Tuesday, May 31, 2016

X-Men: Age of Apocalypse (review)

I think the X-Men movie franchise deserves some credit for getting the idea a superhero team movie off the ground and financially viable, but now Age of Apocalypse represents the ninth X-Men related film to come out since the first in 2000 (which by my count is one every 18 months, I think), and finding a way to continue to get something out of that franchise is a real challenge.

Age of Apocalypse is sort of the third X-Men movie to come out of "First Class" (which took place in the 60's), and "Days of Future Past" (which took place in the 70's).  AoA takes place in 1983, as evident from "Return of the Jedi" showing in theaters.  The movie is some weird way tries to bridge the prequel series with the first movie in 2000 by introducing many of the core X-Men from the 2000 movie, including Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm (all played by different actors than the first film) while at the same time cherry-picking popular characters from earlier films like Nightcrawler (who first appears in X2) and Quicksilver (who was in Days of Future Past).  And if you didn't think that Days of Future Past ret-conning the entire movie continuity was a tacit apology for the direction the first three films went, there's a blatant crack at X3 in Apocalypse that was about as subtle as a brick through a plate glass window.

The movie's villain is Apocalypse, a character almost synonymous with the 1980's X-Men hyperbole that would eventually collapse under its own weight after a time. I was heavy into the X-Men in the 1980's but can not help but look back and realize what a boring, two-dimensional character Apocalypse is, and continues to be in the movie version.  With his giant armor, blue skin, and rather tired "survival of the fittest" mantra that was too similar to Magneto's rants, it is hard to see him as anything other than a weak Darth Vader/Hitler mash-up.  His only real stand-out trait was his corruption of existing PC's into being his "horsemen."  This was a shocking thing in 1986 after Warren Worthington had theoretically killed himself after losing his wings in a fight with the Morlocks, and it was perhaps the most compelling act of villainy in the movie.

It's a long movie with a disjointed plot that spends a lot of time working in a lot of homages to the 1980's like movie posters, music, and references to going to the mall.  Also thrown in there is Jubilee and Weapon X Wolverine (complete with goofy helmet), although both are cameos.

Okay, so all this has been a long-winded way of saying that it's a good movie, even a great offering in comparison to a lot coming out of the X-Men Movie Universe.  I get Apocalypse is a major X-Men villain and there's not a lot of easily-identified characters who could have taken his place, but he's got the same problem I have with Thanos (or Ronin for that matter): he's not developed enough to get your really thinking about him as anything other than an eventual superhuman punching bag.

What I'm really interested in is whether the next movie will be set in the early 1990's, which is sort of the peak of the X-Men's popularity with its Saturday morning cartoon show, et al.  Could a Big Hair Rogue be somewhere in the future?

Other closing thoughts (slightly spoilery):

  • This movie is made for cosplayers.  By my count the main characters sport no less than three costumes in the movie: their "street clothes" which are so contrived as to be intentional, the "flight suit" outfit, and their costumes in the final scene.
  • I do not get the whole "we're stealing your nukes" moment if you're not going to do anything with them.  Seriously.  Unless you're going with trying to answer why governments just didn't take the villains out with a missile, although it seems to me there would be plenty of other ways to do it.
  • Speaking of head-scratchers, here's a big one.  Magneto has a wife and kid, who play a big part in his emotional pathos for the movie.  But, if Quicksilver is his kid (which is canon in the comics) and his younger sister is also his child, doesn't that mean he's already walked out on one family already?  In the comics Wanda is a twin, but in DoFP she's clearly younger.  That would mean that Magneto fathered a child, stuck around long enough to father another, left, and then later on get's all emotionally connected to some other child.  Which is weird, not impossible, but inconsistent.
  • Quicksilver is the best part of the film.  I thought it would be Nightcrawler, my favorite X-Man and thank God he got revisited in this movie, but they know they have a winner with the hyper-speedster mutant slacker.

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