There’s been quite the conversation online about the quality of X-Men: Apocalypse, that it doesn’t quite deliver and is “almost as bad” as the worst in the series, X-Men: The Last Stand. While X-Men: Apocalypse isn’t the best in the series, it still serves as another decent entry in the X-Men series of films, giving us more of a Superhero type movie than the previous two iterations of this semi-rebooted franchise.
Back in 2011, Fox rebooted the X-Men series with X-Men: First Class, a story that would lay the groundwork for the future of the X-Men films. A younger cast of actors took on the roles of Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr, Hank McCoy, Mystique and more. It would then be followed up with X-Men: Days of Future Past, in which both this young new cast and those of its predecessor, would combine forces attempting to save the future of mutant kind. During this movie, the future time line in which the original Singer films existed, was re-written.
X-Men: Apocalypse sees the newly formed X-Men team attempting to save the world from the greatest threat it has ever known. Thousands of years ago, a mutant called En Sabah Nur ruled the land, his power unrivaled. During a process to make himself more powerful, En Sadah Nur is put in an everlasting sleep. Thousands of years later, he awakens and sets forth on his previous mission, to cleanse the world of those unworthy and upon the ashes of that world, to create a new one, a better one. It’s unfortunate that we don’t learn much more than that, as he speaks nothing about the world he wishes to create.
Oscar Isaac is cast as the titular villain, and while he is never revered to as Apocalypse by name, the chaos he leaves in his wake is appropriately apocalyptic. My history with Apocalypse is mostly via the 90’s cartoon series and some of character’s background in the comics. While this iteration of En Sadah Nur isn’t quite the same, I felt aside from his characters’ short height, he did a great job bringing this iconic villain to life. Isaac is a fantastic actor and while it’s unfortunate that most of his role is buried beneath a wealth of make up and costume, he still managed to pull off a great performance here.
While a few familiar faces are back in their roles of Xavier, Mystique, Magneto, Beast and Quicksilver, a few more of the roles here are filled with a whole new cast. Nightcrawler, Cyclops, and Jean Grey are here to fill out the remainder of the new team members, and while Jubilee is featured, she appears in the film for maybe two minutes. Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler, as known as Kurt Wagner, is fantastic, but the movie doesn’t do much with him other than showcase off his powers. He has a few minutes of some solid acting, but he is mostly used as a comedic tool. Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers, is fairly ok as Cyclops. His addition to the team is natural and the inclusion of Lucas Till, back as Havok, his brother, feels like a good fit. Jean Grey, played by Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner is rather remarkable here and has some very strong scenes that look to set up some key moments from the comics, at least in future films. I did think that both Sophie and Tye had almost no chemistry together, despite their characters future relationship.
James McAvoy returns as Charles Xavier and doesn’t stray much from the character he’s played twice thus far. He has some excellent material to work with here and there is a scene later on, towards the end of the film that allows him to really show his reliance on his students and his trust in them. Easily the finest actor among them, Michael Fassbender is fantastic as Magneto, at least in the first half of the film. Once he becomes a member of Apocalypse’s horsemen, I felt that he lost a bit of his characters’ strength and purpose and comes across as simply hired muscle. He has some very powerful and moving moments in the film, and his inclusion into the horsemen feels far more natural than the other members. Hank McCoy, Beast, played by Nicholas Hoult is alright here, but the moment he has his fur, as the movie just off-camera transitions him from skin to blue fur, he looks like a blue wolfman and while it doesn’t ruin the movie, it looks just awful. I recently watched X-Men: The Last Stand in which they had a vastly superior Beast in the movie that fit the look of the character well and didn’t look nearly as bad as the Beast featured here.
Jennifer Lawrence is again, for some reason, the face of this movie. Mystique, even in the comics, has never been a focus point of leading the X-Men. While I understand the studio wanting to use her as much as possible in the films, since she is insanely popular, and talented, I feel that by doing so, it forces the movie to be more about her and less about anything else. While other outlets are saying that she looked bored in the movie and ‘phoned it in’, I never saw that here and felt she did an ok job. She’s publicly stated that she hasn’t enjoyed the blue outfit and makeup that she wears when in ‘mutant mode’ and the film has a reason for her to look human, and only blue when she needs to be. I’m still not fond of her being the face of the X-Men movies, but it is what it is.
