X-Men: Apocalypse Review
THE END IS NIGH
Back in 2011, X-Men movie franchise and interesting turn towards the past, with the movie X-Men: First Class, being the starting point of a newly planned trilogy (dubbed “The First Class” trilogy). Directed by Matthew Vaughn, this installment told the story of the fragile relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr (Magneto), the turmoil of the shapeshifting mutant Raven (Mystique), and the formation of Xavier’s X-Men team. Using the backdrop of the historical events (US’s escalating tension with Russia and the Cuban Missile Crisis), the movie was met with mostly positive reviews and big dollars at the box office. Three years later, a sequel arrived to First Class in the form of X-Men: Days of Future Past. This time-traveling movie, directed by Bryan Singer, saw the return of the most of the principle cast from First Class as well as veterans from the original X-Men trilogy. Similar to its predecessor, Days of Future Past focuses on Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique and again used a historical event (the Vietnam War) as it’s backdrop as mutants fight to save the past and the future as well. Now, two years after Days of Future Past was released (with box office success and critical praise), 20th Century Fox and Bryan Singer close out this “First Class” trilogy with the film X-Men: Apocalypse? Does this superhero movie bring a proper ending to this cinematic story or is it just a visual blockbuster flop?
Roughly 10 years have passed since the Washington D.C. incident exposed mutants to the world, and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has created a safe haven for his kind at his special school for gifted youngsters, with recently enrolled students Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), his younger brother Havok (Lucas Till), and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). Meanwhile, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) as taking up residence in Poland, trying to keep a low profile to protect his family, while Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) travels around the globe, freeing enslaved mutants in the process, including a unique man known as Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Elsewhere, a cult secretly finds the remains of En Sabah Nuir aka Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) in the deepest pits of Egypt. Unfortunately, the awaken the slumber powerful mutant, who’s plans to “cleanse” the world of the weak and non-mutant kind, recruiting his new “Four Horsemen” in Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Pyslocke (Olivia Munn0, Archangel (Ben Hardy), and surprisingly in Magneto. With his “Horsemen” using their combined forces to act as Apocalypse’s hands to destroy humanity, Apocalypse himself then terms towards Xavier, utilizing his telepathic ability to control the masses, ensuring En Sabah Nur age of terror. With Xavier gone, his students out to protect their home and Earth itself, rally behind Mystique and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), figuring out how to control their mutant powers and becoming an effective team as they bonding through Apocalypse’s war.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Well, I’ve said it before in other reviews, but I am superhero / comic book fan (more so on the Marvel side of things). Thus, it was a natural given that I, for the most part, like the X-Men movies. Sure, there are a couple of bad ones (X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I also didn’t like Wolverine), but there have been good ones as well, especially in First Class and Days of Future Past. Both those movies I really do like, capturing an impressive story with a younger cast (and sometimes using the older cast) to tell its mutant blockbuster narrative. Of course, the “Easter egg” ending for Days of Future Past teased moviegoers everywhere, hinting that Apocalypse would be the main villain in the next installment. Seeing the trailers for the movie these past couple of months also fueled my interest in seeing X-Men: Apocalypse. With the movie finally out, I got my chance to see it. What did think of it? Well, I actually liked it. Yes, there are some problems with the movie, but X-Men: Apocalypse is not as terrible as some reviewers are saying it to be, its quite a fun ride. And yet, it’s the weakest of the “First Class” trilogy.
As little reminder, to those uninitiated to the X-Men movie franchise, its best to go into Apocalypse with prior knowledge of watching (or at least know what transpired in) both First Class and Days of Future Past as the movie makes nods and references to those two installments.
Returning to his post is director Bryan Singer to helm this latest mutant adventure. Singer, who has had a hand in shaping the X-Men cinematic universe in X-Men, X2 (or known as X2: X-Men United), and X-Men: Days of Future Past, knows what fans want and sure does give it to them. Apocalypse raises the stakes (the fate of the world again rest upon the shoulders several mutant individuals) and prepares to go to war with impressive visuals effects (great for a summer blockbuster movie), with each mutant character (be major or minor) getting his or her chance to showcase their powers. Basically, if you’re a fan of the X-Men moves, you’ll find Apocalypse mostly to your satisfaction.
