Saturday night I took myself off to the Cinepolis to see the new X-Men film rejoicing in the rather ominous title X-Men: Apocalypse. I’ve greatly enjoyed X-Men First Class and Days of Future Past. I’ve been a big James McAvoy fan and Fassbender is perfect as young Magneto so this wasn’t going to be a hardship. However, I was dubious about this new film because it looked like character proliferation which usually leads to a frenetic mess as they try to service all the characters. I’m also getting really tired of apocalypses. I’m reaching the point with these superhero movies where I’m like — “Okay, just destroy the world already!”
I came away from the movie feeling like it was two films that had melted together, and I liked one of the films much better than the other. The small, personal stories were lovely. Scott’s brother, Alex, getting him to Xavier’s school. Mystique/Raven being a hero to mutants around the world. Magneto having made a life for himself. Quicksilver in search of family and father. Charles as gentle mentor and wise teacher.
I liked the dark underbelly where mutants are used and abused in fight clubs. (We went there in the last Wild Cards novel Lowball, and it makes sense), but I didn’t buy that there was all this mutant hate and distrust after the events in Days of Future Past. Also the time line between the final scene in Future Past with Wolverine back at the school and everything fine and dandy, and this new timeline where entire cities had been destroyed and millions killed had my head spinning. How exactly did that happen?
But I get ahead of myself. So our big villain, Apocalypse, arrives and once again we had a megalomaniac determined to destroy the world because…. why? Exactly? And after the destruction of major cities and the deaths of millions we’re going to all end up back at the mansion with the school just humming along…..?
Character motivation was another problem for me. I didn’t get why the three kids joined up with Apocalypse so willingly? I could buy it with Magneto. He had lost everything so Let It Burn seemed like a place he would go, but Storm and Angel and Psylocke ? Wouldn’t they want to get an eight track, and some tapes and go on a date? I guess there was some hint they were mind controlled but it felt very forced to me. Rather like the engineered conflict between Batman and Superman in what had be this year’s absolutely, positively worst superhero movie. It’s like nerd wet dreams — Wouldn’t it be cool if Batman and Superman fight. Even cooler if various X-Men fight just ‘cause.
There were points where I thought I was going to end up liking Apocalypse better than Civil War, but ultimately X-Men lost me when it went to a very comic book place in the final scenes.
Putting aside for the moment the fact that Cairo was completely destroyed and millions of innocent people were killed not to mention other cities with massive destruction, we have Eric murdering six or seven cops because a terrible accident occurred. The cops had come to confront Magneto because of the events from 10 years before. He was, in fact, a wanted criminal. It wasn’t just mutant hate. Then things go pear shaped his daughter dies, and he kills them. Next up the whole world destroying thing, and then the school gets rebuilt and Charles wistfully suggests that he wishes Eric would stay. We once again have the “farewell, old friend” moment. Your old friend just murdered a gaggle of cops and then wiped Cairo off the map!
I’m all for redemption and salvation, but there are some crimes that are beyond forgiveness. Magneto’s actions fall into that category for me. But again, no consequences, no revulsion from Charles or Quicksilver, or Jean, or the pious (and darling) Nightcrawler.
I understand these movies are fantasies, but at least nod toward the bigger issues. And that’s where ultimately Civil War ends up being the better film. I still felt like the fight between Ironman and the Cap was forced, but at least they were discussing big issues about a world in which there are superpowers. Ultimately in Apocalypse the blood of innocents cried out from the sand and rubble, and no one answered.