Last time in Part 2 we tackled all three Wolverine movies and Deadpool, this time we’re taking a look at the new (and far better) X-Men trilogy – First Class, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse!
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Michael Fassbender (Magneto / Erik Lensherr), James McAvoy (Charles Xavier / Prof X), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven / Mystique), Kevin Bacon (Sebastian Shaw), Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy / Beast), January Jones (Emma Frost), Lucas Till (Alex Summers / Havok), Oliver Platt (CIA agent), Zoë Kravitz (Angel Salvadore), Caleb Landry Jones (Banshee), Jason Flemyng (Azazel), Edi Gathegi (‘Darwin’), Rade Serbedzija (Soviet General), Michael Ironside (US Navy Captain), Don Creech (Stryker Sr.), and Hugh Jackman (Wolverine cameo).
Plot: Realizing that they should have hired Matthew Vaughn for X-Men 3 like he wanted, and that there was nowhere to go with the franchise after Brett “that smell on my thumbs is my ass!” Ratner ‘Batman-and-Robin’d-it’, Fox reboots the franchise with re-casted characters. Magneto hunts for Sebastian Shaw, a mutant that was in charge of the concentration camp he grew up in, while Charles Xavier works with agent Moira Mactaggert and the CIA to gather a team of young mutants. They must team up to stop Shaw from starting World War 3 while learning how to use their powers and accept themselves.
Erik Smash: Following the unbelievably terrible X-Men: The Last Stand and even worse X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Fox finally gets it right with director Matthew Vaughn! “X-Men: First Class” is a back-to-basics prequel / reboot that tells the story of how the X-Men were first formed by a young Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto!
This is one of my favorite X-Men movies, easily in my Top 20 comic book movies of all time (revised list coming soon?) and definitely one of the best prequels ever made.
First things first – Magneto is a total badass! Sir Ian McKellan brought a certain gravitas to an older Erik Lensherr in the first X-Men trilogy, but Michael Fassbender is the perfect choice for Magneto in his prime: a young, angry, vengeful super villain who believes he’s right (and he probably is). The movie opens almost the same way that the first X-Men movie does – with Erik as a kid in a Nazi concentration camp being separated from his family and using his power for the first time – but this time we follow the story from there instead of fast-forwarding to the future. Kevin Bacon’s character, Sebastian Shaw, a mutant who’s working with the Nazis, kills Erik’s mom in an attempt to unlock his power.
Years later, a rage-fueled Erik Lensherr goes on a life-long mission to get revenge on
Bacon Shaw, who is later revealed to be the leader of the Hellfire Club. Shaw’s mission is to bring about a new age of mutant superiority through nuclear war by manipulating the US and Soviet Union into the Cuban Missile Crisis (speaking of, I actually wrote a three-part article series on the real Cuban Missile Crisis over at my history blog – click here for that!)
I really do think setting the movie in the 60’s, when the X-Men comics first debuted, was an extremely smart move! It’s too bad it was a prequel though, because otherwise they could have just used the original five X-Men: Cyclops, Iceman, Jean Grey, Angel and Beast…
Anywho, in an attempt to stop Shaw’s crazy convoluted plan, CIA agent Moira Mactaggert recruits a young psychic named Charles Xavier, a college professor who is young enough to be a student. During a mission, Xavier meets Erik and the two soon form a friendship that will alter both of their destinies.
While at a CIA facility, there’s a bit of a love triangle (or square?) between Mystique, Erik, Beast, and even Charles (who has known her since she was a kid). This kind of becomes an ongoing theme in these movies. It’s even implied that Mystique and Azazel hook up and become Nightcrawler’s parents off screen. (even though Nightcrawler shows up in ‘Apocalypse’ with no mention that she’s probably his long lost mom, but I digress) Hank uses Mystique’s shape-shifting genes in an attempt to make himself appear more normal, but it back-fires and he goes full beast mode… and turns blue.
In order to combat the Hellfire Club’s mutant henchmen (Emma Frost and Azazel), Erik and Professor X put together a team of their own: Hank McCoy aka Beast, Raven aka Mystique, Alex Summers aka Havok (Cyclops’s *older* brother), Angel (not that Angel), Banshee, and Darwin (who dies almost immediately).
