MMT Quick Review of SPLIT

Split

After his success with 2015’s hit The Visit, M. Night Shyamaylan returns with his latest thriller SPLIT, which features a dynamic performance by actor James McAvoy. The film tells the story of Kevin, a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (commonly referred to as Split Personality Disorder) and a total of 23 separate identities – that is until a dangerous and murderous 24th forms, “The Beast,” which causes a few of Kevin’s personalities to gather in a “horde” and rebel against the others by kidnapping three young women in anticipation of The Beast’s arrival.

Before discussing the film any further, I do want to acknowledge that there are some in the mental health community, both professionals and those living with disorders, who are not happy with the portrayal of Kevin in this movie. Many of the complaints I’ve read center around it being another cinematic display of a dangerous or villainous person with mental illness. Although I certainly hear and understand the logic behind the uproar, and don’t want to discount anyone’s validity where an illness is concerned, I would lean more towards their upset if this film pretended to be anything more than the campy, “supernatural” thriller that it is – but it doesn’t. And no one should walk into an M. Night film expecting to be educated on the cause and effect of any disorder – medical or otherwise.

That being said, James McAvoy is really phenomenal as Kevin, and the at least five other personalities we get to see him transform. And although I refused to write about “The Witch,” yes this scaredy cat did screen it but thought better of reviewing since I had nothing nice to say – scratch that, it was very authentic period wise, dialect, costume etc, better? Anyways, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Morgan) was fierce as the fight-back spirited Casey, one of the kidnapped trio.

And Philadelphia, and its surrounding areas, as an unofficial character always displays nicely on the big-screen. It’s a pleasure to see local areas like 30th street station, the parkway and the oldest zoo in the nation, The Philadelphia Zoo, shone brightly. And appearances by CBS3 anchor Ukee Washington and actor/writer/producer Nakia Dillard (The Wire, Night Catches Us) also give a nice authentic Philly feel.

So is “Split” scary? Not spooky, but it’s chilling enough at its core – albeit there are slow moments as the film builds by showcasing Kevin’s various personalities and a few interactions with his psychiatrist Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley). There is also a gore factor once it truly gets rolling, that may freak out the squeamish – one lady sitting in front of me at the Philly screening had to bury her head in her partner’s shoulder several times!

If you’re a fan of Shyamalan, and like several of his prior works, you’ll find Split interesting and fun at the very least. And of course fans of Unbreakable are going to love a special reveal at the end – please no spoilers in the comments for this one!

To sum it up, I found “Split” to be entertaining, although slow at parts, with great performances and a fun ending that maybe sets up a sequel (?) or a… never mind no spoilers so I’ll leave it there! It’s definitely not on par with The Sixth Sense’s savviness, but it’s not a bad follow-up to The Visit and just as fun once it gets going.

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this one family, so stop back and leave a comment or two once you see it. SPLIT opened nationwide in theaters today.

Until next thought, Thomasena

MMT Quick Review: Reboot! a non-spoiler review of XMEN: APOCALYPSE by Darryl King

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (20th Century Fox)

Is the world coming to an end or are we waiting for the end… of this movie? X-Men: Apocalypse is an ambitious movie as it strives to introduce us to an established mutant universe, launch brand new actors playing our favorite mutants while bringing us the greatest villain within the mutant universe… Apocalypse!

Because of that, instead of rewarding us with the epic ending of an outstanding trilogy, (First Class, Days of Future Past, Apocalypse) we are fed another unfulfilling start from a movie more concerned with furthering the X-Men franchise.

If there is anything that can derail the ever popular Superhero movie genre is the growing notion that each movie has to be a setup for future movies within that franchise. By doing that, what these films forget to do is tell a compelling story, providing more foreshadowing than narrative. “Batman V Superman” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron” both fell into this trap, a trap that unfortunately caught “X-Men Apocalypse.”

Fox Pictures the studio behind the X Men, felt the need to reboot their franchise after the harsh criticism from “X-Men Last Stand”, the final movie in their original trilogy of X-Men films. Ever since then, the X-Men franchise has been in a constant state of reboot.

Starting with “X-Men First Class” that film effectively gave us the stellar retelling of the Magneto and Professor X origins with new actors at the helm, taking us back to the 60’s, thus justifying the reboot. But then director Bryan Singer, the original filmmaker of the X-Men films, returned to reclaim the X-Men franchise.

Singer felt the need to destroy the timeline and events established from the disliked movie “X-Men Last Stand” that he perceived ruined his original trilogy. So his follow-up movie “X-Men Days of Future Past,” while an awesome film, rebooted the X-Men timeline once again, leaving us where we find ourselves today with “X-Men Apocalypse “.

The strengths of “X-Men Apocalypse” are the opening sequence, the origins of our big bad… Apocalypse, along with a better depiction of the gifted X-Men school. The movie does a good job setting up the framework of the new timeline which now takes place in the 80’s by introducing us to the new actors who will lead all future X-Men movies.

The origins of Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Storm (Alexandria Shipp) are tastefully done and with the increased role for Quicksilver (Evan Peters), the next wave of X-Men films are in very capable hands. Finally we are exposed to the budding relationship of Cyclops and Jean, and when these 2 along with Nightcrawler are on missions together, you will cry a happy tear because you feel you are watching scenes straight from the comics. But after the movie sets up a solid premise, and the believability of the new actors, it begins to unravel.

What made this trilogy so strong was the banter and interchanges between Professor X (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and this movie gives us little of that. It forces us to digest more of Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and tolerating other over stated cameos and role players.

Which leads us to a third act of the movie that is truly unsatisfying and at times poorly executed – as Apocalypse’s plan is weak, and his necessity of four underlings is never fully developed or rendered unconvincing.

“X-Men Apocalypse” is a decent action movie filled with enough action scenes to make it worthwhile and justify expensive popcorn and soda. There is no need to see the film in 3D as that format exacerbates the flaws of the special effects’ execution more than enhancing the film or the experience. If the movie hadn’t been bogged down with extending the future of the X-Men franchise, perhaps we would have been given the emotional weight of Apocalypse and his true menacing desire to save the world. When the movie ends, we are still waiting for the “X-Men Apocalypse” to show up.

Darryl King (photo courtesy of Darryl King)Darryl King is a video director, film writer and avid Marvel/DC comic book/movie lover. Check out his reviews of Captain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of Ultron, and his primer guide to Captain America: Civil War right here on MMT.