If you were a little weary about having to sit through a convoluted time-traveling adventure in Days of Future Past (personally I wasn’t. I lover that movie), then you’ll be happy to know that Apocalypse is pretty much straight-forward narrative. From a technical standpoint, the film works in presenting a stylish superhero movie. Production designer Grant Major, costume designer Louise Mingenbach, and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel all must be praised and commended for their work on this film project as it their work definitely shows in the movie (at least I think so). And, of course, I have to mention the fantastic musical score from composer John Ottman. Just hearing that famous opening credits theme song (after seeing that impressive opening sequence in Ancient Egypt), gave me chills.
Perhaps the biggest problem of Apocalypse is found in its scope and scale. Similar to other superhero movies that came out this year (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War), this movie is massive and tries to serve “too many masters” in its undertaking. There’s the continuing thread with the returning characters, the introduction of the film’s new “next” generation characters, the film main’s antagonist and his four followers, and so on and so forth. There’s just too much going on that it, at times, the movie can’t decide on which one to focus on. Thus, certain characters and scenarios in the film are sadly short-changed, especially in character development department.
In conjunction with that idea, Apocalypse also lacks the strong relationship building in its three principle “First Class” characters (Xavier, Magento, and Mystique). Both First Class and Days of Future Past utilized these three mutants to structure the movie’s narrative around them and their relationship with each other. Apocalypse takes the formula away, putting in a sort of limbo, and also takes away the film’s emotional weight, which was invested in these characters from the past two movies. Yes, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence still are completed “invested” in their mutant roles as Charles Xavier, Magento, and Mystique (Fassbender’s Magento has poignant scene in the film’s first act), but it’s just a little odd that there inner-relationship with each other is not the main focus (and the emotional machinations) in Apocalypse.
While First Class used the Cuba Missile Crisis for its third act setting and Days of Future Past used the Paris Peace Accords for its second act, Apocalypse really doesn’t capitalize on the 1980s as a historical backdrop. Sure, beyond the clothing apparel, hairstyle, make-up, and 80s pop-culture references, the movie could’ve been set in any other time period (i.e. 90s, 2000s, or even present day).
Apocalypse sees several new actors making their debut on-screen in the X-Men cinematic universe, most of which are generally likable and are younger versions of characters that have been well-established in the previous installments. Both Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones) and Tye Sheridan get the most screen time in developing their characters as younger versions of Jean Grey and Scott Summer (Cyclops). I especially like Tuner’s Jean Grey as she did a great job in that role. Hopefully she will be in future installments and that they’ll do the Phoenix Saga (or Dark Phoenix Saga) with her and do it properly (I got fingers crossed…hehe). Behind them is Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner), who does great work and lives up to the performance done first done by Alan Cumming in X2. Lastly, in a very, very minor appearance (I heard the cut all of her scenes) is Lana Condor’s Jubilee. Why does this mutant character always get “cut” or even added to the movie is a complete mystery?
Of the returning X-Men cast members is Nicholas Hoult as Beast (Hank McCoy), who continues to do solid work in his role (even though he’s mostly pushes to the background in this movie), while Evan Peter’s Quicksilver (Peter Maximoff), fan favorite of Days of Future Past, returns in Apocalypse. Thankfully, Quicksilver has more screen time this go around and once again proves to have another “standout” sequence in the movie that will surely please fans and moviegoers alike.