There’s a pretty great montage that shows Xavier and Magneto training the team to use their powers at the mansion and a really heartfelt moment where Xavier helps Erik to unlock his true potential by channeling good emotions rather than just pure hatred.
Which reminds me, in the first X-Men movie, Professor X tells Wolverine that Magneto helped him build Cerebro, but in First Class, Hank clearly makes a Cerebro prototype. Now I’m not calling Professor X a liar, but it would have been nice to see a quick scene where Erik actually begins construction on the upgraded Cerebro at the mansion. For some reason that one missing element has always really bothered me…
Charles, Erik and this proto-X-Men team figure out Shaw’s plan and suit up to intercept them, off the coast of Cuba. An epic series of mutant fights ensues ending with Magneto vs Shaw. Shaw has a specialized helmet that prevents Xavier from using his powers on him, so Erik attempts to remove the helmet so Xavier can stop Shaw from unleashing his energy powers to trigger WWIII. But Erik has a different plan, he instead uses the opportunity to kill Shaw and steal his helmet…
Magneto declares war against mankind after realizing that Shaw may have had a point. Erik then unleashed a volley of missiles at both the US and Russian navies, while Xavier is helpless to interfere. Moira attempts to stop Erik by shooting him, but he deflects the bullet and it ricochets into Charles, paralyzing him from the waist down. Magneto and Mystique leave Xavier and Hank behind to form the Brotherhood.
The last scene of the movie is probably my favorite: with Erik’s origin story complete, he attacks the CIA to free Emma and reveals his new identity as Magneto – in the classic costume and all! (The scene is also followed by one of the coolest title sequences ever, inspired by Saul Bass’s work from the 60’s!)
ComicZombie: An odd entry into the franchise, but one that I enjoyed. I would have preferred if it were a straight reboot to a prequel, which led to a lot of confusion down the line.
I really enjoyed that they set the film in the 60’s, and loved the use of the CIA and the Cuban Missile Crisis in the story. Really well done.
I like the cast, but I don’t love it. Fassbender is terrific as Magneto, McAvoy is a pretty solid Xavier, and Hoult is a good Beast. But everyone else… I think Jennifer Lawrence is a fantastic actor, but I feel like she is really phoning it in on these movies. She seems so disinterested. Havok was very lame, Banshee totally forgettable, and Darwin (the one guy who CAN’T DIE) dies after very little screen time. Kevin Bacon is great as a version of Sebastian Shaw. I would have loved it if they kept him around, but the story kind of demanded he not make it out alive.
There’s not a ton of action in the movie, but when there is it’s always impressive. Basically everything Magneto does is sweet, Shaw has some legitimately cool moments, Banshee flying around is done well, and there is some cool stuff done in the Blackbird. The best action scene in the movie, however, is when Azazel is sent to dispatch of the CIA agents guarding the X-kids. It’s not something that draws attention immediately, but you keep hearing these distant ‘thud’ sounds. After a minute you see Azazel snatching agents up and teleporting way up into the sky before dropping them. The ‘thuds’ were agents falling a few dozen stories to their death all around the complex. Makes you appreciate how dangerous Nightcrawler could be if he so chose.
The Magneto we get in this movie is awesome. He’s full of grief and sadness but expresses it through rage and murder, just like the maniac we know and love from the comics. The scene where he hunts down the Nazis in South America is a personal favorite. They also really did a good job portraying the immense power he possesses. When he stops all of the missiles and slowly turns them back to the ships… <shudder> Fassbender can play Magneto forever. When he put on the helmet at the end it was like “Holy shit, he really looks like Magneto”. Great casting.
I already said I enjoyed Shaw, but the rest of the villains kind of suck. Emma Frost is just terrible. Even if you discount how bad of an adaptation of the comic version she is, she doesn’t really bring anything to the film and I honestly forget she’s in it. Azazel has some really inventive action scenes, but is like Sabretooth from the first X-Men movie: there’s nothing for him to do and no reason for him to be here other than as cannon fodder in action scenes later (some really good ones, but still). Riptide is totally forgettable.
The choices they made for the first class of X-Men were a little perplexing, but I attribute the majority of that to the fact that they weren’t allowed to call this a reboot. So instead of the X-Men Vaughn wanted to use, he had to get creative. Instead of Cyclops you get Havok (sort of), instead of Angel you get Banshee, etc.
