Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Movie Review: X-Men Apocalypse (PG13 – 144 minutes)

The X-Men have been Marvel comic book characters since they were created in 1963.  They were mutant superheroes, led by Professor Charles Xavier – the X in X-Men.  The ‘mutant’ powers manifested differently in each person – so essentially you could have a group of mutants each with very different skills of varying strength.  This is also a bit unfair. You can get one mutant with amazing telekinesis, and another who can be stretchy - not really fair. The original line up was Beast, Cyclops, Iceman and Marvel Girl (Jean Grey).   Throughout the years, the lineup has changed and evolved, but they all share the same goal as Xavier’s original plan: integrating mutants and humans to live in peace.  Xavier founded his ‘school for the gifted’ to help mutants learn to use their powers and control them. If they stayed on at the school, they had the opportunity to become one of his X-Men.  

Apocalypse was a character who debuted in 1986 in X-Factor #5.  Essentially, he was a being born thousands of years ago, perhaps the first mutant - he had gray skin and blue lips and was named En Sabah Nur. Over many years, he traveled the earth, convincing different civilizations that he was a god.  He encouraged everyone he met to start various wars, to go towards his ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality.  He was a major villain in the 90s animated X-Men cartoon – which was easily the best depiction of the X-Men, and if you want to know more about them, Netflix that show.

The X-Men movie universe started in 2000 with Fox (not the Disney-Marvel MCU) when director Bryan Singer released X-Men. The casting was just about perfect, and the movie did what it could to bring the super-powered mutants to the screen.  The best thing it did was introduce the world to Australian actor Hugh Jackman, who got the movie days before it started shooting as Dougray Scott, who was supposed to play Wolverine, was unable to get out of his Mission Impossible role in time to shoot the movie.  Wolverine was already a fan favorite, but Jackman’s performance elevated him to a new level of popularity.  This was expounded on in the second movie, X2, released in 2003, as the X-Men found themselves under attack by the mutant-suspicous government and William Stryker.  For X3 – or The Last Stand - in 2006, Singer stepped out to shoot Superman Returns (a huge mistake on his part), and Brett Ratner (the man behind the Rush Hour movies) stepped in.  There are parts of this movie that are interesting, but the majority of it is not great.  It did try to tackle the ambitious Phoenix Saga from the comics. 

Wolverine swiftly got his own spin-off origin movie in 2009 – notable only for casting Ryan Reynolds as non-Deadpool and giving him the motivation to make a good Deadpool movie.  It also managed to ruin Gambit – but I will say that I enjoyed Liev Schrieber’s take on Sabretooth, plus – everybody loves Will.I.Am, right? 

The X-Men themselves were re-booted in 2011 for X-Men First Class.  The movie was set in the 60s and we got to see the friendship between Magneto and Professor X start as they began to build the X-Men. Wolverine got another spin-off in 2013 as Wolverine traveled to Japan to fight the Silver Samurai.  Then Singer stepped back in to tackle one of the most ambitious storylines from the comics, Days of Future Past, in 2014.   The movie was entertaining, and managed to capitalize on both Jackman’s popular portrayal of Wolverine and the popularity of Jennifer Lawrence by having the older set of X-Men from the first go-round of movies send Wolverine back in time to interact with the younger set of X-Men from the second go-round of movies and try to stop Mystique from killing the president.  It’s all very confusing, but it was a really entertaining movie.

That brings us up to date and to X-Men Apocalypse. In this movie, Apocalypse is a mutant who believes himself to be a god, and was perfectly happy to traipse through ancient Egypt with his four horsemen, shifting his consciousness from mutant to mutant, picking up powers as he goes.  They finally seem to find a mutant with indestructability as a power, and he shifts into that mutant, just as some ancient Egyptians rebel, and he winds up getting buried.

