26 May 2016


Twelve Things about X-men: Apocalypse

12. Half of everything you need to know about X-men: Apocalypse can be found in a gratuitous "meta" scene in which some characters discuss the original Star Wars trilogy. It is the early 80s, they have just seen Return of the Jedi, and one of them speaks for the rest when she says, "At least we can all agree the third one is the worst."

It's funny because the movie we are watching is the third of what we might call the "X-men prequel trilogy" and director Bryan Singer is calling his own movie terrible before any of us can. Hahahaha . . . I mean, get it??? Hahaha?

11. Seriously, the only reason this movie was made was to introduce new versions of the old characters from the "original X-men trilogy," which Singer also screwed up directed. So he could both "come full circle" and get a second chance to make the exact same mistakes. For instance, I hadn't thought it was possible, but here Cyclops is more impossible to respect than he was in the first trilogy. It's quite plausible that the character of Scott Summers reminds Singer of someone who made him feel inadequate in high school, and four unflattering movies in a row still isn't enough revenge. 

10. The other half of everything you need to know about X-men: Apocalypse is the dramatic opening sequence . . .

That X-men villain Apocalypse was once an Egyptian god could have been an episode of Ancient Aliens . . . though not one featuring Giorgio Tsoukalos. (Who else gets this???) Sadly, we see only the collapse of his reign and don't understand why some rebelled against him. When someone who claims to be divine, with signs and wonders to back him up, is not accepted by all the adherents in the land, it's worth knowing why. Especially in a movie not very shy about its theme of "False Gods." 

9. So . . . any guesses about Who else just might be a false god in the X-universe?

This screen cap is borrowed from another movie, but it works just as well for this post.
Do you notice anything about the shape of the cross here?
(I know, right?!?!)

Here the Cross becomes the earliest version of the "X" symbol, repeated again in the Nazi swastika and the Communist hammer and sickle. It's not a totally new thesis . . . but if you really want to sell the idea that the Cross is merely one shadow "X" of a Platonic ideal we sometimes get wrong and sometimes get right, you need to suggest more historical variants than one complete fabrication and two from the last century of a 5,600-year timeline.

8. On the other hand, we can't really go wrong thinking of Professor Charles Xavier as one of the latest fictional "types" of Christ. (That is, unless Christ was a total fake, in which case, Professor X is Hitler. Ooops.)

7. Speaking of history, it has been twenty years since the events of X-men: First Class (See its Twelve Things) . . . and boy, do they fail to matter! Never mind whatever our returning characters spent all that time on: these are conveniently taken away, blown up, or otherwise swept under some carpet so that they don't distract from this new story. Factor in nil personal development, and our heroes might as well have been apart for a year. Tops.

6. The one exception would be Mystique, which doesn't surprise me. Next to Charles and Eric, she has done the most to carry these "prequels." And well, we are in the age of the morally ambiguous Kick-butt Heroine, whose great paradox is her powerlessness. While Mystique has indeed done many brave and clever things, these have, two X-movies in a row, come second to others' perception of them. Think of Katniss Everdene becoming, whether she liked it or not, the Mockingjay.

Hey, Bryan Singer, does the Mockingjay pin count as an "X"?

It's too soon to say whether Katniss is the new Ellen Ripley, forever changing the way we watch women in Action movies--especially when my only two examples are both played by Jennifer Lawrence. =P But it's worth noticing that in both Katniss's and Mystique's cases, it is not actual skills and achievements that ultimately matter, but a woman's image in the media and its manipulation or interpretation by others. (You're funny sometimes, feminists.)

5. You might think the second exception is Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, which would have needed a decade to become the thriving institution it is now. But it's clearly here only because pre-existing mythology insisted upon it, and not because Singer and his fellow revisionists wanted to deal with it.

The Great Pyramid, the X-mansion, any city in the world:
if you can digitally build it, you can dictate what it means

The sequence that doubles as the audience's "grand tour" is less about honouring a visionary's greatest achievement than about showing how disposable the filmmakers felt it was. Though "disposable" is not quite the right word . . . "Rebootable." Ah, there it is. Why care for the original when you can just make a new version of it?

4. There is more than one way to signal you couldn't care less about something . . . or someone. Can you guess which canon character the filmmakers liked the least?

It's obviously the Asian the one who actually looks like she's in the 80s . . . Jubilee's big moment is getting to say the line that X-men: Apocalypse is "the worst." LOL!

