A guy comes down the aisle in front of me, stops at the seat where my foot is propped up against, and asks “Do you mind if I sit here?” He’s a big guy, far as I can tell, in the half-light of the preview darkness, wearing a splashy t-shirt that either promotes organized fighting or informs people that he, the wearer, approves not only of organized fighting, but also the clothes promoting organized fighting. There is a woman with him. They are both older than me. But he’s no couch potato, there’s probably a gym membership involved or a weight bench in the basement. I reply, “To be honest, I’d prefer if you didn’t.” Because I chose my seat with care, for the best view, with an empty seat in front of me, so I can put up my foot if I wish. “Well, you don’t own it,” he says. Yes, I don’t own it, that is true. I am aware of this fact. I own nothing in the theater including all the other seats. He wants to sit in the middle, he says, as if this is a desire exclusive to him. So far he’s said nothing that isn’t common knowledge or original insight. We can all sit where we want. Theater goers don’t own individual seats. I shouldn’t put my feet up, but I do. “I’m asking nicely,” he says. His tone of voice implies that I should be grateful for his generosity, that he has done me a favor. “I know all this,” I say, “but I’m just telling you the truth, because you asked. No, I don’t want you to sit there.” Then something changes in the dark, an expression on his face I can’t make-out, and he finally does what he should’ve done in the first place: he sits. I move two seats down. My view of the screen is unspoiled. My feet are propped on the seat-back in front of me.
X-Men: Apocalypse continues the story of teenagers with strange pubescent side effects. Instead of simply controlling acne, mood swings, or over-driven sexual natures they’ve also got to contend with lasers coming out their eyeballs, wings out their backs, blue skin, sharp teeth, and pointed tails. These folks are called mutants and everybody on earth is a tad uneasy about their existence, understandably so because they can cause a lot of damage. Just like normal folk, some mutants are good and forthright while others are not so good and mean spirited.
There are three people sitting over my left shoulder. Their voices have begun to seep into my ear like needles. They will stop, I think. People stop don’t they? The chatter through commercials and previews, then they settle in. And they’re speaking in some language that at first sounds like Spanish then vaguely Eastern European or Middle Eastern? The previews begin, and I wonder why the dude found it necessary to ask my permission.
X-M:A is boring, long, and overcooked, and there’s plenty of tears and betrayal and emotional pleading, for what I’m never exactly sure. One character is begging another not to kill someone, but also begging him to kill the bad guy or at least stop him from killing a million people we don’t see dying in all the collapsed cities etc or something. The bad guy is the show in this one. He’s a kind of immortal super pharaoh with a bunch of generally undefined mutant powers, who some speculate might be the original mutant. He gets buried under his favorite pyramid for a thousand years or so until the CIA, of course, (the fucking CIA is always doing shit like this) lets the sunlight in and gets him all riled up, then he watches some TV and realizes he wants to wipe-out all of civilization and start over from scratch. Naturally, we all feel that after watching a few minutes of television. And naturally, he realizes the best way to wipe out civilization is get rid of all the nuclear war heads. Say what? If the dude wants to eradicate all of human civilization all he has to do is hit a button (or psychically manipulate a sailor with a sharp mustache into hitting a button) that would detonate all the worlds nukes, right? But that’s not how this villain rolls. He wants to do it his way, on his terms, with some style, with some world class CGI mayhem. Just flicking a switch is too easy for him. Nah, he’d rather hire some body guards, build a new pyramid, trade consciousness with a crippled, psychic womanizer, and then destroy all of human civilization.
This here villain is quite the riddle. Apparently his mutant power is controlling dirt. Like Magneto, he who controls metal, this guy controls adobe walls, concrete, and dust. Master of Sand I suppose. He also has the gift of speaking in a highfalutin, sort of European accent that reverberates when he gets really excited. He wears some pretty slick duds too, a cross between a football player and an astronaut, but without the helmet. His helmet is buried in his head or something. Instead of hair he’s got a kind of shell over his dome and some re-bar keeping his neck in place. He looks like the cousin maybe of The Wishmaster, if you’ve ever been lucky enough to see those movies about the evil genie. (Note to Hollywood: more evil genie movies, por favor). He can pull a building right out of the ground like an old beer can. His go-to trick is getting a wall or whatever you happen to be standing on to kind of elasticize, grab you, then harden up so you can’t move around and you die.
