The reviews are in and all the critics except me hate the new X-Men movie. While they’re right that it’s not objectively a good movie, it is a great cinematic representation of the X-Men and a perfect summer movie. I hate most Superhero movies. I grew up reading superhero comics and think that most modern movies fail to capture the feeling of fun and innocence that superhero comics can have. The ones that are OK usually either peter out at the climax like Guardians of the Galaxy or have lots of needless exposition to build up to a really great climactic fight scene like Captain America: Civil War. Maybe it’s just because this movie reminded me of how much joy I got from the X-Men when I was little and maybe I was just having a great summer day and that swayed my opinion. All critics bring their own subjective viewpoints to their critiques and I loved this movie.
The concept behind the X-Men is that some seemingly normal humans have dormant super powers that emerge during adolescence. These super-powered people are referred to as mutants and instead of being revered like the Fantastic Four, they’re hated and feared. A bald, psychic mutant named Professor Charles Xavier opens a school for mutants. There he teaches them to use their powers and trains them to battle evil mutants.
I think the appeal that X-Men held for me as a boy was less about the superpowers and more about the idea of a cool mansion full of outcasts who had found friendship in each other. In that way, it shares a lot of the basic appeal of Harry Potter. Everyone wants to get away from their parents and go to a cool magic/mutant school.
However, I think that making movies about superhero groups can be tricky because there’s not enough time to tell all their stories. The Fantastic Four movies are total garbage and I thought 2012’s The Avengers was totally boring and lacked any real character depth. The past X-Men movies work better than most movies of this kind because the spotlight is firmly focused on Wolverine.
X-Men: Apocalypse has so many characters that none of them get satisfyingly developed. In most movies that’s a flaw, but for the X-Men series it’s a strength. Much like in the original Star Wars, the very simple characters and richly described circumstances and environments allow for the viewers to thoroughly suture in to the world of the movie.
I also think most superhero movies are just 9/11 reenactments, so we can relive our collective national trauma. For some reason when you traumatize a nation, it gets translated into their genre-fiction fantasy movies. The Universal monster movies all deal with various everyday horrors and hysterias. The movies about radiation are all about fear of dying in a nuclear explosion. This movie had some of those qualities and featured cities being attacked and buildings exploding, but ultimately this felt a lot more hopeful and fun than the Avengers or the Dark Knight movies.
The movie starts off with a psychedelic credit sequence that reminded me of Mystery Science Theater and caused my scumbag friends to shout out “DMT!” in unison. We come out of this having traveled thousands of years to 1983, with Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops, Mystique, and Nightcrawler with an oddly emo haircut for a scene set in 1983. We get Magneto’s Polish working-class origin story, Sansa Stark as Jean Grey, and then the death of a tree, before shifting over to a white American lady in a burka discovering that some evil and scary Muslims are in the process of reviving the titular villain, Apocalypse. It turns out that it’s geneticist Moira MacTaggert, who in the comics had some sort of romance with Professor X. Apocalypse wakes up and vaporizes his followers.
At one point there’s a cool 1980s TV montage where we see Reagan’s face a few times and there’s some Cold War references. Is that what this movie was about? I’m not sure that there was any real subtext and I am OK with that.
I also noticed that Psylocke (Olivia Munn) is wearing a big red sash to hide her butt in scenes where she’s walking away. Then it occurred to me how many of the comics I read as a kid had drawings of nearly nude women’s asses. Why were their costumes perfectly contoured around their boobs and into their buttcracks? Who was the first person to draw female superheroes as nude women but with tattooed on costumes? Olivia Munn has almost no dialogue in this movie. Part of me suspects that she had more dialogue written but that she can’t act at all so they just made her mute.[embedded content]
Back to Apocalypse, once he has his four evil buddies he gives them all stronger superpowers. Also he looks like Jeffrey Tambor from Transparent and Arrested Development. Then he goes to kidnap Professor X and Cyclops’s brother Havok blows up the X-Mansion by mistake.
At this point, the movie has its coolest moment (spoiler): A super-fast mutant named Quicksilver sees the mansion exploding and saves pretty much everyone while “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurythmics plays in its entirety. The audience didn’t stop clapping or laughing during this entire sequence and I started crying from happiness. He’s tossing frozen students out of the windows and rescuing a bulldog with a piece of pizza and we get an awesome go-pro shot of the dog up close while its face flaps in the wind.
I’m getting pumped just thinking about it. My friend sitting next to me mentioned that Quicksilver stole the last movie as well. Although I hadn’t seen the last two X-Men movies I didn’t feel left out at all.
When we left the theater, my friends and I felt energized and full of joy and optimism. One said it was the best movie he’d seen all year. We couldn’t stop gibbering about how much we loved it as we smoked a joint with some guy at a bus stop.
Like I mentioned, I wouldn’t call this movie is a great movie, but it is a great summer movie. You step out of the humid summer air into a cold theater and watch a movie in which a bunch of really cool looking things happen and you cheer along. This movie transmits the feeling of cozy camaraderie you get in a Harry Potter movie, the goofy adventure you get from a good Star Wars movie, and the big epic fight scenes that I guess you get from a Marvel movie. I teared up and applauded several times.
DM me if you want to go see this movie with me. I think I can watch it like two or three more times.
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