Worlds & Time

Friday, June 03, 2016

Notes on X-Men: Apocalypse

I went to see X-Men: Apocalypse tonight and it was okay.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't X-Men: Days of Future Past either.  I would have made a few corrections, and because of the nature of this post, be aware that the entire thing is either spoilers for the movies or the books.

So, first, Apocalypse had two important powers.  The first was that, through the use of a giant mechanism he could transfer his "soul" to a different body and thereby gain the powers of that body.  The second was that he could create "horsemen" by enhancing the powers of other mutants.  He also could rearrange matter and teleport, but those aren't relevant to the actual plot of the movie, so whatever.

Of the two important powers, only one of them was actually necessary.  And hint, it wasn't the first one.

There's already an X-Person with the ability to steal other mutants powers.  Her name is Rogue.  The entire first movie was about her, and she appeared in the next two movies in increasingly insignificant roles.  The reason that her roles were increasingly insignificant was due to the fact that, as a plot device, stealing other powers can become really boring unless it's really well written, and Apocalypse wasn't well written.

But the second power, now that was the interesting one.  Apocalypse had his horsemen from the comics, and from the Bible.  He finds the mutants that are already the most powerful and enhances their powers even further.  That presents sooooo much opportunity for interesting characterization.

In the movie he uses Storm (great), Angel (okay), Psylocke (ugh), and Magneto (oh yeah baby!).  The Psylocke character really could have been anyone, and although I like Olivia Munn, she was terribly, terribly used in this movie.

Imagine now that Apocalypse doesn't have his first ability, he just has the second one.  Suddenly, the four horsemen aren't just cannon fodder for the X-Men to fight, they're essential to the power that Apocalypse wields.  The more powerful the horsemen, the more powerful that Apocalypse is. 

That makes Apocalypse much, much more interested in the horsemen.  Perhaps he can only invest four people at a time, and he has to be really choosy about who he's going to pick.  That sets up a conflict among the horsemen, they want to keep Apocalypse happy to keep their increased powers, but they also have a reason to fear other mutants and want them dead: if Apocalypse discovers that some other mutant is more powerful, he'll withdraw his blessing and bestow it on someone else.  I'd add a little extra: his powers are addictive and the more you get the more you want.

By the way, I will say that Psylocke is a psychic, and if Apocalypse had found her first (or if she had found him first) that would have alleviated the need for the "TV will teach me English" trick.

Generally, the plot would go as it already does, until they reach Magneto.  He's ridiculously powerful already, and so his powers added to Apocalypse seem like a great deal for Apocalypse.  He's got some issues though, and at the point that they kidnap Xavier I would probably give him some issues.  He should give Apocalypse an ultimatum of some sort, Charles goes or I go.

Apocalypse really would want Magneto, but something tells me that he'd want Charles more.  So he releases Magneto and takes Charles instead.  This leave Magneto less powerful than he was, in withdrawal from Apocalypse's powers, and angry at Charles and Apocalypse.

Here's the thing, I would have had Apocalypse successfully turn Charles Xavier into a horseman.  He sends the message (and the secret message), the X-Men come for him, there's a fight in front of the pyramid.  Quicksilver, Mystique, Beast, Cyclops and Nightcrawler, are beaten into the ground, and dismissed as not worthy of becoming horsemen (although I'd seriously have to think about Quicksilver, if I were Apocalypse, since he's pretty up there in terms of powers).

But let's say that with the help of Jean, Nightcrawler manages to take Charles back and they hide in the building.  Charles starts fighting Apocalypse in his own mind, trying to wrest away from the addictive powers of Apocalypse and now Apocalypse is determined to get him back.  Only Magneto decides to get in his way.  He's way more than enough to take out Psylocke and Angel, but watching enhanced Storm go up against Magneto would have been a seriously cool fight.  She wouldn't have been throwing just lightning, she would have been throwing fog, snow, wind, and everything else at him.  That could have been a very fair fight.

So Apocalypse rips the side off the building, and he finds . . . Jean Grey, sitting with Charles.  He takes a couple of swipes at her, but she fends them off.  He tries to get Charles to attack her, and Charles does, but she's Jean Grey so of course she's still fine.

And Apocalypse realizes that Jean may be more powerful than Charles.  And more powerful than Magneto.  More powerful than all the rest of his horsemen, and Magneto and Charles combined.  Her powers are really broad, from telepathy to telekinesis to . . . crazy things that shouldn't be mentioned in polite company.

So he tries to convince her to become a horseman.  He talks about how powerful he could make her, how she could be a God-Queen at his side.  And she seems a little tempted by all that power and maybe says . . . after a pause . . . yes?

So Apocalypse makes her a horseman.  He reaches into her and unlocks what Charles tried to keep locked, and finds that at her center she's more powerful than the burning heart of a star.  She couldn't beat him before, there was just too much holding her back, so much that Charles did to try to give her control.

But now she's Phoenix, and Apocalypse can't even bear to look at her.  He tries to yank his powers back, control her, but of course there is nothing that he can do.  He's spent so long bending power to his will than he couldn't have imagined that there were powers that he just couldn't control, and now he's discovered one and that discovery has killed him.

There's a flare of incandescence.  The pyramid vanishes.  All of the X-Men plus the surviving horsemen, and Moira, and Magneto and what remains of Apocalypse wake up on the lawn of the Xavier Institute, which looks like it was never destroyed.  

And then the rest of the emotional stuff happens, Xavier kisses Moira, blah blah blah.

But that creates a much more emotional resolution.  Apocalypse was beaten by his own greed and his own attempts to take control rather than the "alone vs. team" theme that Charles quips in the real movie (because it's not f---ing true!  Did you not notice his four horsemen?  He wasn't alone!)

This whole revision does leave a couple of plot holes.  Instead of the original opening bits in ancient Egypt, the giant golden pyramid machine isn't a body transfer machine, it's something that Apocalypse builds to make him immortal.  And it works!  Huzzah!  But then rebellion and burial, etc. It can still wake him up with the sun touching the apex of the sunken pyramid, and then it becomes unnecessary.  Because honestly, Apocalypse shouldn't be so reliant on a big golden machine.  It's a big weakness, and the fewer massive weaknesses that your enemies have, the more dangerous they seem.

Oh, the other thing about this movie?  Psylocke can't make lightsaber whips.  Lightsabers aren't solid, they can't thrown things around.  Thats kinda the whole point.  If she caught Beast around his neck, she should decapitate him, and it really bothered me that didn't happen.  She should have other powers, that would have been cool, but no whips morons.  That's like the opposite of the Indiana Jones gun vs. sword fight: she could have ended the fight in two seconds but didn't because of no particularly good reason.  Beast is very smart, he could have fought her to a standstill without the stupid whip.

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