The X-Men to me are the best heroes in comics. They don’t have the power of a Hulk or even the mightiness of a leader like Superman, but their themes make them the best to me. The X-Men comics usually centered around one important theme. The acceptance of mutants in a society that despises them. There is a plethora of mutants around the globe. Their powers manifest themselves at random times causing their friends and family to overact more often than they accept the mutant’s new powers. The government fears them as well. The unpredictability of their powers is a threat, as is the powers themselves. Instead of simple super strength and flying, some mutants have telepathy and teleportation powers. Because of this dynamic with the mutants and humans in their movies and comics, we see certain words getting thrown around in this series. Words like integration, segregation, assimilate, fearful, threat, secede, and empower. The X-Men to me, have always represented very real issues in our society today. Their movies and comics have always dealt with acceptance. Magneto vs. Professor X. The separatist vs. the diplomat. The realist vs. the idealist. X-Men has always brought thought provoking story to the table, and for that reason, I was extremely excited for this movie.
Most people, whether you like the X-men or not, can agree that Days of Future Past was a fantastic film. I saw critics say they would recommend it to people who purely like sci-fi. That’s high praise for a superhero movie that isn’t in the MCU. At first, when the Apocalypse trailer dropped, I got the same Days of Future Past vibe and I thought I was going to see the same type of movie. As more media and marketing came out however, I was starting to feel different. Days of Future Past was an event. An event that completely reset the X-Men universe. The more I saw the Apocalypse trailers, I felt as if this wasn’t in event (even though the first arrival Apocalypse should be) but rather another notch on the X-Men timeline. I felt as if us true nerds would love it, but not your average fan who loved Days of Future Past. Still, I was invested because of my love for X-Men. Out of the three movies that came out recently, I honestly thought X-Men was a sleeper. Just like when Days of Future Past came out, no one was talking about it. The talk this year went to Batman v. Superman and Civil War. I didn’t completely hate Batman v. Superman, but Civil War was outstanding. I thought X-Men would fit right into the middle right before I went to go see it. I thought I would overall like the movie, but its flaws would be apparent.
The movie starts off with an exceptional opening sequence. What’s amazed me about X-Men the past couple of years is the special effects. There isn’t a whole lot of hand-to-hand combat in the movies. It relies heavily on the powers of the mutants. This scene with Apocalypse is no different. We see his followers taking him into a tomb so he can transfer himself into another body, essentially so he can be immortal. He does this every time a new power manifests itself so he has infinite power. We see one of the themes in this movie displayed early. This idea of Apocalypse being a false god creeps into the minds of a number of soldiers. They sabotage the ceremony and succeed by trapping Apocalypse at the bottom of the tomb. The scene was brilliantly done, and I think they executed it well.
As the movie goes on, we see them establishing characters. We see the scene where Cyclops first gets his powers, we see Nightcrawler in his home in Germany, and we see Magneto in Poland. This was the most interesting character arc in the movie. Magneto is living with a wife and a daughter. This surprised me because of what he’s done in the past and what his beliefs are. You realize soon that he wants this life however. He seems content, no he seems honestly happy with where he is in life, and after everything he’s been through, no one can blame him. He’s under the radar, not using his powers, and providing for his family. We also see Professor X at his school. It’s been 10 years since Days of Future Past and his school has grown rapidly. We’re introduced to Jubilee (although she doesn’t use her powers the whole movie) and Jean Grey is introduced as well. Everything flowed in terms of introducing characters. At this point, people going to see this movie should know who these characters are when they appear. Storm is introduced in Cairo, where she meets Apocalypse. Psylocke, Angel, and everyone else are brought into the story pretty easily. Nothing seems forced.
There are two things I wanted to talk about from this movie. The first was the character development of Apocalypse.
I kept reading from critic reviews that Apocalypse was under developed. That he was too plain and boring in his way of thinking. I don’t think he was. If you look at how Apocalypse was being treated at the beginning of the movie, you understand why he thought the way he did. They encased him in a golden casket of some kind. A ceremony was held for him to do one simple thing, and that was to transfer himself into a new body. The movie didn’t have time to explain how society was when he was around, but the implications were clear. He was a god. The only god these people knew existed. When he awakes later on, the world he knew was changed. He was expecting ribbons and a parade for his return. When he meets Storm early on, he sits in front of the TV to absorb everything from the world. He learns of everything that has happened since he’s been gone. He’s appalled at what has happened. He’s angry that he isn’t still being worshipped, that his followers aren’t still holding ceremonies for him. There’s only one solution for Apocalypse at this point. A cleanse. Those were his exact words to Storm. Oscar Isaac does a great job with Apocalypse’s facial expressions as well. When he suggests the cleanse of the world, Storm says “You can’t just go killing people, there’s laws, systems in place.” Apocalypse scoffs at that. He smirks and says “Systems?” I know he wanted to say “I am the damn system.” And whenever we see someone in the movie challenge his god-hood, he makes that same face. At the end, when Jean destroys him with the help of the X-Men, his face is one of embarrassment. His miraculous plans for the Earth were stopped by a bunch of students and their professor. There’s no doubt to me that this movie did a good job of establishing Apocalypse as an entitled, arrogant, brash, and obsessive villain. Personally, to me that’s always been his downfall. We hear the phrase all the time. People think they’re better than someone. But no one truly thinks that. Most people know they aren’t more athletic than Lebron James or smarter than Stephen Hawking, but Apocalypse is different. He truly believes he’s a god, when in reality he’s just another powerful mutant when there are people in the Marvel Universe (Thanos, Thor, Hulk, Galactus, maybe Juggernaut) that could beat him. But his convictions are solid, and he never thinks he has to do much dirty work. The arrogance of his character to me, went deeper than just trying to destroy the world. To him, he’s the reason the world exists.