Cut to present day – and by present day I actually mean 1983.  Slight spoiler alerts from here on down - you've been warned!
CIA operative Moira Taggert has been tracking a cult worshipping En Sabah Nur, and stumbles across them just as they manage to get him to wake up.  He sets out to immediately get familiar with this new world, and promptly begins recruiting horsemen.  He starts with Ororo Munroe – or Storm, as he encounters her running a group of young thieves in Egypt. They head up to Europe and collect Angel and Psylocke, who is working for Caliban.  They head out to recruit Magneto – who, after the very public events of Days of Future Past in Washington D.C., has been living a very quiet life in Poland with his new wife and daughter.
We see Mystique, who seems to be spending as much time as possible in Jennifer Lawrence form, as opposed to her natural blue state, perhaps to show off the Oscar-winner, or to save makeup time, or storyline-wise, to hide out after the events in Washington.  She is rescuing Nightcrawler from what seems to be a underground mutant fighting ring?  I assumed because he’s her son, but at no point is that mentioned in this movie – so maybe that’s not part of this universe?  In any case, she hears that Magneto has resurfaced after he uses his powers to save a co-worker at a metal factory, and his co-workers promptly turn him in.  During that altercation, his wife and child accidentally get killed, and he quickly shifts back to angry vengeance.   That’s the perfect time for Apocalypse to find him and win him over to being a horseman.  Mystique takes Nightcrawler back to the X-Mansion to talk to the Professor about Magneto.

Well, the Professor is all upset, Beast is happy to see Mystique (although he too is more in his Nicholas Hoult form instead of his blue Beast form), and new recruits Jean Grey and Scott Summers are flirting. Scott was brought to the school by his older brother Alex Summers – Havok from First Class…try not to get to concerned about the fact that in the comics, Alex is younger.  It’s worth pointing out here that in this timeline, the Professor, Magneto, Beast, and Mystique are all between 35-40ish; and Scott, Jean, Nightcrawler and Jubliee are all 18ish.  I point this out, because it seems key, but is never really mentioned in the movie.

The Professor uses Cerebro to try to find Magneto – but unfortunately, since he’s with Apocalypse, Apocalypse is able to use Cerebro to find all kinds of people, show the Professor how powerful and end-of-worldly he is, and then have Psylocke promptly teleport he and the four horsemen right to the X-Mansion.  They take off with the professor, leaving the rest of the X-Men to try regroup to stop him, even though Stryker and the government promptly show up to destroy the Mansion, the mansion is always getting destroyed. Stryker takes everyone to the same base in Canada we’ve seen in multiple movies, so of course, the kids find Wolverine who gets loose and kills everyone he comes across, allowing the kids to use that as a distraction to get everyone out.  They head back to Egypt, where Apocalypse took the Professor to rebuild a pyramid, and then attempt to transfer his consciousness into Xavier.  The X-Men arrive just in time to turn Jean loose for a final battle with Apocalypse.

The negative word of mouth with this movie started early, really based on some early footage of Apocalypse, and the fact that he looked like Ivan Ooze from the Power Rangers movie. To be fair, he wasn't really that color in the movie - but he was that small, and despite the fact that they were insistent on telling us he would change size like he did in the cartoon - he only gets bigger in one scene, and it's a mental fight inside Charles's mind. So - he doesn't really change size. 

I will say the world-wide destruction really looked animated and not all that believable, but I did not see it in 3D. Maybe that would make a difference?  Singer knows how to direct these movies, and the core cast has been together long enough that they really play well off one another.

  • James McAvoy is back as Professor Charles Xavier, and yes, he finally loses all that hair in this movie and gets the same wheelchair as the one the Professor had in the first movie. He’s great in the role, and it’s easy to believe that he eventually grows into Patrick Stewart.

  • Michael Fassbender returns as Magneto, and he actually does the best job in this movie but mainly because he has the most to do emotionally.  We encounter him finally almost at peace, and then he is completely broken when he loses his wife and daughter. He shifts into anger and hatred, then to vengeance and hopelessness – and then finally back to a little bit of hope as he helps to rebuild the mansion.

  • Jennifer Lawrence’s role has increased in these movies as her popularity and Oscar quantities have increased. She’s fine as Mystique, but I didn’t like that she spent so little time blue in this movie – and I also have never really liked this version of Mystique, since she was one of my favorites from the animated series.  Would it kill her to put on the white dress? To be fair, her outfit at the very end in the danger room is closest.

  • Nicholas Hoult is back as Hank McCoy or Beast – and again, spends most of the movie in non-blue form.  He’s still really smart, and is all excited about his new X-Jet.

