Sam Strange Remembers: X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

But do YOU remember X-MEN: APOCALYPSE?

In the last ten years, making big, dumb comic book movies has grown much more stressful. People now want them to make sense, have continuity, develop characters. Fans get so crazy over it, dissenting opinions can earn folks styrofoam-sword death threats. Who wants that pressure?

So thank God for the X-Men. For whatever reason, you can do whatever you want with these dumb movies and no one gives a shit. Don’t like an actor? Boom! Hire someone else. Want to go a direction that breaks continuity? Boom! Those past movies no longer exist. Want to suddenly give a character a whole backstory? Boom! Just pretend that nonexistent movie DOES exist. People don’t seem to care. Need more booms? Boom! Boom.

With that in mind, one can see why I’d be eager to do more of these, if only to have a little vacation. They do actually have some rules, however:

For one, each has to be a period piece set ten years after the movie preceding it. Unless that movie is a standalone. Also, alternate timelines count. Also also, this doesn’t have to amount to anything more than haircuts.

Two, your movie has to have super-powered mutants. These are the main characters. There are only about 16 different mutants in this universe, so if you kill or change one in any fundamental way, you must totally erase it in the next movie. Or recast. Or just forget it.

Three, stupid non-mutants will try to kill mutants. Bad mutants will want to kill them back. Good mutants must fight against that urge and keep stupid humans safe even though no one really makes a strong case for their protection.

That’s about it. These movies aren’t really about anything. It’s way more like “this is the one where” and then whatever tiny thing sticks out in your memory. X-Men: Apocalypse is the one where they fight a guy named Apocalypse.

Apocalypse is supposedly the first mutant. That makes him different. Most mutants get their powers through genetic evolution, i.e. Darwin. Apocalypse gets his just by seeing shit, i.e. Lamarck.

In his heyday, Apocalypse was treated as a god. He’d often have to transfer his body into some hot stud. But usually just on weekends. Sometimes though, he did it when his body was about to die of old age.

At one point he does this right when an anti-Apocalypse group decides to drop a pyramid on his face. So while the human race does its thing, mostly killing each other and growing mutants for thousands of years, Apocalypse has to sit under a shitload of pyramid lamenting his failure to ever run into a guy with pyramid lifting powers.

Meanwhile: The X-Men! They all hang out at a high school run by Charles Xavier, aka Professor X. Not only does he run the school, but he’s also a teacher. He’s in a wheelchair so he has the students sit around him in a circle, and he lectures while endlessly spinning in place. Since he’s the head honcho, no one can complain about spending most of the class looking at the back of his head or how incomprehensible he gets due to dizziness.

Most of the other teachers from previous movies are kids now. There’s Jean Grey, who is like Professor X only more powerful and twice as awkward around boys. There’s Scott Summers, who shoots destructive lasers out of his ears and has to wear special earmuffs. And there’s… actually that’s about it. Oh yeah, there’s Beast! He’s like the school’s permanent TA.

So things aren’t really kicking at the school. Most mutants don’t hang out there at all. For instance, Magneto. He works at an all-gay sparks factory in Europe, just chilling out with his wife and daughter from the previous film X-Men: Private Prom. One day he gets caught whistling “Wichita Lineman” and his coworkers begin to suspect he’s not gay at all. Sure enough, local cops discover his secret wife and accidentally shoot her and the kid with 100 wood-tipped arrows (Europe). Magneto drops the entire sparks factory on their heads. Somewhere a tear falls down Rip Taylor’s face.

In Germany, Mystique realizes Nightcrawler hasn’t been refound as a kid in this series yet, so she decides to go rescue him from a mutant fighting pit where he is up against Angel. Mystique can’t remember if that guy’s been in one of these movies or not, so she just leaves him. She and Nightcrawler, who can teleport places, spend the next few days walking around, just getting reacquainted with each other and trying to find that place in Hamburg where The Beatles got their start.

Meanwhile, the pesky US government starts excavating pyramids and happen upon Apocalypse’s tomb, waking him in the process. He comes across a lady named Storm who can affect weather. That’s cool, but she also has a flat, a TV and pop-ice, so he hangs at her place for weeks, learning of humanity from watching television.

While this is going on, Mystique and Nightcrawler finally walk all the way to the school. Mystique has an awkward reunion with Beast because neither can remember if they ever did it or not, followed by an awkward reunion with Professor X because neither can remember if they ever did it or not. Then she sees a picture of Magneto, which makes her feel awkward because she can’t remember if they ever did it or not.

Nightcrawler also has a rough time. He and Scott and Jean and some other girl who can’t speak go to the mall and try to be fun kids. But he’s all blue and weird looking. He might have gone out there with some mutant pride, but the only other blue people he knows are Mystique and the Beast, and they spend most of their time pretending to not be blue at all. The suicide hotlines he calls hang-up on him, thinking it’s a prank and his accent is sounds fake.

Back in TV Land, the final episode of M*A*S*H breaks Apocalypse’s heart, and he decides he can no longer stand the world as it is. He immediately starts looking for powerful mutants to help him take over. He can only have four. Storm’s just standing there, so he starts with her. Then he goes for the pissed off Magneto. Pretty good get. After that, pickings grow slim. He finds that Angel guy, whose only power is having wings. Next some lady who can make lightsabers with her brain. Only when it’s already too late does he learn about Professor X and his school of two or three students, all with way cooler powers.

So he kidnaps the Professor. More than anything, he wants the Professor’s powers, so instead of having to watch all that television, he can just read people’s memories of this or that show. But to do this he must occupy the Professor’s body. It’s a tough call because the Professor has no legs and can’t have sex and will clearly become bald soon. Apocalypse ponders this when he’s not distracted by Sam and Diane’s will-they-won’t-they.

Before he can make a decision, Earmuff guy, Nightcrawler, Beast and Jean Grey show up to stop him. They wrestle with three of his badasses while Magneto levitates every rock on Earth for some reason. Mystique tries to talk him out of it, but her emotional connection to him is strained, again, by the fact that they’re not sure if they ever did it or not.

None of this matters because Jean Grey is stronger than all of them. Once she gets pissed enough, she simply burns Apocalypse up, and the whole thing suddenly ends. Everyone goes back home and pretends none of it ever happened. So did I. So did you. But somewhere out there, Apocalypse’s spirit floats around, wondering if he’ll ever find out who shot J.R.

(three stars)