Monday, May 09, 2016

Real Name: En Sabah Nur
First Appearance: X-Factor #5 (June, 1986)
Fight Club Ranking: #220

Featured Fights:
- vs X-MEN: Uncanny X-Men #295 (Dec 1992)

One of the super heavyweights of the Marvel Universe is coming to live-action this month as the headlining star of X-Men: Apocalypse. As a lapsed but now long standing X-Men fan, I was certainly excited by the prospect of seeing Apocalypse on the big screen. Where mileage will vary significantly is in the interpretation of whether or not that's what fans will be getting.

Visually, the X-Men big bad isn't there. Oscar Isaac arrives as a breakout star after appearing as Poe Dameron in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, but is unrecognizable caked under bright blue body make-up. He's been aptly compared to Power Rangers movie villain "Ivan Ooze" - more than a few shades away from the comic book original, in color and tone.

Apocalypse boils down to a pretty simple, but well executed idea: aggressive Darwinism. Apocalypse will recruit those he deems fit to ride as his Four Horseman, but for the most part, he's a near immortal mutant whose ancient perspective leads him to stress test humanity's survival. A simple premise for conflict and an interesting way to play with the X-Men's internal ideas of evolution and so forth.

Disappointing costume design has been par for the course for Bryan Singer's tenure as director of the X-Men. I might've said "visuals", but Singer is basically a good commercial filmmaker and that's better than average right now. That said, I was dismayed to see unused Apocalypse designs that better represent the character as comics fans know him [above]. Comic Book Resources featured pictures that aren't fantastic for giving an overall impression, but reveal a visual base that certainly could've popped on screen with the right directorial vision.

Singer's willingness to take the material seriously in 2000 was vital to entrenching superheroes on the big screen. For better or worse, we may not have the catalogue of superhero films we do today without the one-two punch of X-Men and Spider-man. By mining the comics for their subtext, he found a way to connect with a world he never claimed was his (comics). Things didn't really click until X-Men 2, but the franchise hit its strongest note with X-Men: First Class directed by Matthew Vaughn.

Watching Days of Future Past recently, I was struck by a lot of little frustrations. There was an interesting core, but it felt like a derailment in a great many ways. It was everything First Class wasn't. Gone were the deliciously colorful costumes. Absent was the juicy pop cinema and design sensibility that permeated the entire film. In disarray, the juggling of characters and plot. Still here - Professor X, Magneto. Wolverine and Mystique.

Early reports suggest X-Men: Apocalypse suffers from a similar failure to live up to the balancing act it sets itself up for. Characters you know and love won't be front and centre. The conflict between Charles Xavier and Magneto will be ever present at the expense of a villain who arguably should've occupied soul focus of a blockbuster epic. There's no denying Michael Fassbender has made Magneto as magnetic a presence as ever, but good lord - the X-Men have a lot of other villains! Good lord!

Will the X-Men survive Apocalypse? Will cinema? X-Men: Apocalypse opens in the US May 27, 2016. You can expect some Apocalypse inspired comic book battles coming your way right here, too. Maybe we'll show 'em how it's done.

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