  • Oscar Isaac plays Apocalypse, and while he did a great job with the over the top speeches, he wasn’t anywhere near the physicality that Apocalypse should have. He’s always towered over everyone else, and should have been much taller.  The costume was also not quite right, but the color was better. Didn't he have some sort of mind control over his horsemen? Here, he just seems to talk people into following him.

  • Rose Byrne is back for the first time since the First Class movie – yes, timeline wise, that was almost 20 years ago – try not to think about that, or you’ll wonder why none of the characters look like they have aged 20 years.

  • Evan Peters plays the Fox-Marvel version of Quicksilver, and once again has a wonderful scene that steals the movie as he rescues everyone from the Mansion as it is exploding. He tells Mystique that Magneto is his father, but never mentions it to Magneto.  At no point is Wanda mentioned, and she seems to not exist.

  • Josh Helman plays young Stryker, who has also been Danny Huston and Brian Cox. He’s dastardly and evil, and manages to sneak out of his secret base just before it all goes to hell.

  • Sophie Turner plays Jean Grey – and does a really good job of being terrified of her own strength for most of the movie, and then letting loose in the end – I really enjoyed that part.

  • Tye Sheridan plays Scott Summers, he really just has to have issues with his eyes, and he’s not yet the Scott we need in terms of the ‘boy-scout’-style leader of the group, but maybe he will get there.

  • Lucas Till (your new MacGyver – you heard that right) plays Alex Summers – Havok, and seems to disappear halfway through the movie. Will he be back? Who knows.

  • Kodi Smit-McPhee plays Nightcrawler, and does a great job of being fun and sympathetic while blue.  But still – he’s Mystique and Azazel’s son – which is not mentioned at all, even though Quicksilver is all about telling people who his father is – except for his actual father.

  • Ben Hardy plays Angel for 10 minutes, then Archangel for 15 minutes. He’s barely in the movie, and really, the Ben Foster versions was one of the good parts of the X3 movie, so I’m not sure we needed this 1983 punk version.

  • Alexandra Shipp plays Storm, and she’s interesting at this point, young and thieving. She’s a huge fan of Mystique’s so it’s pretty easy for Apocalypse to win her over to his side. However, at the end, she flips sides and becomes a hero, choosing to stay at the mansion, and eventually grow into Halle Berry, because wouldn't we all choose to grow into Halle Berry if we could?

  • Lana Condor plays Jubilee – who gets nothing to do, and we don’t even get to see her fireworks powers. Apparently she had more scenes, and action – but it was cut out of the movie.  I keep waiting for them to do something cool with her, since she was the lead-in character of the animated series.

  • Olivia Munn plays Psylocke, and really looks the closest to her comic counterpart of anyone in the movie – especially the outfit.  Although, no one else is dressed that skimpy.  Maybe it’s easier for her to move around in that?  Plus, the high-thigh unitard thing was big in the 80s.  She makes it out in the end, so I expect she will show up again.

Overall, I did like it far more than I was expecting to like it.  I really appreciated how it fit so well into the X-Men cinematic universe they have built – which is tricky because they have ‘young’ and ‘old’ versions of folks.  The action was pretty good, but it’s tough in a summer with Captain America Civil War in it – because the action wasn’t as good in this, the story wasn’t as good in this, and the performances weren’t as good in this.  Civil War really nailed all parts of making a great comic-book movie, and Disney-Marvel again nailed the perfect tone of balancing the heavy with the light.  I’m not sure this did as good a job.  The majority of it was heavy, making the light moments feel really out of place – but I did appreciate that they were there. I know it’s an unfair comparison – they are completely difference franchises and should not be compared – but, in the same way that you couldn’t help but compare Batman Vs. Superman with Civil War – you can’t help but compare this as well.  I was disappointed in Apocalypse, he was always one of my favorites from the animated series.  But my favorite villain was always Mr. Sinister. Stay after the credits – perhaps we’ll see Sinister in future movies?

7 out of 10 – it’s not terrible, it has some good parts, and it fits in the universe well. I’m still excited for the potential Channing Tatum Gambit movie, and for the next Wolverine movie, and for future X-Men movies. 
Bonus - the trailer for this movie, done with scenes from the animated series - genius!
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