I’m a huge X-Men fan, and I love all of these characters, but am beyond tired of Fox cramming them into these movies with no motivation, no character, and just a special effect or two (then usually killing them). But making your original X-Men team consist of Xavier, Magneto, Beast, Mystique, Havok, and Banshee is just really odd. Not bad, necessarily, but just… odd.
Especially Mystique. In the comics she’s been a recurring B-level villain since the 80’s, with the occasional big moment (but not many). In the first movies she got popular because Rebecca Romijn was super hot and wore almost nothing (let’s be honest). Why they decided to include her at all here is a little head-scratching (it’s not like she was some huge part of the previous films) but it’s pretty clear they just kept increasing her role in these movies because of the star power of Jennifer Lawrence. It’s very weird. It’s like seeing a Harry Potter remake and all of the sudden Goyle is a huge part of the story.
Also, she’s super creepy looking as a little kid.
Also, why is Mystique in a love triangle with Magneto and Beast (and sort of Xavier)? It’s really, really weird. Again, to use the Harry Potter analogy, it would be like if suddenly Luna Lovegood was caught up with Neville and… no, actually, she ends up kind of with Neville in the book… it would be like if she were caught up between Draco and Hagrid. I’m just saying, it’s fucking strange.
Speaking of Beast, they really could have dropped the ball on this one, but Hoult delivers a strong performance and the CGI/make-up effects on the blue version are pretty good (although the mouth is a little off at times). It was cool that he was working for the CIA but they didn’t even know he was a mutant, and I really liked how he was always building something new or inventive and seemingly was always working on something off-camera. Didn’t love the Beast-Mystique thing, but I’ve obviously already gone over that (she’s a student, Hagrid!).
I’ve already mentioned this, but how the hell are you going to include a guy whose mutation is to adapt to ANYTHING and kill him in like five seconds? Straight up baffling.
It was also weird that the whole movie is about setting up the X-Men and showing the friendship between Xavier and Magneto before splitting them up and setting them on their ways. I feel like they did that, but I also feel like the crippling of Xavier was rushed and a little weak. I honestly didn’t think it had to happen in this movie. But they kind of tack it on at the end like “oh shit he’s in a wheelchair isn’t he? uh… shit… idunnoshoothimorsomethingGO”.
Havok sucks. Disregarding the whole ‘younger sibling becomes much much older sibling’ thing, he just sucks. He isn’t entertaining, he isn’t badass, he isn’t clever… he just sits there and says asshole things and comes up with terrible nicknames. Also he looks like he’s trying to use a hula-hoop while extremely constipated when he uses his powers (which are just botched beyond belief).
Seriously, he sucks so bad.
X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
Directed by: Bryan Singer returns!
Starring: Hugh Jackman (Logan / The Wolverine), James McAvoy (young Prof X), Sir Patrick Stewart (old Prof X), Jennifer Lawrence (Raven / Mystique), Michael Fassbender (young Magneto), Sir Ian McKellen (old Magneto), Ellen Page (Kitty Pryde), Nicholas Hoult (Hank McCoy / Beast), Peter Dinklage (Dr. Boliver Trask), Evan Peters (Quicksilver), Halle Berry (Storm), Shawn Ashmore (Bobby Drake / Iceman), Omar Sy (Bishop), Daniel Cudmore (Colossus), Bingbing Fan (Blink), Josh Helman (Maj. Bill Stryker), and Anna Paquin (Rogue).
Plot: Bryan Singer returns to the franchise to save the day, in a film that is basically created just to erase everything that has come before, except for First Class (thank God). Wolverine is somehow sent from the near future, where machines called Sentinels kill every mutant they can find, back to the 1970’s so he can recruit Professor Xavier and Magneto to stop Mystique from killing Bolivar Trask and starting them all on the path to destruction.
Comic Zombie: I’m a huge fan of the story from the comics, but knew going in that this was going to be so utterly different not to have high expectations. And while this movie is pretty far from perfect, it’s also probably the best X-Men movie (or at least in the conversation).
