Saturday, May 28, 2016

Frustrating Movies -- X-Men: Apocalypse

My relationship with the X-Men franchise started with a boy. My first boyfriend. He really wanted to see X-Men 2 and I went along with him after he whined a little. Before X-Men, I never was super into superheroes. I did like Spiderman but I said Spiderman was just the big exception. But the moment I saw Nightcrawler BAMFing everywhere, I knew I was in love.


Since then, I really liked the X-Men universe. I loved the characters and the hijinx they got into. I loved the frienemy friendship between Professor X and Magneto. I loved Magneto and the fact that even though he was a bad guy, you can see where he was coming from. His goal wasn't out of megalomania -- it was more about respect and protection. Misguided sure, but he was an interesting antagonist and an anti-hero. And at the time, I loved Wolverine. As I age, I find myself less interested with him but at the time I was a fan. I never stopped loving Nightcrawler though.

Magneto does what I want to do to Congress sometimes. SOMETIMES!

And I never really stopped loving the franchise, even during highs (X-Men Days of Future's Past) and lows (X-Men 3).

But X-Men: Apocalypse. I really wanted to be blown away. I really did. And instead, I decided to revive my frustrating movies series. Because it wasn't X-Men 3 bad but it wasn't super great either. The movie had wonderful moments and great choices but the missteps were big and distracting.

The movie starts with the somewhat origin of Apocalypse, the oldest mutant in the world, and how the Ancient Egyptians had him buried, hopefully to be forgotten. He rises in the 1980s and he chooses his Four Horseman -- street urchin Storm, sword for hire Psylocke, um... metal head hired fighter Angel I guess?, and Magneto -- and wants to destroy humanity to turn Earth into a mutant haven. So basically, Magneto's endgame but on steroids. Can the X-Men stop him? In the 80s???

Angel is so lame, I am not even gonna give him a section.

I decided to split the rest of the entry on what worked and what didn't. So, Spoilers below!


What Worked


Look at this lil scamp

I loved Quicksilver in Days of Future's Past. I never get tired of his trolling of everyone around him and how he executed that trolling by using his speedster abilities. His scenes were small but they easily stole the movie. However, I respect Singer for only using Quicksilver when he was needed. No need for Quicksilver to take over with his one gimmick like Castiel took over Supernatural.

He took over the FBI now? So glad I stopped watching

I was pleased to see Peter Maximoff returned to the movie but I feared he would become a one trick pony like those characters have a habit of doing. However, the screenwriter gave Quicksilver a character arc which kept him fresh and developed him as a character but also gave us fan servicey scenes that made us fall in love with him to begin with.

Loveable anarchist

I saw one online reviewer saying he felt it unbelievable that Quicksilver still lived in his mom's basement 10 years later. I... don't think it is that surprising. First off, Peter is a classic slacker. I can also see him falling into the existential crisis hole because of his abilities. What would be the point of working if any task given to you, you can finish in five minutes, for an example? Then, I'm sure when you see your father on TV, who you just broke out of the Pentagon and then he tried to kill the president, that is something that would take a lot to work through.

Peter goes to Xavier's School to find Magneto and to meet his father despite his mother advising him not to. "Nothing good will come out of having a relationship with him" she insisted, "But I can't stop you." Quicksilver arrives at the school and manages to use his ability to save everyone mid-explosion in a beautiful scene to Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics. I felt this defined Peter's character to show how much he grew. He didn't know these people yet saved all of them. Except Havoc.

When Quicksilver has his moment to tell Eric about his lineage and hopefully distract him enough to drop the large magnetic field, he chooses not to. It is like the words his mother said to him begin to ring in his ears. And he realized he won't figure out who he is by just talking to Magneto. That suddenly everything will make sense (another reason why he was a basement dweller for a decade) because he met one of his DNA donors. Also, he got to see what his father did when in pain -- he wasn't this strong man who had all the answers like he seemed to in DC.

He says at the end that one day he will tell Magneto, but  it has to be at the right time.

I imagine it would be like this (by Wacky06)

But, at least he moved out of his mom's basement maybe to live in Charles's basement, I don't know. But that is already a big bit of character development. So glad he did not become the franchise's Castiel.

Jean Grey

I'm not a fan of Jean Grey. I remember getting a huge comic fan friend pissed at me for saying that and even gave me the whole, "If you're a woman, you should like her!" But I never found her character particularly intriguing. She's an extremely powerful mutant who has two guys fighting for her. Okay? She's just so bland. I've been told the Dark Pheonix Saga is brilliant but still. I just never really liked her.

But I love Sophie Turner's Jean Grey. Maybe because she's young Jean and we get to see her before she gained more control over her powers. We get to see Jean vulnerable with this inner social awkwardness and fear about her abilities. We see her before she was the Big Woman On Campus. Now, we see her when everyone is afraid of her so she's pretty lonely as a result.

