Since this is the year of superhero and comic book based movies, it’s only fair that we’ve been talking about them quite a bit. I was going to take a break from doing so after Civil War‘s awesomeness, but I’ve barely had a chance to because another is on the horizon: X-Men Apocalypse.
As I talked about in my post at the beginning of the year, this is one of the movies I’m most looking forward to. I’m a little hesitant now because of some of the movies I’ve seen so far this year. Deadpool was awesome, but I wasn’t sure what to expect with it, so I was happy. Batman vs. Superman was the essence of mediocrity. And Captain America: Civil War blew my expectations out of the water and pleasantly surprised me with how fantastic it was.
Unfortunately for me while watching a trailer for Apocalypse today, I saw that the reviews coming in from people who have seen it have been very mediocre, to say the least. Currently on Rotten Tomatoes it’s at a middle of the road 50%. As far as action movies go, it could be far worse. What I’ve noticed is that the less than thrilled responses tend to come from the fact that people have very different expectations for comic book movies, and a lot of different factors go into those expectations.
I’ll be honest, I think the last time I picked up a comic book was when I was ten or younger. At some point I became less interested in them. But I did watch the Saturday morning cartoon versions in my youth, and am broadly familiar with the source material, especially in regards to X-Men. However, this new trilogy of X-Men movies has been using newer comic book story lines, as well as taking liberties with characters (one of the largest critiques has been the larger role Mystique has been playing in these movies).
Personally, it hasn’t bothered me because the stories and characters have been well-written and compelling. After the fiasco that was X-Men: The Last Stand, I’ve found that I shouldn’t expect them to honor the story lines established in the comics or cartoons. Entering the theatre with that expectation has helped keep me from letting filmmaker-driven variations bother me too much. The reality of film-making is that every writer and director is going to want to make the film their own creation, even if it is based in very solid, beloved source material. That’s just how the industry works.
Serious Dramas vs. Action Movies
I also tend to view superhero movies as “popcorn” fare and enter them with lower expectations for whether or not they will make me think. If I want to see a compelling, thought-provoking drama that handles serious subject matter in a mature manner, I’ll look for it in an art house movie and not an action flick.
That’s not to say that the stories of comic book movies do not handle serious subject matter. X-Men story lines are full of allegories for society and how it handles people that are different, tackling issues like wanting to register certain groups of people and possibly even deem them as a threat that needs to be eliminated or kept segregated. Most X-Men films have contained references to Magneto’s origin as a survivor of the Holocaust because they go on to use it as a parallel to the discrimination and fear that mutants face.
However, the way that the serious subject matter is handled in superhero movies varies from how it is handled in an art house film. You’re more likely to see the thought-provoking material dissected in the middle of an epic, CGI-filled fight to the death between two opposing factions or schools of thought. Civil War did this very well. Batman vs. Superman… I think there was an underlying issue? I’m still not sure what the point was of that one. It’s a perfect example of an action movie that tried to handle serious material, but definitely dropped the ball and muddled its point.
Expectations & Actions Movies
Coming from a film background, I go into action movies with a different attitude than I do other films. As far as they go, so long as the story makes sense and wraps up its loose ends, I’m satisfied that it was a good film. Throw in some compelling acting, fun quips, and impressive action sequences and I’ll be even happier. I think the precedent in expectations that is beginning to be set is that the superhero movies will be held to the same standard as Oscar contenders. Unfortunately, except for the technical Oscars, that is probably still not the standard to which we should be holding comic book movies. Reading some reviews, I often wonder what people are expecting of what are essentially glorified popcorn films (I use that phrase lovingly). As action movies go, superhero movies have more story and compelling characters than the latest installment in the Transporter series. But to expect that they will be the best movie ever, every time, is a little unrealistic.
Honestly, I’m still hoping that Apocalypse and the rest of the comic book movies coming out this year are able to live up to the hype. For me, though, my expectations are to be entertained, have something to talk about with friends, and enjoy some popcorn with nacho cheese in a theatre on the weekend with P. Because there’s not really much else to do in this town.