s head. I lived through the 80’s. I understand there were Flock of Seagulls hairstyles and Olivia Newton John workout clothes, but when we’re supposed to take a character seriously, it’s more than a little difficult to do so when they’re wearing a pink cashmere sweater (Professor X) or sporting a MacGyver do (Havoc).
When the casting, costume and story go right, however, they go very right. Fassbender plays Magneto as such a broken, tragic figure, he makes Ian McKellan’s version seem inconsequential. And that’s saying something.
Furthermore, the rising star that is Oscar Isaac shines in everything he does. I firmly believe a sign of a good actor is they can be someone who can make you hate him in one film and love him in the next. Isaac can do that. An egotistical genius inventor, a space pilot, Prince John the douche, an ancient demi-god mutant. Isaac has played them all and is sometimes unrecognizable when he does it. I firmly believe he is a man to watch.
I do not feel the same way about Jennifer Lawrence, who seems to repeatedly be cast in some ill-fitting ‘tough’ female roles, but comes off as petulant and schoolgirlish in many of them. Being cast as Mystique–the ultimate mutant femme fatale–was a mistake from the start, but listening to her in the role of drill instructor in the film is laughable. In short, even great actors or actresses can still be miscast.
Oh, and Singer using the politically correct ‘B.C.E ‘ at the beginning of the film rather than the logical and true ‘B.C.’ really honks me off.
Okay, so I ranted a bit more.
As for plot, there is not much in the way of substance. The premise is very basic and the story holds few surprises, if any. A handful of the characters–ones who are presumably secondary in nature–are not even fleshed out. Two of En Sabah Nur’s four horsemen–Angel and Psyclocke–hardly even speak.
Not that there are not some great characters. The insanely fast Quicksilver, played by the boyish Evan Peters (Kick-Ass), adds some–ironically–human quality to the movie and is, in my opinion, the best character in both this film and its predecessor. His moments on screen are delightful and comical…in the funny way, not the saddle-stitched sequential art way.
Overall, Apocalypse is entertaining and visually appealing. Truly comic book fare, it is easy on the eyes, but does not induce deeper thought. While lacking the wit and ensemble chemistry of the Avengers movies, X-Men Apocalypse shows there is still some punch left in the 17 year old film franchise.
Ammo Dump rating: 6 out of 10 psychic blasts
I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show every Friday afternoon at 4:10 pm. Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on @ALphaEXray.. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter
Run time: 144 minutes (2 hours, 24 minutes)