(I know this is a week after release, but this is the first time I’ve ever not seen a superhero opening weekend. So forgive me)
(Very Minor Spoiler Alert)
The X-Men is one of the few mainstream superhero properties I don’t know a lot about. I’ve always called myself a fan of both Marvel and DC (If you put a gun to my head, I’ll always say DC first.). But even as a huge fan of the world of Marvel, X-Men was always on the outskirts for me. That’s not to say I haven’t read anything X-Men. I very much enjoyed Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run, but that’s the most I’ve really read. They had their own world and conflicts that didn’t need the rest of the Marvel Universe proper. It’s one of the reasons I never thought they needed to try and bring the X-men characters into the Marvel Studios films, I believe they work better as a separate unit than part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Despite all of that. I’ve been really happy with the X-Men movies as of late. The new trilogy has produced some of the best X-Men films in the series 16 year history. First Class brought the series new life in a 60’s period piece after the one two knock-out of The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The film brought along a new and exciting cast, while simultaneously elevating the rising stars of Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender (Playing Mystique and Magneto respectively.) The Next Film, Days of Future Past, brought together the new and old cast into a spectacular time travel mash of post-apocalyptic action and 70’s intrigue. All the while resetting the continuity to atone for the mistakes of past films.
Now we are brought to X-Men: Apocalypse, the third film in the second trilogy of X-Men films. This time the eponymous villain, played here by Oscar Issac, has risen after centuries of being buried under a rug store to cleanse the earth of the weak, so only the strong will survive. It’s up to Professor X and his team of super duper people to put a stop to Apocalypse and his schemes.
There are a lot of things to unpack here with this film, but the most glaring issue with this film is that it’s lazy. It’s lazy in multiple facets. Each film in this trilogy has been a period piece of some kind, each one taking place in a new decade. First Class Started in 1962, and this one takes place 20 years after those events. The filmmakers don’t even pretend to care that it’s been 20 years. Characters that should be about 40 years old all still look like they’re in their mid 20’s. Nicholas Hoult as Beast shows up talking about how he’s a professor here and you don’t believe it for a second. Speaking of Beast, he and Mystique rarely look like they’re blue selves throughout the movie. That could be an actor/prosthetic thing, but for the 6th proper X-Men film, you’d think they’d care enough to keep the characters looking like…. THE CHARACTERS! Even when they do have their prosthetics on, they don’t even look that great. Mystique’s makeup looks way dumbed down from how she looked in First Class, even the first X-Men in 2000 had better Makeup.
But those aren’t the biggest problems with the movie. The worst problem with this film is that it’s so freaking tedious, that again comes with laziness in a way. The film brings out Apocalypse as the new antagonist who’s going to destroy the world and cleanse everything (Cleanse it of humans? No, he wants to kill mutants too… Ok…). But this is a prequel, we already have seen the X-Men proper in the old movies going about their lives. Apocalypse is never a big deal because of this. It’s just the same old superhero bullshit. “There’s a guy who’s going to destroy the world! Can we stop him? Yes. Yes we can. Easily.” That’s the movie. Sorry, but if I told you that they beat Apocalypse, would anybody really call that a “spoiler?” No. Because it’s the same old crap, and this time they don’t even deliver the goods.
A glaring issue with this movie is its inability to show the X-Men as a working team. Civil War showed superheros fighting in giant groups can be done masterfully. Director Brian Singer has made five X-Men films and seems to have no clue how to direct a large scale action sequences involving the whole team. In the third act taking place in the open streets of a destroyed Cairo, The fights only manage to focus on two or three mutants at a time, while two other mutants are far away in another corner fighting, and everyone else is just standing around looking tired. it’s embarrassing how little they make it work.
Along with having a cliche “plot”, the film also just has too many elements to juggle. Along with the titular villain are 4 mutants known as his “Four Horseman”, they are hand picked by Apocalypse to help him reign over the world. These consist of past mutants Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, younger mutants Storm and Angel (Alexandra Shipp and Ben Hardy respectively), and a new mutant named Psylocke played by Olivia Munn. The four horsemen are staples in any comic featuring Apocalypse, but here they are given nothing to do except make angry faces, have a fight scene, and say nothing. Or in Psylocke’s case, stand around in a purple bikini and say nothing. All of these characters except Magneto are new faces to this series of movies, but we are given little reason to care about any of them. Worst of all, the first 60-75 minutes of the film is all buildup, including each character getting an introduction into the movie, and it’s all for nothing.
The New Mutants on the good side aren’t much better. Tye Sheradin plays the new Cyclops and is sat in a corner like he has for every X-Men Film. Brian Singer has a strange hatred for Cyclops throughout his time as the director of these films and he keeps up his track record to make sure Cyclops continues to suffer. Sophia Turner plays the new Jean Grey and appears to be bored out of her mind. She is too young to be sleep walking through a movie, but I have a feeling she wasn’t given much direction. Only real standout for me was the new Nightcrawler played by Kodi Smit-Mcphee, He was the most entertaining character out of the bunch and he appeared to be bringing something extra to his character.
The two unsung heroes of the film appear to be Michael Fassbender and Oscar Issac. Both have so little to work with, yet they put their all into it. They are total professionals. Michael Fassbender has long been my favorite part of this series for a while. Days of Future Past is one of his best performances as the character personally. Here he doesn’t stop giving it his all. Whether he has to cry over his family after the silliest death possible, or he has to destroy Auschwitz with underground metal next to Olivia Munn wearing a purple bikini. He doesn’t embarrass himself in this as much as the material tries. Oscar Issac performs similarly, but sadly with a more embarrassing aftermath. Issac screaming with a voice modulator in blue plastic armor just looks really silly. I think Issac will be fine, but he deserves much better than this very empty role.
There is so much I could say about this movie (I haven’t even mentioned Quicksilver or the forced Wolverine Cameo), but all I can really leave you with is that it’s just so damn lazy. After two solid X-Men movies, this one is a big disappointment. The movie bit off more than it can chew and I can frankly say I think this movie shouldn’t have happened. Days of Futures Past gave the best ending to the series it could have asked for. They probably could have just ended it there. But people wanted more, so they will keep churning it out. This is objectively not the worst superhero movie this year, Batman v. Superman is still a spectacular failure, but at least that one has a wow factor, there’s something amazing with how terrible BvS is. This one is just dull and moronic. I don’t know what’s worse really.
If you read this whole review. Here is some official marketing of the film according to IMDB.