I’ll start with the most glaring thing in the movie: how in the hell does Shadowcat putting her hands on your head send you back in time? How does that work? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and no attempt is made to explain it at all. It drives me crazy. You couldn’t have just used a psychic to do that? It’s not like the X-Men don’t have 20 of them to pick from. It’s kind of symbolic for the whole franchise to this point for me: there is a lot of cool stuff to look at and tons of characters everywhere, but if you think about any of it for more than ten seconds you get a nosebleed.
I digress. There is a lot to like here. The movie is really atmospheric (in the future scenes) and carries a sense of dread to it like no previous X-Men film has. The stakes feel pretty high, even when they’re not. I’ve yet to see the Rogue cut but I hear it’s good but doesn’t really improve anything.
I think Singer does a really good job of blending his old cast from the original films with the cast from First Class. It’s a little confusing to see Fassbender and McAvoy in the same film with Stewart and McKellen since neither of the younger actors even remotely resemble the older ones, but you just have to let that go or you’re going to drive yourself crazy. It’s nice to catch up to the First Class characters after a few years in their time. They’ve all clearly been pretty busy (or in Xavier’s case, not busy at all). I will say that I think this movie might have worked better if they used the original cast entirely, and just had the time travelling happen before X-Men 3 or something so you can still cancel that out.
The Quicksilver scene, obviously, is a high point, and is very imaginative. But the fact that they just leave Quicksilver, after seeing what he can do, makes Magneto and Xavier seem like idiots. Still, the scene is really entertaining and Evan Peters’ Quicksilver is awesome.
Another big plus for me is that they finally (FINALLY) put actual Sentinels in an X-Men movie! Yeah, they look different from the ones in the comics, but they’re still really cool. Even the ones used in the past are pretty sweet, but it’s the adaptoid versions in the dark future that are really badass. These have been modified with Mystique’s DNA, which they use to shapeshift into a form that’s strong against whatever mutant they’re fighting. Going against Iceman? Fire powers. Going against Colossus? Super strength and endurance. And so forth. They cut through experienced X-Men like a hot chainsaw through already melted butter and are far and away the scariest villains in any X-Men movie.
I mean, seriously. They cut through the X-Men like they’re nothing. Twice! If you have any attachment to these characters at all it’s pretty heart wrenching. Some pretty gruesome deaths here for some beloved characters.
I also love how this movie is so very much like “FUCK X3!”. Xavier is Patrick Stewart here and nobody ever even mentions “Hey, didn’t you die?”. Cause fuck X3, that’s why.
I really like the X-Men they use for the future team, and it’s a damn shame they only got used once. Blink, Sunspot, Warpath and Bishop were all awesome and I wanted so much more from them. Speaking of Bishop, how come they didn’t just use him for the time travel? It would have introduced a really kickass character to the mythos, a leading caliber African American character whose time travel background could have easily been used instead of Kitty Pryde’s intangibility time travel powers that are never explained and insane. Instead of Wolverine just send Bishop. Duh. OH! It was really cool to see Iceman all iced up and using slides even if he dies multiple times.
Magneto lifting the stadium and using it as a wall, then ripping the President’s bunker right out of the building was awesome. His most impressive feats on film to this point, and really great moments. (Also loved when he put rebar through Wolverine and then tossed him a ridiculous distance away)
All that said, I didn’t love everything. As I’ve mentioned, the Kitty Pryde as the cause of time travel, not the subject of it, didn’t sit well with me. They could have really solidified Kitty as a character instead of Ellen Page That Runs Away. And the decision to use her the way they did with NO EXPLANATION is baffling.
But instead of Kitty, or even Bishop, we get more Wolverine. Of course. Sigh. Not that Jackman is bad or anything, in fact far from it, but at this point I was sick to death of every story (other than First Class, which was a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways) focusing on Wolverine. THERE ARE OTHER X-MEN. Not everything has to be about Wolverine. Jesus.
Speaking of other X-Men, a lot of characters seem to have died between the end of First Class and the beginning of DoFP. Banshee, Azazel, Riptide, Angel and Emma Frost are either absent or straight up confirmed as dead. I don’t think the story really missed any of them, but it’s odd that they spent so much time in the previous film setting a lot of stuff up that I’m sure didn’t pay off the way Vaughn envisioned it. It would be interesting to see what his version of this movie would have been.
