X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
PG-13 / 144 min
Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Director: Bryan Singer
The X-Men movies have always been low on the totem pole for me. When you look at the different franchises that Marvel has put out, the X-Men universe usually ranks pretty low because I don’t have the affinity for the characters as much as I do with some of the other franchises. It also gets confusing when they throw in a bunch of different characters and plot points, especially with the Days of Future Past and First Class. In the series’ latest addition, X-Men: Apocalypse, the stakes are raised but the movie manages to provide more of the same. I went in with pretty low expectations and came out pleasantly surprised, despite some of the movie’s misfires.
Maybe the name of the movie hasn’t jumped out at you yet, but it should be easy to hypothesize that this movie has heavy circumstances at stake, including the end of the world and it’s up for the X-Men, once again, to save the earth from the clutches of evil. Sound like a superhero movie yet? After being buried thousands and thousands of years ago, the first mutant, who goes by the name Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), remerges from the dark depths with the intent of taking a steamroller to society, starting fresh again under his rule. Think of it like Noah’s Ark, except with much worse intentions. Although his powers are seemingly incredible, he can’t carry out his mission by himself, which is why he assembles a team of powerful mutants, including the likes of Angel (Ben Hardy), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Pyslocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).
After Apocalypse literally sends a ripple through the earth, the mutants at Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) academy realize that they are going to need to unify in order to take down the looming threat. Retuning folks like Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Havok (Lucas Till), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and even Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) make an appearance while newcomers Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) share the screen as well. Whew, got all of the names out of the way. There’s a bunch of characters vying for screen time but the film’s handling of these characters is one thing that Apocalypse gets right. There’s character moments galore, especially with the fan-favorite Quicksilver who steals the show numerous times, to no surprise. Although most of these moments don’t really amount to much, they still put a smile on your face. In terms of the newcomers, both Sophie Turner and Kodi Smit-McPhee did a great job with their characters, while Tye Sheridan’s depiction of Cyclops was hit or miss. They were collectively alright, but some shined more than others. It’s also worth mentioning that Jennifer Lawrence was pretty great as well. It’s looking pretty murky for the future of her involvement in the series, which could be a big blow for subsequent movies going forward.
As I’ve mentioned before, the scope and brevity of this movie is hard to deny. With a movie that teases the end of the world, it only makes sense that the bars are raised. The story, plot holes and all, might not mean that much in the end, but it provides for a dumb fun roller coaster of a ride. The set pieces are gigantic and the fight scenes are well choreographed and engaging. There were a couple of times where I was like, wow, this movie looks pretty great. Days of Future Past featured Magneto’s upheaval of RFK stadium, but Apocalypse has a moment or two that definitely rivals its predecessor’s crowing moment.
Where Apocalypse trips up is with its titular villain, and his surrounding four henchmen. Oscar Isaac’s early moments as the god-like villain were fun to watch, but as the second and third act started to unfold, his powers started to become inconsistent as he constantly bended the rules. The concept of a dangerous doomsday villain like Apocalypse is cool, but they mishandled his character, giving him powers that made me wonder why he even needed any help in the first place. In fact, he probably could have single handedly taken out the X-Men himself if he really wanted to. Speaking of his hour helpers, what was the point of even having them in this movie? With the exception of Storm, the other three mutants on Apocalypse’s team were pretty unnecessary as far as story goes. They’re also never painted as being dangerous. I’m not going to spoil anything, but let’s just say the team gets broken up in the form of a little whimper that will easily be forgettable the second you step outside the theater. It’s a shame because they could have been so much more. Instead, they were relegated to throwaway character material.
Apocalypse leaves things in a pretty good place as it comes to a close, which should give any fan of the series some hope for the franchise’s future. Let’s be honest, the X-Men series has had its fair share of ups and downs. It’s why I set my expectations for this movie pretty low. Although the movie carries some flaws, it was actually a lot better than I thought it was initially going to be. Maybe this is a product of my low expectations. Who knows, this could be a pretty bad movie. However, I’m pretty confident that if you’re a fan of the X-Men, then this might be a movie worth seeing. As for everyone else, it’s another superhero movie…so do with that what you will?