Speculative Fiction Saturday: X-Men Apocalypse

X-menI have to admit, I came into X-Men Apocalypse, not expecting to like it. I mean, I didn’t think it would suck, but this is the sixth film in the series, so I guess I am wondering how much life is in this series.

In fact, I could compare the X-Men series with another popular series that 20th Century used to own with Star Wars. The original X-Men was a hit, and it opened the door to more superhero movies, kind of like the original 1977 Star Wars movie opened the door to science fiction films. X2 was even a bigger hit, like how The Empire Strikes Back worked for Star Wars. Some will say that Return of the Jedi was disappointing, and I will say that X-Men: The Last Stand was terribly disappointing.

This has led to a prequel series for X-Men that began with First Class, which could be compared to The Phantom Menace. Yeah, I didn’t think that Episode 1 was all bad, and that was what I thought about the first X-Men prequel. Days of Future Past was an improvement like Attack of the Clones. Now, along comes X-Men Apocalypse, which can be compared to Revenge of the Sith.

Sadly, this last X-Men film is not really gaining a big following with 48 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. I can see why, as this film has some flaws, but a lot of what is in it eclipses the bad. So, this is a good film, but it might not be a great film.

I’m going to get to the biggest flaw in this film, and that is the villain. I realize that Apocalypse is considered one of the X-Men’s greatest foes, and back when I was collecting comics, I remember him and thought he was pretty cool, for a villain. The issue is that this movie series has interesting villains who have motives that you can understand, even though they are skewed, like Magneto and Stryker. The issue with Apocalypse is he comes off as someone like the Emperor, Agent Smith, Sauron, or any Disney villain. That is, he is kind of evil for the sake of being evil.

Apocalypse is apparently the first mutant, and since he can take powers from other mutants, he can do pretty much anything that the script demands. You know, like grow wings of metal or turn a person’s hair white. He can also teleport with the help of spherical Jello. I’m just going to let you see the film before I detail the context of those scenes.

Yeah, this feels like lazy writing, and a little bit of established backstory could show how Apocalypse was somehow venerated as a god in ancient Egypt. How is it that mutants can be so feared in the modern world yet just the opposite in the ancient one?

I mean, is this the point? Yeah, this film doesn’t seem to have a good point, even though it has a lot of great fights, great effects, and some very great scenes. The film takes place in 1983, a decade after the events from the last film. Yeah, these X-Men prequel films take place a decade apart, which is odd.

In case you are not aware, the X-Men series got a huge reboot shot in the arm because of some time travel stuff in Days of Future Past. In fact, it was established that the events in X-Men: The Last Stand didn’t happen, and I couldn’t be happier. These new X-Men movies don’t seem to care about continuity much, and they are doing things that seriously alter the timeline. Like in this movie, they meet Nightcrawler, who didn’t originally show up until X2, but he’s making an early appearance.

Then there are times when the series just says: “screw it”. For example, the character of Angel appeared in X-Men: The Last Stand, as a teenager, and I assumed that this took place in whatever present era that the original X-Men trilogy took place, which is in the last decade, or the “not to distant future”, I’m not sure. However, Angel is here in the eighties, at the same age.

Now, the thing about Apocalypse in the comics is that he has this belief that he must abolish the weak in order for the strong to rise up. It’s pretty Darwinian, that’s for sure, and why he believes this really should be established a whole lot better.

Let’s talk about the good. There is a scene where Magneto is discovered by the police in Poland. Apparently, Magneto has married and had a daughter, but he is still a fugitive. When the cops come with bows and arrows to arrest Magneto, his daughter and wife are killed. Sadly, this scene is not well set-up, but the reaction afterwards is just great.

There is another great scene with Quicksilver, as he has to run into a building that is exploding and rescue everyone in it. It has this slowmo almost Matrix quality and has the perfect choice of music with “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” by the Eurythmics. It is worth the price of admission just for that scene alone.

This is one of those films that probably should have focused on characters and developing these characters rather than big action scenes. So much so, that I didn’t really care about the big action scene at the end, no matter how many special effects they threw at me.

So, I’m going to say that this film is worth seeing, so check it out if you are an X-Men fan. I’m guessing that the fandom didn’t save this one, and I’m not certain how many X-Men films they can or should do.