Understanding Why X-Men Apocalypse Cut the Mall Scene

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So X-Men Apocalypse came out this year and was…well…a movie. Amidst big releases from Marvel and DC, the latest film from Fox kind of failed to really move the needle. It was a decent movie that wasn’t good enough to be loved or bad enough to be hated, but just about everyone agreed there was something missing to it. With the movie nearing home release, some of the deleted scenes have started to surface, and one in particular has received quite a bit of attention.

In some of the trailers and TV spots there was footage of Nightcrawler at a mall, which was intended to be part of a longer sequence that was even mentioned by director Bryan Singer in the press junkets prior to the film’s release. Yet when the movie hit cinemas, this scene was nowhere to be seen. The closest we get is a shot of Nightcrawler – along with Jubilee, Scott and Jean – leaving a screening of Return of the Jedi and making a quip about trilogies.

Now that we have our hands on the missing scene, there’s been a bit of a response from fans stating how stupid it was that the scene was cut, with Screencrush going as far as to say it was better than the whole movie. Hearing the kind of response it has received, and considering Singer was praising the scene so close to the release of the movie, the question has to be asked: why cut it?

Watching the scene in question, it’s not hard to see why people like it. Set to the iconic 80s song Safety Dance (which was apparently popular, I’m a 90s child) the four teens hit the mall. They all get a moment or two to shine, be it Nightcrawler shoe shopping, Scott mistaking Jean for Boy George or Jubilee actually getting to use her powers and showing why she’s an X-man in the first place. For just shy of three minutes, the teens get to be teens instead of worrying about the impending apocalypse.

Considering how ripe the X-men franchise is for this kind of character building, it’s an absolute shame there hasn’t been more of it, with the movies instead continuing to focus on the same core group of characters (Wolverine, Magneto, Professor X, and Mystique since First Class) with many of the main issues being re-examined for the sake of sequels.

So when people say that it’s a great scene, I absolutely agree. But when they complain about why it was cut, that’s where I disagree.

There’s a myriad of reasons why scenes get cut from movies; sometimes they create more questions than they solve, maybe the scene worked better on the storyboard than it did in reality, maybe it clashed with the tone or pacing of the movie. One of the main reasons though is simply for time. When your average Hollywood movie starts clocking in at around two and a half hours, executives get worried. Some films can handle the burden, but generally they prefer to keep it closer to the magical two hour mark.

X-Men Apocalypse clocks in at two hours and twenty seven minutes. While some movies can run for three hours and feel like it only went for two because of how engaging it is, Apocalypse definitely felt like a two and a half hour movie. And it manages to achieve this while still making the viewer feel like key characters were in need of more depth and character (Psylocke for example). But the characters who really needed it weren’t necessarily the four in this mall scene.

Could they have benefited from more? Sure, if the characters are good you can never get too much characterisation. But given the main protagonists of the movie end up being X and Mystique again (with additional secondary characters of Beast and Quicksilver also taking prominence) the movie was always going to struggle to provide enough screentime and characterisation for everyone of importance. And if we’re being honest, this was always going to be an issue when the movie has to introduce (and reintroduce) so many characters at once – which is the same problem Justice League will face next year.

Nightcrawler gets the most characterisation in the three minutes cut from the mall scene, and from his perspective it certainly is a shame to not get his moments included in the final cut. And as much as hardcore X-men fans might want to see Jubilee actually used, at the end of the day she’s a glorified cameo in this movie, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to include the scene for her sake.

There’s another potential issue this scene has, and that’s the tone. X-Men Apocalypse doesn’t spend too much time on the comedy outside of it’s natural comic relief in Quicksilver. And outside of that incredibly popular Quicksilver scene (which is really in there primarily because of the popularity of the Days of Future Past scene) the film is pretty basic in its execution – to the point that a three minute ‘teens being teens’ montage set to 80s New Wave would feel rather out of place and at odds with the rest of the movie.

This is especially important when you consider where this scene would take place. It would end up right next to the Quicksilver scene, which while funny is actually pretty integral to the story as the Mansion is being destroyed and his speed is the only thing that can save most of the school’s inhabitants. If the movie as a whole was quirkier and utilised varying tone and styles to tell the story, that’d be one thing, but to place two very different (both in relation to each other and the movie as a whole) scenes so close to each other in an otherwise typically produced action film would stand out like a sore thumb.

I want to compare it to the Suicide Squad, which is another movie that could have benefited from better editing. There’s a scene about halfway through the movie where Harley Quinn has jumped into an elevator, and while texting with the Joker gets attacked by one of the faceless generic not-quite-human goons (that’s a pre-requisite in half of superhero movies). It’s a fun enough scene with a bit of character building, but it feels disjointed and forced in for the sake of it in relation to the movie. If viewed on its own in a deleted scene though I could see people wondering why it wasn’t included.

I understand why people wished this scene was in the movie. It’s a fun scene that only serves to build up a bunch of fan favourites in a movie where most of them could have benefited from exactly that. And it’s hard to argue that an extra three minutes in an already long movie really makes much of a difference. But I think if the scene was viewed as part of the movie, it wouldn’t work as well as it does on its own, given the type of movie Apocalypse is. What I think this scene does do, is show Fox what people might be yearning for in the X-men films. We’ve had more X-Men films this century than any other superhero/team, and most of them have focussed on the main cast and with a fairly similar look and tone. I think the series could grow with a renewed focus on these types of characters with a style that would compliment scenes such as this mall one, rather than be seen as a ‘refreshing change of pace’.

At the very least Fox need to finish animating Nightcrawler’s breakdance….

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