I’m tired of the X-Men and it’s as simple as that. They’ve been making X-Men films since 2000. For over half my life, there have been X-Men movies and each further installment has pushed me farther and farther away from ever becoming an invested member of its fan base. As Bob Chipman puts so eloquently in his dissertation on the subject, the X-Men franchise seems to have progressively gotten more mundane with each Singer-inadequately-directs-a-superhero-film episode.
All that I struggle to find entertaining in this universe is on display in Apocalypse, which thank God is nowhere near as torturous in its plot conveniences as Days of Future Past, but leaves me with the same sense of abandonment and hopelessness as all of the others. With the exception of First Class, the X-Men franchise is a constant reminder of the only standard we thought was possible back in the early 2000’s: mediocrity. A couple of scenes of Wolverine’s furious slasher fests, ho-hum CGI sequences and character dialogue was enough for us then. As both we and the industry have grown, we’ve discovered that we can and very well should expect more of our superhero blockbusters and if anything, it would be wrong of us not to expect big market film companies to showcase their best efforts. As we continue to be enthralled with practically every Marvel creation and remain somewhat engaged with haphazard DC makings, it’s impossible for me as an audience member to view an X-Men film and remain content with what I saw in 2009 and even before that. The same characters go through the same growing pains they did four films before, with no resolution to the conflict nor growth from all the conflicts beforehand. Magneto is still a sad and angry man who loses his loved ones, goes on a murderous temper tantrum for close to the remainder of the run time and just before the film is out, decides, “Okay, guys. I’m sorry I just tore up half the world/killed JFK/tried to turn all the humans into mutants. I’ll try to save the world now.” For Magneto being such a powerful man, he is not wise nor does he learn from his past experiences. It is a rinse and repeat of his character every two years for the last decade-plus and I’m sick of it and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Every movie we have to hear the same discussion. Xavier believes humans and mutants can coexist, Magneto doesn’t, Magneto kills some people and comes within minutes of destroying life as we know it, where Xavier/another X-Men gets to him just in time and gets him to change his mind with seconds to spare. Magneto is either easily manipulated or is traveling along an all-too-familiar character arc that the screenwriters haven’t bothered to change since 2000. The same can be said of Mystique. You would think a universe wouldn’t dare clone and glue the same character arc onto another hero/villain/who knows anymore but you would be wrong. Mystique goes through the same internal conflict.
With two characters who seem no closer to closure, it’s no wonder the performances of Fassbender and Lawrence come across as so one-note. While Fassbender is still trying, Lawrence couldn’t appear anymore excited to get off the screen and it’s hard for me to blame her. If me as an uninvested viewer finds these experiments tiresome, imagine what kind of work environment she must be in? I doubt it could be as morbid as these characters but I could be wrong. A recent review I read suggested that a problem with the X-Men franchise is the hopelessness that every character seems to share. For there being as large an assortment of X-Men as there are, you would think we would have some varying worldviews, perspectives and personality traits. You would think we could find a youngster or two who was so comfortable with his talent that he felt he could be of real use in any situation or perhaps a somewhat cocky adolescent who irritates his colleagues. With the exception of a still growing Quicksilver, these pawns aren’t here. They’re nowhere to be found. It’s hard not to wonder why that is.
I’m tired of X-Men discovering their powers and utilizing them at the last possible moment. I’m tired of James McAvoy giving the same “world is good” speech that he did in the last installment. I’m tired of Beast being present. I’m tired of Hugh Jackman arriving for Wolverine cameos and being promptly excused from the set. I’m tired of Singer delivering what amounts to the same movie as I saw two years ago, four years ago and so on. I’m tired of deja vu interactions with my brother who when asked if he wants to see the new X-Men movie, says wearily, “I guess.” I’m tired of this seemingly endless repetition. Movies aren’t meant to be formulaic. Art is not meant to be a science. It’s meant to be art. True art is never stagnant. It’s a continuously bobbing line, the pulse of the heart and the soul. The heartbeat of this franchise has been in cardiac arrest for years. How long are we going to keep this thing on life support?
The merciful thing to do would be to let it pass away in peace and be remembered for the good it did. The X-Men franchise made imperative strides for comic book films despite all of the brutal slip-ups it has made. I’m not the only critic saying it’s time for this to end. However, Fox isn’t going to do that. Fox is going to leech the life out of it until there’s nothing left.
It’s not that Apocalypse doesn’t have some good in it, only that there’s not enough quality nor improvement from the last installment to leave all that large of an impression. Oscar Isaac isn’t a bad villain as some critics have said, but he isn’t thoroughly thought out. Like many of the Marvel villains we’ve seen, Apocalypse leaves fans wanting more. Apocalypse doesn’t feel like the end of the world so much as it feels like the end of the franchise, the final nail in the coffin.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has Fallen, The Cable Guy, The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow)
60-69 It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The Crow, Hardcore Henry, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Bloodsport, War, The Ridiculous 6, The Lost Boys, Zombeavers)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Centurion, Planet of the Apes, Stonados, Redemption, Pride and Prejudice)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, The Forbidden Dimensions, Cyborg, Outcast, Sabotage)
My score for X-Men: Apocalypse: 54.
With no panache to its products anymore, the X-Men franchise is either comatose or long gone and given Apocalypse, I have to believe it’s the latter.