X-Men: Apocalypse (USA, 2016)

xmen_apocalypse_ver19Directed by: Bryan Singer. Having come along for the rest of the ride on this X-train, no reason to stop now I guess. And as far as these go, this was an okay instalment. Nothing particularly jumped out at me about it; it fulfils its generic function admirably, if perfunctorily. But one thing did strike me. I’ve been thinking about the idea (that I’ve brought up on this blog ad nauseum, sorry!) that old Hollywood classicism was forever destroyed by the New Young Filmmakers of the 60’s, by the culture shift itself in the 60’s, to the point where the only Casablancas we can make in the modern era are Star Wars movies, cloaked in CGI effects, set in far-flung realities, what Robert Ray called “campy Sci-Fi Casablanca parody”. This idea that the culture could no longer tell the stories and mythologize about the current mood of the culture, but can only regress into childhood, into ever more indirect and escapist distractions away from the modern moment, is an idea that appealed to the juvenile contrarianism that still thrives in me, but it’s an idea that I always felt difficulty with. For my generation, Star Wars was always there, and it was the bedrock of mythology-making in the culture. To put it shortly, I wondered what happened next? To someone who grew up watching the birth of cinema, it would be easy to dismiss the cultural events of 1977 to today as escapist, regressive, juvenalia that’s indicative of falling education standards, symptomatic of edu-tainment news organizations driven by profit instead of prestige, shorter-form attention spans induced by MTV-culture, the mainstreaming of cable and satellite and internet, a culture of shortly-flickering lights all competing for our attention with billion-dollar advertising budgets, and a million other things that a curmudgeon could cook up to roast the modern milieu. But as a person inside that milieu, I wondered if, to us, anything would even look different? I wondered, if a person left it long enough, would all of these postmodern gestures start to wear out and the culture would circle back on itself and start engaging in classicism again? And I’m not there yet, but a few things are clear—Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump came out in the same year, and were massively successful with the same audience, just like the latest Avengers movie, or this movie, did really well with the same audience that ate up Deadpool and Suicide Squad. What struck me watching this movie is that it begs to be taken seriously, but it’s ripe for a parody, know what I mean? The huge, grandiose scale, and the myth-building of it: these guys want to re-boot the X-universe and make an alternate timeline where they can keep making X-Men movies with these young actors. And we in the audience, myself included, would totally keep watching them. I don’t know what to do with that yet, but between this, and the trailer I saw for Hacksaw Ridge, and a million other things, I realized that classicism didn’t just disappear, earnestness didn’t just disappear—it’s been around possibly for the entire time. If the modern audience is “sophisticated” and jaded, so that we can “see through” that earnestness, or if it’s a cynical gesture that we feel earnestness and straightforward myth-making inside our self-conscious cultural products, then I’m inclined to just chalk that up to the particular character of 21st century classicism. I’m still getting my thick skull around this one, but all of this cheeseball shit is still there, and people still respond to it. This movie is just as shlocky and cheesy as any classical-Hollywood Bible epic or medieval knights movie. Movies like this still serve a purpose, and that purpose is mythical escapism told through cultural metaphors. Today, the metaphors are cloaked in CGI disasters and superhero capes instead of Western landscapes and Musical spectacles, and we haven’t found our Casablanca moment yet, but the backdrop is there.

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2 responses to “X-Men: Apocalypse (USA, 2016)

  1. Pingback: Doctor Strange (USA, 2016) | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2016 | Offhand Reviews·

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