Have you heard? The latest film in the X-Men franchise is also the worst. Which, considering the third and sixth films were both such stinking piles of crap. All of the hate surrounding Dark Phoenix got me so confused that I had to go back and rewatch X-Men: Apocalypse to make sure I wasn’t remembering it wrong. Maybe I’d just imagined that it was kind of disappointing? Maybe I had just loved Days of Future Past so much that I’d been extra harsh? I mean, it had been 3 years since I saw it. Although, in those years comic books movies have only continued to get better. Marvel have really hit their stride in the last 2 or 3 years. It’s highly likely that it’s the reason people are so harsh on Dark Phoenix. It came out months after Endgame and a year after Infinity War and Black Panther dominated the box office. Maybe we’ve just started to expect more from our superhero movies? Maybe we expect something that Fox were never going to be able to give us?
When I look back on X:Men: Apocalypse I basically remember one thing: Olivia Munn being a moron in all her interviews. It was the time she spoke about how she turned down the role of Vanessa in Deadpool because she was “just the girlfriend”. How she wanted something better and how that role was going to be Psylocke. Now, if you ask me, this was a dick move for two reasons. Number 1, she’s basically saying that Morena Baccarin was some sort of anti-feminist idiot for taking the role and, number 2, she gave it up for one of the least memorable characters in comic book history. The way Munn went on about it, Psylocke was going to be the big villain of the piece. She was going to be the most powerful, dangerous, and exciting female character in the whole thing. But, in the end, Psylocke was inconsequential. Yes, that probably wasn’t Munn’s fault but it certainly must have taken her down a peg or two. At least Vanessa found her way into 2 films and had a huge impact on both of them.
But I digress because I’m massively petty. Rewatching X-Men: Apocalypse made me very sad. It made me sad that awful people on the internet have officially stated that this film was better than Dark Phoenix. It really isn’t. This film is a fucking mess. It’s long, overly complicated, and there is no attempt to build on character. Any emotion that comes from the plot is shallow and unearned. We’re supposed to give a shit that Magneto’s family dies after only having known them for 2 minutes. Yes a child dying is always going to be sad but it’s not as momentous an event as this film needs it to be. This film isn’t striving for anything other than action and huge set pieces. It takes everything that people loved about the previous film and replays it but bigger.
Like the stupid Quicksilver scene, which is nowhere near as funny, clever, or interesting the second time around. And that’s even with the pizza eating dog. This is the ultimate X-Men cliche movie. We see so many sanctimonious Charles moments, plenty of destructive Erik, and so much heroic Mystique. There’s no plot here. It’s just speeches. Speech, action, another speech, more action, another speech, and some more action. This film is boring. It’s like having a massive house but being a fan of minimalism. It’s a very big film but it doesn’t have anything to fill it with. There’s no interesting plot, no development, and no real funny moments to break the tension. You’re basically just ticking things off your X-Men checklist.
Yes, Dark Phoenix wasn’t great but it tried to do something with the characters. There was some development there. None of the returning characters had changed from the last couple of films and the new characters didn’t get any chance to do anything. It’s like they hired Oscar Issacs and just stopped trying. As if that was enough to get them through. But not even Apocalypse gets to do anything. He just makes kind of raspy speeches. I’m genuinely angry that people are giving this a pass these days. I can’t understand it. Is it just because Dark Phoenix Saga is so loved? Or is it because it puts a woman at the centre of everything? I genuinely can’t work it out.