Darke Reviews | X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

I am a child of the 80’s, which means I was adopted by the 90’s and accepted by the new millennium. This means I had the blessing to enjoy the 1992 X-Men Cartoon. How can you not get hyped from this?

I was working in a comic-shop when Wolverine had the Adamantium ripped from his body. I was reading the Secret Wars, saw the Beyonder, Boom Boom, and Angel becoming Archangel all within my lifetime. While I am not as versed as many geeks on all the in’s and out’s and arcs of all the characters; I know most of them. I have my favourites, such as Kitty Pryde (thank you Pryde of the X-Men), Majik, Nightcrawler, Gambit, etc. Never got on the Wolverine band wagon. I’ve watched every X-Men movie in the theatre since 2000. I know the differences between the theatrical arcs, the comic arcs, and the animated arcs and can judge them safely and fairly independently.

How did we land on this one?

Bryan Singer, who gave us the original two X-Men films and the last one, returns to the directors chair and does his best to give each of the characters time. His choice to give each character development time and try to spend a few precious moments with each of the mains. It’s a trend of his and serves him well through this one, but not perfectly. I partially blame this on the four writers involved, which means this movie does hit the Rule of Three. Each writer has experience in the franchise, from Singer himself, Michael Dougherty (Trick R Treat, X-2), Dan Harris (X-2, Superman Returns), and Simon Kinberg (X-3, Fantastic 4). When I consider this and the sordid and combined history it explains a lot. Plot wise, the movie is a bit of a hot mess. It’s a little over the place, doesn’t have focus, and really should have been two movies to give everyone an appropriate level of development. There *is* development of characters, but mostly focused on the new ones that have to be introduced – of which there are (too?) many.

It makes sense though as we have had two full movies prior to get to know Magneto, Charles, Beast, and Mystique.  We get the beautifully timed return of cinema favorite Evan Peters turn as Peter Maximoff, aka Quicksilver who had the best and most memorable moment from the last film.  We are introduced now to those who will be expected to carry us forward into the next generation of movies for this franchise. Sophie (Game of Thrones) Turner as Jean Grey, Tye (Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse) Sheridan as Scott “Cyclops” Summers, Kodi (Let Me In) Smit-McPhee as Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner, and Alexandra Shipp as Ororo “Storm” Munroe. Each one of these young(er) actors does really good with the time they have on screen to give you the iconic characters we know and love; but at an earlier stage of their lives. I did easily see the people they would become in the people they displayed in this film.

A film like this is only as good as it’s villains and for that we go to Oscar (Poe from Force Awakens) Isaac as En Sabah Nur, best known to readers as Apocalypse. He does better than he has any right to as the legendary character. Though this is one of the points the script and direction fail. The actor delivers, but the other two elements fail him, giving so little to work with and so little ability to really “Act” when not being the exposition fairy. Which leads to another one of the problems as there is next to no development or even real idea of the secondary characters who were so painfully underused I wonder why they bothered to have them other than to say they did. The roles were well cast, but not utilized to full potential.

From a technical perspective, I am going to jump on my editors horse again. Hold. A. Shot. Learn it. You don’t need to cut every 12.5 seconds to keep it engaging. You don’t need to have sudden painful shifts to other locations for yet another introduction. You don’t need to have second unit returning to a single location shot, with actors clearly looking posed, that it takes you from the movie. There are a few beats like that in the film, they may be funny, they may just be confusing, but they change the tone and undermine rather than underscore the emotion of a beat you are trying to establish otherwise. Beyond the editing and camera work, the Make Up was top notch. He was *not* Ivan Ooze. 10 points to be struck from the Publicist House for using an unfinished effects shot in a PR piece making an otherwise blue character look silly. The CG was CG, but this had to be larger than life and most of what could have been practical is not feasible to even consider trying to be practical. It does suffer from pacing issues, and I have a sense studio interference played a hand in some scenes being added or kept.

 

TL:DR?

It’s good! I enjoyed it. Much like I said about Civil War being an antithesis to Batman v Superman, this has many of the same characteristics. It has some flaws, but the whole piece when put together created an enjoyable mess. There were familiar characters with new faces, comfortable characters with old faces; and that is what makes this movie work. The characters we know and love were put on screen again. Not just on screen, but *right*. These very clearly were our modern mythology given flesh. We have our iconic legends with 5o+ years displayed as they should be , but in a way we haven’t really seen.

The action is solid. The acting is solid. It’s just a good, fun, popcorn movie. The movie earns it’s PG-13 rating though. There’s more violence here than I have seen in *any* X-film in the past sixteen years. This isn’t a bad thing, it reminds me of my 80’s movies a bit.

Do you Recommend it?

Yes. It’s good. You won’t get what you did out of Civil War here, but you shouldn’t expect to.

Will you buy it when it comes out on Blu Ray?

Absolutely.

Should I stay to the end of the credits?

Only if you know your characters, otherwise meh.

 

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Darke Reviews | Captain America : Civil War (2016)

I really wanted to get this in last night so it would be available for those of you who read this, I also had a desperate need to sleep so I could function at work today. Last night I saw the second of two movies this year of at least three that cover the topic of “What oversite do these super powered beings need?”. Last night I saw the second of two movies this year where two ostensible allies turn on each other to create what should be an epic fight. Last night I saw the second of two movies that have a clash of ideologies and attempt to boil these down to their simplistic terms for wide consumption in an average 2 hour and 29 minute run time. Last night I saw the second of two films where experienced directors and writers try to add new characters to a complex universe of existing characters in a way that should feel seamless and invisible to the audience. Last night I saw what is both intense and diversive source material translated to the screen for (again) a second time.

