Over this past Memorial Day weekend the Killer Moose gathered to see X-Men Apocalypse, Bryan Singer’s second outing after returning to the helm. And afterwards, Cole and Clarice sat down to talk out their feels.
No, we will not (strictly) be discussing the wonky pace, nonsensical internal timeline, nor the dialogue that sounds like it was written by a 13 yr. old! Instead we’re going to be talking about what we are calling Our Three Biggest WTFs!
Spoilers will abound hereafter. You’ve been warned!
What the Fuck: Baby Mutants
Clarice: This is our first WTF because in basic summation… no one was a fucking character.
Cole: No one. NO ONE. This applies to everyone in the film but especially these three.
Clarice: They may as well have not been there! They were that bland!
Cole: So we’re mainly focusing on Jean, Scott and Kurt, right? They’re our central three. As we’ve just said, none of them get to be a fully fleshed out character.
Clarice: And when you consider they are revisits of characters we’ve already met cinematically (and thus should have connection to), it’s astounding how not one of them manages to make me care!
And hey — I have nothing against Sophie Turner, but I do not think she has the gravitas / presence necessary to pull off the climatic scene Singer gives her.
Cole: She doesn’t. And that’s a perfect example of one of the X-Men franchise’s many problems. These three are meant to be younger James Marsden, Famke Janssen and Alan Cumming. Yes, it’s an alternate timeline, but they’re still meant to be the same people. And they don’t feel the same. Nor is any effort being made to connect those dots beyond huge broad strokes.
Clarice: I’m not even sure if I can complain about her character in any other regard because nothing much was there to complain about!
But! I do have a question… Why does Bryan Singer seem to so fundamentally hate Scott Summers? Is it even hatred? Is it more of a fundamental misunderstanding?
Cole: I think it’s probably safe to say he clearly favors Wolverine above Cyclops. I don’t know if it’s hatred or misunderstanding (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s both).
Clarice: Because that character is once again rendered as kind of a whiny punk in Bryan Singer’s hands. To be fair, I’m not exactly super knowledgeable on X-Men comics, but Cyclops/Scott never ever read that way to me. At all. So I am genuinely confused by the persistence in this specific approach to his character.
Cole: It’s never how I read Scott in the comics. Scott has his issues (as all of them do) but he’s responsible, straight-laced (and that does not make him boring) and he genuinely cares about the X-Men because they’re his one and only family. Now, obviously there’s going to be different interpretations but to me it seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the character.
And then there’s Kurt/Nightcrawler. He’s fine. I mean…he had some fun moments? Sort of?
Clarice: I suppose? Kodi Smit-McPhee is a fantastic young actor (see: Slow West for one) so it’s disappointing to find him here buried under so much OTHER STUFF. Once again he’s not really a person. Instead he gets to be no more than one-note sidekick.
Cole: He’s there to be the comic relief.
Clarice: Because he’s blue and weird-looking and has an accent.
Cole: These are the characters who are clearly being set up as the focus of the franchise moving forward. They don’t give them a solid foundation to build on in future films which is worrisome. This film had a lot to do in regards to setting these characters up and it just did not do it.
What the Fuck: Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Cole: Holy shit is Michael Fassbender working hard to make the material work. I wish I could say he succeeded. But even he, fantastic actor that he is, has his limits.
Clarice: No one should be forced to scream to the heavens over the cliche-ly tragic death of their wife and child.
Cole: And is that seriously the only thing they could come up with as motivation for him?
Clarice: I AM SO BEYOND DONE with that sexist, lazy-ass trope. At this point may there be a special place in Storytelling Hell for he who utilizes it (because it will probably be a ‘he.’)
Cole: Agreed. I mean, Magneto as a character, both in comics and other media, kind of hates the world. Fassbender’s Magneto isn’t an exception. It basically seems like they went: you know he needs motivation to join Apocalypse so let’s give him a wife and daughter and then KILL THEM. TRAGICALLY. And, you know, given that Apocalypse has the charisma of a fucking flea in this movie I could see how someone would need motivation to be on his team. Perhaps if they had worked on making the eponymous villain moderately captivating, and someone that actually has the personality to sway people to his side, OR EVEN MIND CONTROL (if they still feel like being lazy), they wouldn’t have needed to fall back on such a bullshit trope.