As for the movie’s main baddie, Apocalypse (or rather En Sabah Nuir) is a titular adversary that’s only met with adequate results. Yes, I know who Apocalypse is in the X-Men comics and knew how impressive he is as a villain, fueling my interest to see him come to life on the big-screen. However, this ancient and powerful mutant falls somewhat short. Oscar Isaac, known for his role in Ex-Machina and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, plays Apocalypse and does a good job, delivering ominous lines / speeches of dialogue of his desire to “cleanse” the Earth, but the character itself is so god-like (i.e. cold, distant, and omnipotent) that he becomes flat. Sure, he’s the herald for the “end of the world”, but there’s no complexity or well-roundedness beyond this ancient mutant’s backstory and the awesome power he can weld. He talks a “big game”, ridding the world of its “super-powers” (presumably the US and the USSR), but there’s little to discuss or to showcase what he plans to create once he’s wipes the slate clean of Earth’s “false gods”. Still, (if examining three main villains from the “First Class” trilogy), I think Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse is a better villain Peter Dinklage’s Bolivar Trask’s from Days of Future’s Past, but not better than Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw from First Class. As a side-note, it’s kind of a little hard to imagine Isaac is beneath all that prosthetic makeup.
In truth, Apocalypse spends more time seeing its chief villain recruiting his legendary “Four Horsemen” and enhancing their mutant powers rather than carving out character’s development time for En Sabah Nui himself. Speaking of the “Four Horsemen”, with the exception of Magneto, the movie picks “new faces” to play these iconic mutant roles, with each one looking amazing as their comic book counterpoint character. Alexandra Shipp as the younger Storm (Ororo Munroe) rocks the white “Mohawk” and has the strongest presence of three other Horsemen with Olivia Munn (definitely the film’s “eye-candy”) as the infamous Pyslocke (Elizabeth Braddock) behind her, and then Ben Hardy as Angel / Archangel (Warren Worthington III). While each is given an opportunity to showcase their extraordinary powers, their character development is, to say the least, thin, with only Shipp’s Storm given a little bit more development (especially since Storm becomes an important character later on in the X-Men movies).
The film also sees the return of several faces from the previous two films in more supporting / cameo roles. This includes Rose Byrne’s Moria MacTaggert, Lucas Till’s Havok (Alex Summers), Josh Helman’s William Stryker, and brief appearance of everyone’s “favorite” mutant in the movie franchise (Hint: it rhymes with “Polverine”). On the whole, these roles are well-acted by the actors that play them, but are, more or less, delegated for continuity reasons in this movie universe and nothing more than that.
As a final note, stay tuned after the credits for the film’s “Easter egg ending”, laying the groundwork for a new enemy to this cinematic universe (like you didn’t know that they were going to do this…lol).
The End is nigh as the Xavier’s X-Men faces off against En Sabah Nuir and his Four Horsemen in X-Men: Apocalypse. Director Bryan Singer’s latest mutant feature film does “amp” up the action with dazzling blockbuster visuals, impressive mutant powers, and strong introduction to a “new generation” of X-Men mutants. However, acting as “closing piece” to the “First Class” trilogy, Apocalypse does falter with own problems as well as underwhelming some of its characters (new, old, and its main villain), making this feature the weakest of its intended trilogy. Still, despite that, the movie is too entertaining and good wholesome “popcorn” fun to write off as a disaster or a “franchise killing movie” as some are calling it to be. Personally, I liked it (probably a little more than the average person). Sure, it could’ve been better, but, for what it was, it was great summer blockbuster movie that held my interest as well as entertained it for its two hour and twenty-four-minute runtime. Thus, I would recommend this movie to all comic book movie lovers and casual moviegoers to go see. Just don’t set your expectations extremely high. If you don’t, then you’ll thoroughly enjoy X-Men: Apocalypse. It will be interesting to see where the X-Men franchise will go next. Will the movie continue with the younger cast or return to the older “guard” (the original cast) or a combination of the two? Who can say. Like McAvoy’s Xavier said in Days of Future Past “for the future is never truly set”.
3.9 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: May 27th, 2016
Reviewed On: May 27th, 2016
X-Men: Apocalypse is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images.