Saturday, 4 June 2016

X-men: Apocalypse

X-men: Apocalypse is an interesting film, partially in how it can be compared to Captain America 3, which was released at roughly the same time.
Whereas Captain America was, as described by some outlets, a political thriller disguised as an action film, X-men is undoubtedly and unashamedly a popcorn action film.
This is not to say it isn't a good film, though. It knows what it wants to do, and does it well. Mostly.

The film sees the latest iteration of the X-men cast (Fassbender et al) facing off against the semi-titular villain. Semi-titular because, though he is known as Apocalypse in the comics, cartoon, and games, in this film he is known exclusively as En Sabah Nur.
He is a mutant, possibly the first one, who transfers himself between bodies, absorbing the abilities of the mutant he transfers into in the process.
This is done using some kind of gigantic machine, which seems to be less of him using a mutant ability to transfer (which one would presume would not require advanced technology to utilise) and more using some kind of alien technology - the idea is not developed at all, but could hint at things to come in future sequels (as aliens are involved with the X-men, sometimes)

At the start of the film, his performs this process transferring himself into an immortal mutant, but is buried until modern day (1983) by some Game of Thrones cameos.

I have seen some people criticising Apocalypse's design, which features some nice Egyptian inspired-features, mixed with alien-looking technology. Imagine Stargate, but with a blue tint. Yes, it looks a bit silly, but a lot less silly than this:

I don't want to get into describing what happens in the film blow-by-blow in detail, but there are a few points I want to make.

Religion

Apocalypse is buried in ancient Egypt to cries of "Death to the false god!" indicating that he has convinced his followers that he is a deity, which is pretty much par for the course for ancient Egypt.

In the teaser trailer (above) Apocalypse has a speech about the names he has been known by, which includes "Yahweh". In case you are unaware, "Yahweh" translates to "I am" and is the "name" of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. The implication clearly being that the fictional Marvel universe (which includes a multitude of other Gods) is not according to the mythology of western religions, or perhaps leaning towards Gnosticism (the concept that a God did create the Universe, but then left, and the interactions humanity has had with "God" afterwards was actually a malevolent imposter)
However, in the finished film that name (and "Ra" if memory serves) is removed. Apparently the studio misplaced it's testicles between producing the trailer and releasing the film, which is a huge shame to me. Come on, guys - push the envelope a little.

Jubilee

Like many people, my first exposure to the X-men was through the saturday morning cartoon, and which used Jubilee as the audience proxy for the first few episodes.
Interestingly she does appear in this film, quite a lot. I think that the writer must have known that quite a lot of fans would be curious to how she is portrayed, and to that end turned her into Maggie Simpson in all of the "future" episodes of the Simpsons. By that I mean that literally every time she was about to talk, she would be prevented from doing so. I'm not sure how I feel about that, as it was somewhat funny, but it felt a bit like I was meant to be the butt of the joke.

Quicksilver

He's back, and he is utterly hilarious! If it weren't for his dour representation in Avengers: Age of Ultron, I would be wondering why good-guy speedsters seem to be universally light hearted comic relief.

Jean Grey

In another example of the influence on Game of Thrones, Jean Grey is played by Sansa Stark. She is a perfectly competent actress, but evidently has a little bit of trouble with the particular American accent she was attempting. This is obvious, and a little bit distracting, because in some scenes her dialogue was ADRd and it doesn't quite match up.

Wolverine

Not a spoiler as it's in the (final) trailer, but the eternal Mary-Sue that is Wolverine is in this film. He is done very well, though, particularly because it's an extremely minimal part with barely a line of dialogue.

Special Effects

As mentioned before, this is a less cerebral film than Captain America, and much more spectacle. As such, the film makes liberal use of CGI, which is expensive. The vast majority of it looks really good, or at least convincing enough.
However there are a couple of scenes of a shipping yard which, to be frank, would look more convincing is scribbled on a napkin in crayon. They are unbelievably bad.
The thing is, since it's only a couple of scenes - literally no more than a minute of footage - I am left wondering why it wasn't edited out of the final cut?

The Horsemen

Apocalypse has four mutant henchmen, like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. One of whom is Archangel, who has a transformation sequence featuring a heavy metal song, as if to say "Hey, look at this guy with his METAL wings. Isn't this so freaking METAL?"
Since the guy looks like a literal child, not really. In fact, it just seems off.

Conclusion

I honestly really enjoyed this film, despite a few mis-steps. It's not the most intelligent, but it is a really solid action film, with Fassbender continuing to be a fantastic Magneto.
As the film itself says, the third one is always the worst. This is perhaps not as good as First Class and Days of Future Past, but is far better than The Last Stand.
Since the next one planned is a third Wolverine specific film (the two so far being at most so bad they're good) I'm not too hopeful about Wolverine 3.

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