The remainder of the cast is the horsemen: Angel, Storm and Psylocke. Ben Hardy as Angel is a throw away character and pretty much useless in the film. He has maybe three lines, with just as many scenes. His metal wings, and the scenes they are in, are the only reason he appears cool in any way what-so-ever. He also has an odd amount of build up and focus that just doesn’t pay off at all. Storm, rocking the white mohawk is great in this film. Alexandra Shipp plays a very young version of Ororo Monroe, even though we don’t really get to know her that well. There is a little bit of set up here, but it’s over so quick that she gets almost no development.
There was a lot of doubt over Olivia Munn as Betsy Braddock, Psylocke, as even I was one of the ones with doubt about her casting. I actually quite enjoyed her here, and while she doesn’t portray the attitude that I like about Psylocke in the comics, what she does here in this role is very serviceable. One element that I liked and didn’t like about her was her costume. While I loved the fact that they gave her something similar to her comic book outfit, it didn’t look as impressive as the other horsemen’s outfits, and felt more like something made for cosplay than for a movie. I enjoyed the ways in which she used her powers and while not as creative in the powers’ department as say Captain America: Civil War did with their use of abilities, she still has a few stand out moments that are fairly impressive and enjoyable to watch.
Evan Peter’s Quicksilver has yet another speed induced scene that pretty much steals the movie. What’s unfortunate about this scene; however, is that it is fairly similar to his prior one in Days of Future Past. Given the nature of his powers, it’s probably impossible to make it work any other way. Regardless of the lack of originality, the scene is hilarious and very fun to watch.
What I enjoyed about the movie was the sense of destruction that Apocalypse and his horsemen unleash upon the world and the way in which Apocalypse figures out how to get the most out of his plan. His endgame, which I won’t spoil, is fitting and works well with the setup the films have done, both past and present. I enjoyed the opening scene quite a bit and stands out as one of my favorite moments in the film. McAvoy and Fassbender are great together as Xavier and Erik, and the series in many ways, is about their evolving friendship, it’s just unfortunate that they barely share any on-screen time together in this film. The movie has many flashbacks regarding the relationships in the movie, as well as some moments in Erik’s past. I will say that the movie had far too many flashbacks of the prior films, making it feel more like an emotional finale to a series than anything else.
The fight scenes are pretty solid, but they lack the creativity of what Marvel Studios have done in the previous Avengers and Captain America films. It would have been great seeing the team act more like a team, combining powers and fighting together, but I guess with them being a fresh new group, that wasn’t in the cards. Nightcrawler has some excellent fights scenes, as does Psylocke, but everyone else here is fairly typical of what the series has done so far. Visual effects for things like Scott’s eye blasts look great, as does Storm’s powers as well. Nightcrawler’s teleportation looks just as good as it did back in X:Men 2 and is used to great effect here. Psylocke’s psy-blade powers look incredible and really popped in AVX 3D for me. The destruction around the world looks incredible and really worked well in the 3D format. The 3D had decent depth to it and worked extremely well in much of the movie.
There are some areas of the film that didn’t work for me, and can stick out like a sore thumb. Beast and Mystique seemed to have picked the short straw in terms of their visual effects. Both characters suffer from many off-camera cuts between their human and mutant transformations. Mystique has a couple on screen transitions, but most of them are not and it’s pretty jarring. There is also a side plot regarding Charles and Moira that felt awkward and fairly pointless to have in the film. If you’ve seen the recent trailer, then a certain cameo was ruined for you and would have had a much bigger impact had it been kept secret.
I also thought it was beyond ridiculous with the time line in this film taking place in the 80’s, where First Class took place in the 60’s and no one has really even aged a few years, let alone 20. I get that they want to make it appear that much time has passed, but it’s just not visually working in that way. First Class and Day’s of Future Past also did a great job of introducing elements that made you aware of the era the films took place in, this film does almost nothing to take advantage of being set in the 80’s, a normally iconic era.
While the internet, and quite a few reviewers are set to either hate or just not like X-Men: Apocalypse, I did enjoy it a fair bit, despite its glaring flaws. I’m not sold on Mystique being the face of the series, nor do I like the Wolfman approach to what Beast looks like. I thought the performances of both McAvoy, Isaac and Fassbender to be worth the price of admission alone. The movie suffers from lack of character development to its newest members and focuses far too much on already well established characters, but that is both a positive and a negative. The film also does a poor job of handling so many of those characters with a few of them just there to apparently fill space. Overall, the movie can be enjoyable, just don’t go in expecting the best of the series, because this ain’t it.