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X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
May 29, 2016, 2:47 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Bryan Singer
2 Stars
X-Men ApocalypseThe thing to learn from the X-Men films has been the power of both developing a socially relevant subtext and creating villains from within sticky political issues—the feud between Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) comes down to the characters’ different responses to the hands their dealt. This summer’s Captain America: Civil War seemed an easy fit into this kind of superhero film in that it scaled down its conflict into one that was ultimately a battle of ideologies. With X-Men: Apocalypse, director Bryan Singer all but abandons everything that had made the X-Men films interesting, bringing in an ill-fitting supervillain (what will be remembered as a legendarily wasted Oscar Isaac) with motivations that are of the vague, world-conquering sort that produces little but yawns from audiences. Meanwhile, the picture is so pleased by its own franchise that it exploits every action figure opportunity at the expense of the plot—a tangential visit to a shady governmental facility has no relevance to the narrative other than allowing for a cameo appearance. Whereas the previous two installments of this particular trilogy were relatively tightly focused on a key conflict, X-Men: Apocalypse involves a surplus of half-thought ideas peppered around shots of Apocalypse and his cronies posing on a cliff and discussing all the bad stuff that’s about to happen.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
May 24, 2014, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Bryan Singer
4 Stars
X-Men Days of Future PastMore than any of its fellow contemporary superhero franchises, the conceit that holds X-Men together has been consistently rife with social and political subtexts. The double entendre present since the series’ early days have linked the central mutants to just about anyone who isn’t a white, heterosexual male. While Days of Future Past doesn’t mine this idea as much as its predecessors, its intrigue comes in the form of the human response–that is, now that mutants have been “outed”, what can the majority do to maintain their majority-ness? According to Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the mutants must be nipped in the bud before homo sapiens are rendered old-fashioned (much like waking up in a water bed to the sounds of Roberta Flack). As the audience knows from the beginning of the seventh installment of this franchise, the plan put in place by Trask prior to his assassination at the hands of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) was successful in destroying not only the mutant race, but in leaving the not-too-distant future a wasteland. Former adversaries Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy) and Magneto (Ian McKellen/Michael Fassbender) recognize the direness of it all and scheme to send colleague Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973, where the developing mutant genocide was in its infancy. Convoluted as it sounds, the heavyweight cast and the imaginative, quick-tempo direction of Bryan Singer hold it all together. Like any good blockbuster, a levitating baseball stadium and a shouting match between former friends carry similar impact–with the continued incompatibility of their respective ideologies towards oppression, every scene that Xavier and Magneto share feels as thrillingly combustible as… well… a predatory, fire-breathing robot of death from the future.