I was pleasantly surprised after watching X-Men: Apocalypse. I haven’t shied away from the fact that I didn’t enjoy First Class or Days of Future Past all that much, so I went into Apocalypse with very low expectations. It isn’t a great movie, and certainly isn’t the best X-Men movie, but I definitely liked it the most out of this new trilogy of films. To get it out of the way, Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse character looks beyond stupid. Like, it’s embarrassing to see how terrible the makeup design is on him. And while every time he was on screen it looked worse and worse, that’s a pretty insignificant part of the film. His character isn’t really a character at all, and continues the sad superhero movie trend of having poorly fleshed out, uninteresting villains. It’s never really explained who he is or where he came from or why he’s trying to do what he’s trying to do. That makes watching him do it pretty uninteresting.
There are too many important characters in this movie, as well, which is something Days of Future Past also struggled with. There are so many stories going on at once that it’s hard to feel all that invested in any of them other than the main thread of “bad guy is going to destroy the world.” Characters like Storm, Psylocke, and Cyclops get very little character development, and so it becomes hard to root for or against any of them when shit starts hitting the fan. As usual, Michael Fassbender’s Magneto is the most interesting character in the movie. Unfortunately, he goes through the same basic character arc that he went through in the first and second movies. He starts out trying to be good, then goes evil, then joins with the good guys to save the day before ditching out on them yet again in the denouement. Evan Peters gets to shine yet again with his awkward Quicksilver, though it doesn’t look like he’s aged a day and there are supposedly ten years between the last movie and this one. He gets another fun sequence of him doing everything insanely fast, but the bit goes on too long and doesn’t feel as special since we’ve already seen him do it in the last movie.
There is tons of fan service, which is nice to see. Wolverine makes a great appearance (though he ends up having almost no impact on the actual story), Jubilee is in the movie but thankfully isn’t part of the final X-Men crew, and there’s a big moment with the Phoenix Force that I don’t want to spoil. I’m not really sure where the movies go from here, as I’m not super invested in most of the new characters and plenty of the old ones now annoy me (looking at you, Raven). I can’t imagine Jennifer Lawrence would want to do more movies unless they paid her a million bajillion dollars, especially considering Mystique walks around not being blue most of the movie because J-Law didn’t want to wake up early for extensive makeup anymore. That’s what superstardom gets you, I guess. The ending does work as a conclusion to the X-Men story, and as set up for future films, which is nice. It’ll get tough to keep things going because at some point they’ll catch up to the original trilogy’s timeline and that time travel stuff was already messy and terrible in Days of Future Past.
Surprisingly, I’d actually be ok with more movies beyond the already announced Logan, Hugh Jackman’s swan song as Wolverine. If they do what Star Trek did and just set it in some kind of alternate timeline, I think the possibilities really open up. But let’s finally put the first and second casts to bed (speaking of Wolverine, Ice Man, Rogue, and Mystique, Beast, Magneto, respectively), and focus on the new, third cast. Keep things clean.
Star Trek Beyond
I really enjoyed the first Star Trek movie for what it was, a fun summer popcorn flick. There wasn’t a ton of depth there, but the characters were engaging and there were plenty of great set pieces. The sequel, Into Darkness, was less successful, partially because it took a more dramatic turn. There was still fun to be had, but it was more focused on the character dynamics. I enjoyed that aspect, but found the villain “reveal” to be beyond obvious and kind of lame considering the marketing leading up to release was essentially a lie. Enter Star Trek Beyond, the unsurprising third entry into the series. It isn’t a bad movie, I’ll say that up front. But I also have to be honest and say that I wasn’t really asking for another movie, and this one didn’t really prove me wrong.
Nothing about the movie really stands out. It still has the expected big action sequences and some witty banter, but it’s all beginning to feel a bit old. This is kind of surprising considering there have been 3-4 years in between the movies, but I think that kind of speaks to the relatively shallow fun the first two movies offered. Chris Pine is still great as Kirk, and the rest of the cast do their jobs admirably, but everyone does seem kind of bored, like they’re just going through the motions. Simon Pegg is credited as one of the writers on the script, and I don’t think it’s his best work. Plenty of the jokes felt forced, but that might be down to delivery and/or direction. I haven’t seen anything else Justin Lin has directed since my interest in the Fast and Furious franchise is almost non-existent, but I was less than impressed with this one.
There’s some character conflict that comes out of nowhere for almost no reason, and another potential conflict that’s resolved without even being properly introduced. The stakes just don’t feel all that high. Pair that with yet another underdeveloped villain and I’m just not all that sure why I’m supposed to care about what’s happening on screen. Again, this might sound more negative that it needs to be (that’s my shtick, after all), but there are still enough fun elements that this one is worth a rental. Just don’t expect anything particularly deep or fresh.
There will apparently yet be more movie adventures for the Star Trek crew, and I can’t really say that I’m all that excited. The movies still make a ton of money, especially overseas, but this one just felt rote to me, like there wasn’t that much to say about the characters. But hey, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t watch it eventually, which I guess makes me part of the problem.
Fallout 4: Vault Tech
I’m pretty late to the party with Fallout 4’s DLC, considering my PS4 was out of commission from May until just recently. But I’m glad to be back in that world. The Vault Tech add-on is a great combination of story-based DLC and Bethesda’s add-ons to increase settlement building possibilities. I never got super into settlement building; I liked the concept, but I’d rather be out in the wild shooting super mutants and nabbing loot. All of my settlements are well stocked and defended, but I never made prettying them up a priority.
With the Vault Tech add-on, you can now build a completely new vault of your own from scratch, which is a pretty neat idea. I think some of the mechanics of settlement building are less than great with a controller, but once you get used to how it functions, you can put things together with relative ease. On the other hand, powering your vault is extremely tedious. It was so difficult getting power to run smoothly through so many walls and corridors that I eventually gave up and just strung power lines on all of the ceilings. It’s far from pretty, but it gets the job done.
Before you start building your vault in earnest, however, you need to clear the cave of bad guys. It’s very light on “story,” but there are plenty of high-level enemies to take on, which was a nice challenge. But be sure to bring plenty of Rad-X and Radaway, the radiation down there is quite annoying. From there, you’re tasked with conducting a few experiments on an unsuspecting vault dweller, and there’s plenty of great humor there.
All in all, Vault Tech certainly doesn’t offer the story depth of a traditional DLC, but it offers some fun combat scenarios, plenty of loot, and significant additions to your settlement building abilities. If you, like me, got the season pass and therefore have access to everything, it’s at least worth a look.