X-Men: Apocalypse is now available Disney+, the second X-Men movie making its way to the streaming service with more coming soon. Most consider the film to be one of the lesser entries in the X-Men film franchise, mainly because it tries too hard to imitate the tropes of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, failing all the way through. And yet, as a longtime X-Men fan, there's something oddly comforting about the film. If you look at the Marvel Studios-style veneer, X-Men: Apocalypse resembles something else. Apocalypse is the most comics accurate of all the X-Men movies. Specifically, it takes many of its flaws straight from the comic book page.
The most glaring example is the presence of Wolverine. Logan is, without question, the most popular X-Men character ever. He's the only X-Men character capable of carrying a solo comic book series, and the only one who's had had a series of successful solo movies. But that success has had a warping effect. No matter what the X-Men story, Wolverine ends up at the center of it. Marvel Comics earned a reputation of having Wolverine guest star on any book with sagging sales to justify putting him on the cover and boost those numbers.
And similarly, Apocalypse includes a mid-movie, Logan-centric interlude where the Weapon X program shows up out of nowhere and kidnaps the kids from Xavier's school. Weapon X doesn't factor into the story of Apocalypse's rise and attempts to remake the world. It's all a means of getting the new X-Men into Wolverine's proximity. It provides the opportunity for a sequence where Logan runs through hallways cutting up random guards with his claws until Jean works her soothing mental magic on him, and he goes scampering off into the snow. The appearance serves the same purpose as putting Wolverine in a random comic. By including the scene in the film, Fox was able to include Logan's claws in the trailers, letting audiences know that Hugh Jackman was involved in something more than an X-Men: First Class style cameo role.
Then there's the film's subplot involving Magneto's family. It's one taken straight from the comics. We find Magneto living happily only to have all of that stripped away from him in as dramatic a fashion as possible It's character-centric, and it's tragic, and Michael Fassbender's scream makes it a touch melodramatic, just like a classic X-Men comic.
The focus on Magneto and the attention given to his relationship with Professor X is another comics-born problem. Despite having one of the deepest rosters of interesting, beloved characters in all comics, the creators often reduce the X-Men's narrative to Professor X's dream versus Magneto's desire for dominance. Even when, in recent years, Professor X and Magneto were both sidelined personally, the X-Men line only presented Cyclops and, of course, Wolverine to fill the void as the new versions of Professor X and Magneto. Apocalypse falls into the same trap. The film introduces younger versions of key X-Men characters like Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, and Jubilee. It then squanders those characters by turning the movie into another episode of the Charles and Erik show.
While it's hard to argue with the consensus around X-Men: Apocalypse, the film is a fascinating failure for X-Men fans. The X-Men movies franchise built itself by stripping away the superhero trappings and becoming a more grounded, relevant sci-fi franchise. In X-Men: Apocalypse, the franchise embraced its comic book roots as it hadn't before, creating a story as convoluted and a climax as overly-ambitious as the X-Men comics often are. The results may not be great, but -- with its gratuitous use of Wolverine, melodramatic flair, and purple dialogue -- they are the closest thing cinema has given fans to the X-Men of the comics in live-action. That may be reason enough for X-Men fans to revisit the film now that it's on Disney+ and in years to comes.
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