I know I’ve already gone over this, but having Mystique be SO central to these movies is strange. It’s kind of like if Whrilwind was a major player in the Avengers films. Nothing against him as a character, but in the comics he’s a B-list villain at best with ties to two or three team members at best.
I’m still confused by how her posing as Stryker at the end of the movie when the Weapon X guys dig Wolverine’s body out of the water was supposed to play out. The next time we see her she’s in Germany helping lost mutants and Stryker is running Weapon X (with a captive Wolverine). So… she helps mutants but just really wanted to screw this one over or something? It doesn’t add up. Which is strange, considering Singer is the director of both this and Apocalypse.
Erik Smash: “Days of Future Past” is basically everything one could’ve hoped for in a follow up to “First Class” (the prequel), a sequel to the original X-Men trilogy, a soft-reboot of the franchise, and an adaptation of one of the most iconic X-Men comic book story lines!
X-Men: Days of Future Past starts off in a post-apocalyptic future where Sentinels have taken over and wiped out most of the mutants on the planet (the dark timeline of the original trilogy). Professor X and Magneto put aside their differences to work together to save their species from extinction with the help of Kitty Pryde and Wolverine. Pryde’s secondary mutation allows her to transfer one’s consciousness into the past (random, but roll with it), so they decide to send Logan back in time to the 70’s to prevent Mystique from murdering Boliver Trask, the creator of the Sentinel program and kick start a chain of events that will lead them all to ruin…
There is sooo much to talk about with this movie. It’s not just a great action movie, it’s a good adaptation, an awesome sequel and the first comic book movie to really go out of its way to retcon previous movies without doing a full on reboot. I’m a sucker for time travel movies and this one really doesn’t disappoint.
There’s two main story lines that we bounce back and forth from: the dark future where mutants have been wiped out by the Sentinels and the 70’s – where Professor X and Magneto have gone their separate ways, but before the formation of the X-Men and Xavier’s School for the Gifted. One really cool thing about this one is that it includes both casts – the original line up from the first trilogy and the new, younger cast members!
Long story short: Wolverine is sent back in to his younger (adamantium-less / pre-amnesia) body to recruit both Erik and Charles to help stop Mystique from killing Trask and setting off the dark timeline where Brett Ratner tries to murder the franchise. (see: X-Men: The Last Stand)
It’s also worth noting that there’s two very distinct versions of this movie: the theatrical cut and “the Rogue Cut” – the main difference being that the Rogue cut actually includes Rogue (Anna Paquin) in the movie. While I really like the scenes with her (and Anna Paquin in general), there were a few changes that I actually felt worked better in the original version.
There’s a couple interesting surprises in this movie: Professor X is a junkie (taking a drug that takes away his powers in exchange for the ability to walk), Beast isn’t blue any more, the original X-Men team have disbanded, most of the Brotherhood were killed off, and Magneto is currently being held in a maximum security prison beneath the Pentagon for murdering JFK! (of course it turns out that he was actually trying to save him)
The movie does a good job of picking up where First Class left off and it shows these characters at a turning point in their lives. Wolverine is attempting to help Charles the way he helped him years ago, Xavier is lost in a spiral of depression, without meaning or purpose, Mystique is on the verge of going down a dark path that will forever change both her destiny and the future of her species, and then there’s Erik. Will Magneto change his ways and use his powers to help build a bridge between man and mutant? Probably not…
Some of my favorite moments: Quicksilver infiltrating the prison, the mutants’ last stand in the future against a relentless onslaught of adapting sentinels, Magneto’s attack on Nixon (also props on the costume), the scene between Erik and Xavier on the plane, the scene where Magneto tries to kill Mystique to save the future, the scene where Magneto almost kills Wolverine and basically any scene with Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique…
There’s really not much I don’t like about this movie. In fact, most of my beefs with it are actually with the next movie, because of what this one sets up. But more on that later…
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Starring: James Mc Avoy (Professor X), Michael Fassbender (Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Nicholas Hoult (Beast), Oscar Isaac (Apocalypse), Rose Byrne (Moira Mactaggert), Evan Peters (Quicksilver), Josh Helman (Stryker again), Sophie Turner (Jean Grey), Tye Sheridan (Cyclops), Lucas Till (Havok), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler), Ben Hardy (Arch-angel), Alexandra Shipp (Storm), Lana Condor (Jubilee), Olivia Munn (Psylocke), Tomas Lemarquis (Caliban), and Hugh Jackman (Weapon-X)
Plot: An ancient mutant awakens after a few thousand years, to a world he does not recognize. He vows to remake what he sees as a broken world, in his image. To do so, he recruits his horsemen: a confused Storm, a hurt Angel, an angry Magneto and a Psylocke along for the ride. However, he didn’t account for the X-Men who once again fight to save a world that hates and fears them.
