Wednesday, 1 June 2016
X-Men: Apocalypse (4 Stars)
I always have trouble reviewing the X-Men films. There have been nine of them so far, if "Deadpool" is included. I don't just have trouble writing about them, I even have trouble rating them. I'm a big fan of the X-Men comics, especially the issues with the original line-up written by Stan Lee and Roy Thomas. The comics written by Chris Claremont from 1975 to 1991 are rightly regarded as classics. Whatever happened after that is simply non-canonical for me. Marvel's continuity was disintegrating from 1985 onwards. Chris Claremont was one of the few authors who was holding things together in the style of the bronze era of comics (1970-1984), despite the interference of his bosses at Marvel. Since his comic, "The Uncanny X-Men", was the highest selling Marvel comic, they asked him to write two issues a month instead of one. That was fine. But his bosses wanted to rake in even more money, so a range of X-Men spin-off comics were devised, including "The New Mutants", "X-Factor" and "Excalibur". The writers of the other books had less artistic integrity than Chris, and they went as far as changing the characters he had previously written. For instance, in his most famous story, the Phoenix Saga (Uncanny X-Men #101-108), Jean Grey was shown to die and be resurrected by something later called the Phoenix force. In a storyline in "X-Factor" it was revealed that during the Phoenix Saga it had never been Jean Grey, it was just a clone. It's hardly surprising that Chris Claremont eventually left Marvel in a rage.
But I realise that I'm rambling on. I'm not really writing about the film. The problem with the X-Men films, this one in particular, is that there are too many characters being thrown at the viewer. This works well in the comics. If you read 300 issues of a comic the characters are only gradually introduced, and you have time to get to know them. In films it's different. The character who comes off the weakest in "X-Men: Apocalypse" is Psylocke, shown on the left in the picture above. "Who's she?" is what most of the people in the cinema audience must have been asking. Nobody could possibly know, unless they've been reading the X-Men comics for years.
The whole film seems to be full of winks and nods that only the comic reading fanboys can understand. The film doesn't repeat what happens in the comics, many of the characters are re-designed, but there are repeated references to what has happened in the X-Men comics over the last 40 years. The end result is enjoyable, but probably confusing to most people.
Is it a well-written film? Probably not. It would have been better if they'd thrown out most of the peripheral characters and kept the remaining cast to a minimum. Did I enjoy it? Yes, especially the poignancy of the relationship between Professor X and Magneto. I think my four star rating is fair, but I shan't argue with anyone who rates it less favourably.