‘Seeing that the women are saving all the men here, maybe you should rename us X women,’ Jennifer Lawrence as Raven delivers the best line in the film. It’s been 20 years since we started watching the X-Men movies (gosh! How time flies!) and this time Marvel delivers a better end game than they did for the Avengers. Avengers Endgame had more visual spectacles but you came away empty. This film, on the other hand, is an immersive experience and better because it lets the audience breathe in and absorb new things as much as it lets you sigh happily because you are familiar with the back stories and you love them all.
Jean Grey played by Famke Janssen has always been my favourite and the love triangle between Wolverine, Cyclops and her was more awesome than Rogue jealously watching Bobby and Kitty Pryde skating on an iced up fountain. But Rogue wanting to give up her mutant powers just to be able to hold hands with Bobby is a conflict Jean Grey never had to face. She was always powerful, always unpredictable.
And in that unpredictability lies her vulnerability. Jean Grey’s silent scream for ‘quiet’ is a tad unnerving and you feel like Charles Xavier when you involuntarily raise your hand to stop her from doing anything destructive. Yes, the film is 3D and best viewed at an IMAX screen. The space rescue scene promises the big screen spectacle. And no, the 3D does not dwarf the actors, or dim the light. But I’m getting ahead.
The film has been shot like the comic book that introduced Jean Grey as Phoenix in 1976. If you are a fan, you’ll know that’s the Uncanny X-Men #101. X-Men go to space on a mission and here Jean encounters a deadly solar flare that helps her attain full powers and yet consumes her corporeal body. But she’s not dead, she’s Phoenix. Of course, she returns to her body, but now her powers are difficult to control.
In the X-Men movie universe, Jean Grey remains elusive, and her powers are not exactly showcased front and centre as saying those of Wolverine or the duel of powers between Magneto and Charles Xavier. In the film X-men The Last Stand, Jean Grey needs to be saved from her own dark self by Wolverine.
Well, there are no visual spectacles like an uprooted San Francisco Golden Gate bridge as in the Last Stand, but this film will take your breath away because it explores the character so well. You will find yourself nodding at the right choices the characters make and shake your head when they mess up.
And as always, the conundrum remains: Is Charles Xavier really saving the mutant children, or is he merely training them so that he can use their talent?
In the post-credits scene of X-Men: Days In The Future Past - the most confusing film of the X-Men saga with all those time travel jumps - we saw Egyptians chanting allegiance to En Sabah Nur. That made us re-look at the powers of all the X-Men. Who could have as much power as a God who built the pyramids with a bare wave of his hand?
So when you began watching X-Men Apocalypse, you knew it had to be Jean Grey/Phoenix who could fight a man who was the first mutant ever, and still alive after thousands of years. Although the Egyptian setting of the film was spectacular, the film was rendered hilarious because of all that reincarnation mumbo jumbo which for us Indians was as bad as the mythology we grew up with. But to watch Phoenix battle Apocalypse was beyond brilliant.
Sophie Turner was chosen to play Jean Grey, the Dark Phoenix not because she plays a similarly conflicted character Sansa Stark in The Game Of Thrones, no matter what the fans of the show say. In fact, Phoenix has a history that has more depth than the daughter of Winterfell.
Dark Phoenix showed up in the Uncanny X-men comics #129 as herself. Here she’s under the evil influence of Jason Wyngarde aka Mastermind who puts dark thoughts into Jean’s head. She starts to believe she is her ancestor and becomes Black Queen, rebelling against X-Men and everything they stand for. She briefly joins the inner circle of the Hellfire Club but she realises Mastermind’s plot and kills him (of course). Then gives up on everything she was, as Phoenix and goes into space. She is so drained, that she needs to consume an entire solar system to get back her powers.
A meeting of the galactic council decides that Phoenix is an even greater threat than anything the world has seen. Meanwhile, Phoenix returns to earth and fights the X-Men. They manage to convert her to the original Jean Grey. But she has to pay the price of the destruction in space. The Shi’ar queen Llandra sends her troops after Jean to avenge the destruction: by abducting the X-Men and put Jean to death.
The Professor persuades the queen to have a battle instead. The X-Men against the Imperial Guards to determine the Fate of the Phoenix. In the battle on the blue side of the moon, the X-Men lose. Jean struggles to keep the dark side under control but then uses the alien technology to kill herself after professing her love for Scott (Cyclops). This should be the perfect end to the X-Men saga...
Am I telling you the story of the film? Hellfire no! This is how the action reveals itself in the comic book. What they have done in the movie is rather cool. And yes, humans do turn on the mutants at the first sign of trouble. Also, I’ve not even begun to tell you how fabulous it is to see James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles Xavier and Magneto. They are perfect casting and complement each other like no other friends turned rivals have. The Paris scene made me want to get up and sing, ‘Ye Dosti…’ a la Sholay! I must confess that I am a fan of the originals, and Hank here seems like less of a beast than Frasier does in the original...
The emotional quotient in the movie is high. Jean’s struggle to understand her powers and her despair at being unable to control her powers is as amazing as her anger. And I wish I had powers like her: make things and people disintegrate with a mere wave of her hand. If only there was a Hans Zimmer score that accompanied me everywhere when I did that.
There is, of course, an interesting villain that makes the fight worthwhile. A little hint here: remember Irina Spalko in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull? Our villain here has that same thirst for power that Phoenix… No! Take a dekko yourself. It’s the final, wholly satisfactory end to 20 years of X-Men movies. And no, there is no post-credits scene, alas.
First Published: IST