‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ vs ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ Which Is The Better Film?
So the new Wolverine film, “Logan” seems to be doing pretty well and as is surprisingly common with this series the future is not certain for the X-Men.
They may have kick-started the genre for many in the mainstream, but they certainly didn’t start the Marvel Studios method of planning out their series. Now Bryan Singer is said to have had some ideas and plans for X-Men 3 after completing “X2: X-Men United.” However, as he left to do his dream project of “Superman Returns” the writers and new director Brett Ratner went in their own direction. The result, “X-Men: The Last Stand” while not necessarily awful or panned at the time it was a disappointment and huge step down from the last two films. After years of getting through the highs and lows, Bryan Singer came triumphantly back to the franchise to direct “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” In my personal opinion the best film of the series.
Some see that film as a “fixing” of the damage Ratner did to his franchise while Singer was away. I get the compulsion though it can come off as a bit silly when you consider “The Last Stand” is far from the worst film in the franchise, but please let’s not waste anymore time on “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Still the point I’m getting at here is that despite the obvious dig Singer took at Ratner in the last film, “X-Men: Apocalypse” when Jean says, “at least we can all agree the third one is always the worst.” They are oddly similar in many respects. They came after 2 much better received films, they’re competently made films with some amazing untapped potential next to scenes that just make you want to yell out “WHAT?!” in disbelief. So is one worse? Are they of the same level? Let’s go over a comparison and find out.
Comic Book Action
Like it or not while the comics themselves take on all sorts of genres, film adaptions of such work are only action films. That could be changing, but that’s a discussion for another day. As such, it only makes sense to discuss how these films handle it. Neither Singer nor Ratner are renowned for their skills at directing action. Even though both have made successful action films. Personally I find the whole “Bryan Singer can’t direct action” thing silly. I mean EVERY X-Men film that he directed has one action scene everyone discusses. The first film it was the Wolverine vs Mystique fight. “X2” had Wolverine’s rampage in the mansion. Not only that, but I distinctly remember how everyone wouldn’t shut up about the Nightcrawler fight in the White House for years afterwards. “Days of Future Past” had the Quicksilver fight in the Pentagon kitchen.
While I wouldn’t call him a master can we please put this idea to rest? In “Apocalypse” they essentially did a bigger version of the Quicksilver scene again. This time bigger and in my opinion with a better song choice. In general, I liked how much bigger the action as the others had smaller budgets than what we’re now used to. However, they always did a good job at containing it and keeping the emotional aspect of the films at the biggest focus. Although that is not to say I liked all the action. Mainly I wasn’t a fan of them using the “Fan4stic” method of defeating Apocalypse with everyone using their powers at once. It just feels lazy and basic for a major film. At the time of release “X-Men: The Last Stand” was considered a much grander action film than the last two. I’ll admit I was unbelievably hyped when I realized they were in the Danger Room at the beginning of the film. I was waiting to see that realized ever since I first heard they were making X-Men into a film.
I’ll also admit I liked Wolverine’s plan. The films never really adapted this aspect of him, but Wolverine is a smart guy in the comics. He’s been alive for ages and a trained master in a ton of fighting styles. When he’s not in berserker mode he’s quite capable of planning good attacks. And with the films having Magneto use his powers over Logan in every encounter it was great to see Wolverine finally pull one over him. Plus while I love Wolverine he is overused in the films so it was also great that this plan required a group effort with the others. That being said the entire fight before this of an army of evil mutants versus an army of soldiers and the X-Men sounds like it should be cool. I’d be hard pressed to be able to describe much of the fight. There just wasn’t anything special about it. So while neither exactly wow me they’re both not terrible. But as we all know even in an action flick the… action is not the most important thing.
Winner: “X-Men: Apocalypse”
Use of Characters
Here’s the thing about the X-Men as a franchise. The powers and creativity thereof is awesome. Their rogue’s gallery is one of the best of all comics. They have characters so amazing yet so many that we may never get to them all in the films. Action with X-Men is cool and all, but it’s the characters and their interactions off each other that make it into what we all know and love. It’s something a X-Men film better get right.
I’ll start with what I liked from each film. Surprisingly Brett Ratner did a good job casting wise. For Beast we have Dr Frasier Crane himself Kelsey Grammer. Now Beast is a fan favorite and certainly one I had been waiting to see. He looked pretty spot-on for a film adaptation while Grammer really got his character down to a T. They even got his and Wolverine’s friendship down which is more than can be said for Nightcrawler and Wolverine in “X2.” We also had another fan favorite character, Kitty Pride finally graduates from Easter egg to an actual character played by a young Ellen Page. This was before “Juno” so most of us had no idea she was about to become a major actress. Also, we all know Bryan Singer obviously liked these choices because when he returned for “Days of Future Past” they reprised their roles. Now you may argue he was just following continuity, but the entire point of the film was to erase “X-Men: The Last Stand” from the timeline. So he had no problem with recasting certain parts, but kept these particular ones.
