These are tough times for comic book fans. There are three Jokers, the cast of Watchmen is messing around with DC continuity and Captain America has been loyal to Hydra the whole time (damn you, Dr. Manhattan!!!)! Well, buckle your geekbelts, because I’m about to tear into X-Men: Apocalypse.
Ironic, considering my first AiPT! article called on comic fans to celebrate – not nitpick – superhero cinema. But following the catastrophic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and now X-Men: Apocalypse, I need to put aside my plea in the hopes of knocking some sense into the keepers of the X-Men’s film rights.
So here’s a rundown of the biggest crimes committed by director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg in X-Men: Apocalypse against loyal X-Men fans such as myself. Oh yeah, and MASSIVE, APOCALYPTIC SPOILERS for X-Men: Apocalypse from this point on…
It Felt Like Fan Fiction
And I’m talking fan fiction by a teenage X-Men fan who’s never written a screenplay and is too young to understand what makes for a good movie. It’s insane to think the same director was responsible for this film and the smart classic that was X2.
Not sure what happened here. Either Singer and Kinberg were told they could only make one more X-Men film or Fox felt the need to catch up with Marvel Studios and please fans of their more comic-accurate superhero stories. Either way, X-Men: Apocalypse featured pretty much every X-trope except the Xavier Mansion’s kitchen sink.
Magneto using his powers to swiftly take out multiple humans – check! William Stryker and the Weapon X facility – check! Quicksilver showing off his powers in an audience-pleasing sequence – check! Hints of Jean Grey’s growing power leading to the full Phoenix effect – check! Professor Xavier’s powers and Cerebro being used for wicked purposes – check! Wolverine – check!
There are more, but you get the idea.
This X-Men film might as well have been called “Now That’s What I Call Mutants: Volume 6.” Nothing felt fresh, and it was sad to see Singer repeating so many of the mistakes that plagued X-Men: The Last Stand, especially after the complex and ultimately pleasing X-Men: Days of Future Past.
It’s impossible to give every character in an ensemble piece his or her moment to shine. Just kidding – Captain America: Civil War had no problem doing that, and the story didn’t suffer in the slightest. So why then, is it so hard for Fox to add character development into their mutant movie formula unless the character is played by Jennifer Lawrence?
Let’s take Angel, for example, who was really just Angel in name and appearance. Singer and Kinberg’s approach to adapting Warren Worthington III was like a relic from the pre-Marvel Studios age. Apparently, Angel’s a cage fighter who’s just trying to survive, but also loves being the reigning cage match champion until a damaged wing drives him to become an angry drunk. Fortunately, Apocalypse comes along to gift him with metal wings, a new haircut and face tattoos that’ll make it impossible for him to land an office job.
Just as the Dark Phoenix Saga was butchered in X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Apocalypse misses an easy opportunity to adapt Angel’s emotional comic book arc. This was an original X-Man who had it all – looks, wealth, confidence – and that was taken from him when his wings were amputated following a confrontation with the Marauders. It was Angel’s despair that Apocalypse took advantage of, and his transformation into the vicious Archangel was heartbreaking for his friends to see.
There just aren’t enough words to get into how wasted Psylocke and Nightcrawler (now 100% angst-free!) were.
Singer’s Too in Love With His Own Movies
The X-Men have been around since 1963, so why is it that Bryan Singer is hell-bent on rehashing the same plot elements he’s already used before? Wasn’t the series’ timeline reset so the filmmakers could tell fresh stories unencumbered by the previous movies’ continuity?
So why then do we have new versions of Angel, Nightcrawler and Jubilee when we still haven’t seen a slew of other interesting mutants, such as Sunfire, Polaris or the Morlocks? And why is Singer so obsessed with Stryker? Remember all the mystery surrounding the base at Alkali Lake at the end of the first X-Men movie? I think we’ve more than made up for that mystery thanks to the number of times we’ve gone down that facility’s boring hallways.
I just hope Magneto’s destruction of Auschwitz means we never have to revisit the first film’s opening sequence ever again.
