This is a review I had planned for months. To coincide with the release of "X-Men Apocalypse", I was going to take on the 90's four-part "epic", "Beyond Good and Evil". However, as "Apocalypse" fast approaches, as the reviews pour in, I find that not only do I wish to save my $13 by not seeing it, I also don't want to waste what little free time I have with it. That's why I have yet to write my "Civil War" review, because I work a job that often keeps me busy for twelve to fourteen hours every day, and the rest of that time is spent sleeping. At this point, only a cameo from Deadpool could get me in there.
So before I dive into this "epic", I have two confessions to make. Number One: I never liked Apocalypse. But that's hardly a revelation as I have blogged about this before.
Apocalypse in a nutshell.
Second, and this one is probably going to upset a few of you; I don't like the 90's X-Men TAS. I often cited it as an example of the wrong way to adapt a comic book for television animation (although, I think it's safe to say that there are two extremes to bad adaptations and "Ultimate Spider-Man", "Avengers Assemble" and the like are at the opposite end). It aped what the comic books of that era were doing more than anything, and this was the era where Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld reigned supreme; the era where Chris Claremont was forced off the book after making the X-Men a success. More to the point, there wasn't enough diversity of characters on the team they chose, which was Jim Lee's Blue Strike Force along with Storm and Jean Grey. I don't mean diversity as in ethnicity in this case, but diversity of character. The team had two mysterious recalcitrant loners whom both pined for women they couldn't have relationships with. When Wolverine is on your team, Gambit is redundant as he is pretty much the exact same character, only with all of Wolverine's most obnoxious traits taken to eleven. I would rather have swapped out Gambit in favor of Colossus or even Nightcrawler (whom this show managed to make depressing instead of the trickster-like swashbuckler that Claremont and Cockrum made a generation of fans fall in love with). To make matters worse, when they did adapt classic stories like the Dark Phoenix Saga, they managed to get everything there superficially while losing the actual soul the original stories possessed.
Now that I have angered you sufficiently, let me talk about "Beyond Good and Evil" itself. I had initially intended to follow the format that I did with "The Greatest Evil", "Crime Wave", and "In Zarm's Way" but those leave me spending at least two hours per episode and this is a four-parter. A very painful four-parter. So I just watched them again, but I don't want to spend hours dissecting every scene and line of dialogue. Although, I will say that Apocalypse's dialogue is almost as funny as the Headman's.
This is one of those epic events that some types of fans love where most of the show's major villains are brought together into some kind of grand alliance. In "Beyond Good and Evil" we are given Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister, Magneto, Mystique, Sabretooth, the Nasty Boys, as well as an awkward cameo by Deathbird whom was shown in a menacing scene at the end of the two-parter, "Sanctuary", really amounted to nothing... I will talk a little bit more about that later.
Another weakness of all this is that we were never given a real reason for all of these personalities to come together. Sabretooth works as a mercenary, and the Nasty Boys are just minions but we're never given a reason for Mr. Sinister or Mystique to be there. Well, let me walk that back a little, we are given a reason for Sinister to work with Apocalypse, but this was in the era where his motives, origins, and whom he was as a character had yet to be defined. The same year this four-parter aired, Marvel Comics revealed that Sinister's ultimate goal was to create the perfect mutant, using Scott Summers and Jean Grey's DNA, in order to destroy Apocalypse. But X-Men the Animated Series introduced Sinister years before the comics gave him an origin and a motive. This also explains the mess the comics found themselves in during this era. But here, Sinister wanted to help Apocalypse wipe out and re-create existence because... reasons.
Magneto's motivations for being there change within the four-parter. At first we're told he's there because Apocalypse promised to resurrect his deceased wife, Magda. But two episodes later, Magda is forgotten and we're told Apocalypse promised Magneto a world in which mutants ruled.
As for Mystique, they never even pay lip service as to why she's there.
Apocalypse, himself, is a mess in this four-parter. Let's start with the fact that this isn't the present day Apocalypse, but the one from 3999 that stole Cable's computer and traveled through time. It leads me to wonder where the present-day Apocalypse is. Well, the last time we had an episode that focused on him, he was shot out into space by his own spaceship whom Beast had fallen in love with (I don't know... I don't know...), before seeing him briefly on a star ship with Deathbird. I had assumed that he got picked up by her and they formed an alliance. Or perhaps 3999 Apocalypse forged the alliance, but I'm getting ahead of myself... more on the time travel aspects in a bit.
What's Apocalypse's motive in this? Well, up until now and throughout all of his appearances in comic books since his very first appearance, all subsequent appearances in the comics and all media, Apocalypse has always been the ultimate darwinist. He believes in survival of the fittest. Only the strong shall survive. Regular humans are weak, they should be destroyed. Only the most powerful mutants should survive to make future generations more powerful. I may not like Apocalypse as a character, but at least this motive fits in with the X-Men's themes of evolution. But, in "Beyond Good and Evil" Apocalypse took a very strange detour.
Apparently Apocalypse was able to keep this pyramid a secret for thousands of years.