However, that’s not all for “The Last Stand” with great character moments like when Pyro is mouthing off about Xavier’s death and Magneto immediately stands up for him. “Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you will ever know.” Magneto and Xavier’s relationship is one of the best and most fascinating of all comics. They’re enemies, but they’re still friends. They are the greatest threat to each other’s goals. Yet, neither wants to kill the other under any circumstances. Even after Xavier has died and Magneto is so close to seeing his dream come true he still can’t stand to hear someone badmouth Charles. It’s probably the best moment in the film. He has a number of great moments. Earlier when one of the Morlocks asks him if he’s so proud of being a mutant then where’s his mark? Magneto calmly replies, “Oh I have a mark.” then reveals his Auschwitz arm tattoo. Then resolutely says no needle will ever touch him again. I know I shouldn’t, but I kinda wanted to cheer for him at that moment.
Now in a movie called “Apocalypse” you better get a good version of Apocalypse, how did they do? Just okay honestly. Apocalypse was one of my favorite villains in comics and he was Okay in this. I did like how they did the costume. It’s an odd one for film, but by doubling down on the Egyptian style I thought it was pretty interesting. Oscar Isaac was very good even though with a better script he probably would have been great. I like that they tried to give Cyclops more of a personality even though it didn’t always work. Really the only “new” character I thought they nailed was Nightcrawler. I still don’t get why they want to ignore the fact Mystique is his mom, but whatever. I LOVED Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler in “X2” to the point I didn’t really have much faith in them recasting. However, Kodi Smit-McPhee (Norman from “ParaNorman”) did an awesome job. I never really found myself wishing for Alan Cumming though I wouldn’t complain if it did happen. That’s about it as the rest weren’t really interesting enough to comment on.
I could compare Angels. He is an interesting character in the comics, but both film versions were very boring and wouldn’t affect the film if they had left him out. So that’s what I’ll do. So the only real complaint I had character-wise in “Last Stand” was how they introduced Trask, but never really used him. When I heard someone else in the movie call Bill Duke’s character Trask I got so excited! Sentinels? Could we have Sentinels in the X-Men films outside the Danger Room scene? Nope. There was no reason for this guy to have been Trask. He’s on their side and doesn’t even seem to be a scientist. Now this not a complaint against Bill Duke as he is an awesome actor. I get the idea of naming a random character after a recognizable one from the comics. They did it with Henry Peter Gyrich in the first film, but again Trask is the one who built the Sentinels. They’re one of the biggest threats to the X-Men. You can’t just throw that kind of a name out, it was just teasing us fans.
With “Apocalypse” there weren’t a lot of stand outs in good or especially terrible characters. However, Sophie Turner as young Jean Grey was awful. The character didn’t feel anything like Jean from the other films, but beyond that the actress was just plain bad. Between this and “Terminator Genisys” I really don’t know what to make of “Game of Thrones” female actors. There was also the problem of yet AGAIN bringing William Stryker into the story. I think it was just to get Wolverine’s cameo into the film. Now I’m of two minds about this scene. On the one hand I completely agree with most other people’s comments of it. The scene is pointless and naked in its desire to just make sure Wolverine was in the film. But on the other hand IT’S AWESOME! We’d really see this fully realized in “Logan” but we got quite a bit more violence and blood than in most Wolverine rampages in film. More importantly (to me anyways) was seeing Wolverine in the Weapon-X outfit which is something I never thought they’d have in a movie. It was a better in a few minutes than the entire film of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” As if I needed another reason to hate that film.
Winner: “X-Men: Last Stand”
It all comes down to story. Both of these films commit one of my biggest pet peeves which is bringing up interesting subjects to explore in a film, but NOT DOING ANYTHING WITH IT! “X2” had practically (but not actually) ended with text on the screen saying “WE’RE DOING THE PHOENIX SAGA IN THE NEXT FILM!” It’s considered one of the best story arcs in X-Men comics so of course everyone was hyped. However, even making it in the more grounded style of the films would have been incredibly expensive. I think a lot of people forget that until recently the X-Men films haven’t had huge budgets. At least compared to the current MCU and DCEU films. Heck even as recently as “Deadpool” they’ve been giving themselves smaller budgets. As such, they felt they needed another story to keep it smaller until the climax. They settled on the storyline of the “cure.”