Jean should sit on the Iron Throne

Most importantly, we see her as a foil to Apocalypse. She is an extremely powerful mutant and Jean knows this. She fears it, something Mystique helps her to confront that fear. But more importantly, she has the good sense and empathy of when to use it. I'm sick of Wolverine but the scene of her giving back his memories worked really well (as long as you push aside the fact that Logan and Jean have a thing in the future). She is afraid of hurting people and her helping a stranger like that shows how she embodies the film's message of Great Power is all on how you use it. Use responsibly.

Charles Xavier Still Hates His Powers

Ever since First Class, Xavier's character development has always been treated well. I believe this is partially true due to James Mcavoy's performance. He loves playing Charles and you can tell. It's infectious. His crush on Moira is adorable. I was glad he gave back her memories.

We see him in this movie the closest he has ever been to the professor we all know and love. However, when gets into Apocalypse's head, there is one moment in particular that made me gasp. He says, "You want to know what goes inside my head? You want this?" And grabs Apocalypse's head to project a more chaotic cerebro. Why this moment worked so well is because while Charles had made peace with his abilities there still remains a part of him that hates it. There is part of him that didn't ask for this. Much like how Jean looks annoyed when she acknowledges knowing what everyone else feels, we see angry Charles at the fact he can connect with anyone.

It is another hook into the theme. Having great power is a BURDEN.

Michael Fassbender

I use the name of the actor and not Magneto because I have some issues with some of the choices made for Magneto's story line which I will discuss below. But man, Fassbender is an incredible actor. I still felt his pain even though he had a crappy fridging storyline to deal with.

SO ANGRY HOW BAD THIS SCENE WAS! Was probably his point of focus

Beast As The Bridge

Oh Beast. I just. I love everything about his portrayal. However, one thing I really liked how he is and was used in this part of the franchise is that he's sort of the bridge between Charles and Eric. On one side of the mutant debate we have Charles who believes in the good of everyone. On the other side, we have Eric who believes mankind is guided by fear and ultimately are dangerous to mutants. You can't trust them. Then there is Hank who believes that there are good in some people but not all. You should hope for the best but prepare for the worst. He is a much needed voice in a world of extremes.

The Action Scenes Were Good

I have no complaints here.

Storm was Mediocre

She wasn't great but she still was better than Halle Berry's passionless Storm.


Alan Cumming will always be awesome, but this Nightcrawler held a candle to him. He was adorbs and badass. Well done.

So wide-eyed and innocent

Psylocke's Costume

I just kinda liked the boots.

Most of the costume is like Whaaa? But those boots, man.

The Frustrating Part


This is probably a nitpick but kind of bothers me. 1980's Cairo is depicted like 1920's Cairo with 1950's style cars. More people were dressed traditionally than not and there was reference to cutting off the hands of thieves. Also, Egyptians speak a dialect of Arabic. There is no Egyptian language unless you're referencing Coptic which is a scholary language.

1980's Cairo wasn't stuck in some time warp. There are paved roads and the government then was secular. In fact, Egypt in the 1980s was almost militantly secular. Most people in Cairo at the time would dress in western style clothing. Yes, some would have opted for traditional ones, not saying there would be any, but I saw one or two people dressed in 1980s clothing? Additionally, what was all this talking about hand cutting? Because of the secular nature of the Egyptian government, they pretty much banned any too conservative religious bodies. Hand cutting is sadly more common now than it was in 1980s Egypt. Cairo in the 1980s was not Agrabah from Aladdin.

1980s Cairo. Paved roads. Modern cars. Still rundown buildings but you get the idea.

I mean, Cairo is a cool setting! It really is! But don't treat the country as backward in ways it wasn't.

The Fridging of Mrs. Magneto and Magnelet

In 1983, Eric seems to have found peace in Poland working in a factory, a married man, with an adorable fledgling mutant daughter. Then the villagers find out about Eric's past as he saved a man from almost being crushed by metal. They kidnap the daughter to bring him out into the woods and confront him. He said he'll go with them if they just let the girl go. They do. The daughter is upset so all her animal friends attack the villagers, causing one person to shoot a bow that shishkabobs daughter and wife, killing them. This motivates Eric to join Apocalypse.

Pictured: Magneto's motivation to join Apocalypse

As I said above, Michael Fassbender SELLS it. But it is really lame. First off, it is lazy storytelling. fridging is when a writer kills off a love interest or their child to shock them into action. I understand that the writer wanted Magneto to be one of the Four Horseman, however, you really don't have to go to that length. For Eric, his mistrust and anger at humans is always bubbling below the surface. To get him to join Apocalypse, you could have done so many other scenarios. Like what if Eric didn't tell his wife about his past? What if his daughter's mutant ability is subtle so easier to hide? What if he just saved the guy and everyone in the village makes the connection and they go after him trying to kill him?

