Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Guys, I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.

Have you ever been on either end of this particular conversation at one point in your life or another? Well, in this scenario, I’m on the giving end of this little statement, obviously, because I was not satisfied with the end result of this week’s feature film.

I grew up with the X-Men film franchise, in fact I think I was 10 years old when the first one was released. After X-Men: The Last Stand I felt as though the franchise plateaued and they just needed to end it as mercifully as it could by pitting whoever was left from the original trilogy against the X-Men’s most powerful and dangerous enemy: Apocalypse, the First Mutant. Well, the plans of 20th Century Fox and my own personal aspirations didn’t exactly mesh but they did get around to utilizing the First Mutant in their latest action-adventure installment X-Men: Apocalypse.

Image by 20th Century Fox

This film feels more like a direct sequel to X-Men: First Class although the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past set this sequel in motion. The plot is particularly straightforward: after millennia of dormant sleep, an ancient being calling himself En Sabah Nur awakens to a world he finds weak; where humans have taken their place at the forefront of civilization while mutants are relegated to the shadows. En Sabah Nur was worshiped like a god in ancient Egypt because he wielded extraordinary power and feels as though it is his responsibility to set the Earth back on track by purging it of all weakness and to do so, he needs assistance.

I suppose one could say that the story of X-Men: Apocalypse truly begins when Magneto’s peaceful life in Poland with his family comes to a tragic end, and En Sabah Nur finds a raw, vulnerable, grief-stricken Magneto and enlists him as his horseman, alongside Storm, Psylocke and Angel. Determined to save their friend and the world from the designs of an ancient maleficent force, Mystique spurs into action with Beast, Quicksilver, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, CIA Agent Moira McTaggert and the assistance of Professor Charles Xavier to avert to coming calamity.

After years of waiting, I finally get the X-Men movie I asked for only to discover that it wasn’t the movie that I hoped it would be. Director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg have delivered an installment that is over-ambitious, over-reaching, a little over-the-top and ultimately a film that is extensively mediocre and middle of the road in my opinion.

I guess the appeal from Days of Future Past, where you had the cast of the original trilogy with the cast of the prequel trilogy, including Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters and Lucas Till, together in one feature is lost on this sequel, where the cast of First Class is in the driver’s seat carrying the new additions to the franchise including Oscar Isaac in the title role, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Alexandra Shipp, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Olivia Munn and Ben Hardy.

Looking back, I feel as though Simon Kinberg did the utmost he could to infuse humor into a plot that centered around the end of the world, while trying to tie together events from First Class and Days of Future Past but ultimately that humor was simply lost and fleeting to me, even verging on unnecessary at times. For instance, the humorous exchange between Charles and Moira was a little superfluous and it didn’t mesh with the tone of the story, but that’s not to say that Kinberg has lost his touch. The Quicksilver sequences were fun to watch, even better than in the last movie (the Eurythmics were a nice compliment).

Image By Dick Thomas Johnson from Tokyo, Japan, via Wikimedia Commons

Bryan Singer has certainly made his mark on the X-Men film franchise, his fingerprints are all over the films going back to the first one, but with Apocalypse, I couldn’t resonate with anything he wanted to accomplish. There were certainly many likeable elements to what Singer explored in the film:

  • incorporating a young Jean Grey, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler into the franchise and Turner, Sheridan, Shipp and Smit-McPhee did a decent job
  • utilizing Michael Fassbender’s tremendous acting range into his performance as Magneto
  • using flashbacks from the previous two X-Men films to tie this film together, while honoring what the original trilogy has accomplished on their own.

Simultaneously, there were many miscues in this film:

  • Munn’s Psylocke, Hardy’s Angel, Condor’s Jubilee were heavily underutilized
  • Oscar Isaac was solid as Apocalypse but his character was questionably crafted and ultimately skeptically resolved with
  • There was an abundance of plot-holes including how Hugh Jackman’s cameo figured into the new timeline, what happened to the kids at the Institute after it was destroyed, what happened to Stryker? etc.

At this point, we have become accustomed to what Bryan Singer brings to the X-Men universe, but I felt that with the ambition he wanted to bring to Apocalypse, everything just felt overdone and I couldn’t connect with the picture, the characters, feel an impact from the plot; I felt detached from the film, hence the disappointment.

I liked Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography, Michael Louis Hill and John Ottman’s editing, Grant Major’s production design, Michele Laliberte, Veronique Meunier and Ravi Bansal’s art direction, the visual effects and Louise Mingenbach’s costumes were exceptional.

In comparison to other superhero films released this year, this falls in the middle of the road.

Unlike Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse tried to be funny. Unlike Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse was seriously unbalanced and unstable to take in. Unlike Batman v. Superman, I didn’t leave the theater with a grating headache.

X-Men: Apocalypse is watchable, but I just had difficulty enjoying or appreciating what I saw. In fact, I remember that there was a brief scene where Scott, Jean, Nightcrawler and Jubilee went to the movies to see Return of the Jedi and Jean made a comment that was very apropos to describe the third installment of the X-Men prequel series

The 3rd one is always the worst


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