Too Much Teasing
Captain America: Civil War brought us to a new level of superhero storytelling. Once an audience buys the Vision phasing through Giant Man, you really don’t have to work too hard to make the general public swallow comic-accurate moments.
So why, then, does X-Men: Apocalypse tease what could have been an awesome Danger Room training sequence in the final seconds of the film? I feel like just five minutes of the X-Men in costume facing off against an army of Sentinels could have saved this film. How many X-Men films have there been now? Why are we still teasing this stuff?
Surely, Magneto murdered people around the world when he started lifting up all that metal. But because his conscience returned just in time to help defeat Apocalypse (and he helped Jean rebuild the X-Mansion – that was really nice of him), Xavier just hooks him up with a new suit and sends him on his way.
Remember in the first X-Men film, when Magneto was locked up in a plastic prison – you know, because he’s extremely dangerous? Do that, Charles!
Speaking of Xavier and his loose morals – he wiped Moira MacTaggert’s memories in X-Men: First Class and then restored them at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse. And Moira’s just cool with it?
How could she ever love or trust someone who has the ability to take away and restore memories whenever he feels like it? He violated her mind and that is not okay.
Was anyone else annoyed that this entire film was spoiled by Fox’s marketing department? I purposefully avoided reviews so I could go in as fresh as possible. Ironically, the Phoenix effect and the Sentinels were genuine surprises to me when I saw the film on Thursday night. Then, the next day, I saw that Fox spoiled those two scenes in a new commercial. Unbelievable.
I hate to keep heaping praise on Marvel Studios, but they did a pretty good job of keeping Spider-Man and Giant Man under wraps, and their scene-stealing moments were all the better for it.
Time for Some New Creative Voices
Remember how heartbroken people were when Singer wasn’t directing the follow-up to X2? After X-Men: Apocalypse, it seems like people are ready to say goodbye to Singer – and especially Kinberg. Seriously, how Kinberg is even allowed to go near these properties after the latest Fantastic Four boggles my mind.
Either way, the X-Men are too great to have another half-baked, overstuffed adventure hit the big screen. It’s time for a change. It’s time for Fox to find their own Kevin Feige – someone who understands there’s more to a character like Psylocke than a costume and a bottle of purple hair dye. Keep things simple and tell great stories. There are so many great stories left to tell!
In fact, Fox – here, let me pitch you a few:
Proteus – Professor Xavier grows increasingly troubled working with Moira’s young son, Kevin, who possesses the incredible mutant power to warp reality. Xavier has kept his sessions with the overly emotional child hidden from the X-Men, but when Kevin breaks out of his secluded training facility, Xavier has no choice but to bring in the X-Men, who find themselves conflicted. Some believe that Xavier and Moira are right – that Kevin must be contained, while others understand Magneto’s need to let Kevin explore the limits of his powers. It’s X-Men, Civil War style, with a gut-punch ending ripped straight from the classic storyline.
X-Tinction Agenda – Magneto resurfaces, leading an uprising on the island nation of Genosha, where mutants are slaves to the humans in power. The X-Men have no choice but to intervene if they’re to prevent a global incident, though they wonder whose side they should truly be on – Genosha’s cruel human government or Magneto and his freedom fighters, dubbed the Acolytes.
God Loves, Man Kills – This one’s too controversial to ever happen, but boy would it be interesting! A reverend, who can’t be William Stryker like in the comics, is successfully spreading his anti-mutant message across the nation. Mutant hate crimes are on the rise, which only emboldens Magneto and his Brotherhood, while Nightcrawler struggles with a crisis of faith. There’s also plenty of room for latter-day X-villains the Purifiers, who believe they’re doing God’s work.
I don’t know about you, but I’d pay good money to see any one of those X-Men stories. Just so long as the next time we see Cyclops, he’s not firing heat vision from his eyes. He fires concussive force blasts. Not sure why that tree was smoking after Scott blew it in half. He’s not Superman. Come on, Singer. Get off Instagram and read Cyclops’ Wikipedia before you call “Action.”