All those are plausible reasons to cause Eric to turn to Apocalypse. And Fassbender would have sold it either way. But shishkabobing his wife and child on an arrow, not only is it DUMB but just kind of lazy.

So while Kurt, Scott, and Jean save the world, I assume Jubilee was Babysitting?

I honestly don't understand the point of adding Jubilee. She didn't use her powers. She had a few lines. And while seem seemed to bond with Jean, Scott, and Kurt, why wasn't she suddenly there when Striker showed up? Couldn't Jean, Scott, and Kurt have their mall adventure without Jubilee and lose nothing?

They spent more time figuring out her costume than her lines

The Climax

When Charles decided to go into Apocalypse's mind, all I could think was aw yes, Charles is gonna mess with Apocalypse, maybe find the most vulnerable part of him -- the good part because it is Charles. Already in my mind, I saw this kid who only had one power, to jump into other people's bodies. He was ostracized and vowed to become powerful. I guess we don't need villain backstories but this was an opportunity for it and also an opportunity for Charles to practice what he preached which that there is good in everyone.

Then I thought later, what about the guy who Apocalypse jumped into in the beginning -- Poe Dameron. Where does his consciousness go? Does it "die"? Or does it become a shadow of the subconscious mind? Wouldn't it have been cool if Charles or Jean somehow freed Poe Dameron and he helped with the mental assault?

Apocalypse wouldn't stand a chance

Then when Apocalypse was finally destroyed, it was purely because Jean just went Phoenix on him. Which I guess is to show power comes restraint?

I just felt the Climax was a little bit lazy. What was special about Jean's powers that it could destroy an immortal being?

The climax made Charles a hypocrite because he always said there was good in everyone. But apparently not in Apocalypse. He was the exception. If anything, the climax proved Beast and Mystique right, which I guess is kind of cool. But it would have been cooler if Charles admitted to that. Which he didn't.


In Conclusion

I'm missing a few things. Like for one, timeline issues. I'm willing to handwave Magneto and the others looking young for people born in the 30s because mutants. I mean, Magneto almost always looks young in the comics even with his birth timeline placing him born in the 1930s. It's shaky but I'll take it. I have a hard time reconciling Havoc and Cyclopes brotherly though. Just messing with the timeline stuff? I guess? I don't know? Couldn't they just make Havoc that cool uncle instead?

Anyway, I don't hate his movie. It is not X-Men 3 or Wolverine Origins. But it is not near X-2 or Days of Future's Past or First Class. I will watch it again because there is so much snarkbait. SO MUCH. But what is so frustrating is it could have been good but it had so many problems.

Like I don't think people realize Apocalypse once jumped into the body of a mutant who had the abilities to make era appropriate superhero costumes out of thin air.

He has good taste in boots

Diehard fans will probably like this movie. If you're not and the kind of person to get hung up on details, you probably won't like it. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Lisa the Iconoclast and Busting Family Lore

I know it has been another span of time before I wrote in this. I'm trying to be consistent but life gets away from me and I'll end up getting hyper-focused on something else.

Like lately, I've been obsessing in and tracing my own family story as far back as the site's many databases would let me. I even ordered and got the results from the DNA test... more on that later.

First, though, I want to talk (and geek!) a bit about "family lore". Like a lot of Americans, my family always had this way to talking about the ancestors and how in the old world they did these certain things and then they came to America and did these different things. Mostly, it is a glowing review. One line came in the 1620s and settled Massachusetts Bay Colony. Many fought against the British in the 1770s. Abolitionists. Tons of Abolitionists. Oregon Trail travelers. Italians that saw the Statue of Liberty as they floated into New York City. And probably like way too many, Native American blood from the Huron Tribe.

I knew there was a reason I liked this game.

I grew up proud of these anecdotes. Yes, I was aware Americans were not perfect. I knew about the dark chapters of American history but there was no way any of my family was involved in any of that.

Well, as I went through ancestry, I found myself busting a lot of those family myths.

One of the first ones happened with that Puritan line. That line came to Massachusetts in 1623ish, a man named Phillip and his six kids and wife. Of his six kids, my line comes from Joseph. Joseph was a yeoman, which is just an old tymey way of saying farmer. He had his kids -- I found some criminal records on  him (apparently for public disturbance -- he, his brother, and his brother-in-law were drinking a lot and being loud -- some things never change if you know my family).

Pictured: Probably my ancestor -- you lush

Then he died on May 19, 1676 in what is now Deerfield, MA. What was happening in Deerfield, MA on that date? A Native American Massacre. At the time, I'm sure he was hailed a hero as this was during King Phillip's War (no relation). But they killed mostly women and children and it was yet another battle in a string of battles that contributed to a destruction of a people.

