The recent popularity of comic book movies all owe a debt to three films: Blade, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and of course, Bryan Singer’s X-Men. These films made people realize that comic book movies can be great, and they were needed after the 90s was filled with embarrassing films of that genre. At 16 years, the X-Men films are currently the longest-running comic book film franchise to date, having existed longer than the 8 year old MCU, and have spawned the original trilogy, two Wolverine movies (one is awful and the other is forgettable), and the prequels taking place in the past starting with X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days Of Future Past, plus Deadpool. Now, we’re at film number 9 of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men universe and thanks to Days Of Future Past rewriting the timeline, things have gotten (more) convoluted. Now, we’re going to look at the most recent film of the series to see if things improve. This is X-Men Apocalypse.
Let’s start things off with…
In ancient Egypt, the world’s first and most powerful mutant was born, En Sabah Nur, who was worshiped by many as a god. He awakens in 1983 and isn’t impressed by the world he’s in, so he gathers an army, the Four Horsemen, to assist his conquest in destroying humanity and building a world for the strongest mutants. The only ones who can stop him is the X-Men, both old and new. This is a very basic plot for a summer blockbuster. It’s not the best written plot, but it establishes the big bad guy while he builds his army and the heroes have to be ready to face him. You know what to expect.
As usual, we’ll start with the good guys.
There is a lot of characters in this movie, I don’t even know where to begin. I know. Let’s start with Professor Xavier played by James McAvoy. Definitely one of the best characters in the whole movie and one of the best performances. After the last X-Men film, Xavier continued running his school for the gifted and spreading his beliefs that humans and mutants can live in peace. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique was okay. The character, at this point, is considered to be a hero by many mutants because of the events of Days Of Future Past, but she doesn’t want that title. She secretly goes around liberating mutants while keeping a low profile, which is easy to do if you’re a shape-shifter. Beast was okay, the younger versions of Cyclops and Jean were okay, both having to deal with their powers. I liked Nightcrawler, he was likable and funny. And then there’s Quicksilver, who solidified his place as one of my favorite characters of this franchise. I can safely say that Evan Peters is a much better Quicksilver than Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Quicksilver in Apocalypse has a much bigger role than in Days Of Future Past, which means more screen time. He, alongside Nightcrawler, brings some levity to this drama-heavy film with some hilarious lines and scenes. And he has the best scene in the whole movie where when the X-Mansion blows up, he rescues everyone (except for Cyclops’ brother) and it’s basically a longer, funnier, much better version of his scene in the Pentagon from DOFP, with Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams playing. It is a rehash, but this is one of the rare cases where the rehash is better than the original. That alone is worth the price of admission. The rest of the good guys, I did not care for, so I won’t talk about them. Let’s move on to the antagonists.
Before we get to the title character, we have to talk about the Four Horsemen. First off, Magneto is excellent. Michael Fassbender manages to capture everything that made the character so compelling. At this point, because of his status as a criminal, Magneto has to go hide out in Poland, where he starts a family under a new name . Then he was discovered and the local police held his daughter captive in the woods in hopes to capture him. Things go wrong and both Magneto’s daughter and wife end up dying. It’s a very heartbreaking scene as his source of happiness and peace have been taken away and you understand why he would join Apocalypse (more on him later). Now for the rest of the Horsemen. Storm, Angel, and Psylocke were poorly utilized in this film. They only exist as obstacles for the X-Men to get through. I don’t think any of them had more than 10 lines of dialogue and one of them dies.
Ivan Ooze Apocalypse himself. This character has gotten a mixed response from people so far with those who hated his performance saying he looks ridiculous and that he’s bland. Me personally? There are good and bad things about this character. Positives: Oscar Isaac did well for what he’s given and the character is very menacing at times thanks to his voice and the way the film shoots his scenes. The negatives: yeah, I admit that he does look ridiculous, but considering that he already look ridiculous, I can forgive it. His powers haven’t been properly utilized, especially compared to the comics and cartoons. In this film, he can augment mutant powers, he can turn dust into a deadly weapon, he can use telekinesis, telepathy, et cetera, et cetera. Basically, he has plot convenience powers. The filmmakers seem to be unclear about establishing his abilities and that is just tacky. His motivation is a simple one, world domination and the destruction of mankind and he plans to do so by transferring his conscience into Xavier’s body. So in terms of villains, I can’t call him a bad villain, but I don’t know if he’s a good villain.
I’ve always felt that the action in most of the X-Men films were underwhelming. It feels like the filmmakers don’t take full advantage of these characters’ powers. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some great action sequences, especially in this film, but compared to other comic book movies, they look standard and second-tier. In Apocalypse, we have the beginning scene in Egypt where the Horsemen are trying to protect Apocalypse from insurgents who see him as a false god. It’s silly, but serviceable and it has a surprising amount of gore. There’s the X-Mansion explosion/Quicksilver rescue scene, which I already talked about. After that scene, the X-Men are captured by William Stryker, the government douchenugget from the last movie who hates mutants, and they’re taken to the Weapon X facility. Jean, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler snuck on-board to rescue them, but they need to shut down the power and they get help from a certain fan-favorite mutant.
I joke. It’s Wolverine. Because we can’t do an X-Men film without an appearance from Wolverine. Anyways, everyone’s free and we go into the final battle in the third act, which is a standard final battle in a summer blockbuster. Shit’s getting destroyed thanks to Magneto’s augmented powers and a giant pyramid is built in Cairo. All of the characters display their abilities and it’s a race against time as the X-Men have to stop Apocalypse from transferring his consciousness to Xavier. There’s also a battle of the minds as Xavier faces off against Apocalypse mentally as he tries to fight off control. The action isn’t the best, but it’s a lot of fun to witness.
Overall, I give X-Men: Apocalypse a solid 6/10. It’s not the best X-Men film (not when X2, First Class, and Days Of Future Past exist); it does drag (especially in the second half), there’s too many characters to the point where not everyone got proper development, Apocalypse could’ve been done better, a lot is going on, and a lot of plot points are “been there, done that.” But for what it is, it’s an entertaining film with some great, funny, and emotional moments and the action is much bigger than previous films. I think the critics were a bit harsh on this film, but I can see how someone wouldn’t like it. If you’re a fan of the X-Men, this is definitely worth checking out. If I wasn’t on a budget (going to the movies isn’t cheap, you know), I would definitely go see it again. But in terms of sequels and spin-offs, outside of Deadpool 2, I’m not that excited. I will check them out, but my anticipation is very low.