X-Men: Apocalypse Review – “Welcome to the 80s”

The final film in the First Class trilogy has been met with some criticism.  Some of them may be right, but fans of the series will still enjoy Apocalypse.

 

 

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Director: Bryan Singer

Writers: Simon Kinberg, Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris

Stars: James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Lucas Till, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Lana Condor, Olivia Munn

 

Ten years after Magneto (Fassbender) nearly killed the President and his entire cabinet on National television, Mutants and Humans have formed a tenuous peace.  Charles (McAvoy) has his school running and brimming with young Mutants looking to control their powers in hopes of rejoining society.  Mystique (Lawrence) has been made into a hero because the cameras caught her stopping Magneto from killing everyone.  This drives her to conceal her appearance because she doesn’t feel as if she earned that title.  Erik has gone into hiding in Poland, working in a factory and taking care of his wife and young daughter.  No one around him knows that he is the man seen on TV all those years ago and he is content to live quietly.  Everyone’s life is turned on its head when an ancient Mutant who has been buried for the last several millennia has risen and wants to do that thing villains in these movies always wants to do.

There has been reports and reviews stating that people haven’t received this movie well, generally giving it a “meh” and a part of me can see why.  But as a fan of the franchise (both movie and comics), I found myself enjoying the film.  There are issues and it has the unfortunate timing of coming out after the amazing Captain America: Civil War and Deadpool, which mocks superhero movies in general.  Apocalypse has to not only finish out the trilogy started with First Class, but introduce us to another set of characters that will be the focus of the franchise.  Same as Civil War.  So it is hard not to compare the two films, especially when Civil War did it so well.  Plus, you can see the ending coming from a mile away and I kept getting distracted by the fact that none of the original characters have aged since the 60s.

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

It is a little difficult to take some of the big moments seriously when in the back of my mind I’m thinking “they are going to do the superhero landing!”  Deadpool kinda too the piss out of superhero films.  At least there is a wonderfully meta moment when several of the characters are walking out of a screening for Return of the Jedi.  They are debating which movie is the best in the trilogy, Star Wars or Empire, and one of the characters’ states “at least we can agree that the third one is always the worst.”

The biggest issue with Apocalypse is the villain itself.  He is this magnificent Mutant with extreme powers that wants to rule the world as he was meant to before he was betrayed and buried.  This over used plot is starting to wear on me.  It doesn’t help that an outstanding actor like Oscar Isaac was buried underneath makeup and a growling voice track.  Isaac will garner himself more prestigious awards soon enough, especially when you look at a few of the projects he has lined up, and the series missed a big opportunity with him as a villain.  With a little more story and some allowances for Isaac to do his thing and Apocalypse could have been a captivating and sympathetic villain.

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

This is the fourth time out in the X-Men franchise for Singer and much like he did in Days of Future Past, he focusses the film on the family aspect of the characters.  Charles has fully embraced the role of pseudo father figure to many children, Erik is a father to the one child he knows about and there is another waiting in the wings he doesn’t know, Mystique and Hank (Hoult) are now leaders of their peers.  This leaves room for Jean Grey (Turner), Scott Summers (Sheridan), Kurt Wagner (Smit-McPhee), and Peter Maximoff (Peters) to become the students struggling with their power and responsibilities that come with it.  Even though there are hints at the budding relationship between Jean and Scott, the big emphasis is on Charles’ mentorship over Jean.  Going too far into it would get into some spoilery territory so I’ll save that for Monday’s post where I go into what the events of Apocalypse means for the franchise.  This relationship is important to not only the final events of the film, but how things will play out for Jean in the future and I wish Singer would have had a chance to elaborate on it before the Mutant rising hit the fan.

The action is very CGIish and exactly what you would expect from a film where the villain wants to destroy the world. Seeing cities destroyed has become old hat at this point. The one sequence with Quicksilver doing his thing is a direct rip off of the one from Days of Future Past, but it is so exciting that you don’t care. Quicksilver does get a chance to show off what he can do as a fighter later in the film. Then big battle between Psylocke (Munn), Storm (Shipp), and Angel (Hardy) against Beast, Cyclopes, and Nightcrawler was fast paced and fun. Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) cameo didn’t feel forced and added a nice bit of action during a point where the film could have dragged. It did lead to a moment in the film that left me feeling a bit weird, but I will get into that more on Monday.

Don’t listen to the big name critics who are not giving favorable reviews.  If you are a fan of the series, then Apocalypse is a fine and enjoyable film which rounds out the First Class trilogy nicely while leading the new films in an interesting direction.

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Image Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

There are going to be more X-Men films coming up since 20th Century Fox is looking to build a universe centered around Mutants.  The newer generation will be the focus which will be a needed dose of fresh blood to the franchise.  Here is hoping Fox will decide to bring in a new director.  Bryan Singer did an amazing job of starting the franchise back in the early 2000s, X2 will be the measuring stick for all X-Men films, and resetting the continuity with Days of Future Past.  But it is time for Fox to take a page out of the MCU handbook.  Have one person running the show behind the scenes (Singer would be perfect for that role or even Matthew Vaughn) and bring in fresh, young directors who could add a new and exciting voice to the series.

3 ½ out of 5 Stars

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The Nerdling has an unhealthy obsession with books, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Star Wars. She finds hockey to be the best sport in the world (Go Dallas Stars!) and is working on her first novel, but mostly glowers at a blank screen. You can find her on Twitter @nerdlingstale on Facebook @NerdlingTales or Instagram @nerdling_tales

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