X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse. Where to begin? Seriously. Maybe with the sentence “Just when you thought they had it figured out”. So let’s get into one of the bigger messes I’ve seen this year and find out just where it went wrong… and what it did right.

Ancient Egypt. A pyramid. People chanting the name En Sabah Nur. That’s the opening of X-Men: Apocalypse, the latest installment of the X-Men movie franchised based on the comics of the same name. The trailers looked interesting. Large-scale destruction, speeches that essentially suggest that everything’s going down the drain and that it’s now time to up the ante on all sides of a world-threatening conflict. And all that’s between a guy proudly proclaiming that everything they’ve built will fall and the Earth’s continued existence is a bunch of characters we know from comics but have never seen on the big screen.

X-Men: Apocalypse Poster

X-Men: Apocalypse Poster © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Because Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) has been asleep for thousands of years and now has returned to continue his mission. That’s all great, but it goes downhill from there. Because it’s never quite made clear why Apocalypse is doing anything he does. It seems like his thought process could be something like this:

It’s Tuesday. Let’s go conquer the world for I am bored.

– Apocalypse, off the record

But that’s not the worst of it. Because the big villain of the story being a sort unmotivated guy who’s blue – like every other character who isn’t of a regular human skin tone – and just holds the same speech over and over and over again… it’s not the movie’s worst aspect.

Where it Went Really Wrong (Images have some very minor spoilers)

The biggest flaw of this movie is the way it’s crafted. For one, the actual story never goes beyond the most superficial of depths and has all the familiar beats that suggest you should care, but if you think about it, there’s really nothing there.

Then there’s the part where it’s predictable down to the exact words some of the characters were using. In a universe that has brought us great movies like X-Men 2 or the two other movies in the X-Men: First Class trilogy, why did the writing have to be so terrible? Surely there would be a surprising twist or two in there somewhere, no? Writing so that an unwitting audience member can predict the actual words the characters are going to use, that’s just lazy.

The other thing that made me really not care for this movie was the way the story was built. It doesn’t allow for any caring. But I need to digress a bit for that one. So a story can be displayed as a graph, as per author Kurt Vonnegut’s theory of the Shape of a Story:

You can easily adapt this graphical representation to a movie starring superheroes. It would look something like this.

X-Men Apocalypse

Graph of a generic superhero action movie according to proven formula

Now, to compare this, let’s have a look at the graph of X-Men: Apocalypse. I would also like to mention that I draw amazing graphs.

X-Men: Apocalypse

Graph of X-Men: Apocalypse, deviating from formula, failing at most things

Now, this complete misunderstanding of the classic build of a hero’s story can work, but it needs clever writing. Mad Max: Fury Road has it, and even that movie has the occasional quiet moments. So after the “Not my family”-scene, there’s not development on any front anymore. The only thing that happens is that people get new costumes. If that constitutes for character development, I say we should stop making comic book movies.

Because, look, I’m not saying everything should follow the standard hero pattern. In fact, some movies have recently deviated from the formula quite heavily and they’re still great. But even in those movies, like Captain America: Civil War, you can see the traces of the following hero’s journey:

But this is not where the mess ends. There are two issues with the story that also manage to quite bugger up everything.

  1. Because everything is high-octane action with badassery and destruction, everything just sort of blends together and becomes an amorphous blob of neverending CGI
  2. Nobody can stay on the edge of their seats for almost 2 hours and 24 minutes, especially if most of it is padding

Superhero Fatigue?

Recently, voices have gotten loud that the superhero movie genre has seen its hey-day and is now on the decline. These people will find themselves confirmed in X-Men: Apocalypse because it just doesn’t add anything to the genre or its franchise. It’s forgettable and even though it has an all-star cast, mixed with some up-and-coming awesome actors as well as a terribly dull Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, there’s nothing to really appreciate.

The recipe against this is simple: Just make it a movie covering two genres. Prime example here would be Captain America: The Winter Soldier that has all the best elements of a superhero movie and a political thriller.

The Big Thing That They Did Right

However, this movie isn’t all bad. In fact, when it does something well, it does it extremely well. The good parts of this movie are few and far in between, but when they’re good, they’re really good.

While most of X-Men: Apocalypse is scored by epic sounding orchestral score that bores you to tears after a while, there are two notable scenes that don’t rely on the score. One is where Angel (Ben Hardy) is turned into Archangel and the other where Pietro aka. Quicksilver (Evan Peters) runs through a gigantic explosion. Those are scored by a heavy metal track from the 1980s that I’ve heard before and Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics. And honestly, those are the best scenes of the movie. The score isn’t just blaring out of the speakers of the cinema without rhyme or reason, but there’s a mood, there’s a setting, there’s a character attached to it.

X-Men

Nightcrawler looks absolutely gorgeous. Look at the details. Other characters are similarly well done. © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

The costumes are spot-on, as is the casting, even though most if not all characters are completely wasted in this movie. Alexandra Shipp is a dead ringer for Storm, more so than Halle Berry ever was. Olivia Munn makes for a good Psylocke despite the fact that she never says anything interesting. And so on. The only one looking kind of bad here is Oscar Isaac as En Sabah Nur. While in the comics, he has striking blue lines in his face that serve no apparent purpose as well as cables out of his arms that sever even less of a purpose, he has dreadlocks-looking cables out of his head and the blue lines don’t work. Also, the make-up seems to keep the actor from emoting, so this menacing character most often looks somewhat forlornly aloof.

Physics Schmysicks!

They say that in order to craft a believable fantastic world, the elements that it shares with our reality need to work out. Among these things, there’s usually stuff like gravity or time. Neither one of these things seem to follow any particular kind of logic or consistently applied reality in X-Men: Apocalypse.

  • Everything that gets destroyed is destroyed in slow motion while the dust around it whirls around in real time
  • Whenever a human being jumps, momentum is all wrong. One of the worst offenders is actually in the trailer where Psylocke slices apart a car
  • Later on, she stands on a plane that is nosediving towards the ground as if nothing was wrong
  • When Quicksilver runs, some things still move in real time such as liquids in a can

All in all, X-Men: Apocalypse is a movie you can skip at cinemas. It’s perfect for a Saturday night when it’s raining and you’re on the couch with a few friends, there’s some beer and you’re talking about everything and nothing. Because every time you’ll look at the screen, you’ll see something you like, something that’s pretty or something that’s impressive. Here’s the pretty trailer for an otherwise failed movie that is probably the worst movie I’ve seen in theatres this year. The worst thing for me personally is that I really, really wanted to like this film. It opens in Swiss cinemas on May 19th.

Win Things!

Despite the movie not being all that, our friends at 20th Century Fox have kindly given us some swag for you to win! All you have to do is answer a question by Thursday, May 19th, 2016 at 11.59pm CET. Also, it’s important that you read the small print after the question. Mainly the part of you having to be a resident of Switzerland, because we can not mail your prizes internationally.

Before this, here’s what you can win, all these prizes are sponsored by 20th Century Fox. Copyright for all images lies with them, too.

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© 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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© 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

x-men_apocalypse_win_prize_02

© 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

x-men_apocalypse_win_prize_01

© 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

So here’s your question: In which other superhero movie did Olivia Munn play a character named after the world’s most famous board game?

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About Dom

Possessing nigh-encyclopaedic knowledge when it comes to comic books and movies, Dom is one of the co-founders of the Uncanny Book-Club. He also enjoys movies, and going to the cinema.

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