In the year 3999, Cable invades Apocalypse's secret pyramid in Egypt and attempts to finally destroy the monster, but Apocalypse gets the drop on him, steals his computer and as he prepares to kill Cable, Cable shouts at him that he will never win. Then Apocalypse pauses to consider this... on a cosmic level, before using Cable's computer to blink himself to a weird temple that exists outside of time. Cable shouts that Apocalypse is evil, but Apocalypse disagrees that he is malevolent... just that he simply is who he is, he thinks himself above good and evil... then he stops and starts to consider Cable's accusation. So what conclusion does Apocalypse reach? That he is the personification of evil and that an elemental balance between good and evil will always deny him final victory. Um, what? Why? How? Why? Que? A villain who admits that he's evil doesn't work outside of comedy. I have no problem with Negaduck or Evil Emperor Zurg reveling in their evil, but a dramatic villain like Apocalypse whom believes in social darwinism believes that he is making the world a better place. It's messed up, it is evil, but he wouldn't think that he himself is evil. Hitler didn't think he was evil. Hell, in no version of the story does the Devil think he's evil. The Shadows from "Babylon 5" had similar motivations, as darwinists whom would destroy entire races they believed were weak, they felt they were helping the strong thrive and creating a better universe. But no, all of this is out the window and Apocalypse is now the personification of evil... and the X-Men are agreeing with him, even with Beast pointing out that once Apocalypse is destroyed, evil will simply take on another form. The fact of the matter is that Apocalypse was the wrong villain to tell a story like this with, and for that matter, the X-Men were the wrong franchise. You can get away with it when it's the Justice League or the Avengers, and while the X-Men are heroes, it was never about good vs evil... it was about acceptance, bigotry, and clashing ideologies... and while some of those ideologies were evil, nobody who clung to them believed they were anything but the heroes of their own story.
THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF BEING A LAME DARKSEID CLONE!
So what's Apocalypse's grand scheme? To abduct all of the most powerful telepaths in existence, from across time, bring them outside of time, kill them all at once so he can stop time, end existence, and re-create the universe in his own image. This is how he plans to get around the elemental balance of good and evil. I'm still trying to figure out how the hell a social darwinist reaches this ridiculous conclusion.
The time travel in this story is a mess. Now, I know time travel is difficult. I know it has a history of being misused in X-Men stories, but this is whole new levels of bullshit. Cable and the X-Men travel to ancient Egypt where they destroy Apocalypse's pyramid where he keeps his lazarus chamber in order to prevent him from becoming immortal and wrecking havoc on the world. They succeed but 3999 Apocalypse is now outside of the time and thus immune. When he is finally defeated, he is forced to exit the axis and back in the time stream, with his pyramid destroyed in the past, he ceases to exist. Cable and the X-Men erase Apocalypse from history. And yet Warren Worthington III still has metal wings and blue skin. There are no consequences to any of this; although for some reason, Xavier's legs work again.
If you are going to use time travel in your series, you need to establish clear rules and consider the consequences for your actions. This isn't me demanding closed-loop time travel ala "Gargoyles" and nothing but. "X-Men" already established in previous episodes that changing history was possible three times, and they dealt with the consequences of those changes fairly well, I might quibble here and there but they were consistent with their own rules. But this... nothing. It was poorly thought out spectacle.
This was intended to be the grand finale for the series. I think the idea was simply "let's throw in as many villains as we can for one big brawl". But, as a grand finale, it would have failed. Why? Notice that I barely talked the X-Men themselves. They barely factored into the story. I mean, they were in it and they did things, but this was mostly Cable and Apocalypse's story. Yes, we get Scott and Jean's second wedding, but then Sinister kidnaps Jean because Apocalypse "TOLD HIM TO!" and then neither Scott nor Jean factor much into the story ever again. Beast provides techno-jargon, but Bishop's sister, Shard, plays a larger part. The X-Men themselves don't even factor into the final battle with Apocalypse, except for Wolverine. So it's Wolverine, Cable, Magneto, Mystique, and Bishop battling Apocalypse... and only one of these characters is one of the series' regulars. Jean Grey gets kidnapped. Scott whines about it but doesn't really do anything. Beast provides techno-jargon. Gambit, Rogue, Storm, Jubilee, etc don't really do much except participate in some small skirmishes if that. Hell, Psylocke gets more to do and this is both her first appearance and an extended cameo where she winds up as just one more kidnapped psychic.
Speaking of cameos. Remember that weird Jim Carrey style janitor of the time stream that annoyed Bishop (and the audience) for four episodes? Then he transformed into Immortus. I didn't know who Immortus was. And, even as a comics reader, it wasn't for another fifteen years before I found out who Immortus was, and that he was another identity for Kang the Conquerer? And, to this day, I have no idea why he was here. He contributed nothing.
Granted, this turned out not to be the finale, and the show then went on to end with a whimper. But looking back at the show, especially it's first two or three seasons, you can see why, despite all of it's flaws, it made the X-Men household names. "Beyond Good and Evil" just betrayed the very premise and themes of the series, and grand finale or not, really had no business being a part of the show. It's weird. It's just bad. I don't know what went on here, what the thought processes were, but the show's audience deserved better than this.
Awful. Just awful.