Of course, my hyper imagination, I made up a story about the line being cursed since then -- because many of Joseph's descendants died in asylums (although it could be due to tuberculosis). But the curse is lifted because my great-grandfather in this line did a heroic deed during WWI, that is verifiable. He received the Croix de Guerre for flying in a plane before Air Force was a thing and mapped German positions while under fire.

I'm not sure what is more terrifying, being in one of these or being shot at

The thing about this story is no one in my family mentioned it. One of my relatives said I must have gotten the wrong Joseph but I kept on looking through primary sources and I'm pretty sure it is him.

Another Family Lore busted is that we had ancestors who fought against the British during the American Revolution. There is a few in different lines that did. However, I found a Loyalist (and probably a con-artist too).

In the 1700s, one of my great-etc grandfathers was a man named David Springer. He lived in Schenectady, NY. He had something like 15 children and a rather large bit of property. He said he was descend from the Delaware Springers who were founders of New Sweden. During the 1770s, David tried to get a bunch of locals to form a Loyalist militia and go bash the heads of some Yankees. A Yankee militia in the area confronted him, executed him on his front yard, and imprisoned his 4 eldest sons. Most of the rest of his children and wife fled to Canada.

There is even a plaque about the occasion.

Just as you would thinking being an executed Loyalist would be enough to bust this whole saintly ancestors myth, he probably was a con artist. A generation later, his descendants tried to get some of the Springer inheritance but the Springers of Delaware said they never heard of a David. It's been a point of conjecture for many genealogists. Some speculated that maybe they didn't like David because of his love of the crown. However, DNA tests of David's descendants do not match the Springers of Delaware. Even as I got my DNA test back, I only have trace amounts of Scandinavian which could have easily mixed in with the Irish or English during Viking raids or during Danelaw period.

The mystery of David Springer's line really bothers me. I traced his made up line but who knows where he really came from. And really his line of doing questionable things during war time doesn't stop there.

His daughter marries an Irishman in Canada with the last name Treanor. They chill in Canada for a generation then his son, Oliver moves to Iowa, farming with the best of them. Then, his son James joins up with the Union during the Civil War. He also lied about his age -- probably didn't want to be a drummer. He did serve with his unit for a year but deserted around Shiloh. Next thing I see, he appeared in California territory.

So I have a Loyalist and a Union deserter, just in one line. To be fair, I read about James's unit. They seemed more like King Arthur and his crew in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Like for instance, they were forced to retreat because one of the Confederates shot a bee hive over their formation.


 But also, James did lie about his age to serve which meant he probably did think it was a good cause-- but probably wasn't prepared for how hard life really is. I did find the paperwork of the government forgiving his AWOL and even allowing him to have a Civil War veteran marker.

James did seem to have a successful business in California, so good for him.

I managed to bust a bit of Family Lore. But here is a big one -- Native American Blood. Everyone loves to claim Native American blood. I feel like it is this subconscious desire to justify belonging here in a former colony. My mother insisted that we did and my grandfather had the paperwork to back it up. I haven't found it yet -- but in many places, I'm going off based on names.

The DNA test didn't show any Native American markers. It did show Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, and Caucasus markers which opened up a whole new mystery. I have an Italian line. My great-grandfather came here from southern Italy. But I had no Italian markers. I'm not able to search further back from his father. I suspect Sicilian blood but I haven't been able to verify it yet outside circumstantial evidence. And it could be I just didn't get any of it passed down. Same with the Native American blood. The Family Lore COULD be true.

What did I learn from this? Well, recently, I've been rewatching the old Simpsons episodes. There is one episode I feel is extremely relevant called Lisa the Iconoclast. In this episode, Springfield is celebrating their Founders Day, Sprinfield's founder being Jebadiah Sprinfield. He has this American Folk Hero Story to him but everyone still has admiration for him.

Pictured -- David Springer probably

Lisa does some research on him and discovers the town founder is actually a pirate and criminal Hans Sprungfeld who tried to kill George Washington. She tries to shut down the Founder's Day Celebration calling it a sham. But then she noticed how just the myth is able to bring out the best in people and chooses not to tell what she learned.

Filled with so much hope and optimism

 I somewhat agree with that sentiment. Myths have power -- often as much as the truth. Like George Washington was a mercurial man with a horrible temper but what he represents is important too. I may have found a drunk Native American killer, a Loyalist con-artist, and a Civil War deserter in my line but still the overall American story of my family sometimes leaving everything to come here to start a new life is still an industrious story that you can draw inspiration from.

I understand why people tend to hide these things -- either it wasn't a big deal at the time or the details get muddied from generation to generation. But even the mistakes of our ancestors are worth learning about. For one, it's a great story; for another, you are more than just the line of blood you come from. And you can rise above it.