Ben Dreyfuss is the engagement editor at Mother Jones. He's done some other stuff, too. You can email him at email@example.com. But you don't have to. But you can. But you really don't have to.
Depending on your definition, there have been somewhere between 50 and 70 superhero films made in the United States since the first X-Men came out in 2000.
When X-Men: Apocalypse, the ninth entry in the franchise and the fourth helmed by Bryan Singer, is released on May 27, it will be the fourth major superhero film to debut just this year. It will also be the best. Better than Captain America: Civil War, which was itself better than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. (Deadpool was sort of a different bird, and if you really were taken by its shtick then you might prefer it.)
That's not to say Apocalypse is perfect. Like all these films, the plot doesn't make a lot of sense. It is also a profoundly long 144 minutes. And like the bloated Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War, it is overstuffed with superheroes who less serve the story so much as are contractually obligated to appear within it. X-Men: First Class became a hit in 2011 just as Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence were becoming A-listers, and though their talent, along with that of James McAvoy, shines in the new film, the plot struggles with the obligation to share screen time between so many stars.
Do you want to know about the plot?
In Ancient Egypt, Oscar Isaac is a powerful mutant who is betrayed by some followers and ends up buried inside the ruins of a pyramid. Cut to 1983 and, following the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past, the younger versions of the X-Men are scattered across the globe doing things that are not really worth getting into. Oscar Isaac is woken up by some cult that knows about him based on hieroglyphics or something. (Don't worry about them. They are never mentioned ever again. I'm pretty sure they die? It really doesn't matter.) Isaac quickly begins assembling a small band of mutants to help him destroy the world. You see, Oscar Isaac was the very first mutant, and his power is basically that he can take over the body of another mutant and, voila, he's got that mutant's power. So for millions of years he has been jumping from mutant to mutant collecting powers (except for the last 6,000 years when he was asleep under that pyramid). He has many powers, but his favorite seems to be turning people into sand.
Oscar Isaac finds Storm (Alexandra Shipp), a mutant with a lightsaber whip (Olivia Munn), and some alcoholic with angel wings (Ben Hardy) and convinces them to help him kill everyone in the world so that he can…[mutters incoherently].
Meanwhile, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is the most-wanted fugitive in the world and is hiding in Poland with his wife and daughter, like you do. But then some bad shit happens to this tranquil trio involving…wood, and one thing leads to another.
Watching it, however, does not disappoint. The people who made this movie seem to genuinely care about entertaining the audience in every scene. You may rightfully wonder why the scenes happen in the order that they do or why they focus on what they focus on, but they are enjoyable. The cast deserves credit for this. The screenwriters deserve credit, too. The producers deserve credit. Most of all, though, director Bryan Singer deserves credit.
My overriding thought walking out of the screening was: Bryan Singer is just a better director than the other people directing the current crop of superhero films. The Russo brothers of Captain America: Civil War and other various Marvel installments are great! Even Zack Snyder is a talented director whose main flaws come out mostly when he is allowed to have control over other aspects of a project. But Singer's direction is more confident, more inventive, and more fun.
The X-Men movies don't get the ink of other superhero movies, but they are the most valuable players of the genre. Aside from X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine—the former now the butt of a joke in Apocalypse; the latter the world has agreed to pretend never happened—the franchise has been remarkably consistent.
And while it isn't entirely clear what's next for the flagship series in the franchise, there are roughly 1,000 other films in the X-Men universe being developed, from standalone Wolverine, Deadpool, and Gambit films to Josh Boone's New Mutants spin-off and a rumored Deadpool-esque R-rated X-Force.
Go see X-Men: Apocalypse because it is good and fun and, in a world with an unavoidable number of superhero films that are a total slog, that is fun and good.
When last we saw our friends from Marvel, they were doing…something. What was the last film? Ant-Man? I don't really remember much about Ant-Man, except that Paul Rudd fought the drug-addled congressman from the first season of House of Cards.
