1.101 Panic in the Streets of Source Material City

May 31, 2016


Spoiler Warning: This article contains plot and character details from X-Men: Apocalypse. A lot of them. Proceed with caution.

I’m usually pretty good about avoiding in-depth movie criticism prior to seeing them on opening weekend. Especially big tentpole franchise events involving superheroes or some other sci-fi fantasy engagement, opening my innocence up to disappointment and confusion. Not to suggest that some criticism isn’t valuable. Frankly, there are a lot of people that lack the ability to form their own opinions, so they need to be greased a bit before going into certain situations.

The problem lies in the simultaneous blessing and curse of the internet age. It’s been fantastic for a myriad of reasons. However, in exchange for the volume of our voices being raised comes the difficulty to discern expert analysis from angry children screaming because they don’t want to eat their vegetables.

It’s not so much a complaint about untrained experts voicing their opinion, because sometimes those voices can be ingenious. “Wisdom from the mouth of babes”, as they say. The hitch comes when we’re mislead into places that could prevent us from enjoying otherwise enjoyable productions. Should one rely too heavily on too few opinions and not have developed the critical thinking skills to process information objectively, then you may end up missing out for the wrong reasons. I had to keep this in mind when going into X-Men: Apocalypse.

There’s a basic heading that helps navigate the X universe without your head exploding. I’ve found the best way to approach any story with an X in the title is to go ahead and accept that the continuity is SUPPOSED to be messed up and one medium is SUPPOSED to contradict the other.

A screwy timeline has been a part of the X-universe fabric from the moment Chris Claremont pronounced a “future past” to be a concept children could comprehend. Thanks, boss. This is why I felt perfectly fortified from the lukewarm reception the new movie’s been given by critics both expert and ignorant. This disarms a big criticism appropriate for most franchises right from the start. The continuity was jacked up before a single frame of X-movie was ever drawn on a storyboard. The X story is a 50 year old plot hole, which is part of it’s beauty.

Jennifer Lawrence’s version of Mystique is a good example of this phenomenon. Unlike some of my comrades here at Geek Versus, I still swoon over her so the actual portrayal is almost secondary. That’s probably more a “me” problem than a “her” problem.

Going in on her complaints about the burden of the full body makeup are certainly fair, but the “I’m gonna walk around naked and blue” was not a decision she made about the part. Where’s the brutal skull belt, right? Should she come back, there’s no reason to make her blue below the shoulders unless you wanna open up the “hollywood’s unnecessary over-sexualization of female characters” can of worms.

It’s definitely overlooking a major character attribute to have her un-blue so much in defiance of her character’s “I’m a mutant, like it or not” comics attitude. Most of the criticism about this was thrown before many of us saw the film, so it would ultimately seem to be hurled prematurely. It turns out that her personal conflict with her appearance is a significant part of her character arc in this movie. It wasn’t exactly the “A” story by any means, but in an ensemble situation like X-men it makes for great nuance at the least. You win this round, marketing department. :shakes fist:

If you’re still itching to make claims of blasphemy towards Mystique’s portrayal in the Singer-verse, it would probably have more to do with her orientation as reluctant hero rather than outright villain. After watching the film, I sought out Apocalypse’s introduction in the 90’s X-men animated series out of curiosity.  I didn’t even have to dive into the literary history to find a contradiction. It was right there in the first thing I clicked on Hulu. Wanna guess which character was his primary ally in the 5 episode arc that ended the first season?

I’ll give you a hint; It was the blue shape-shifting woman with the dope skull belt and skirt that was the biological mother of Nightcrawler and adoptive mother of Rogue. Yea, that one that was firmly in opposition to Apocalypse for the entirety of this movie. Ironically, it’s actually true to form for her to end up being the “You’re not kids anymore. Time to learn to be soldiers” character. Viva la X-men continuity!

Premature in a different way was the arc of Jean Grey. Again, I’m a little biased because she’s a favorite character of mine. I don’t think many people were happy about immediately jumping into the Phoenix component of her character, which in a lot of ways is a fair grievance, but I think focus on this distracts from what makes Jeanie so special.

Part of our introduction to this version of her included her stating outright that people look at her as a freak and keep their distance out of fear. This aspect is important because it speaks to her intrinsic vulnerability rather than simply having more power than she can control. It’s a difficult note to express with a character that’s aesthetically gorgeous. It’s a latching-on point for many of us.

I do agree it may have been a little soon to have her going full firebird. If it means she gets to be the one that puts in the game winning shot in a storytelling medium as condensed as the modern Hollywood summer blockbuster, however, then I’m all for it. Viva la X-Women!

The big Phoenix save isn’t the only evocation of director Bryan Singer’s fan favorite “X2: X-men United”. We got to go back to the facility where our homie Weapon X was concocted. It’s been a long time since I popped excitedly from simply seeing a character on screen that I didn’t expect to see, but Hugh Jackman rocking the Weapon X headgear got me. We saw the claws in the trailers, of course, so his presence alone wasn’t a surprise. Seeing a feral version of the secret mad science project was a welcome twist. His moment with Jean was beautifully understated, too, and I really hope the powers that be don’t feel any need to try and pay it off (again).

This would be a fitting exit for Jackman from the franchise. He’s got the third Wolverine solo film on deck, but I’ve been ready to see him hang the claws up for a while. I sort’ve feel the same way about Singer’s role behind the camera. Thanks to both of them for their service, but I think it’s time this world gets a little new blood. Doing New Mutants next is an excellent move for the franchise, and we’ve already got plenty of pieces in place. Plus, I want a badass Cable introduction before Deadpool goes ham on him in his sequel.

It may be overshadowed by the emergence of the MCU, but Singer’s stewardship of the X-men franchise for Fox has quietly been consistently solid. For nearly two decades, at that. There are two glaring exceptions, but he wasn’t in the director’s chair for them so I think it’s fair not to hold him accountable (or mention the abominations by name).

Singer’s managed to tell some satisfying X stories without stripmining the universe. One that is quite vast as demonstrated almost exclusively by the incalculable number of character easter eggs. We didn’t see the astral plane until this movie. We’ve yet to visit The Savage Land. No one’s taken a crack at trying to pronounce “Shi’ar”. How they’ve avoided doing the Muir Island saga blows my mind because it’s taylor made for a feature film. Maybe it’s because The Shadow King is already on tap for a future film and I’ll have to start doing the “please don’t f*ck this up” dance again.

Then again, it’ll be an X-men movie. As long as they keep the character dynamics in play and allow for more source-based detail than, i dunno, say “He’s the leader and he transforms into a truck.The end.”, then I can fall back on the old “it’s supposed to be messy” failsafe. Viva la X-cuses!


Versus The New Half-life is a satirical feature series documenting the experience of modern geek life beyond the 18-34 demographic. Are we simply nostalgia driven super-consumers refusing to embrace adulthood by indulging childhood fantasy or have the expectations of being an adult changed? Writer J. Aaron Poole over-analyzes various geek fandoms to explore common themes and appropriate behavior from limbo as an indubitable grown-up under the age of 40.

J. Aaron Poole is a 21st century writer, musician, and geeky thing liker. He is a member of the American Sociological Association with an academic interest in the relationship between media, technology, and modern culture. Currently residing in Fort Walton Beach, Florida by way of Atlanta, Georgia, he’s recently begun archiving his work at Station146.com. Aaron can be found making absurd comments on Twitter, PSN, and other social media platforms as @JAaronPoole.

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