ByDaniel Blick, writer at
Arthouse Film/Superheroes/Tommy Wissou enthusiast
Daniel Blick

A large part of what made me fall in love with Brian Synger's 2014 release; X-Men: Days of Future Past was it's 70s theme. Having the majority of the movie set in the 70s re-invigorated the franchise and gave it a visual appeal that it had never had before. The bright colours, smooth soundtrack, wacky shirts, water beds, lava lamps and ostentatious cars really placed me slap-dash in the middle of the 70s, and as such, slap-dash in the middle of the movie. Hugh Jackman's side-burns were made to be put in a 70s film. A personal obsession with the 70s meant that I had a natural bias in favour for the film before it ever really got started. And if there's one era I find more fascinating than the 70s, it's the 80s! So you could imagine my excitement when it was revealed that Days of Future Past's successor; X-Men: Apocalypse would be set in the 80s! If Hugh Jackman's chomps were made for the 70s, then the X-Men's yellow spandex outfits were made for the 80s. I was ready for neon lights, hair-spray, shoulder-pads, sneaker obsessions and enough cheesy pop-rock to shake a light-sabre at. Instead I got a movie with a watered down 80s theme that appeared to regularly forget where it was actually set and instead fell more into a 'timeless' setting - and not in a good way! And if there's one thing the 80s isn't, it's watered down.

The Good

Ok, before we get to the bad stuff, let's see what they did right. A few of the characters went to see Return of the Jedi at the theatre. I personally would argue Star Wars is a franchise that transcends the 80s and that a film like Back to the Future for example would have been better suited. But I will also admit that's knit-picking at it's finest. Return of the Jedi is a classic 80s film and I commend them for adding that easter egg. Nightcrawler's thriller jacket was also pretty on-point, so were most of the jackets actually. And the whole Reagan/Cold War element to the story was an astute reflection of the political environment many lived through in that era.

The Bad

However, despite these pros, there was a lot of room for improvement. I never at any point felt like I was actually in the 80s. This is disappointing given that for me personally, the X-Men personifies the 80s. Whereas trailers for the film looked overly saturated, but in a good way, because you know - the 80s, the film itself looked drab and grey in most scenes. I could be wrong, but I have a feeling studio execs got their paws on this movie and responded to criticism to the trailer's over-saturation by toning it down, literally. The entire film in fact felt toned down when it came to it's 80s setting. The soundtrack didn't feel particularly 80s, neither did the storyline nor any of the characters. They looked more like contemporary actors playing a half-hearted game of fancy-dress in a big mansion. Where were the cheesy one-liners, neo-noire atmosphere, cyber-punk settings, wacky hair-dos, or epic soundtrack? Not even one Prince song? One? As a result Apocalypse fell flat in atmospheric tone, replacing a strong 80s theme with no theme at all. And I believe the film suffered from it.

And The 'What could have beens'

Where were the yellow latex suits? Following the success of Days of Future Past, and given that they've already featured yellow suits in the cinematic franchise before (First Class) I assumed it'd be a given that we'd get some classic 80s spandex for this classic 80s super squad. And it wasn't only the heroes to get 'de-eightiesfide'. Pictured below is allegedly the mask that could have been used for the main antagonist; Apocalypse. Although I didn't hate what he ended up wearing in the movie as much as some, I think this outfit would have been much better fitted for the era they were supposedly mirroring. There was also an 80s montage sequence edited out of the movie where Jean Grey, Cyclops, Nightcrawler and Jubilee go to the mall and do all things 80s, such as going to see Return of the Jedi, as before specified, going to a record store, and Nightcrawler joining a group of breakdancing teens, but the scene was dubbed too 'unimportant'.

X-Men: Apocalypse had a lot of good aspects to it. And a lot of these aspects were unfortunately over-shadowed by the towering success of Civil War. However, one clear advantage Apocalypse could have had was that it would be a period piece set in a time where wearing ridiculous outfits and embracing all-things cheese was the norm. This could have been something that really placed the audience in the film and helped them feel like they were really there. It also would have been a key differentiation in a genre that has become extremely over-crowded. With the next X-Men movie predicted to be set in the 90s, hopefully Fox can learn from this lesson; playing it safe and toning it down doesn't always work, especially in a genre that literally has the word 'super' in it.


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