When last we memorably saw our friends from Marvel, they were…fighting James Spader…in a fictional European country. Tony Stark wanted to help people so he built a robot (James Spader) to protect people. But then the robot decided to kill people, like they do, and blah blah blah, eventually the Avengers beat James Spader but not without a lot of people in this fictional European country dying.
So here we are now in a bold new world, post-James Spader rampage.
Captain America: Civil War.
Thor and the Hulk and some other pals seem to be off somewhere, but the rest of the team is up to their old tricks. In the beginning of Captain America: Civil War, the eponymous main superhero leads what could be called "The Avengers: The New Class," including Wanda Maximoff (the Olsen sister who has witch powers), The Vision (aka Paul Bettany's sex robot), and Captain America's buddy Falcon (Anthony Mackie), as they head to Africa to kill some Hydra member of no particular importance. One thing leads to another, and civilians die.
Dammit! Not again, Avengers!
The world will not stand for this. (Sad truth: The only time when the world won't stand for civilian death is when it comes to superhero films.)
So leaders of the world get together and pass a treaty to combat climate change incorporate the Avengers into some sort of United Nations command structure.
Captain America is not thrilled with this idea because Captain America doesn't need some bureaucrat in Brussels to tell him when to right a wrong. (Also, and coincidentally, his best friend—the Winter Soldier, aka Bucky Barnes, being played by Sebastian Stan—is a fugitive superassassin on the run.) Tony Stark, having been chastened by the events of the second Avengers film—it was him, after all, who built James Spader and was ultimately responsible for the deaths of all those fictional Europeans—sides with the pro-regulation (anti-Captain America) team. Voila, tension. Plus, not only does Tony Stark not wear his Iron Man suit very often, he doesn't even tie up the tie on his normal suit all the way. It just sort of sits there, loosened.
Then when the powers of the world gather to sign the "Sit on it, Captain America" act, there is—surprise!—a terrorist attack. In superhero movies, world leaders are not allowed to gather without there being a terrorist attack. (Every superhero film is the way a young Dick Cheney imagined every prom night would be: Everyone's very attractive and there's a terror attack.) One of the world leaders who perishes is the King of Wakanda. Chadwick Boseman, as the slain king's son vows to avenge his father.
So who did the blowing up? Captain America's buddy the Winter Soldier of course! Or was it? The law enforcement community seems to think so, but Captain America doesn't care what the law enforcement community thinks. He catches up to Sebastian Stan and Sebastian Stan is like "no way did I do that" and Captain America is like "I believe you. You were in Gossip Girl."
Imagine a lot more of this. For a pretty long time. Eventually the stage is set for the titular civil war wherein Tony Stark, War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Panther, Vision, Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), and Spiderman (Tom Holland) try to stop the fugitives—Captain America, The Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch, Falcon, Ant-Man, and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)—from…trying to prove Sebastian Stan's innocence, I think? It isn't really clear.
Throughout this film, people often say to Captain America, "Should we tell Tony Stark about this new and revealing information?" And Captain America says, "That neo-liberal shill wouldn't understand." Everything could be sorted out if they just talked, and there's a perfect place to do so in the second act. But of course, this is a Captain America movie, and Captain America is the star and he gets to be right despite obviously not being right. The film goes to great lengths to make Captain America accidentally correct about a lot of things. The choices Captain America makes when he is making choices are bad choices but the film flips over itself to justify him by sheer luck. In this film, Captain America fails upward.
My main problem with this movie: Captain America is sort of just a selfish hypocrite. Also, boring. And he isn't even super. (He is strong, though.) And he could just be shot with a bullet. (There are a bunch of times in this movie when he loses his shield.) His whole team, in fact, save the Olsen twin who is a Witch, could just be shot to death by any old infantry unit.
Also, with so many superheroes in this movie, writers clearly had to find reasons to peel them off. Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) just sort of shrugs and walks away after one fight. I have no idea where Vision went after the second act. As far as I can tell, no explanation is made for why he is gone. Falcon, War Machine, Spiderman, Ant-man, and Hawkeye are all given some nonsense dialogue to deliver about why they are crapping out, but Vision just sort of ghosts out. Of course, they have to peel off so we can have Tony Stark fight Captain America.
