Episode 413: X-ellence in X-Menning

On the Overthinking It Podcast we talk about X-Men: Apocalypse, expensive salads, and other signs of the end of the world.

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, Ryan Sheely, and special guest Geoff Ross overthink the latest entry in the X-Men franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse.

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7 Comments on “Episode 413: X-ellence in X-Menning”

  1. JSC Well Actually #

    Great discussion, I had a lot of the same reactions watching this movie. I was also thinking about the phenomena of reboots in comics and films. Restarting parts of the universe and retelling story elements again is ubiquitous in comics. It seems clear that a reboot was part of the project with this movie (and the last two xmen). And for me at least, that was part of why the movie felt hollow as you mentioned, no really drama in ‘the will Magneto be good or bad for this film?’, and ‘oh Wolverine is wild again, I wonder if he’ll get his humanity back?’

    I wonder if anyone had any thoughts as to why reboots work sometimes, and sometimes they fall flat? Are there some commonalities beyond the fundamentals of make a “good” movie and do something “interesting” with our characters?

    Reply

  2. Adrian #

    In addition to the issues you all mentioned, the biggest problem for me was that the whole movie was a huge missed opportunity. Audiences have been waiting for Thanos for four years, and they are starting to get frustrated with all the teases and delays. Apocalypse was Fox’s chance to totally scoop Marvel for once and bring out their Thanos-scale villain, but he ended up being, as you so perfectly put it, a Power Rangers villain instead.

    Unrelated, but did anyone else get “Mr. Sandman” stuck in their head while Apocalypse was wandering around modern day Cairo? Or was that just me?

    Reply

    • Peter Fenzel OTI Staff #

      Is that because it’s the song playing when Marty McFly is walking around exploring 1950s Hill Valley? Because I totally got a Back to the Future vibe from that scene, definitely.

      Reply

      • Adrian #

        That was absolutely the reason! That’s a scene you see in movies a lot, whether someone has just traveled through time, or come out of a fallout bunker, and I firmly believe that every one of them should be set to that song. It may not make any sense to the specific situation, but I was born the year I was born, and I have seen Back to the Future the number of times that I have seen it, and nothing can change those facts.

        Reply

  3. Rambler The Full Harvey #

    I like the movie.
    Perhaps it’s just a factor of how few movies I’ve seen this year, thus sheltering me from action fatigue. No, it’s not as good of a movie as “Days of Future Past” but I didn’t expect it to be, after all the 3rd movie is always the worst…
    Speaking of which I took that moment as a direct communication (by Singer or Writers, or whoever) that “this isn’t quite the movie I wanted it to be, but it’s still here if you look for it”.
    I think that movie IS still here, and I think it was a Dr. Who story.
    The first indication is the opening credits scene flying through the tunneling vortices of time and space in a big budget rendition of the Dr. Who opening. There’s a very distinctive difference though, rather than the camera following the Tardis, the camera is the Tardis.

    Then the themes that get developed in between (and sometimes during) the action are all Dr. Who themes: family, companions, and the world destroying potential of a man without either.

    In this reading good men without family are simply weapons:
    Scott is literally a destructive force that he can’t turn off until he’s reunited with his brother.

    Wolverine has had everything taken away from him, including his name, and has in every way become a Weapon. The movie doesn’t say what memories Jean gives him back other than the whispered echo of “Logan”; but we read those comics back in the 90’s right? Logan’s fragments of memory were always the faces and voices of those who had been important to him, and he is propelled forward by them. {wouldn’t it have been great if the echoing whisper had been “Logan Who? Logan WHO?”}

    Even the deep pacifism of Nightcrawler is wearing away when he’s isolated in that cage, if {undisclosed} family wasn’t reaching out to him he was on his way toward being the new deathmatch champion.

    Magneto is the only one that has a choice that he can make on his own. Maybe to some but to him it feels like fate. He is the mutant who fought in the time war. This is what he must do. The world sends men to take children in the night, soldiers with orders to exterminate. “No More!” Yes there are innocents who will die, but he is saving them too. If they die simply and quickly their suffering will be short; and dying young is their only chance to die innocent, since there is no good in the world.