Clarice: It was unnecessary/gratuitous as far as motivational triggers. The Magneto we’ve come to know should be fairly on board with Apocalypse’s plan! Essentially he wants to render humans extinct and let the most powerful of mutants rule over other mutants. That’s Magneto x10. Magneto’s entire established ideology should naturally fall in sync. Just imagine if we’d gotten to see dripping-with-charisma Fassbender sparking in dangerous ideological harmony with the equally dripping-with-charisma Osac Isaac! That could have been beautiful in simplicity and effectiveness. Why all the extra STUFF to it??
Cole: Because, for whatever reason, the X-Men films really want to make him an anti-hero rather than a villain.
Clarice: Ugh. Except that in the process of doing that, they’re actually making him a terrible version of both. He can be a ‘villain’ and still have an understandable/relatable belief system. In trying so hard to render him “more sympathetic,” they actually neuter him of all shade or interest.
Cole: Exactly. But remember there are four Horsemen! Though if you forgot you’re totally forgiven because the film does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING with Storm, Psylocke and Angel.
Clarice: For fuck’s sake the film acts like Magneto is THE ONLY MUTANT FOR APOCALYPSE TO TALK TO (other than Charles, of course.) It’s a bitter shame because I would have liked more of all the others. I don’t need pages of minutely fleshed out backstories! But goddammit perhaps a stronger note hit for why each of them choose to join him? They so simply could have been much more realized and intriguing!
Cole: I was so disappointed that we get nothing in terms of motivation or backstory for them. Ororo (does she ever actually get called that?!) is stealing on the streets of Cairo! Warren (again…do we ever get his name?!) is cage fighting! Betsy (do I need to ask a third time?) is working for Caliban in some vague and undisclosed capacity? We don’t need fully fleshed out origin stories for them but it doesn’t take a lot to give us a least a foundation on which to build their characters. All they needed was a line here, a line there, a visual note to round things off and BOOM we have a character with understandable motivation. It’s almost there with most of them, they have the set up but then do nothing with it. It comes across as lazy writing/directing. The Horsemen could have made an awesome supervillain team but in the end they were just super underwhelming.
Clarice: They spend how many fucking minutes literally just standing on rocks watching Apocalypse talk to Charles talking to Magneto?? And then, after a whole movie of nothing, at last comes the big final battle! And they get to… be sporadic…? not really do much…? Storm hides half the time! Why was the entire world not in full on natural disasters at the same time that Magneto was ripping up earth and buildings? Where were the fucking tsunamis on top of the earth being ripped up in pieces??
Cole: Right?! The film is nearly two and a half hours long and they still didn’t manage to find the time to give them their due as characters OR allow them to really showcase their abilities. They’re meant to be the four horsemen of Apocalypse. HELL, the four horsemen we saw in Ancient Egypt in the film’s opening got to do just as much (and got about as much attention to character) as Storm, Psylocke and Angel did!
Clarice: Alas poor minions! (St. Wesley keep you.)
Not to mention I do not feel that they established well what precisely Apocalypse’s relationship towards his Horsemen was meant to be? Four of them were following him around as ‘disciples.’ Ok. That implies a level of loyalty from both parties involved. Every interaction Apocalypse had with them for the majority of the film implied he did view them as his precious children of doom, and that he did care about them. Then Angel dies and he sneers “useless.” ?? What the fuck?? I’m honestly confused by that. I expected him to get fucking pissed about one of his chosen children/disciples being killed! If he really was just using them as disposable tools then whatever, but it doesn’t feel like that’s how he was presented or acted up until that point.