No surprise: They are all being tricked into fighting each other by some shady German character (the dude who played the other race car driver in the 2013 film Rush) with dubious motives, but that's because it doesn't matter. Here's the most surprising thing: It isn't a bad film! It's enjoyable, even. When the Avengers actually fight, it's fun! The movie's themes and those of the infamously brooding Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Sadness seem somewhat interchangeable, but at least Captain America: Civil War rolls them out with Marvel's trademark humor.
Best of all: Spiderman and Black Panther! I'm looking forward to seeing their movies!
In short: If you like fun dumb blockbusters, you will like this fun dumb blockbuster.
Here's what you need to understand about Tabasco. It isn't really a hot sauce. It's silly to compare it to other hot sauces because it really isn't that hot, but it is good. It is a vinegar sauce. A delicious vinegar sauce that America loves. It makes almost anything better. What would a Bloody Mary be without Tabasco? What about corned beef hash? Do you like corned beef hash? Of course you do. Everyone likes corned beef hash. But would you like corned beef hash without Tabasco? I am not so sure.
No matter what you call it, it is undeniable that America has chosen Tabasco as its spicy condiment of choice. It is in almost every single restaurant in America. The places that do not have it are flipping the bird to the American people.
Tabasco Tabasco Tabasco. Yum yum yum. Confession: I have been known to take hits of Tabasco straight.
Now let's go a bit further.
The worst condiment in America is mayonnaise. Mayonnaise offends my senses and makes me want to vomit. However, Americans love mayonnaise. I forgive them for this. America is about choice. Americans should be allowed to have their disgusting mayonnaise. But if we are going to allow people to have mayonnaise when they want, then we need to allow people to have Tabasco without shame.
Here's the real worst thing about mayonnaise: When you ask a waiter for a BLT with no mayo, they do not respect the no mayo wish. They think in their addled minds, "How could anyone not want mayo?" Well, look, I don't want mayo. Get away from me.
I would understand people who don't like Tabasco getting upset if Tabasco were treated with the same assumptions as mayonnaise, but it is not so. Tabasco is never just on something. They give you the bottle and you make your own mind up. You have no reason to be mad about Tabasco. Tabasco isn't forcing itself on you. Tabasco is just there; if you want to use it, use it.
Your outrage about Tabasco is misplaced. If you want sriracha or Tapatio or whatever, that's fine! Live and let live, bro. The fact that other people's enjoyment of Tabasco incenses you so says something about you. Not Tabasco. It is an indictment of your emotional maturity. I don't know why you can't let people be happy, but you can't. Maybe your parents weren't around. Maybe your dad went to the store to buy some Tabasco and never came back. I don't care. Take it up with a therapist. Let people who want to indulge in Tabasco without fear of social retribution do so. It is why the pilgrims sailed across a sea.
You know what other condiment is great is mustard. Mustard is great. You know what other condiment is not so great? Ketchup. Ketchup is too sweet! Ketchup is also, like mayonnaise, one of those things that restaurants just assume you want on things. I do not. If I wanted ketchup on something I would ask for it. Be outraged about ketchup and mayonnaise. Not Tabasco.
Once upon a time a young man from Canada stood in front of a chalkboard and discussed physics and the whole world heard his tale and was bewitched by his grace and people wrote letters that said "I love this young man from Canada" and "I would like to have sex with this young man from Canada" and the children of the world held hands and cried out his name in admiration.
“To summarize, the PM went to a place and learned about a thing,” McCollough writes. “During the speech that followed, he excitedly suggested he wanted to talk about the thing he just learned. A reporter was disinterested in playing along, and tried to ask a more relevant question, but Trudeau ignored him and launched into what was clearly a pre-prepared treatise on the thing.”
In an update to that Gawker post the PM's press secretary denies it was staged. Read the whole thing and make up your own mind.