The second thing, that popped in this movie to me is one word. Emotion.
Like I said earlier, X-Men to me has always represented real struggles in our society. The government is always heavily involved with these stories. Mutants usually want to hide who they are. Iron Man stomps around the world in his suit, and Cap is proud to be who he is. X-Men deals with characters who want to be normal, but no matter what they do, they can’t. Their powers scare people, they look like a monster, or they can’t control themselves. Throughout this movie that narrative continued to pop up. Mystique continues to wear her human skin. Magneto, the mutant revolutionary, decides to try and live a normal life amongst the hated humans. Cyclops almost kills a student with his powers. The emotion in this movie was intense. I haven’t been choked up during a movie in a while, but when Magneto lost his wife and daughter, I was almost brought to tears. Here’s a man who has decided to completely give up on his mission of liberating mutants. All he needs and wants in life is the love of his two girls. They are taken away from him because of who he is, a mutant. It was heartbreaking as he cradled their bodies saying, “My babies.” He decides to join forces with Magneto, and he and Professor X reignite their relationship. The chemistry between the two has been amazing through the three movies. Again, we see their beliefs conflict. Once again, the emotion is palpable when Professor X sheds a tear as he mourns for his friend. Not many superhero movies deal with these type of consequences like X-Men do. Mutants are portrayed to be more of a curse than a blessing.
This movie does a good job of introducing the new characters as well. I was expecting one of the new characters to be lackluster, but honestly, no one was. Jean was sassy, Cyclops showed his leadership and charisma, Nightcrawler was hilarious, Psylocke was cool, and Angel was nice too. The Quicksilver scene where he saves the students in the explosion was genius. Whoever pitched that idea deserves a raise. He developed a bit too when he reveals that he feels he’s always too late. Whether that’s in life or saving people, he feels inadequate. That was unexpected and it was much needed for a character that everyone loves.
The final action scene in the movie was nice. I wasn’t expecting beautiful fight scenes like Civil War, but overall I thought everything looked great. Everyone got a chance to do a little something. The ending scene where Apocalypse is beating on Professor X, and Professor X says he’ll never win because he’s alone, reminded me of that almost same exact scene in Harry Potter and Order of The Phoenix. It was a bit weird that they echoed each other in that way, but Voldemort’s arrogance was his downfall as well so it makes sense. Jean being the catalyst to beat Apocalypse was awesome. Anyone who knows anything about comics saw the Phoenix Force being referenced there at the end. Jean’s power was on full display. I didn’t like them killing Angel though. Maybe he isn’t dead, but he looked dead to me. I wanted to see him join the team, since he is one of the originals from the comics. Magneto’s power was on full display as well. I loved it! I have read about some of Magneto’s powers and I was wondering when they’d be displayed like that in the movies. Didn’t think it’d be this one though! Him controlling the magnetic field of Earth was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while. Psylocke was a bit underused, but not too many people knew her anyway. They just knew the actor playing her.
My only complaint from this movie are small. I’m a bit worn out with Mystique’s character. Either stay with the X-Men or be a vigilante. If she is somewhere around the world in the next movie condemning Professor X and his school, I’ll lose it. Maybe it’s because she’s one my least favorite, but I can’t take much more of her. Other than that I loved the movie.
Critics went into this comparing it to Civil War and I feel that’s unfair. Civil War was an event, a buildup of years of hard work. After seeing this movie, I realized it wasn’t meant to be that. Days of Future Past was the event meant to flip this universe upside down. This movie gives us insight into what this universe is now. Apocalypse was a good villain, and the X-Men themselves were all on point. The special effects were surprisingly well done as well. The shot of the X-Men at the end (Storm, Cyclops, Quicksilver, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, and their mentors Mystique and Beast in the background) was freaking awesome! I think I speak for everybody when I say, PERSONALIZED UNIFORMS!!! I’ve been waiting for them to drop the skin tight leather suits for a long time now. Finally, each character has a unique look. I got chills seeing the team as one. If you like X-Men, there’s no reason to not see this movie. If you liked Days of Future Past, but not because of the characters, then skip this movie. It’s very character based and not story based, even though the story wasn’t weak at all. It relied on the emotion that has been the X-Men franchise, while adding some young, fresh talent at the same time. I can’t wait to see if they do something else in the future. Story triumphs over everything else, and the X-Men franchise knows how to tell a good story. I give it a 9/10
P.S. The Wolverine cameo was amazing! Fit right into the story since Stryker was the one who found him at the end of Days of Future Past. Hugh Jackman may not be playing Wolverine the next time we see him with those X-Men, but it was still nice to see.
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