Fish and Cherries Productions

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Reel Snippet – X-Men: Apocalypse


Synopsis: It’s the 80s and the world has changed, now fully aware of mutants and allowing them a grudging place in society. Professional Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) school is booming with students, though he has not taken steps to form the X-Men, against the suggestions of Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is going underground as a rebel, coming across Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhie) and trying to find a safe place for him. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has even found a happy life in the European countryside). Everything seems to be good.

But that changes when CIA agent Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne) witnesses the awakening of the world’s first mutant: an ancient Egyptian named En Sabah Nur or Apocalypse (Oscar Issac). He means to bring the world to its knees and recruits four mutants to do so: Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy), and Magneto himself. It’s up to Xavier and his students, including a younger Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), to contest Apocalypse’s will and save mutant and humankind from utter extinction.

Review: X-Men: Apocalypse broke my nerdy little heart because I really wanted it to be good. This film had so much potential to be amazing, but instead it felt like a jumbled mess. The word “apocalypse” brings to mind epicness, fear of an end, and godly consequences. So it feels like such a let down when the end result is boring and forgettable. Lack of characterization is everywhere, with quite a few being underdeveloped, underused, and in some cases killed off in an insultingly pointless way. I had no idea why anyone was doing anything throughout the movie, particularly why anyone was working with Apocalypse himself. At first I thought it was brainwashing, but then it looked like everyone was following him of their own free will. Why? Does being one of his minions come with a great dental plan?

Angel in particular is baffling here, particularly because his personality seems completely opposite to the kind and compassionate person he was in X-Men: The Last Stand (not that I’m defending X-Men: The Last Stand). I get that the timeline’s different now, but this guy was one of the original X-Men in the comics and here, he’s completely one dimensional and his arc concludes in the most abrupt and unsatisfactory of ways. Psylocke similarly gets the shaft: we learn nothing about who she is, what she’s like, or anything about her apart from her powers. In fact, she barely gets a handful of lines. Yeah, that’s a great way to treat a fan favorite.

And now we come to the title character himself: Apocalypse or En Sabah Nur. He’s one of the X-Men’s greatest foes, he’s got a great imposing design in all of his incarnations… and good god, is he a letdown in this movie. He’s not compelling in the slightest or even an epic villain. Hell, he barely even DOES anything. He spends the first part of this movie lurching around like Quasimodo and then spends the rest of his time talking in some kind of raspy whisper and occasionally actually taking some action. There’s nothing grand or epic or even that threatening about him. It’s like a really watered down imitation of Emperor Palpatine without any sense of the actor enjoying himself. I don’t know if it was the actor, the director, or someone else involved, but they messed up royal.

Another big problem with this film is lack of focus as the movie has to juggle various different scenes and plots, all of them suffering for it. Magneto’s plot is the most developed and has quite a bit of heart to it, but I feel that it’s forced to draw a profoundly short straw in order to preserve the status quo. Part of the problem with the lack of focused can be summed up as such: too many characters. On top of bringing back old characters from the previous two films, they’re reintroducing younger versions of other characters in order to redevelop them. As a result, there’s not enough attention to go around and flesh them out. I already mentioned Psylocke, but Jubilee (Lana Condor) was also given a big push in marketing and the movie does absolutely nothing with her. If casual viewers just watched this movie they wouldn’t even know what her powers were, maybe not even her name. I get that she’s not a fandom darling or anything, but if you’re going to include a character that takes up some of the movie’s focus, use them. Don’t just throw them in as empty fanservice.

One scene that sticks out as wasted potential is when Cyclops, Jean, and Jubilee take Nightcrawler to his first mall. Now this has amazing possibilities, particularly because, unlike his new friends, Nightcrawler can’t pass as normal. This could give rise to so many conflicts, maybe give us a further in-depth look at how anti-mutant prejudice is subtle, but still present. Instead it’s just an excuse to get them out of the mansion before an action scene takes place there and to make a half-hearted critique/jab at the original Star Wars trilogy. Or are they subtly lampooning the original X-Men trilogy? Or was it a meta commentary on this new X-Men trilogy? It goes by so fast that it’s hard to tell.

There were things that I liked about the movie. The returning actors are still great and most of the new actors fit into their roles quite nicely. I didn’t see Sansa Stark with an American accent when Sophie Turner was onscreen, I saw Jean Grey. Quicksilver (Evan Peters) also steals the scene once again in a similar way as the last movie, though it may get a little sour on a rewatch. Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) cameo may have been a deus ex machina for one scene and provide a continuity hiccup with the previous film, but seeing him in his natural element is still welcome. I just wish it all happened in a movie that was more… more… just more.

I wanted to like this movie. I really did. The X-Men were a big part of my childhood and I want their escapades on the big screen to succeed so that others could see them as I did. But I can’t see this film making anyone an adoring fan. I blame over ambition rather than lack of talent, but the end result is still a cluttered, lifeless mess that squanders a lot of potential. But if you really must see this movie, I suppose I can’t stop you. I just hope that you see something there that I couldn’t.

Fun Tidbit: This is the second movie where Mystique and Nightcrawler have shared the screen together, the first being X2: X-Men United. Neither of these movies, however, have even alluded to the special relationship the two share in the comics, namely that Mystique is his mother. What’s especially baffling is that X-Men: First Class had Mystique going off with Nightcrawler’s comic book father, Azazel (Jason Flemyng), providing an ample opening for his conception. One wonders if the movies will bring this fact to light or just ignore it for the sake of a simpler film universe.

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