Erik Smash: X-Men Apocalypse is the follow up to both First Class and Days of Future Past, this time taking place in the 80’s – in an alternate timeline where mutants have gone public and have (for the most part) earned the trust of the world thanks to Mystique saving the President’s life from Magneto. Unfortunately for the Xavier’s newly founded school for the gifted, there’s a new threat on the horizon: Apocalypse!
Much like Man of Steel, Batman Returns, or the Amazing Spider-man, X-Men: Apocalypse is.. divisive to say the least. Most people either love it or hate it and not much in between. Which of course means, I loved it. It’s definitely the weakest of the new trilogy, but that’s only because the first two were so good! It’s still better than the original trilogy in my book by a long shot.
The movie opens with a prologue that introduces Apocalypse and his original ‘Four Horsemen’ back in Ancient Egypt, followed by one of the coolest opening titles of any superhero movie, which rapidly shows the march of history and the evolution of technology through the ages! As a history nerd, I was completely geeking out over that.
The basic plot is that Apocalypse (the first mutant) has returned to conquer the world and recruits a team of horsemen who he imbues with enhanced powers: Storm, Archangel, Psylocke and Magneto. So Professor X and his X-Men unite to stop them.
There’s A LOT to cover in this one. In fact, I think this movie has more X-Men characters than any previous entry, but unlike X3, this one actually handles them all pretty well, for the most part. Professor X, Magneto and Mystique return once again as the central characters, along with Quicksilver, Beast and Havok, this time however they’re joined by a new generation of mutants: Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Jubilee, Jean Grey, Archangel, Psylocke and Storm!
I do wish some characters like Cyclops, Psylocke, and Jean Grey got more screen time, but considering X-Men: Dark Phoenix is the next movie in the works, I hope they’re able to fix that. As we’ve mentioned before, Scott Summers especially is constantly getting short changed. They also (spoiler) kill off Havok AND Archangel with barely any mention. Not to mention a number of details that weren’t explained, like how did Stryker get a hold of Logan, when the last movie ended with Mystique taking Stryker’s place to save him?
None of that really matters though, because “Apocalypse” is a fun action movie that actually feels like an X-Men story! One of my favorite things about the movie is that it actually makes an attempt to adapt the looks of all the characters from the comics!
As a fan, there’s a lot to love about this movie. If you liked the Quicksilver scene in Days of Future Past, just wait till you see this one! And then there’s that moment where Scott and Jean unleash “Weapon-X” on Stryker’s team! My absolute favorite scene though was the moment where Apocalypse hacks into Cerebro and uses Xavier’s power against him to launch all of the world’s nuclear arsenal into the atmosphere!
So yeah, all in all, I’d say this was a very solid film and can’t wait to see what they do next with the series!
ComicZombie: I dig this movie, flaws and all, but it is a bit of a mixed bag, for sure. They gave us so much we have been asking for, but it was all just a tad left of center, if that makes sense. For instance, X-Men fans all wanted to see Apocalypse and Archangel, and we got that, but neither one was quite right. We wanted to see Storm with a mohawk, and we got that, but she didn’t really have much to do. We wanted to see Olivia Munn as Psylocke, and we got that, but she doesn’t add anything to the movie (other than just looking at her, of course). So while it’s a bit of a mess it does have a lot to like, but might still leave you feeling like “yeah, it was good, but i feel like it could have been better”.
There IS a lot that I like, though. So let’s dive in to that first, because I actually don’t have a whole heck of a lot to nitpick on this one (even I’m surprised).