Last night I saw Civil War, but should you?

Let’s face it most of you have already seen it or plan to see it and may only be reading this to satisfy curiosity or to verify your own thoughts. So be it. So let me put this up front before the detail, before the TL;DR…

This is my third favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe film, behind The Avengers and Winter Soldier. This needs to be said before I go into the details…you will see why shortly. Also, there may be someone in the 100 of you who read this that say “oh she hates DC” after the lambasting I gave Batman V Superman.

False

Nearly all of my comic collection is DC, or DC Vertigo. I have all of the DC Animated Universe films. I prefer the DC characters to the Marvel ones time after time. DC has more iconic characters to me, more Legendary characters to me. The Marvel universe tends to make things more human more often than not in my experience with it, even when it gets silly. Yet time and time and time again, the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies trump DC. I really don’t know what is going on over at WB Cinematics department, but they really need to stop. Stop and look at why they fail critically and create movies that people are divisive on how good they are. For the most part Marvel movies go from a solid “meh” to “oh my god what awesomeness have my eyes witnessed.” The weakest Marvel movies are forgettable, with only one having a touch of divisive hate growing within it (Ultron). DC’s last two outings into the Cinematic have ranged from “die in a slow fire surrounded by the screams of those you have inflicted this upon” to “that was awesome.”

This is important to discuss as we get into this review as these two films (BvS/Civil War) have very similar themes with vastly different executions and levels of success. This is going to be difficult without spoilers, so bear with me.

The movie was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, both of whom are responsible for (in the best way) Captain America: The First Avenger, The Winter Soldier, and now this. The directors, Joe and Anthony Russo of the critically hailed Civil War were brought back as well. They handled, perhaps as well as it can be, the subject matter of – Do heroes need oversite? Who is right to judge them or even control them? Who are they responsible for and accountable to. While I have issues with the *how* the questions were handled and the evidence presented, I am not entirely certain it could be done better. They let the characters debate it, they let the time be spent within this film to have a conversation on the culmination of the other films. This is good storytelling people. With few exceptions the storytelling here is an absolute logical progression from Iron Man to Civil War. The writers and directors made wise choices where they did not have forced hands, and I can see those moments too, and I am pressed to tell you what could have been excised from the films running time.

Even the addition of the new character T’Challa, aka The Black Panther was handled in a way that let me buy his decision making. It was brief yet concise enough that in 5 minutes I got him. I got his world view just enough to sate me for this film and what story it needed without me going “that makes no sense.” If anything a flaw is the villain of the piece, Helmut Zemo. He’s forgettable. I suppose that is justified as well let’s face it, no one cares. They want the fight at the airport. It could have been an opportunity to create or utilize someone who could be used for sometime, even in Agents of Shield. Marvel does fail at this topic each film that doesn’t contain Loki. Memorable, effective villains.

Acting wise, everyone is wearing a comfortable hat and glove. You get them and understand them, even newer characters such as Paul Bettany’s Vision, Elizabeth Olson as the Scarlet Witch, and Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, and the return of William Hurt as Thunderbolt Ross. Every performance, and I do mean every, has the right weight. The right emotion. The right levity. It’s all right.  Chadwick Boseman (42, Get On Up) absolutely nails T’Challa and I can’t wait for his reported standalone film.  Each actor lets you come along with them an why they make the decisions they do. Scripts and direction can only take you so far. the actors bring you the rest of the way.

From a technical aspect.

LESS

SHAKY

CAM

I remember watching the fights in Winter Soldier. I loved them. I remember watching Scar Jo in Iron Man 2 and Avengers and loved it. I wanted to watch some of the fights here and couldn’t due to excessive camera movement and cuts when you have actors who can actually do these things. It was not Paul Greengrass/Found Footage bad, but it was bad in the first fight. The transitions were….rough. Cinema Sins is going to have a field day with those. They were music video kinda rough.

All of that aside.

Holy. Hell. Fighting in Act III? Yes. Please. More. This is everything we wanted and more. DC take notes. Preferably in a way you can understand later. Hire someone to hold them for you. This is how you do it. They were energetic. They were fun. They were even visceral at times. They were near perfect.

TL;DR?

This movie is absolutely the reverse of Batman V Superman. I have issues, significant ones, with one or two beats of the film. Overall though the movie is incredible. It is solid and well done throughout. It runs a bit long, but again I don’t know where to trim aside from the insertion of one character which *looks and feels* shoehorned in. I can tell this was added after and while the character is good, the introduction is very very off and looks it. I did smile at a lampshade though.

The movie is serious when it needs to be. It HAS HUMOUR when it needs it. Good humor too. It isn’t dark and dreary. It touches dark themes but keeps it all touchable and not too boring.

Should you see it?

Yes. A dozen times yes.

Will I buy it on BluRay?

It’s too early to pre order, or I would have.

Will I see it again?

Actually…maybe? There’s some things I want to see if I judged too harshly.

 

Congrats Hollywood, you have a Blockbuster that deserves it and kicks off the summer very very nicely.