X-Men: Apocalypse

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I just got back from seeing this film. I’m not a huge X-Men fan, even though I admit that I enjoyed the comic way back in the late ’70s and early 1980s. It was interesting to me how it used mutants as a metaphor for oppressed minorities. The character I think that I identified with the most was Beast, a scientific and engineering genius stuck in a blue bestial form. I never saw myself as good-looking, and was somewhat of a shy science and math nerd (my college degree was in Engineering). I remember reading bits and pieces of the whole Phoenix/Dark Phoenix saga, issues of which were mixed together with all sorts of crap at my campus coffee house. That may have been the height of the series (at least it was so far as I was concerned).

The writing for the movies, imho, never quite reached the quality of some of the better comic book films.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed several of them. But they never engaged me as much, as, for example, the first two Dark Knight films, or many of the MCU films. And, to be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted to pay money to see this in the theater. But “The Nice Guys” (which was the film I originally went to see) was not going to start for an hour and a half or so, and I didn’t want to hang out for that long at the mall (I’m from the Pre-Mall as social hang-out generation, one of the last of the baby boomer, as it were — and I’m not a fan of malls or mall food or mall chains or what-have-you)

So… the story begins by introducing us to Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) — it’s not really his origin story, as much as it is the story of why he disappeared thousands of years. The story goes that he may have been the very first mutant, and he ruled egypt, practically as a god for a time, along with other mutants, until some of the Egyptians rose up against him at a time when he was extremely vulnerable, and so he was buried alive.

Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), who works for the CIA, is keeping an eye on a cult of mutant-worshippers who are digging up something in (of course) Egypt, and we all know what the result of that will be (I don’t think a spoiler warning is necessary). Pretty soon others become involved, including (of course) Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and some of his students, and newly discovered mutants, to oppose Apocalypse.  Meanwhile Apocalypse decides to recruit 4 ‘horsemen’ to aid him in his conquest and reshaping of earth to be a kind of Mutant heaven (I suppose).

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The best parts of the film come early on, with glimpses of Xavier’s school, and with Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto’s backstory, involving him working in a steel mill, married to a young woman and caring for his young daughter. Overall, there are several small moments in the movie (mostly the early parts) that I wish were in a better film — such as Mystique rescuing Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from a mutant fight club.

But overall, the problems of the film are greater than those few shining moments. There’s even a scene where Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) does a similar shtick to the one he performed in “Days of Future Past”, where he runs through the Xavier school rescuing people from an explosion, only because we’ve seen it before done much better in the previous movie, it feels like nothing more than a cliched gimmick here. Most of the action scenes are not particularly fun or at least, exciting.

There are things about the film that bother me a lot — the ‘evil plot’ that Apocalypse has does not actually gyve with a lot of his actions and those done by his cohorts on his behalf. In fact, death and destruction are cheap — if you thought that the destruction perpetrated in ANY previous superhero film was shocking, there is no comparison here.  The shear cold-blooded nature not only of the villains, but of the ‘heroes’ is abhorrent. Not only isn’t there any kind of shock at the destruction, not even lip-service is paid to it.  Again, I cant explain in detail without too much of a spoiler, but let’s just say that it makes even the heroes look cold. At least “Superman V. Batman”, and “Captain America: Civil War” acknowledge the terrible destruction that has occurred either in their stories or their predecessors in their respective universes.

I cannot recommend “X-Men: Apocalypse”.  As I said, there are some good scenes in it. The acting, while not stellar, is not bad either (for the most part). But it’s not a good movie.

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