Fox- A Disney Company

Today, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion. The deal comprises numerous properties, ranging from The Simpsons, to Avatar, but the biggest point of interest for me is that Disney now has the rights to X-Men.  The development is now confirmed but this is something that a lot of Marvel fans have been praying for for a long time, if online discussion is any indication. I remember entire threads on the Internet Movie Database’s (IMDB) forums where people would demand that the rights for the X-Men films go back to Marvel. People would argue that the series needed a fresh start under Marvel Studios because the X-Men films mishandled characters like Cyclops (fair enough) or because they didn’t like the buttons on a costume (seems unreasonable). Like I have mentioned before when discussing the DCEU, when people want something to fail they become more sensitive to any perceived shortcomings.

Aside from the fans that have been praying for this, there are more reasonable fans who simply wanted to see the X-Men in the Avengers universe. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to see Wolverine in the Avengers film, which likely will not happen. Hugh Jackman previously said that he would be open to returning in the role if he got to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but he has said more recently that the “ship has sailed” for him. The scripts for Infinity War Part I and II are already written and being filmed, so normally I would say that the ship has sailed for seeing any former Fox properties in Infinity War. However, the rushed introduction of Spider-Man in Civil War does make me wonder if the filmmakers might be willing to squeeze something in for Part II.

One of my biggest worries was that darker and/or R-rated properties like Deadpool would be watered down to suit Disney’s “fun” and family-friendly silver screen image. Fortunately, Disney CEO Bob Iger has stated that Deadpool can remain R-rated at Disney. This is a step in the right direction, but it is still aligned with Marvel President Kevin Feige’s proclamation that the MCU will never be dark.

Deadpool had one noticeably dark segment, namely Wade’s time spent being tortured, but for the most part it still fits in with the “fun” tone that Feige is committed to.  In contrast, the X-Men films, especially X1, X2 and Days of Future Past (DOFP), are noticeably much darker than anything in the MCU’s films. The themes of prejudice from the comics are unashamedly fleshed out on screen, showcasing the violence and darkness that mutants experience. The opening scene of X1, where Magneto is separated from his parents in a concentration camp, is still one of my favourite openings in any film. I highly doubt we would see a scene like this if X1 was originally handled by Marvel Studios. Maybe most of the scene would be the same, and then a Stan Lee cameo would be used to alleviate the tension.

Now, the MCU has also given us properties like Jessica Jones and The Punisher, but I am not talking about Netflix here. I am talking about the big screen. When Disney originally acquired Marvel, people argued that imprints such as Touchstone would be used to distribute darker or R-rated material. However, we know now that any R-rated material so far has come from Netflix. Deadpool 3 will likely be the first R-rated X-Men film property that Disney gives us.

I think Disney will be willing to give Deadpool more R-rated sequels because they have already seen how successful his film was. The box office receipts are a testament to people’s love for the character in all his R-rated glory. In contrast, Disney might be more willing to take risks with X-Men since the most recent X-Men film, Apocalypse, underperformed (relative to previous entries) with critics and the box office. Additionally, Logan was a well received R-rated entry but marked the end of the X-Men film universe’s most popular character.

If darkness is viewed as the enemy, then “fun” will be viewed as the saviour. What about the rest of the films? Will X-Men be rebooted to offer more “fun” now? Will the themes of prejudice all be cut in order to make everything more family friendly? Will we get scenes like this one?

Or this one?

I doubt it.

X-Men Apocalypse Review

Rating: 7/10

Feel free to check out my video review.

The critical and commercial success of Days of Future Past made it clear to everyone that Apocalypse had a lot to live up to. After seeing the film yesterday, I have to say that Apocalypse does not exceed or meet its predecessor. That is not to say the film is downright bad, but it isn’t amazing either.

Apocalypse picks up with the new timeline, following the younger versions of the X-Men. Picking up ten years later, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) now continues to grow the school with the help of Beast. Meanwhile, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) now works to bring mutants to safety, through a sort of underground railroad for mutant misfits. Erik Lensherr now leads life with a new identity in his native Poland, along with his wife and daughter. With this backdrop, comes the introduction of new mutants such as Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and a new threat.

After lying dormant for thousands of years, the world’s first mutant is revived and now seeks to create a new world order where only the strongest mutants survive.

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Firstly, I want to start off discussing the aspect of the film that bothered me most leading up to its release. The marketing emphasized Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, depicting her as this figure Beast seeks out to lead the X-Men. Especially since her role in defeating Magneto in the last film has now made Mystique a revered figure among mutants. I did like this development but it did bother me that Mystique is actually shown in her blue form for a relatively small portion of her screen time The film’s explanation is that Mystique doesn’t feel like she can no longer represent “mutant and proud” since she doesn’t believe in it anymore. . It obviously makes sense for Mystique to stay hidden when in public, but even when other mutants surround her, it is still mostly Jlaw on screen. I could not help but think Jlaw’s star power contributed to that. This thought surfaces even more since Lawrence is one of the film’s most forgettable performances, being overshadowed by McAvoy, Fassbender, Evans, Isaac etc.

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Speaking of Oscar Isaac, the makeup could be better but I did enjoy his presence on screen. He was soothing when he needed to be, then menacing and vindictive when necessary. His dialogue was great and Oscar Isaac delivered a great performance, yet I feel like the character could have been fleshed out more. Which brings me to one of my biggest criticisms.

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One of my main criticisms brings up the issues of trying to introduce numerous new characters (or versions) of characters without any previous build up. I do hate the Marvel V DC talk, but Civil War does provide a good case study. Although some characters felt tacked on, like Spider-Man, many of them did not since they were already introduced through previous films. With Apocalypse, we get a younger version of Cyclops, Storm, Jean, Nightcrawler, as well as Angel, Psylocke and Apocalypse. This is in addition to building on previous characters and relationships. As a result, some characters suffer. Psylocke literally has less than ten lines. Her and Angel were both very forgettable, getting lost in the muddle of all the other characters and relationships the film wanted to introduce or flesh out. I would have liked to see more of the Xavier and Magneto relationship, which has always been a strength of this trilogy, but that had to get pushed aside to make more room for Apocalypse. He could have used some more development too but they also needed to develop the new heroes. This issue also leads to some pacing issues that hampered the film leading up to the third act.

 

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There are some truly great scenes and set pieces. Quicksilver steals the show again, in a scene that actually manages to outdo the kitchen scene in DOFP. The scene is a huge tonal shift, switching the film from dark, to light and then back again. Yet it still works so well.

 

There is also an Auschwitz scene that was stunning and one of the film’s most emotionally powerful scenes. The third act had its own set pieces but although there was a great war raging between mutants on the field, the best part of the third act is a mental battle between Charles and Apocalypse. Even though the mental battle is more muted and slower paced than the rest of the action, it was still more exciting for me; Probably because I cared about these characters the most and because they were some of the best actors.

 

Sophie Turner does a decent job as Jean Grey, but she came across as somewhat forgettable and replaceable. Cyclops and Nightcrawler were both great additions to the new X-Men team and I am looking forward to seeing more of their characters, but yet again, they weren’t developed that well. Of course there is more room for this in future movies, but I ultimately have to judge this film as a single unit. Alexandra Shipp actually plays Storm with an African accent, and maybe people will disagree, but the accent actually sounds good to me. I thought she was pretty good in the role, but yet again, limited lines, limited development.

To end on a more positive note, the ending was perfect. I can’t say much more than that without spoiling it.

Overall, I do believe Apocalypse is worth checking out in the theater and I am glad that I saw it. However, it falls short of the high bar set by DOFP.