Film Review: “X-Men: Apocalypse”

Whenever I talk/write about Marvel comics, I always feel the need to preface my opinion by saying that I’m a DC fan. By that I just mean, I am not as well versed in Marvel’s universe as I am DC’s. That said, whenever I see a Marvel film, as the lights come up at the end, I always sigh heavily because those movies are consistently amazing. You can be a DC fan all day every day, but you absolutely have to admit that Marvel has got something really special going on. They’re diversifying their comics, their movies are always a hit, and while DC might be killing the live action TV show game, Marvel’s character development and success in creating relatable heroes are bar none.

I always want to say I’m stricly a DC gal, but when that X-Men theme starts to play, I’m home.

So let’s break it down.

The plot was straightforward enough: Ancient all-powerful mutant comes back to life, he assembles the most powerful team of mutants he can find, and sets out to destroy the world.

Simple.

I love plots that are simple and easy to follow. Not that there’s anything wrong with complex plots but simple plots that feed into the larger over arching theme are typically better executed than multi-layered plots. (*cough*, I’m looking at you, Batman v Superman.)

Aside from the plot, I loved that all my favorite, most beloved characters made it into this film. If there’s one thing I love, it’s character development and as I’ve mentioned, Marvel is a champ at making audiences adore their characters.

The more prequels I see and the more of Magneto’s story I hear, the less I can think of him as a bad guy. Seeing the heart-wrenching scene where he loses his wife and child and his reaction makes me wonder: what exactly is the difference between him and Wolverine? Wolverine, too, is the victim of unfortunate circumstances and reacts violently to it. Is the difference between the two that Erik is in control of his mind whereas Logan struggles at first to gain autonomous control of his own. Is Logan’s inability to have completely control over his mind more forgiveable, and that is why we call him hero to Erik’s villain? Is not grief equally as disconcerting an experience as what Logan goes through?

Then, Raven. One of my all time favorite characters since I found out that we shared a name. (Eric, incidentally, is my father’s name, so we’ve always tended to lean away from Xavier’s Team.)I had no idea what the writing team was planning to do with her in this movie, but I loved the end product. They didn’t just turn her into a hero, but a female icon. Though Peter and Scott were obviously in awe of her, it didn’t measure up to the small scenes of female empowerment that were slipped in. Ororo has a poster of Raven in her home and is not shy about the fact that she considers Raven a personal hero. Her bravery encourages Ororo to act in the final battle, though she is in a position to slip away unharmed. Of course, one of the most poignant moments of the film is so quick you almost miss it. Jean asks Raven if she was scared during the battle in DC…and after a moment, she admits to fear at first, during her first mission. Jean Grey, Phoenix, is easily one of the most powerful heroes ever written. Her power is so immense that her body can barely contain it, and, inevitably, it kills her (see X3). And yet, she, who could probably destroy the entire world with a thought, looks to Raven, a fellow heroic female for guidance. She looks to Raven, who by comparison, can’t do much. Changing appearance can’t combat tens of thousands year old hands from choking her to death. Her commitment to doing what’s right in her personal book is admirable–I believe that’s why she’s appealing. Most of us, if faced with difficult moral dilemmas would have a hard time choosing the selfless path of Charles Xavier or the extremism of Erik. Instead, we would likely acknowledge the best of both situations and act in a way that best benefits ourselves and our loved ones. Raven isn’t really fighting for freedom of all mutants or some other lofty ideal–she’s fighting for her friend, and in most of the prequel films, this mentality serves her well.

Finally, Jean. Oh, my beloved Jean Grey. I don’t necessarily think I identify with any heroes. I’m more of an avid cheerleader, a superhero girlfriend, if you will. But if I had to pick a hero that I’m most like I’d be Jean: zero control over my wildly dangerous mental capabilities. I loved her in this movie. Her hesitation was so relatable. She knows the magnitude of the power she holds, so she is reluctant to let it go, even a little. It was so appropriate that a mental battle was the only way to defeat the physical powerhouse of Apocalypse. It reminded me of when I used to ask my dad why we played so much chess. He said, “It keeps your mind sharp. You never know when you’ll have to use it.”

Everything seemed to tie nicely together for this film, from Wolverine’s guest appearance to setting up things for the first X film. Overall, I give the film a solid 9/10. I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish. The classic struggle between not only good and bad but the gray areas in between was often lightened by the great 80s tone of the film. Scott’s ordeals at school wreak of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Saved by the Bell.” (Jubilee, I’m looking at you, honey.) Not to mention, Peter’s always a crowd pleaser, serving as the comic relief for the film.

In general, I like the way that comic inspired films are finding ways to be more nuanced in their story telling and the values they’re articulating. Even the new Captain America film shows two sides of being right: enacting justice within the confines of the law and doing so outside of those parameters. Batman v Superman asks do we trust a god pretending to be and asking to be treated as a man? And X-Men tackles the age old questions: What is right? What is just? And are we free to define it those for ourselves?

Think carefully before you answer.

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