A lot is made in the other super-hero movies about how much damage to real estate these super folks cause when having their little spats. But this fucking guy takes the cake. In one afternoon he pretty much destroys all of Egypt, San Francisco (I think, unless I’m getting this movie’s CGI imagery confused with London Has Fallen or that preview they just showed of Independence Day 2, I can’t tell the difference) and some other places, including the docks of what looks like Baltimore, which I’m sure the union is going to have something to say about.
These X-Men movies have been rolling out for well over a decade now, not to mention a pair of sad, slow Wolverine movies, and the theme has been pretty consistent throughout, established way back in the sixties by the original creators of the comic books. See, the whole thing is this metaphor for feeling like an outcast or nobody loves you, but ironically you know that you’re really some kind of special super-powered talent, if the world would only accept and love you. We’re all just freaks in our own way, peace love and acceptance blah, blah, blah. The notion that despite humble beginnings and feelings of isolation and doubt, you will find a ‘family’ that loves and accepts you for who you really are, which is of course someone with a fantastic destiny, a being of great talent and power, meant to play a critical role in the savior of mankind and the defeat of evil and tyranny. Teenage day-dream 101. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of Rings on and on and on…your mundane origins exist only to prepare you for the unimaginable heights of heroism, adventure, and meaning your life will one day demand of you.
So yeah, that’s the noble subtext they want you to think is the higher cause of this movie, but we all know what this flick is really about: 1980’s fashion! That’s right. The hair, the clothes, the pop culture. So loud so garish, so 80’s. Everybody knows the 80’s is always fertile ground for sentimental dips into pop-culture euphoria via name checks and period accurate musical montage. Hey, look there’s a Ron Reagan picture hanging on the wall and an arcade version of Ms. Pac-Man. Cool! I love Ronald Reagan! The mutants living underground, hunted, traversing the globe on their secret missions to save the human race that fears them, they do manage to make time for getting their hair styled in the most up-to-date fashion. Professor X rocks a periwinkle v-neck t-shirt and silver sport-coat, sleeves rolled up. He’d be right at home behind the wheel of a Ferrari Testarossa in Miami Vice. The main bad guy, who claims to be called many things, none of which are intelligible, has gone for the glam-rocker look popularized by hair bands such as Poison and Motley Crue, wearing lipstick, eyeliner, and that make-up that makes you look like you have cheek bones. There’s a punk rock mohawk chick and a New Wave German kid with the Flock of Seagulls hair in his eyes, sporting the red and black Mike Jackson Thriller jacket. One kid, who runs really fast, wears a t-shirt promoting the Canadian progressive rock trio Rush. Get it? Magneto, the wishy-washy villain of the other movies, doesn’t get his new duds until the latter third of the movie, until then he’s ahead of his time fashion-wise, pre-dating the Seattle grunge style by about a few years with his flannel shirt, worn dungarees, and work boots. And for the fans of homoerotic German heavy metal bands like Scorpions or Accept there’s a guy called Angel, who struts around in leather pants and no shirt. There’s even a nod to contemporary 80’s artist Patrick Nagel, whose clean-lined drawings of ambiguously Asian women graced the covers of Duran Duran albums and hair salon walls across the globe, in the form of Psylock, a ninja chick in a bikini.
The people behind me have continued talking. Not intermittently, not a clearing of the throat every once and awhile, but an incessant, other language conversation. Hey, I get it, sometimes there’s important things to say even during the movie like “I’m so fucking bored” or “Stop touching me” but these folks behind me are going on and on. Let it go, I tell myself. You’re going to turn around and see two linebackers and their little sister. Guns, knives, psychos. Only psychos would be so oblivious to how much or how loud their voices are, right? I count to ten, ten times. Is the theater really this hot or am I about to go ape shit. Wait, they’re slowing down, they’re quitting, they’re…nope. On and on and on. What are they saying?
“Hey. Could you please keep it down?” Whoa, where’d that come from? Who knows. They weren’t bikers or psychos, just kids with confused looks on their faces. Confused about what? Perhaps like me they were wondering what the fuck was the point of this movie, why these actors were strutting around in pop music costumes and shooting fireballs out of their asses. I don’t know, but they were quiet after that, which allowed me to really focus on slogging through the remaining two hours.
PROS- 80’s nostalgia, Polish sing-a-longs, plenty of demolished real estate
CONS- No Wolverine. Why these jackasses decided to make an X-Men movie without Wolverine is beyond me. It will be their downfall. Perhaps after the success of the other movies the creators have gotten just a bit cocky, thinking, we don’t need Wolverine, we got all the other X-Men. A decision they will regret, mark my words.
Louis Gossett Jr., if memory serves, would’ve been the only African American male speaking role in the movie. So, that would’ve been something.