Oh X-Men film franchise, like the phoenix you rise for a brief moment and then slowly but surely burst into flames and crash land in a heap of ashes. If X-Men: First Class was the soaring rise, then this film is the beginning of the fall, and what a fall it is going to be. Prepare yourself for sass and spoilers.
Let’s take a look at X-Men: Apocalypse.
Charles Xavier has opened his school for teenage mutants, which is all fine and dandy until somewhere in Egypt an ancient mutant is awakened who wants to take over the world, as per usual. Apocalypse, as he is called, amasses a core group made up of Storm, Psylocke, Angel and Magneto while Xavier recruits Cyclops, as Mystique, Nightcrawler and Quicksilver join the quickly escalating fray. Massive fighting ensues for the fate of the Earth, we get the “subtle” hint of the Dark Phoenix, a mostly useless Wolverine cameo, a very strong sequel to the amazing Quicksilver scene from First Class, and the promise of a new movie in a year or two wherein the happy ending is once again shattered. The plot, as you can tell, is flimsy at best and clearly a cop-out at worst. As with most of the entries in the franchise, the next film will be pretty different so there’s no need to fret about the plot.
In terms of the acting, I still think James McAvoy plays Professor Charles Xavier with a pretentious quivering that I can only assume is a failed attempt to reflect the pure charisma of Patrick Stewart which only really worked in the last two films. However, Fassbender gives an emotional performance, seemingly swapping roles with Jennifer Lawrence from Days of Future Past, since she is now the more steadfast, cool-headed one. The new characters of Jean Grey (Sophie Grey), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and Psylocke (Olivia Munn) all put in good performances and I honestly like them better than their first-timeline counterparts. Evan Peters is still great as Quicksilver, as is Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy. Oscar Isaac, however, cares too much — he puts a lot of effort into a performance he definitely didn’t need for his resume. You almost wish someone had told him to tone it down, he so hams it up as the villain.
I cannot overstate my disappointment in both the cutting of the mall scene and the removal of most of Jubilee’s scenes. For one, if you are going to do the 80s then you are going to do it right and throw in as many pop culture references as you can with all the big hair and the bright costumes and the epicenter of American economics that was the mall. Second, Jubilee is a fan darling, not to mention a personal favorite of mine, and the fact that they made a big deal of putting her in the film and then cut her out is ludicrous. Who cares if her powers range from silly to only minimally useful, if the whole point was to make a reference for the old guard.
On the other hand, having the Wolverine cameo was, in my opinion, totally pointless fan-baiting because Fox has yet to get the memo that many of us stopped caring about Wolverine three movies ago. Yes, he’s a franchise staple played by a great actor who never seems to age but come on, he’s already going to get yet another solo film, why does he need to barrel through this film as well? Not to mention the interaction between him and baby Jean Grey that is meant to set up the romantic tension for later movies highlights the stark age difference and just comes off as creepy.
To add another complaint to the suggestion box, it’s time to stop adding more trauma to Magneto. In this film, he gets a family which is, of course, summarily dispatched because how can someone bad if not driven insane by sorrow? It’s a trope that The Dark Knight perfected and every other comic book movie has done their best second-rate impression of. As far as I can tell, there is no precedent for this in the regular Earth-616 timeline but that never stopped Bryan Singer and the gang from doing whatever they wanted with the plot before. Still, I feel like living through the Holocaust and having you entire family die horribly as the result of systematic evil, where the whole world is literally against you, is traumatic enough to sustain a lifetime of not being on Professor X’s side of the mutant-human debate.
If this movie has a saving grace, it is absolutely the visuals. The costuming is excellent in this film, awkward 80s hair and all, with classic outfits not looking ridiculous and plasticy and the newer models, like Storm, looking like organic manifestations of the characters. The special effects, especially for the slow-mo scene, were excellent, and the overall look of the film matched the X-Men franchise as we know it today with the 80s nostalgia it was going for. It might be one of the best X-Men films visually, emulating the comic style the best while still being pleasing to the eye.
In the end, X-Men: Apocalypse is certainly the marked descent downward that tends to happen with this franchise. Still, it has its strong points aesthiecally and in introducing a new set of X-Men actors (who will hopefully stay for the next one), it does a solid job. However, considering the after-credits scene might hint at yet another Wolverine-centered film, it might be good for them to quit while they’re ahead.
– Strong acting.
– Great costume design.
– Great effects and cinematography.
– Flimsy plot.
– Odd pacing.
– Unnecessary Wolverine cameo.