3. As for Nightcrawler, he is no longer the devout Catholic from the comics, but someone better described as "spiritual but not religious." (Complaints? Get in line behind Cyclops's fans.) But is this Kurt Wagner at least also still Mystique's son? There's just enough ambiguity for the fourth movie to go either way.

2. Finally, we have Jean Grey, whom you have surely guessed is the prima inter pares. Since she starts the movie unable to get her incredible powers of telepathy and telekenesis under control, you also already know that by the end she will . . .

Choose one:
a) learn to control them and make Professor X proud
b) absolutely let them rip because control (like organic character development) is so overrated

I can't wait for the Phoenix to become the new Mockingjay!
Or is there only room for one per franchise?

1. Finally, did anyone else notice that if Moira hadn't been poking her nose into things that are none of the CIA's business, millions of innocent people would not have died? (Should this question be: did anyone else notice the millions of innocent people who died offscreen? =P) 

If you squint and tilt your head to the side a little, it's totally a "Bryan Singer X"

I love this new Moira lots, but I will forgive X-men: Apocalypse 95% everything if it is secretly an anti-CIA allegory.

Image Sources: a) X-men: Apocalypse poster, b) Great Pyramid, c) The Passion of the Christ screen cap, d) X-mansion, e) New cast, f) Mockingjay, Part 1 poster, g) CIA seal


Belfry Bat said...

Is Katniss really a long-removed cousin of Bathsheba's?

Enbrethiliel said...


Not at all. The Pretty Blonde Girl has more control than Katniss ever gets, over an estate that she inherits, and is actually the best person to run it (and later, the best person to raise sons into great men) although she is underestimated by everyone around her. But Bathsheba was originally a brunette, so they have that in common.

Brandon said...

That Jubilee is a thorough child of the 80s would make considerable sense of her early costume in the comics -- it has the 80s air of taking colorful clothing and saying, "You know what this really needs? More color!"

Bryan Singer mostly irritates me; I think I'll wait for the DVD, if that.

Belfry Bat said...

... of course, Last Stand was also a third one ... making Sir Ian say incredulously "what have I done?", one can almost imagine he's asking why he accepted the role again...

Enbrethiliel said...


Brandon -- After the unabashedly retro looks of X-men: First Class (1960s) and X-men: Days of Future Past (1970s), the low level of 1980s pride in this third movie is disappointing!

Bat -- Would you believe I didn't see that third one?

MrsDarwin said...

I love James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender as much as the next woman (more, probably), but the X-Men movies never seem to be more than the sum of their parts. I even liked most of First Class (is that the one set in the 60s with the Bay of Pigs?), but it, like the others, felt like the rules were made up and the points didn't matter. And I'm also weary of the mutant=gay theme -- that's Bryan Singer's coercive hand at work. But Jennifer Lawrence is always good, so.

Not sure if I'll watch this one as my girls only like Marvel movies with Captain America in them.

Brandon said...


It's all the more disappointing when one considers that if there's any decade of the twentieth century that could easily provide an aesthetic for mutants with superpowers, it's the 80s: wild, weird hair; neon pink and green; punk rock and techno and heavy metal; glitter on everything; Leonard Part Six.

I also get a little tired of the movie-mangling of Nightcrawler; the two things that keep Fuzzy Blue Devil from being a fairly generic character are his very Catholic viewpoint and his swashbuckling. In a sense the Marvel movies make it worse, because they show how far you can get just by trying to keep the sense of the characters intact.

But then, I remember the X-Men animated series in the 90s, which was infinitely more intelligent than anything we've been given at the movie level. I still remember the "Descent" and "Bloodlines" episodes vividly, despite the fact that I only ever saw either of them once.

Enbrethiliel said...


Mrs. Darwin -- Yes, First Class is the one from the 60s--and if it feels just a little bit different from the others, that's because Singer didn't direct it. He did still act as producer, though, so we got that forced mutants=gays subtext anyway.

Believe it or not, I watched this one only because I had bet that the friend who wanted to watch a "superhero movie" would pick the new Captain America. Why can't she be like your daughters?

Brandon -- Excellent point! I guess the 80s were just too awesome for Singer.

Moreover, this compounds the diminishing of the characters' own achievements since we last saw them. There's just no honesty about the passage of time. (There is, however, a joke that someone whom one character hasn't seen in a decade "hasn't aged a day." Oh, I get it now.)

The 90s animated series was my gateway drug to the X-universe. And the standard to which I hold all the movies. =)