Topic: X-Men Apocalypse
I enjoyed X-MEN APOCALYPSE, but it isn't a great movie. There are great scenes and great sequences and great moments, but they somehow don't add up. The film has a perfect set of competing values. Apocalypse declares that the strong need to take the world for themselves, that our governments and societal structures exist only to support the worthless and powerless. And then Xavier declares that the role of the strong is to protect those who aren't. Elitism versus compassion for the weak.
Somehow, that message gets a bit muted in endless action sequence upon endless action sequence -- all of them very exciting and filled with great uses of mutant power, none of them scoring that point that compassion for the weak is true strength. There is almost no sense of location by the end -- it's Cairo, but it might as well be one of ARROW's many abandoned factories.
Magneto's plot is pitifully repetitive -- once again, his family is killed and he goes on a grief-stricken homicidal rampage until Xavier talks him out of it and we end waiting for it to happen again in the next movie. In this continuity, Magneto has gone crazy on three separate occasions and then Xavier shakes his hand and wishes him well on his way to his next nervous breakdown? Seriously?
The film desperately needed to wrap up Magneto's arc at least for the film -- ideally, by putting Erik in a dreamworld or wiping his memories and giving him a civilian life. The film does a nice job of showing that Apocalypse and mutants have something resembling a grain of truth in considering themselves a superior race -- but the counterargument never quite lands -- in the end, Apocalypse loses because while he's superior, Jean Grey turns out to be more superior.
The best way would have been for Jean to have worked with Nightcrawler and Scott enough to see their powers in action, perhaps in a mishap or two at the shopping mall. Then, in the final fight scene, Jean's telepathy somehow coordinates their powers to use against Apocalypse in a way that gives them victory.
The bizarre thing is that this is more or less the approach used in the first X-MEN movie: Magneto confiscates Cyclops' visor and immobilizes all the X-Men; Jean uses her telepathy to get Cyclops' visor back and aim his optic blast to take out Magneto and free the other teammates, yet Singer completely missed the chance to put his formula into practice.
I mean, as an X-MEN fan, this is a perfectly solid X-MEN product, but as a feature film, it doesn't really work as a standalone piece of cinema much in the way an episode of THE FLASH wouldn't work if shown in theatres without the surrounding context.
There's also some peculiar continuity choices, including an error: Mystique replaced Striker in DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and took custody of Wolverine. That plot seems to be forgotten entirely in APOCALYPSE with Striker running Weapon X and holding Wolverine captive. Looking back at FIRST CLASS, FUTURE PAST and APOCALYPSE, it's kind of shocking to see that FIRST CLASS introduced a new lineup of X-MEN only for FUTURE PAST to disband the team and kill most of them off camera in the Vietnam war with a refocus on restoring the lineup of the first two X-MEN films -- with APOCALYPSE serving as a second FIRST CLASS, this time for the Cyclops/Jean/Nightcrawler team plus Wolverine.
The trajectory of this second trilogy has been truly bizarre and largely due to Matthew Vaughn backing out of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and Bryan Singer reworking the film from being focused on the FIRST CLASS characters into a Wolverine film that would undo the deaths of Xavier, Cyclops and Jean Grey so that he could use the characters in the next film without the shadow of LAST STAND having killed them off.
I don't fault Singer for saving his people the second he could, and it was great for FUTURE PAST, but it leaves APOCALYPSE in an odd situation of trying to wrap up what's essentially an aborted trilogy. Imagine if the STAR WARS prequels set up Anakin and Obi-Wan as the leads for the trilogy -- only for ATTACK OF THE CLONES have Luke return and take over as the lead through time travel, relegating Obi-Wan and Anakin to background roles.
Ideally, the FIRST CLASS sequel and the DAYS OF FUTURE PAST repair job should have been two separate films, and after the FIRST CLASS team hit a natural endpoint, then Bryan Singer should have done the Cyclops/Jean/Xavier story.
The continuity of the series is hilariously incoherent at this point. X-MEN establishes that Xavier met Magneto in his teens, that Magneto helped him build Cerebro and that Magneto only started using the mind-blocking helmet in the 90s -- and Mystique clearly doesn't know Xavier personally. FIRST CLASS has Xavier meeting Magneto in their 30s, the government already built Cerebro, the helmet exists in the 60s and Mystique and Charles grew up together. Emma Frost, shown as a teenager in the 1979-set WOLVERINE film is in her mid-30s in the 60s-set FIRST CLASS.
One might think that FIRST CLASS is a reboot with the first trilogy references existing as Easter eggs. However, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST has Wolverine interacting with the FIRST CLASS characters while flashing back to footage from the first three X-MEN movies and the first WOLVERINE film.
Which leads us to baffling timeline issues where Jubilee and Angel, teenagers in the first trilogy appear as teenagers in APOCALYPSE which is set over a decade before the first X-MEN. There's also some incomprehensible discrepancies where Magneto is free to wander about in anonymity in the first three X-MEN movies but is shown to be public enemy number one and convicted as John F. Kennedy's murderer in DAYS OF FUTURE PAST even before he tries to take out Nixon.
None of these errors can be explained by the time travel plot of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST because the discrepancies (births, reputations) originate well before Wolverine was transported to the 70s. The only explanation I can think of would be to say that Wolverine made an initial attempt at time travel but vastly overshot the 70s and had an adventure at some point between 1880 (the year he was born) and 1944 (when Xavier meets Mystique) and somehow created ripples that altered history.
These ripples would have to result in certain family trees producing children named Emma, Warren (Angel) and Jubilation (Jubilee) earlier, Mystique meeting Xavier as a child, Erik not being in the right place to meet Xavier as early as they originally did, the government being more aware of mutants at an earlier point and thus building Cerebro, etc..
Probably something for a comic book to do at some point?