X-Men Apocalypse, the third film among the soft-rebooted X-Men cinematic universe, has been widely met with mixed reviews, one of which was written by a colleague, valentinf.

I am inclined to agree with the bag of mixed nuts and as an addendum, I’d like to share in detail the finer points of failure.

I do so not impartially, as I am an X-Men fan first and foremost. I do so with the hopes that maybe the upcoming fourth film might learn from its mistakes and give us 90s millenials the modernized fanservice we deserve—that is, an effective storyline balanced by the mass scale super power clashes we’ve come to expect in the comics and cartoons.

 

AS THIS IS A MORE IN-DEPTH DISCUSSION, SPOILERS FOR X-MEN APOCALYPSE WILL BE PRESENT, IN ADDITION TO SOME OTHER FILMS (Captain America: Civil War and Batman VS Superman: Dawn of Justice).

 

X-centrically Inconsistent Powers

Storm’s powers were very underutilized, despite having been amplified by Apocalypse. In essence, Storm went from summoning minor winds as a distraction for her thieving ends to… shooting lightning bolts? Not once did she actually control the weather on a massive scale, which defined Ororo’s moniker as a goddess in the first place.

I guess the entire budget went to Magneto’s worldwide magnetic cataclysm.

X-Men Psylocke car

Newcomer Psylocke was a bigger issue. In her most memorable scene, Psylocke is able to slice through a car using her signature pink psychic blade. Fair enough.

But when she converts her blade to a whip and manages to subdue Beast in a stranglehold, suddenly she can’t cut through his thick neck?

Don’t even get me started with the over-Sylar-ized Apocalypse.

It is important to define the powers of each mutant clearly, through showcase, dialogue, or preferably both, as it gives watchers the parameters of what each character is capable of and what might define their weaknesses. In turn, this will allow a more fluid plotline as it gives the heroes a recognizable objective.

Not to say that the movie didn’t do it at all… just that it wasn’t done clearly. The last thing we want is a rehash of the Batman VS Superman scene, where Clark charge-stabs Doomsday with the kryptonite staff, sacrificing himself in the process.

Meanwhile, Wonder Woman—who is competent and durable enough to close the gap against Doomsday—is not given the staff to which she is immune.

Insert eyeroll.

 

X-Men Xeroxes Throughout The Decades

X-Men: First Class took place primarily in 1962, 21 years prior to X-Men Apocalypse. We can forgive Mystique barely aging, as her shape shifting mutant cells could explain her stunted age.

But for the rest of the cast whose debuts were in First Class—Magneto, Xavier, Beast, Havok, Moira—21 years were good to their baby faces.

In this film publicity image released by 20th Century Fox, from left, Caleb Landry Jones, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy and Lucas Till are shown in a scene from "X-Men: First Class." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Murray Close)

Cripes, did the entire makeup budget go to the three, blue-skinned mutants? I dread to think what the next movie, set to take place in the 90s, will look like.

On the surface, it might seem like critiquing the non-aged appearances of fictional mutant characters would be superficially pointless.

But just being real, this serves as 1) a distraction to the plot by virtue of a lack of believability and 2) a ruination of overall continuity.

Lest we forget, it was only in Days of Future Past where we are reminded of Xavier and Magneto’s aged, future selves. They’re supposed to look similar to Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen by the year 2000, when the first X-Men film took place.

Bottom line is: if continuity isn’t to be respected, how can one expect the same of the film? This is where the Marvel Cinematic Universe has an edge over Fox’s X-Men.

 

Deus X-Machina

As valentinf has pointed out in his review, the Apocalypse storyline does not diverge. There were no red herrings… simply a deux ex machina in Jean Grey.

In Captain America: Civil War, following a lengthy sequence of “Mission Report: December 16, 1991”, we learn that Tony Stark and Steve Rogers had a much more connected past, where the actions of one indirectly led to the other’s tragedy.

In Batman VS Superman, the rivalry between two titular characters dissipated once they learn of each other’s strongest driving force—their mothers (however conveniently).

Both of these pivotal moments were meant to be plot twists—whether the watcher foresaw them coming or not—which diverged each storyline to a relatively unexpected dénouement.

X-men Phoenix

Apocalypse had none of that… or at least a marginal one when Xavier and Jean invoked a battle with En Sabah Nur in the Astral Plane, via a persisting mental connection borne out of the latter’s failed assimilation attempt.

Still… several scenes showcasing and foreshadowing Jean’s deadly capabilities would have been nice. Instead we are given dialogue of her potential power, which she then magically conjures up by the film’s conclusion.

 

Un-X-ceeded X-pectations

To be crystal clear, I enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse, as it happened to be my third favourite X-Men film released thus far.

Quicksilver and Magneto were character highlights, as the script happened to accentuate their relatable motivations a lot more than some of the others.

X-men quicksilver magneto
Happy Father’s Day everyone!

