Thursday, June 2, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse - Gotta Go Fast (SPOILER FREE)

X-Men: Apocalypse. Nice things are not being said about this movie. Let's see if we can change that.

Bryan Singer is back once again with the climactic finale to the new X-Men trilogy (First Class, Days of Future Past, Apocalypse), and boy does he have some things to show us. Look, I'm not going to beat around the bush with this one; I liked this movie. It was the first time in a long time that I've come out of a comic book movie both satisfied and excited, without a headache or a pit in my stomach. Sure, the movie has problems (more on these later), but the fact of the matter is, they aren't significant enough to make the movie feel like a chore at any time, and because of the ridiculously campy nature of the movie (a blue demigod from thousands of years in the past with a voice changer and a bad attitude sounds like a Legends of Tomorrow script), are very forgivable.

The one thing that must be said about Bryan Singer and (more importantly), Director of Photography, Newton Thomas Sigel, is that these guys have a past of working together to make STUNNINGLY good looking movies. From Superman Returns and the past X-Men movies, to Thomas Sigel's fantastic work on Nicholas Winding Refn's "Drive" (Ryan Gosling), they have, time and again, proven that they know what looks good both in and out of the superhero genre. This movie is no different. Whereas this year's Captain America: Civil War is visually bland and bleak, and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice is hyper-stylized to reflect the comic medium it's trying to adapt, X-Men: Apocalypse finds a nice, cozy middle ground. The action is smooth, the colors pop, and everything (to put it simply) just looks right. This particular dynamic duo has perfected a balance between modern blockbuster and vintage classic.

Okay, down to the nitty-gritty. The biggest problem with this movie, in this reviewer's opinion, is that it says absolutely nothing on a sub-textual level. It is, mostly, a two-dimensional movie that, despite being good fun, leaves you with nothing to think about except what's coming next. An argument can be made that Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) represents the follies of narcissism, but honestly, that argument becomes moot when you realize that just because you decide to include a pre-existing comic book character with a penchant for inherent narcissism, doesn't necessarily make your movie a statement on the matter.

You could also argue that the movie is about survivor's guilt due to the constant references Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) makes to being one of few survivors following the events of X-Men: First Class, but if it were, we would have seen more of that in the first sequel. Hell, you could even argue that, on the survivor's guilt front, that it can take you from one of two extremes; it can take you from the heroic necessity that becomes Mystique's role, or you can cast your principles aside and become the very thing you hate in the case of Magneto's (Michael Fassbender) tragedy. That being said, that divide is not exploited to an extent that would suggest evidence supporting that theory.

On a more positive note, this movie has the coolest super-speed effects I've ever seen. This speedster is not followed by an imaginary blue trail or a super-fantastic cascade of lightning, but instead moves as though an average man moving faster than anybody else would. It's ultra realistic in a way that dazzles the same way that I can imagine only Christopher Reeve's "You'll Believe a Man Can Fly" campaign with "Superman: The Movie" did. It is an absolute joy to watch. Not much more can be said about it without giving too much away.

Most importantly of all, X-Men: Apocalypse is engaging in a way that a lot of other modern movies aren't. There is loss. There is joy. There is growth and redemption. It's multi-faceted almost as a reflection of its own ensemble cast. Which, on that point, never feels over-stuffed or like any one character is lacking in content. It's truly satisfying to see it all come together, and despite dragging a little too long in the final act, makes you feel like you're truly a part of the world that Singer has crafted. Second-to-lastly, thank God for a fun villain.

As a final aside, I just want to throw props to composer, John Ottman. The X-Men theme, despite not sticking in my head, immediately feels nostalgic when it pops up. Why this guy isn't getting more work is beyond me.

David Harding is a movie and comic book enthusiast and contributor to the Getting Off Topic Podcast. He also wants to tell his friend, Mark, that he is laughably wrong in his one criticism of this movie. Love you, buddy.

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