Tuesday, 31 May 2016

x-men: apocalypse

so my brother jack (seen here rambling about horror movies) has started insisting we see every superhero movie together like it's some kind of tradition now, even the ones i'm really not that interested in. like x-men: apocalypse. 

i've never been an x-men fan. i object to the name, which seems more ridiculous given they have more women than most other superhero teams. i never thought any of them were that interesting, i mean shooting lasers out of your eyes and having claws just seem like really dull powers to me. but most of all i hate how much fucking whining they do. yeah, i get that it's a metaphor for minorities but when you scratch the surface it's a really confused metaphor in which the minorities spend most of the time fighting each other over stupid stuff and then complaining about it. i mean, i guess you could say that in their differing approaches xavier is martin luther king and magneto is malcolm x and that makes a kind of sense, but mostly i just see 'i can shoot lasers out of my eyes #fml'

my prejudices aside, i actually really enjoyed this film. there was some shit i didn't like, mostly everything that happened after the halfway point, but i'm not going to dwell on that because no doubt everyone else will. here's what i liked.

the film opens with this huge, epic scene in egypt with this fucking amazing john  ottman track that to me was channelling christopher young's hellraiser score. that's what hooked me in. i don't really know who apocalypse is in the comics (my closest guess is marvel's darkseid?), nor do i give a fuck, but i can tell you who he reminded me of. he reminded me of pinhead in the hellraiser movies. there was something about the way oscar isaac plays the character that says so much with very limited movements and dialogue. he decapitates some dudes without a second thought and clearly enjoys prolonging the suffering of others. i seriously half-expected him to start shooting chains with fucking hooks on the end at one point, he was that dark and that fucked-up. i thought he was the best bad guy i've seen in a superhero movie for a while, at least for half the film. then i think they ran out of ideas for what to do with him and he sits on a rock for like an hour until the x-men turn up to punch him with lasers.

magneto was my second favourite thing. actually no, michael fassbender as magneto, because to be honest the storyline they give him in this movie is fucking ridiculous but he pulls it off. that's the sign of a great actor - someone who can take some rather contrived situations and make you feel the emotion of the moment anyway. there's a point where this almost felt like they'd taken the script from that magneto solo movie that never happened and tried to cram it into this movie instead, and yet fassbender owns it.

i also really liked the nuclear weapon montage, mostly because of ottman fucking with beethoven on the score, but also because it was a really fucked up moment and the last point in the film where apocalypse feels like a guy who knows what he wants.

and the quicksilver part was cool, but then evan peters always was my favourite thing about american horror story.

i wish they'd given the women more to do. i mean it's cool that there are so many women in the film and they're all involved somehow, but to be honest storm and psylocke are wasted, mystique is seriously sidelined and moira mactaggert is just kind of there, mostly for no reason. i liked sophie turner's jean grey though, she played her with a level of awkwardness that almost seems unintentional at first but is actually perfect for the character.

i think what i liked is that there is weird shit in this film. batman v superman was a mess, albeit an interesting mess, and civil war was kind of too perfect and therefore not at all interesting. x-men apocalypse sits somewhere in between the two, with moments of genius undermined by moments of incredible stupidity, and yet it was the stupid moments i liked the best because it felt like if nothing else, it's a film that takes some risks.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

captain america: civil war

so i wasn't going to write about this one at first because i really liked it and i didn't have a particularly interesting take on it or anything say so i thought i'd let it go. i mean, it's not like people are waiting to hear what i think of it before they go and see it. at the same time i don't want to be one of those bloggers who only reviews the shit they didn't like, even if my dislike does take the form of somewhat strained political analogies. so in the interests of celebrating something great here's what i thought of captain america: civil war.

i'm not going to rehash the plot because ... trailers, but it's safe to say that the disagreement between iron man and captain america is a hundred times more complicated than the forced dispute in that other movie that we all saw. what makes it work and subsequently what makes the whole film work is that both characters are right and wrong at the same time. it's a complicated issue, and if superheroes are going to start punching each other then their reasons need to have a certain level of complexity to be believable.

with batman and superman it was two good guys who want the same thing getting into a fight because ... reasons. go read my review, i explained it better than the film did. here, the government want the avengers to submit to rules because otherwise stuff blows up and people die, and half the avengers don't want to do that because rules suck. there is a bad guy who tries to manipulate the situation, but what i loved (and this may be a spoiler) is that ultimately he's inconsequential. i mean, i know who the character is and i'm sure he'll come back with a cool mask and shit but in this film he's just a guy causing trouble because he was pissed off, he saw a weakness and he exploited it. despite the fact that this is a film about superheroes, the motivations of everyone in the film make sense and feel real.

i often refer to the fact that superhero movies are really for kids and trying to force them into an adult world causes problems. i will always maintain that nolan did it most effectively with his batman movies as i argue rather effectively here -

but what civil war did is remind me that when i was a kid i was always arguing the opposite point of view - i was arguing that these were grown-up stories that just happened to be accessible to kids. like they did with winter soldier, the russo brothers have taken the most over-the-top, ridiculous characters and placed them neatly into a serious political thriller. with a ridiculous over-the-top fight in the middle. the fight at the airport does, to be fair, feel like it's from a completely different film because it's so tonally different to the rest of it. that said, it works so well on its own that it kind of doesn't matter. it's a very well crafted scene in which everyone is given something to do, the action is clear, the dialogue is entertaining but at the same time there are serious consequences. it's not a scene from a serious political thriller, but it's a fucking cool scene so who cares. and spiderman is cool. i fucking hate spiderman, he was always my least favourite character, and yet here i am admitting that spiderman is cool so this movie must be doing something right.

my concerns about the civil war being mostly a boys fight with a token woman on each side were mostly valid and i'm not sure the film even passes the bechdel test. however, what is nice is that as well as black widow and scarlet witch we also get sharon carter and references to her grandmother, all of which make it clear that this is a world in which women do stuff. they are not mothers and girlfriends, and scarlet witch is even presented as being the most powerful of all of them, even if that's not really followed through in the action. black widow isn't given too much to do and looks like she spends way too much time on her hair before work in the mornings, but that said she also has a couple of cool character moments. she remains by far the most interesting and complex character in the marvel cinematic universe and badly needs her own movie.

my only other issue is that two major plot points are to do with the deaths of characters' parents. it's handled way better than it was in batman v superman but seriously, can no one think of any better reasons for superheroes to be fucked up?

that said, there is so much that this film gets right and that's what i want to focus on. to tell this story with so many characters and to make it feel real and human as well as complex and yet easy to follow was kind of an impossible task, but they really have pulled it off. i think that's worth celebrating, and if you haven't seen it you should definitely check it out. there is something very rewarding about watching filmmakers and actors take a thousand ill-fitting jigsaw pieces and assemble them into a satisfying whole, and that's exactly why captain america: civil war is a success.