Although she joins Mystique (Romijn-Stamos), Lady Deathstrike, Angel Salvadore, Angel Dust, and Arclight in a string of almost muted female minions, my favourite X-Man ever—Psylocke—gets the reward for best action scenes. More notably, she lives, hopefully to reappear as a good guy in the next film (and X-Force too, why not?).

Cyclops finally gets to do something and Wolverine finally gets to do next to nothing. Hallelujah, it’s a miracle!

However, I happened to recognize where the film might fall short… and it’s nice to articulate these points in response to the inexhaustible “the movie sucked”s in social media.

And as I have argued, these points are not necessarily rooted in the action scenes (as I found the fight scenes more grandiose than those of First Class or Days of Future Past’s). Rather, I think the critics found a disconnect primarily in the story’s fluidity.

Somewhat undefined, somewhat inconsistent, and somewhat convenient.

Mediocre for some, I can see why the film did not exceed expectations.

The Avengers have faced some difficult opponents, either as a team or on their own: the Red Skull, Loki, the Mandarin, Ultron. However, in “Captain America: Civil War,” they face a new kind of enemy: each other. “Civil War” divides the Avengers, forcing them to align with either Iron Man or Captain America. Iron Man believes superheroes should sign a government document that will keep them all accountable; Captain America fears the government will abuse that power and it would be dangerous to sign. They are also split on exactly how the Winter Soldier — the Cap’s brainwashed best friend Bucky Barnes — should be brought to justice. This conflict will challenge and even ruin friendships, and it will bring an end to the Avengers as we know them.

“Captain America: Civil War” is a tense, thought-provoking superhero film that is both global and personal in its scope. It ventures into definite moral gray areas and sometimes it’s tough to decide who is actually doing the right thing. Although there are a lot of superheroes, and a lot of subplots, the Russo brothers — who also helmed 2014’s excellent “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” — successfully manage everything that’s going on and never lose sight of the central conflict between Iron Man and the Cap. “Civil War” is a must-see for Marvel fans and shakes up the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“Civil War” starts by examining a theme that, a little surprisingly, is often overlooked in superhero films: collateral damage. When superheroes battle super-powered villains, city blocks tend to get leveled and the landscape gets destroyed. We may not like to think about it, but in these types of epic battles, civilian casualties would be difficult to avoid. In “Civil War,” Wanda Maximoff, a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch, inadvertently kills civilians while trying to stop a bomb. This incident appears to be the last straw in a long line of catastrophic Avengers-related events (New York, Washington, D.C., Sokovia), and the United Nations presents the Avengers with a document called the Sokovia Accords, which are designed to control them and keep them accountable.

Normally the rebel but now haunted by his past mistakes, Tony Stark is one of the first to sign. However, Steve Rogers can’t bring himself to do the same. He’s afraid of giving the government this kind of control, and he is concerned the government could abuse this power. He also believes Bucky Barnes is a victim of brainwashing, even though the government has labeled his as a No. 1 priority terrorist and has ordered their agents to kill him on sight. Captain America ends up going rouge with Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, and several other Avengers, and Tony is forced to hunt him down with the help of War Machine, Vision, and Black Widow — and a couple surprise allies.

While there’s a lot going on in “Civil War,” the directors keep everything running smoothly, and it feels like every character and plot point gets just the right amount of screen time. It’s a more satisfying film than last summer’s “Age of Ultron,” which remains the only MCU film that I don’t own and the only one that left me feeling slightly disappointed. “Civil War” does a better job of managing its large cast and finding time for some quieter, more character-focused moments, even in the midst of all the action. Marvel’s weak link is sometimes its villains, and you could say this film’s villain, Helmut Zemo, isn’t as dynamic as he could have been. But this film was never really meant to be about the Avengers fighting an outside villain: it’s about what happens when they fight each other, and Zemo is merely the catalyst who facilitates that conflict.

Although this is very much the Cap and Iron Man’s film, there are some great cameo appearances and newcomers here. I was excited to see Ant-Man join the Avengers for the first time, and the revelation of his new “special ability” is one of the best — and funniest — moments of the film. I also really loved Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther, and I’m excited for his upcoming solo film. He brings an outside perspective to the conflict, and he’s definitely a superhero you want to have on your side. And no review of “Civil War” would be complete without talking about Spider-Man. I was a little nervous about how the character would blend with the Avengers, but the Russos handle his introduction marvelously, sending Tony Stark to recruit the excitable and lovably awkward teenager. It’s also a blast to see him using his powers in the big showdown between the opposing groups of superheroes.

The film ends on a slightly ambiguous note, which I was actually happy about. There’s not a direct resolution to the conflict, and the Russos don’t completely repair the division in the team. I was concerned the film would try to rush and wrap everything up too neatly, and thankfully, it doesn’t do that. The conflict will continue to impact Marvel films in the future. All in all, I was very pleased with “Civil War.” I’m not sure yet exactly where this ranks on my list of favorite MCU films, but it’s definitely in the top 5. I guess I’ll just have to go see it again.