X-Men is very important in the super hero genre. If it weren’t for Bryan Singer’s X-Men movie back in 2000, when super hero movies were all but dead thanks to Batman & Robin (I actually love that movie but that’s neither here nor there). I it weren’t for the success of X-Men (2000), we would not be in this golden age of super hero films that we are in now.
I’ve been a fan of X-Men long before the movie came out. X-Men was actually the first super hero group that I fell in love with (If you don’t count the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers as super heroes). As a result, I’ve been faithful to the film franchise it has become. I was there for the ups like X2: X-Men United (2003); I was there when Bryan Singer left the franchise and I didn’t admit X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) was bad until about two years later. I have, to some degree, enjoyed each and every X-Men movie that has been made (Including Deadpool (2016)). I’m devoted to the franchise purely out of nostalgia. I didn’t go into X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) with too high expectations. Three trailers were released for the movie and each one after the other made the movie look worse and worse. The early reviews didn’t help either. And yet I walked out this movie feeling pretty good. Not only about Apocalypse; but about the franchise in general.
Bryan Singer’s follow-up to his return to the X-Men franchise still looks and feels like a Singer X-Men movie. Right down to the opening credits score being the same since X2. The opening takes us back to 3600 BCE and we see the titular Apocalypse – the world’s first mutant and quite possibly the closest thing mankind will ever get to a God. I liked Apocalypse as a villain more than a ton of villains that have come with the past decade of super hero movies. Yet, there are some inconsistencies there along the way. I liked Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse, he was really menacing and didn’t look like Ivan Ooze like everyone was afraid he was going to look like after one production photo. Just goes to show you shouldn’t judge things before you see the finished product. I see how this is a completely hypocritical statement seeing as I did the exact same thing when the first photo of Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor popped up. It is what it is. I will say Isaac’s delivery of his lines was certainly menacing. However, his presence on the screen is not menacing whatsoever. Apocalypse is essentially a God. He shouldn’t be shorter than all four of his horsemen. His powers pose a contradiction in the movie as well. Apocalypse can essentially turn anything to dust in an instant if he wanted to. Yet when the final act is underway and Apocalypse is getting a run for his money from a 15 year telepath, you have to wonder, “Why doesn’t he just turn her to dust?” It’s a minor plot hole that I am not going to dwell upon but I did have to make a note of it.
After the cold open we jump forward and the main three of this “new timeline” trilogy are once again split up. Charles Xavier is keeping true to his words at the end of Days of Future Past (2014) and starting the X-Men one student at a time. Mystique is helping refugee mutants and trying to stay out of the spotlight after the events of DoFP. And Magneto goes into hiding and lives a life of peace as a civilian and not using his powers at all. The core of the past two X-Men movies have been the relationship between these three as Xavier and Magneto play devil and angel on the shoulders of Mystique. All of these characters’ emotions and opinions were on display the past two movies and it made for some compelling storytelling from the X-Men franchise. Yet in Apocalypse, it’s really only Magneto who has the emotional arc and support for his actions in this movie. Michael Fassbender once again delivers as Magneto and he’s is the only aspect of the movie that provides any emotional subject matter.It’s surprising to me because usually these three connect so easily – being isolated from their families and coming together to create their own – but this time everyone has their own definition of family. Xavier has his school for “gifted youngsters”, Mystique wants nothing to do with any form of heroism besides keeping fellow mutants out of trouble, and Magneto found a family of his own during the ten year gap between this movie and the last.
Oscar Isaac wasn’t the only newcomer to the franchise that I liked. I actually really enjoyed Sophie Turner as the new, younger, Jean Grey. It’s a little weird hearing Sansa Stark talk in an American accent but she sulks in this movie a little less than she does in Game of Thrones. I wasn’t entirely sold on Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers / Cyclops and the direction they’re taking the character is interesting. I’m curious if he’ll stay on this path or if he’ll come into his own as the field leader for the X-Men. Evan Peters’ return as Quicksilver was entertaining, albeit obligatory after the successful Quicksilver sequence in DoFP. I honestly thought the scene from DoFP was better. After that, Quicksilver did seem pretty useless and I found myself wondering why he was even involved in the third act. Even Alexandra Shipp as Storm I liked; but I wanted her character along with the other two Horsemen – Angel and Psylocke. Angel had maybe two lines in the whole movie. Psylocke’s action sequences were really cool, yes, but other than that she was there as total fan service and nothing more. That goes along with the pacing in the movie as well.
We spend most of the movie watching Xavier recruit while Apocalypse recruits. It was nice to see the beginning of Scott and Jean’s relationship, but we’re over an hour into the movie now let’s start doing some things. It’s tough with all of these super hero movies trying to squeeze in so many characters. X-Men especially. There are SO MANY X-Men. It’s hard to focus on new X-Men while reintroducing old X-Men re-cast. It’s just bound to be convoluted. One thing that really just bugs me and it’s not just the X-Men movies its just movies in general is Jennifer Lawrence. I know there are a thousand redditors who write about this day in and day out but I am tired of the studio coming up with nonsense like, “People love Jennifer Lawrence, we need to have a reason for Mystique to want to blend in as a human so that we can showcase Jennifer Lawrence’s face!” It’s just aggravating and it’s just more fuel to the fire of business vs. art.
I will be the first to say that of the three “new timeline” X-Men films, Apocalypse is the weakest. That’s not to say I didn’t have a good time watching this movie. It’s a slow burn with a grand action sequence at the end. The new additions are both good and meh but no one is TERRIBLE. I could get behind Apocalypse’s goals. He didn’t really reflect it onto any of his Horsemen except Magneto but I’ll still give it to him, the message he was trying to send was intimidating. There’s some fan service in the movie as well and ton of little, “Oh look at that,” moments to go around. I’m excited they announced the next X-Men movie will take place another ten years later in the 90s. Here’s to hopefully seeing the neon outfits straight out of the 90s’ X-Men: The Animated Series.
Overall Rating: 6.5/10 – Pretty Good
If you’ve stuck around with the X-Men movies for this long, you’re going to enjoy it. While it may not stand up to the highlights of the series like X-Men: First Class (2011), DoFP, or the first two Bryan Singer installments; but it is leaps and bounds better than the flops like The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). I’ll put my ranking below.
- X2: X-Men United (2003)
- X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
- X-Men: First Class (2011)
- Deadpool (2016)
- X-Men (2000)
- X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
- The Wolverine (2013)
- X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
- X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
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