A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

X-Men: Apocalypse (Bryan Singer, 2016)

Oscar Isaac is one of my favorite actors. I loved his work in Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013), A Most Violent Year (J.C. Chandor, 2014), Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015), and on the HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero (2015). He even managed to stand out in all the whiz-bang and nostalgia of the latest Star Wars installment. But I sat through the entirety of X-Men: Apocalypse without realizing, until his name appeared in the credits, that he was the one beneath all the makeup and prosthetics as En Sabah Nur, aka Apocalypse. Which makes me wonder: Why bother? Casting an actor of such skill and versatility in a role that could have been played by anyone willing to sit through hours of applying and removing body paint, silicone, and foam latex seems to me a waste of valuable resources. But I guess the same thing could be said about the entire film if you ignore the return the producers got on their estimated $178 million investment. When a film this size feels routine, something has gone awry, and X-Men: Apocalypse is nothing if not routine. There are things I enjoyed about it, like the special effects when Quicksilver (Evan Peters) rescues almost everyone from the explosion that destroys the institute. The trick of seeing everything as Quicksilver sees it -- i.e., as time standing still while he moves at superspeed, dashing from room to room to haul occupants to safety -- is nicely done. And there are good performances from Peters, from James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr, Jennifer Lawrence as Raven, Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler. I enjoyed seeing Sophie Turner (as the latest iteration of Jean Grey) in something other than Game of Thrones and Hugh Jackman in an unbilled (and extremely violent) cameo as Logan/Wolverine. But there's a kind of heartlessness and thoughtlessness about it, too often characteristic of the superhero blockbuster movie genre, that my experience amounted to a kind of déjà vu. I just hope Isaac got paid well.  

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