I really like the new X-Men casting. Sheridan as Cyclops, Turner as Jean Grey, and Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler all do a nice job with what time they have. Really looking forward to seeing more of them in “Dark Phoenix”. They mesh well with existing cast, who are kind of our main stars: Xavier, Beast, Mystique, and Magneto. Quicksilver gets a good deal more screen-time this time out, too, and he’s a welcome addition. Olivia Munn is a nice casting for Psylocke, but it would be nice to give her some spotlight or really any kind of motivation at all. Her fight scenes are pretty cool. Isaacs does a great job with Apocalypse, even if I would have maybe chosen a different story for him, I can’t argue with the performance. To even try to act with that much prosthetics and make-up must have been a fresh hell.
When we first check in with Mystique, who is kind of the main hero (more on that later), she is in Germany looking in to a mutant fight club where mutants are forced to fight under threat of injury or death. We see the tail end of the fight between Angel and Blob, which Angel wins (kind of cool, and kind of a nice nod to the first X-Men movie with Logan cage fighting). Then Nightcrawler is introduced and he and Angel fight for a bit before Mystique busts the place up and frees them. I thought the idea of an underground mutant fight club was really interesting and would love to see more of that in another medium at some point.
It was really nice to finally have a real super villain in an X-Men movie and not just Magneto or Stryker. Yeah, we got Shaw in First Class and the Sentinels in DoFP, and both were cool, but I wouldn’t really call them a super villain in the way Apocalpyse is. Anyway, it was nice to see them all have to fight together just to attack one guy. It’s been 6 movies now and we’re just now getting to this. For shame.
It was really cool seeing Apocalypse and the transition of Angel to Archangel. Again, I would have played it differently (the scene is cool but not earned), but it was really cool to see them on screen fighting X-Men.
I think the action sequences in this movie are really strong. I love the opening in ancient Egypt with Apocalyse’s horsemen dying to protect him and the inginuity of the assassination attempt was awesome.
I felt like the stakes were really high in a way that they haven’t normally been in an X-Men film. I’m liking the trend of feeling like what is happening is a BIG DEAL, which really began in First Class with the Cuban Missile Crisis stuff and has built steadily since. Hopefully this continues in Dark Phoenix.
I thought the Weapon X scene was cool, although I feel like it lost a lot of its teeth after Logan was released not long after. After finally seeing Wolverine be able to get bloody it’s kind of hard to go back to slashes and stabs that create like a tiny splash of blood on the wall. If he did what he does in this scene in real life that place would look like a fucking abbatoir. Still, it’s a cool scene and I think was a nice unexpected moment for audiences.
I thought the scene of Apocalypse using Xavier to tell the world ‘no more superpowers’ as he strips every country of their armaments was really cool. Can you imagine the pants shitting that would cause? World-wide chaos would ensue pretty much immediately. Cool scene.
I love that Storm has a mohawk and is actually African now, and they did a good job showing her be a strong badass, but I’m hoping that now she’s part of the team we’ll really get to see her let loose. Storm has been criminally underplayed in this franchise but has a chance in the next film to really stand out. Alexandra Shipp did a good job, I think, of showing a lot with what little she was given to do.
It was great to see some actual chemistry between Cyclops and Phoenix. Scott and Jean are probably my favorite comic book couple and it’s really nice to finally see some interaction that shows that they actually like each other and get something from the other’s company. The first trilogy was all about Wolverine’s feelings towards characters: he was all about Jean so she was a big part of the stories, he didn’t like Cyclops so he would disappear whenever Wolverine wasn’t like “I need to make fun of Cyclops”, and he was ambivalent about Storm so she was always just kind of there. This time we get to meet them without Wolverine trying to creep up their relationship and it works pretty well, I think. I can’t wait to see what they can do with the next film, which they should be the main characters of (don’t fuck this up TWICE, Fox).
I think the movie has a nice sense of humor about itself, which is good since it’s pretty dark most of the time. My personal favorite is the scene where Cyclops shows the Professor his powers and destroys the tree. They set the film in the 80’s and are able to play with that a tiny bit, especially with the introduction of Jubilee (who also gets nothing to do). They apparently cut a few scenes of the new X-kids experiencing 80’s culture at a mall, which would have been nice to see. Actually, this brings me to the stuff I didn’t like.
