“At least we can all agree the third one is always the worst,” Jean Grey confidently proclaims to her fellow X-Men, right after they’ve attended a screening of Return of the Jedi.
She’s wrong, of course, about Return of the Jedi being the worst Star Wars film in the original trilogy (and I’ll not hear any more on the matter), but she might’ve hit the nail on the head in another sense.
The line is unmistakably meant as a jab at the poorly-received X-Men: The Last Stand, which concluded the original X-Men trilogy back in 2006 to largely negative reviews, from both critics and fans alike.
It’s important to note that it was director Brett Ratner that headed the climactic chapter of the original X-Men trilogy, and not Bryan Singer, who has now directed every other modern X-Men film to date, with the exception of First Class.
Considering this, the line has a certain venom to it, and almost acts as Singer calling out Ratner for ruining the original X-Men trilogy. Did The Last Stand ruin the original X-Men trilogy? In my opinion, yes, but the line in X-Men: Apocalypse from Jean Grey is entirely unnecessary, and somewhat childish from Singer.
But the line in question also made me reflect on the lengthy cinematic history that the X-Men have enjoyed thus far, and in particular what’s changed over the course of almost two decades.
Well for a start we’ve had new actors, but the acting itself has always been consistently good. Whether it’s Ian McKellen or Michael Fassbender as Magneto, or Patrick Stewart or James MacAvoy as Professor Xavier, the acting throughout the X-Men saga has always been held to a particularly high standard.
We’ve also had our far share of world-ending scenarios for our heroes to overcome. It all began with Magneto’s plan to turn every human on earth into a mutant back in 2000 (Christ, was it that long ago?!), all the way to Apocalypse wanting to do… Bad things in 2016.
Thing is, we’re never really given any major justification for Apocalypse’s catastrophic actions throughout the latest X-Men film. Yes, he deduces through the Cold War that humanity has reached a new low and is now led by “false gods,” but he plans on curing the world by… Destroying it?
The titular villain embodies the main problem that the X-Men saga now faces: fatigue. By the end of the film you can recognise Fox’s future plans for the series of a brand new X-Men team, but haven’t we already seen that just five years ago with X-Men: First Class?
Rehashed plans aren’t the only old thing we’re seeing in this new movie. Singer previously promised fans that the films were done with the dreary black leather outfits of the past movies, but they’ve once again reared their ugly heads in X-Men: Apocalypse, as Jennifer Lawrence and co. are all forced into outfits that should’ve been left in the early 2000’s.
There’s a brilliant video I recently saw doing the rounds, and for the life of me I can’t find it at the current time (typical), but it expertly examined why coloured costumes have been so important to the X-Men comic franchise. They’re used to distinguish the polar personalities of characters such as Cyclops and Wolverine, and this is absolutely lost in the translation to the big screen.
When you look at the plot of X-Men: Apocalypse, you can see just how badly this franchise needs a few years off. There’s absolutely nothing imaginative whatsoever about the plot of the overall film, as both Xavier and Apocalypse spend most of the run time gathering followers in preparation for the eventual showdown, which all superhero movies must now legally end with.
X-Men: Apocalypse also doesn’t really have a clue what to do with the majority of its new cast members. Jubilee, after all the excitement her casting announcement received, is absent for the vast majority of the film, and only actually gets a single line in the entire run time.
Olivia Munn’s Psylocke doesn’t quite get the same treatment, as she’s allowed a whole four lines throughout the film. Whereas the new Nightcrawler has a fantastic personality that the film gives us a clear look at, Psylocke’s character is never anything more than pissed off, which is especially painful considering it looks like she’s set up to be an antagonist in the inevitable next entry in the franchise.
While things are looking up for the character of Storm with a great new actress in Alexandria Shipp, in this outing she’s confined to the role of enforcer for Apocalypse, only truly being allowed to express any resemblance of a personality in the final fifteen minutes of the whole affair.
Also, let’s talk about that Wolverine cameo for a second. The entire thing is actually pretty good, minus the comical fashion in which he runs off in, but it was utterly ruined by the marketing for the film.
The brute violence that Wolverine brings to X-Men: Apocalypse is fun that’s desperately needed, but it would’ve been ten times better had the scene not been tacked on to the end of a single trailer for the film.
Why do studios feel the need to show us every detail in a film through trailers nowadays? We saw this with Batman Vs. Superman, and although X-Men: Apocalypse isn’t as bad as that train wreck, we basically saw the entirety of both films through the respective trailers for each.
There’s not a single event in X-Men: Apocalypse that wasn’t somehow revealed through the trailers. Even Quicksilver’s fantastic rescue scene was shown in some capacity during the trailers, which was entirely unnecessary due to Singer previously revealing he’d be returning in a similar fashion to Days of Future Past.
X-Men: Apocalypse stumbles compared to the strides that both Days of Future Past and First Class took for the franchise. The entire thing screams of franchise fatigue, and as a huge X-Men comic fan, I don’t feel any remorse for wanting this franchise to take a long rest, preferably for the better part of a decade.
“At least we can all agree the third one is always the worst.”
In the case of X-Men: Apocalypse, yes we can.