Basically, I think The Horseman could have been made so much better / more interesting by better establishing not only them, but the focal point around which they all revolved
Cole: It’s another example of the film being lazy and not giving characters their due or their necessary development. For instance, Ororo/Storm is clearly going to be integral moving forward but we barely get a sense of her at all. She doesn’t have a solid baseline going into the next movie so that one more element amongst too many a sequel has to manage.
What the Fuck Did You Do to Oscar Isaac?!?!
Cole: SERIOUSLY, WHAT DID YOU DO?!
Clarice: YOU MONSTERS!!
Ok. Here we have yet another fantastic actor whose personality is buried under so much STUFF. He is physically buried underneath piles of make-up and CG, and his personality is buried underneath so much bland writing that there is no shred of the talented/engaging actor who could have brought some much-needed magnetic life to a character that is supposed to draw followers into helping him destroy & rule the world.
Cole: And, you know, since the whole film kind of hinges on Apocalypse, having him actually possess some form of personality might be nice!
Clarice: Precisely! And at this point I almost don’t care what that personality is! Just give him one! It fixes so many things by domino effect. And YOU HAD OSCAR ISAAC to do all of it! Instead, as you said above, bland blue flea.
Cole: THEY MADE HIM BORING, CLARICE. THEY MADE OSCAR ISAAC BORING.
Cole: It really is. He’s the title of the damn film. He’s the central villain. He’s the reason everything in this film is happening. He should be interesting. Charismatic. Terrifying. This is a man who truly believes he should rule the world and be able to reshape it to his whims and vision. That is Apocalypse. AND THAT IS NOT WHAT THE FILM GAVE US.
Clarice: Do you know what I walked out of that film wanting, Cole? I wanted the story of that poor Oscar Isaac regen mutant that was laid out at the beginning. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be weirdly upset/heartbroken by a character I never got to know, but I kinda am. And I almost expected to see him again in Apocalypse’s mind when Charles goes into it. I mean, Apocalypse has spent ages(?) taking the bodies of mutants whose powers he wants, right? Well… I expected Charles to find remnants/echoes of those poor people inside Apocalypse’s mind. It makes sense that none of them could affect Apocalypse in any way. It’s not like they need to do anything. But Charles should be able to see them. It’s almost an atmospheric note — a nod to the personal damage Apocalypse has already wreaked over the mutants he proclaims to love. That could have been so creepy and so sad!
Cole: That would have a beautifully haunting sequence. And possibly given Oscar Isaac the chance to act without the TERRIBLE MAKEUP. Seriously. Who thought that design was a good idea?!
Clarice: My best guess? Someone who must have a jealous vendetta against Oscar Isaac?
- Cole: He really does steal the show there, doesn’t he?
- Clarice: He does. Same as he stole it in Days of Future Past.
- Cole: It does make you wonder why they don’t just send him off to take care of every problem though…
- Clarice: Oh. I know these sequences are absolutely world-breaking, and yet I almost don’t care at this point — they are the most enjoyable parts of the films and I love them.
- Cole: They are a lot of fun. In Apocalypse he gets to save all the students as the mansion explodes and lays the smackdown onto Apocalypse himself. They are fun and necessary moments of levity in this overstuffed beast of a film. But. It makes him utterly, ridiculously, SUPREMELY overpowered.
- Wolverine/Weapon X!
- Cole: For fuck’s sake. This was so fucking pointless. He did not need to be in the movie at all. They literally divert the characters (and the plot) to the Weapon X facility simply so they can have a Wolverine cameo. It’s so unnecessary.
- Clarice: Can we also give an extra WTF for how creepy the Jean/Wolverine moment is considering we as an audience have a history with that relationship? (An alternate history, sure, but it’s still in the audience consciousness.)
- Cole: Yes. Absolutely. That moment was so weird.
- Apocalypse: mutant personal stylist!
- Clarice: Possibly the greatest joyful/gleeful takeaway I have from this very bad movie is that in addition to imbuing his horsemen with added power, Apocalypse also puts in the effort to play stylist with them.
- Cole: It is pretty damn funny. Storm gets her white hair! Angel gets a terrible mohawk and magic marker lines on his face! Psylocke gets purple highlights!