I didn’t like how they didn’t lean harder into the 80’s setting like they did with the 60’s in First Class and to a somewhat lesser extent the 70’s in DoFP. The 80’s are ripe for this kind of movie and I feel like they left a lot on the table, so to speak.
I also don’t like that the last few times we’ve seen Magneto he’s been pro-mutant and willing to threaten the President, to his face, just to make a point. But when we check in with him here he’s living in Europe with an assumed name, a human wife, and a daughter? The fuck? He just gave up on his mission? The thing that drives his whole life? To be a steel worker or something in some shit town? Why? That makes no sense for his character other than to have the scene where his daughter is killed by the humans. So he can hate humans I guess? You know, the thing he already does and is known for? Fucking stupid. A waste of screen time that could have gone to characters that needed it much more than he did. And his “IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME!?!” is pretty painful.
I love the Quicksilver rescue scene as a set piece, and I get that they wanted to out-do the scene from the last movie, but I feel like this scene is super unnecessary and probably took so much of the budget to create that I would faint if I saw the dollar amount. Again, it’s really cool, but it doesn’t add anything to Quicksilver we didn’t already know and it doesn’t add anything to the story that him just showing up like “hey guys something funny” wouldn’t do. I just feel like his scenes often overshadow a lot of what’s going on.
There’s a LOT going on in this movie. They are introducing the concept and character of Apocalypse, trying to continue the storylines of the First Class characters, trying to introduce the new X-Men, AND trying to introduce the Horsemen, AND having them join Apocalyplse, and trying to tie all of this together for the ending. There’s so much going on that a lot of stuff gets left by the wayside. And in this case it’s character development. We needed a lot more time with Apocalypse’s Horsemen so that we’d actually give a shit about them (not to mention Apocalpyse himself). Magneto we know, but Storm, Archangel and Psylocke get almost nothing to say the whole movie and end up being little more than cannon fodder when it all comes down to it. At no point are they harbingers or, you know, actual Horsemen of Apocalypse. They just get sort of snazzy uniform updates and Angel gets new wings (that sequence is NASTY).
I really didn’t like that Archangel died. We never even knew anything about him, and the way he died is silly. The guy can FLY, and his wings are sharp enough where if he just spun in a circle he would shred that plane. So the guy that can fly and can cut his way out of a plane just sits in it while it crashes? I call b.s.
Speaking of pointless deaths, Havok dies! And while I hate this version of the character and he literally doesn’t need to be in these movies and nothing would change, the fact that he died the way he did was super lame. Although, this Havok is super lame, so I guess it fits.
Psylocke’s costume, while it should be commended for trying to be comic-faithful, could have used an update. It looks a little silly on screen, ESPECIALLY when they’ve got her standing around at freaking Auschwitz. Dear God, Singer, what is wrong with you?
Can we please never ever see military leader William Stryker again? I hate this version of this character and he just won’t go away. He was in X2, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Days of Future Past, and now this. William Stryker in the comics is a Reverend and uses his influence over his congregation and the zealots therein to commit hate crimes against mutants. He’s not the head of Weapon fucking X. Plus this guy is terrible at his job and always gets his ass handed to him. He’s no threat and he’s boring. Please let this movie be the last one that ever references him again.
Speaking of that shitheel, wasn’t Mystique posing as him at the end of the last movie? Well, nothing happened with that, apparently. Nothing at all.
Instead, Mystique is a hero to mutants everywhere after the conclusion of the last movie. She’s also kind of the main hero in this movie, and at the end is the new LEADER OF THE X-MEN. WHAT IS HAPPENING. I am scared and nothing makes sense anymore.
All in all Apocalypse is a mixed bag. There’s a lot to like and a lot of head scratching decisions. I get the feeling more people dislike it than like it, and I get the feeling a lot of the people that dislike it compared to the others feel that way because it’s not yet another installment of WOLVERINE! (and some X-Men).
So that wraps up the First Class films (at least so far). By now Deadpool 2 has hit theaters (and is awesome), and coming up we’ve got X-Men: Dark Phoenix (which is the freaking SEVENTH X-Men film!) and New Mutants, and maybe X-Force, before the Disney purchase of Fox kicks in and these characters go back to where they belong: Marvel.