Now the story of X-Men is that it’s an allegory for being black, gay whatever minority group that just wants to live but there are a bunch of assholes who hate them because they’re different. But a black or gay person CANNOT change, it doesn’t work like that. However, if some sort of “cure” was created you better believe it would be a big thing. But the film just never does anything with it. Storm states her opinion that there’s nothing to cure and you’d have to be a coward to take it. Beast who doesn’t necessarily agree with it still counters with a really cowardice to want to be normal. It’s one thing when you can pass as human, but others have to struggle with never being able to fit in. Now that debate probably sounds interesting to you, right? Well I hope you enjoyed it because neither the character nor story ever really bring it up again. Sure Rogue goes to get it. However, for a series that is constantly preaching that no matter what anyone else says mutants ARE humans; it’s kind of shitty to see Rogue go through with it and rubs you the wrong way. Again it makes sense for her to want it, but the only reason the writers did it was because Anna Paquin wasn’t available for most of the shoot so they had to find a way to take her out of a majority of the story.
It’s better than what they did for the other actors who had limited availability or contracts expiring which is why this film is such a bloodbath. They kill off Xavier, Jean, and Cyclops. FYI if a big Wolverine fan is saying the way you killed off Cyclops is harsh, you really need to rethink things. I’ll say probably the biggest flaw with the film is that they chose to make the Phoenix a split personality as opposed to an alien force. The Dark Phoenix taking over Jean should be like something out of “The Exorcist” it’s a possession by a malevolent force. Jean herself is a total victim, we like her. With “The Last Stand” she’s really just a woman with mental health issues that’s still treated like evil which feels wrong given how misunderstood people with mental disorders already are.
So let’s compare that to the flaws in “Apocalypse.” Well I don’t know if this necessarily is a flaw, but such a weird decision on their part. I mean did we really need “The Origin of Charles Xavier’s Baldness!?” They could have just simply shown James McAvoy with a bald spot on the top of his head or the receding hairline. Or how about this? Don’t even bother with it because we’re freaking smart enough to understand that some people lose their damn hair. The film just feels like it was rushed to reach a deadline. It doesn’t balance all of its characters as well as the other Singer directed films (example: I think they kill off Angel at the end and no one seems to care). Its story has a bunch of not fully formed ideas that it doesn’t take far enough. I like the idea of future heroes like Storm being one of the Four Horsemen, but Charles knows she’s someone they need to save because he was told by Wolverine in the last film. Sadly they didn’t do anything with that. One really cool aspect of Apocalypse was how he presented himself as a teacher to the mutants he found. He was almost like an anti-Xavier. Xavier genuinely cares about his students and helping them whereas to Apocalypse they’re just a means for him to enact his plans. He looks for these powerful lost souls to use.
One part I thought was mostly good was Magneto’s story arc. So he’s gone into hiding, married a human woman, lives in an isolated town and works in a steel mill. He uses his powers to save someone at the mill despite knowing it could put him in danger. Presumingly his humanity is being forced out. Apparently someone at the mill notices and figures out who he is and tells the authorities. They come to arrest him and in the process accidentally kill his wife and daughter. He of course kills them in anger and even returns to the mill to figure out who told the police before massacring them all. Then, Apocalypse comes to recruit him and even helps him unlock his full potential. He feeds on Magneto’s anger to make him into a stronger weapon for himself. Magneto’s humanity is gone and the whole world will pay the price.
As you can imagine Michael Fassbender acts the crap out of this. It could be its own film. They even have a fantastic possible end to this with Quicksilver coming back into the picture. He now knows Magneto is his father. He’s there at the final battle where they must find a way to bring him back from the darkness. He’s there to tell Erik that he is his son. Magneto thinks he has lost everything, his whole family, he is alone. But there is a beacon of light with his son he didn’t know existed. The ending to this arc practically writes itself. BUT NO! For some Goddamn reason Quicksilver gets cold feet at the end and no one else says anything. What?! Why? What possible reason would you have to not follow through on that plot point you’ve been building up to? This isn’t a red herring, they just choose not to have a proper conclusion. The ONLY thing I can figure is that they didn’t want to be predictable, but when that comes at the expense of good storytelling/character material you really need to rethink that. While that last part annoys me in particular I have to admit most of my issues with “X-Men: Apocalypse” are minor. It just prevents it from being the better film it easily could have been. “X-Men: Last Stand” has issues that just doesn’t make it function. Good ideas are in there, but it needed some more serious rewrites to save it.
Winner: “X-Men: Apocalypse”
In my opinion “X-Men: Apocalypse” is a better film than “X-Men: The Last Stand,” but not by as big of a margin as I would expect. This is a little weird as I don’t own “Apocalypse” but thanks to a Christmas present I do own “Last Stand.” They both feel as though there was potential to make good movies, but needed more time to refine the script. Still at least we can all come together from all our different walks of life to hate on “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” I say we all go “Office Space” on its ass!