    The part that I like best about this B plotline is that it’s the same B plotline from the last movie. The older wiser versions of Prof. X and Magneto teach the wisdom “Isolated we are self destructive and do not value the lives of others.” Young X and Mystique were both in that condition at the start of X-DoFP, now they have learned the lesson well enough that are the core to which others are gathered.

    The culmination of this plot is when the barrier is destroyed that was keeping Prof. X and Moira separated.

    The scene that’s missing, the scene that was really needed, was the quiet conversation in the middle of the tempest as the solemn faced Dr. has to decide between rushing the destruction forward or taking his hand off the button, while his companion who has crossed the world to stand at his side urges empathy and restraint “We have children Eric. You have a son, and I have a son. Give them a chance.”

    The B-Plot of X-Men: Apocalypse had a Dr. Who beginning, but it missed the moment of intimate persuasion and appeal and debate that would have been in a Dr. Who ending. Which is a shame, because Fassbender and Lawrence are perfect for that.

    Reply

    • Rambler The Full Harvey #

      Hmm… seems like there was an edit button once upon a time.
      The sentence “Maybe to some but to him it feels like fate.” Should be:
      Maybe to some it feels like a tired rehash… but to him it feels like fate. He struggled to change who he was (Magneto married a non-mutant!! Think of the level of change that communicates, before dismissively saying “we’ve seen it before”.) and Fate murders his wife, daughter and Free Will in front of him.

      Reply

  4. Three Act Destructure #

    Oy. It’s taken me two weeks to finally have the time to write this down which now means it’ll never, ever be seen. Oh well. For posterity, then.

    Re: Fenzel’s point on Cyclops being a sucky character.

    I think the powers/personality dynamic is a smart way to cut up these characters and probably an intentional goal for the better X-writers (and superhero writers in general) but I think you’ve missed the mark on how it’s functioning in this particular story.

    X-Men is more and less an ensemble depending on how popular, and therefore how breakout, the individual characters are. For example, Nightcrawler is super popular and is also mostly on a friendly work-acquaintance level with his fellow teammates. Kitty Pryde, on the other hand, isn’t a household name but IS a future mutant president and critical to a lot of Claremont’s run. She bonds with other X-men in a way that’s closer to family.

    On that spectrum, characters like Cyclops and Jean Grey sit way farther on the Kitty Pryde end: central to the stories of the team and yet unlikely to dominate merchandise sales. See also: Storm and Professor X.

    This is important because it means that their powers probably also can’t be analyzed in a single-character bubble.

    So Cyclops is a guy who leads a team and shoots laser thingies out of his eyes. Okay. But he’s also someone who can’t trust his own vision, literally, and subsumes his own identity into the cause of someone else’s vision, figuratively.

    Jean Grey on her own is another potentially insulting iteration of the “woman was never meant to wield this much power” trope. But taken in the X-Men as a group, she’s someone who has the same powers as her mentor and fears what surpassing him could mean. Now she’s submissive not as a general character trait but instead to a single person.

    And Wolverine fits pretty snugly in here both as part of a love triangle and also as another member of the team whose mutant ability is also a form of disability. Jean, Scott and Logan are all people who have trouble with self-control and are doomed by it and this is how their powers manifest themselves. Also, affairs maybe?

    The movies even try to get Professor X in on this by more explicitly tying his physical paralysis to his mind shenanigans, which follows pretty well dramatically but I don’t think the comics ever figured that out.

    Grant Morrison dug into this in a different way with the relationship between Emma Frost and Cyclops. Scott was only able to get over his dead girlfriend by embracing someone who is the poster child for pro-sex body positivity, to the point that she OWNS walking around in nothing but lingerie almost all of the time. She teaches classes that way, in front of teenagers, and still expects everyone to take her seriously because she can beat them up and fry their brains. Also, she’s a questionably reformed villain which helps Cyclops determine his own moral path while getting out from under the shadow of Professor X. Maybe his powers should have shifted during this period as well.

    But they didn’t.

    So, yep. Okey dokey.

    Reply

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