- Clarice: And it’s made so so sooooo much better by the fact that we see him augmenting them further in his downtime after his initial changes when he meets them! It’s basically implied they’re bored and waiting for what to do next… and so Apocalypse decides to fiddle with their looks… This is way too hilarious for me.
- Speaking of Psylocke…
- Cole: Ok. WTF. If you’re not giving her any of the psychic abilities she possesses in the comic books being called PSYlocke makes no sense. You just wanted to use the pretty pink energy sword ability. WTF.
- Havok’s death?
- Clarice: I mean, it sucks that he goes down so unceremoniously. But at least we were freed of the mullet?
- Cole: True. But Bryan Singer is now also free of all the supporting cast introduced in First Class that he clearly didn’t want. It’s unceremonious and feels like “Hey, I’m introducing Cyclops so don’t need you anymore! Bye-bye!” Which, considering the way Cyclops is utilized makes very little sense.
- Clarice: It doesn’t help that Cyclops himself does not seem too broken up about his brother… He chin trembles like, once? Am I remembering that right? Or was I too busy rolling my eyes to notice?
- Cole: Nope. That’s about it. He has one chin-trembling, fist-clenching moment in the ruins of the mansion. And then the plot takes over so there’s no more time for grief…..
- Mystique and Hank?
- Cole: Sigh. Hank gets NOTHING to do in this film.
- Clarice: He… looks teacherly…? And saves her at the end? Ooh! I know! He has a lab! (I know because he told us he had lab.)
- Cole: We never see the lab. And DAMN if Mystique wasn’t just kinda bland as fuck in this film?
- Clarice: Jennifer Lawrence mostly seemed bored. And I can’t blame her.
- Moira MacTaggert
- Cole: WTF why aren’t you a fabulous Scottish scientist?! AND WHY DON’T YOU BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF CHARLES WHEN YOU REALIZE HE FUCKED WITH YOUR MEMORIES?!
- Clarice: I have no personal stake in the first, but I do have WTF feels about the second point! This is not the time, Charles!! And Moira, darling? YOU SLAP THE FUCK OUT OF HIM FOR THAT. I don’t care if he is bleeding everywhere. That is not ok.
- Cole: NOT OKAY AT ALL. And I genuinely have nothing again Rose Byrne. I actually kind of love Rose Byrne. I’m just very biased towards Scottish scientist Moira over American CIA agent Moira.
- Xavier’s hair loss
- Clarice: Bahahahahahahahaha!
- Cole: For. Fuck’s. Sake.
- Not-at-all-addressed mass murder!
- Cole: The casually unacknowledged mass murder is pretty horrific…
- Clarice: Plus the damage down to the earth’s whole ecosystem that must have resulted from Magneto fucking with seabeds and literally tearing up continents?? The world is pretty fucked.
- Cole: Yup!
- *Hanna appears from the ether* Hanna: Yup. Not okay. The way the story went implied that Magneto was an anti-hero — when all his (ham-handedly motivated) actions are those of a villain. Looking paternal as he helps build a house does not absolve the character. By a loooong shot. *she then vanishes once more*
- Thank you, Hanna! Speaking of! Any other comments on rebuilding the estate?
- Cole: I know that Jean and Magneto can move big heavy things with their minds in very exact ways but that does not mean they know how to build a freaking house from the ground up.
- Clarice: Mostly I want to know what metal is there for Magneto to even move? Can he move stones based on the same argument as the whole ‘moving the ground’ thing? Is it the pipes? The electrical wiring? Is he essentially just doing the plumbing and wiring? That seems dangerous…
- Giant metal ‘X’!
- Cole: Giant. Metal. Stupid. X.
- Clarice: For. Fuck’s. Sake. (Pt 2)
- And last, but not least, the fluffy chickens
- Clarice: OMG FASSBENDER WAS RAISING FLUFFY CHICKENS!! That is all.
And after all that, here’s some Oscar Isaac to make you feel better. And even if you all don’t need it, it sure as hell makes us feel better…