X-Men: First Class was quite the polarizing movie that spawned quite the polarizing trilogy. While a lot of people enjoyed the stylized reboot for its sleek storytelling, hardworking world-building, and charming characters, comic purists derided Bryan Singer because the films he produced, regardless of their individual strengths as superhero movies, weren’t anything close to the source material.
Now Apocalypse, while not as strong as Captain America: Civil War, was still a fun watch. It had its plot holes (especially concerning the way DoFP set the new paradigm for the X-Men universe and how Apocalypse messes with it in Angel’s introduction) and a dragging final third full of comic book-type shenanigans (Xavier fighting inside Apocalypse’s head is a device that would not be out of place in either a Marvel or DC comic), but it was exciting. Even though the special effects seemed a bit dated, the action and pacing were good for a comic flick.
Like Civil War, a lot of characters were well-explained, motivations fleshed out and clear for all to see, newcomers and returnees alike. Of course, it’s varying degrees of exposure, but most character portrayals were sound. Even Wolverine’s quick cameo, despite reeking of fanservice, made sense. Some people might complain that the X-Men trilogy’s overarching theme of tolerance vs. militancy with regard to mutant-human relations is starting to become repetitive, but I feel it’s still a very important theme the franchise has to keep hammering on. As long as there are disenfranchised subgroups of people in the real world, the message will always be relevant. It’s like Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) says: “Just because there’s no war, doesn’t mean there’s peace.”
If anything at all, the divide between hardcore comic fans and casual watchers that hinges on how faithful they are seems to be how the second trilogy will be remembered, even more so than any other superhero franchise out there. There are still people out there who won’t acknowledge First Class because of how different it is. Days of Future Past was a good watch, but the story’s all wrong, they say. No doubt Apocalypse is already facing the same criticisms.
So, I ask: should we finally stop caring altogether if an adaptation intentionally doesn’t get everything right?
It seems like a hard question to answer, but it definitely has an effect on the consumer of the adaptation. I enjoyed Apocalypse where others didn’t because I’m not a huge X-Men fan. (I think comics Cyclops is a self-righteous douchebag, and we’ve already seen traces of him in Miles Teller-adjace’s portrayal in the movie.) To me, it was a good story that I was able to be more open-minded about, just because I’m not that invested.
But what about Civil War? And Spider-Man? Batman, Arrow, The Flash? Harry Potter, even? I prefer the Marvel properties more and they’ve taken all sorts of liberties with it (Spidey’s probably seen the most changes to him and his universe), but I’m totally cool with them. No adaptation is 100% faithful, but I’m okay with all that I’ve mentioned.
I’m not okay with Game of Thrones, though, just because of how much the showrunners have chopped up and redirected George R.R. Martin’s vast story. (You don’t know how much it breaks my heart that Dorne was pretty much made an afterthought this season when they are a force to be reckoned with in the books.)
Perhaps that’s where the answer to the whole adaptation question lies: creative license is all right as long as it makes sense. Meaning it’s executed well. Meaning how drastic things are should only ever be secondary criteria when it comes to measuring how solid an adaptation is (you can always explain something by slapping on the term “loosely based”).
And because no adaptation will ever be completely faithful—thanks to the sheer differences between media—it’s time to stop coming in with notions that are too preconceived, because you’re just going to lose if all your expectations hinge on how things should be this way and that. I’ll have to stop trying to hate Game of Thrones so much on principle, too.
As for the X-Men, if all this creative license enables them to put out better films than the original trilogy (and that’s saying a lot for the first two), then I’m all for it. (They just have to stop killing off villains for good—everyone knows nobody ever stays dead.) If there’s anything I’m at least curious about, it’s how they’re going to solve the timeline issues created by Days of Future Past, and whether this trilogy really is a Star Wars-esque prequel to the first. As a franchise, the X-Men’ve still got a lot of legs left.
Image from Film Buff Online