Film Review: X-Men: Apocalypse (Brian Singer 2016)

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I am generally not one to give commentary on the latest superhero films but since I literally just watched it yesterday I have decided to do a write up on X-Men: Apocalypse. The third film in the new trilogy of X-Men films it’s been getting a more than it’s fair share of press thanks to the success of it’s predecessor X-Men: Days of Future Past. The film is set in the eighties, where the powerful mutant Apocalypse wakes up after being sealed away for thousands of years. He believes the world to have lost its way without him to guide it and he recruits four mutants to help him destroy it so he can rebuild another one in its place. Charles Xavier and the mutants from his growing academy must unite with old friends and foes alike in order to combat the growing threat.

The first thing I noticed about the film was the excellent cinematography. Every shot looked and sequence looked amazing, especially the scenes at the beginning at the end. The special effects in these sequences were also amazing and the film’s budget is clearly being used in the right areas. The action sequences were well done and probably the strongest element of the film, which is how it should be for a superhero film.

Standout sequences include the Quicksilver scene at Xavier’s mansion, where he rescues all the students in what was clearly one of his strongest moments as a character. Quicksilver is just generally a badass in this movie. He is still the comedy relief character from the previous movie but he has also involved into someone with a bit more badass. The film really goes out of its way to show how powerful speedster characters like him can be when they go all out, which I enjoyed.

Speaking of characters as a whole the one thing that bugged me was the actor’s ages. Some characters looked as though they had barely aged at all even though a decade has passed between films. Characters such as Mystique, Magneto and Charles Xavier seem to get the worst of this, but it is noticeable in a lot of the cast from previous films as well, notably Beast and Quicksilver. Although I liked the actors themselves, from a story point of view it seemed a bit odd that a decade would pass with none of the characters seeming to age a day. Magneto, to his credit, gets a beard but he still doesn’t look ten years older. I do think that maybe they could have done a bit more to show the characters’ real ages a bit. Mystique in particular seemed to blend in with the younger characters in the show and when her dialogue reminded us that she was older than them my instincts as a viewer found it hard to believe. However the acting, did offset this particular issue a lot.

Speaking of acting, I was a huge fan of the new additions to the franchise. Sophie Turner as Jean Grey was literally one of the best casting decisions they could have made. Upon watching trailers I had my doubts but as I watched the film itself I thought she fit the role perfectly. Likewise, Cyclops and Nightcrawler were played rather well. My only criticism of the new characters is that the mutants introduced (or reintroduced) into this film for the purpose of becoming Apocalypse’s horsemen, namely Angel, Psylocke and Storm seemed rather bland and without any real personality. Angel and Psylocke got this worst with hardly any character development after becoming Apocalypse’s horsemen. Storm got some development as a street urchin but after becoming one of the horsemen she seemed to remain static as a character until betraying Apocalypse at the climax, where we are suddenly reminded how much she admires Mystique. I think that she should have gotten some more scenes mid film to reinforce her beliefs, particularly since she goes on to become a prominent member of the X-Men later on in the continuity.

As a whole the movie was a breathtaking ride. Somehow, despite my bugbears I managed to enjoy it immensely, mostly because the good parts of the movie more than made up the parts which left me scratching my head. At its core, this is an excellent movie with some of the best action sequences and special effects which I’ve seen in a while. It also goes out of its way to throw in a few continuity bonuses for die hard X-Men fans, both from the films and the comics. This is probably one of the best X-Men films I’ve seen to date, tied with its predecessor and the first film of the original trilogy.

SCORE: 4.5/5

IN A WORD: BREATHTAKING

Film Review: The Iron Giant (Brad Bird 1999)

the-iron-giant_special-edition-dvd-cover_2004.jpgIt’s been a while since I last reviewed a film but I figured it was about time I reviewed them again, starting with The Iron Giant. I was never too interested in the film as a child but as an adult I’ve wanted to watch it for quite a while, and just recently I finally got the chance. For a bit of background The Iron Giant is an adaptation of The Iron Man, a children’s story by Ted Hughes though there are a number of key differences between the book and film. Having never read the book, I will not focus on this point and will instead review the film on its own merits. The film revolves around the titular Iron Giant, whom crash lands on earth near a sleepy American town in the fifties, before being discovered by a boy named Hogarth Hughes, whom quickly befriends the giant and protects it from the united states army, represented by the paranoid agent Kent Mansley.

The first thing I noted was how beautifully animated it was, so much so that I for a long time I actually believe it to be a Disney film. In reality it was the work of Warner Bros whom had previously produced animation in movies such as Space Jam. It is a testament to the skill of the animation team that I made this error. In particular I was a huge fan of the human characters in the film who seemed to have an incredible amount of detail in their movements. The Iron Giant itself is nothing it shake a stick it either and I loved seeing the fight sequence at the end, where it finally unleashes it full arsenal in what was one of the most frighteningly beautiful scenes I have ever seen.

Most of the characters seemed to be realistic and well written. Standout characters include the giant itself, the beatnik Dean and Mansley the agent. Despite being barely able to speak at the beginning and generally having limited speech even as it learns more words, it is hard not to emphasise with the giant, particularly as it realises its true nature and begins to fight against it. Seeing it grow up and learn about humanity made it hard for me to see the giant in any kind of negative light, and seeing it struggle against its programming towards the end was one of the most heart rending scenes in the entire film.

Dean and Mansley are two similar characters in that both are wary of the giant, yet they diverge and go on to personify the ways in which humanity may react to the giant. Dean eventually accepts the giant and realises that despite everything it means no harm. Meanwhile Mansley never accepts the giant and doggedly seeks its destruction, leading him to effectively stalk Hogarth so he can get the evidence required to prove the giant’s existence to his superiors. Despite this Mansley still retains a degree of sympathy since he is clearly paranoid about the very real threat the giant could pose, though he loses said sympathy as his methods becomes increasingly more extreme. I think the ending scenes made Mansley weaker as a character since they made him more of a cartoon villain, a rabid dog who wants little more than to kill the giant no matter how many dogs he has to kick. I think it would have been better if he had at least a little sympathy at this point even in his rabid paranoia but overall his character is good despite this, I just felt like he could have been better.

The story itself is probably one of the most gut wrenching I’ve seen in a long time and ultimately it is about choosing who you want to be. The Giant’s struggles are real and the fact that is forced into a battle with the army at the end makes you feel sorry for him even after his programming forces him to unleash his full arsenal against them. When the missile heads towards the town there is a sense of dread that you don’t normally see in a movie, this idea that this really could be it. This makes the giant’s sacrifice to stop the missile all the sadder since you realise that this is the only way it can end. Granted the giant is revealed to be alive in the final scene but the fact to see him revered as a hero by the people who believe him to be dead in the scene afterwards is still sad and what makes the film one of best I’ve watched in a while.

Overall the Iron Giant is an animated classic beyond a shadow of a doubt. The animation truly brings the fifties to life and the political backdrop of the era creates an atmosphere of unease amongst the adults such as Mansley which makes their motives for being paranoid about the giant understandable. Truly an underrated gem and one I will watch again many times for years to come.

SCORE: 4.5/5

IN A WORD: SAD