X-Men: Apocalypse review – Your false idols are showing
It must be hard being a (nearly) all-powerful Being. Abilities and intellect so grand, your harsh ways would simply evade the understanding of those who worship you. It really must be hard to find someone to talk to. And of course, if you happen to be a less-than-perfect Deity, your followers might get tired of you and try to cast you out, the little hellions.
Such a reverse-smiting is the kick-off for this latest entry of Fox’s non-Marvel Marvel X-Men superhero franchise, and X-Men: Apocalypse serves up some epic god vs. superhero action in what’s become a signature Bryan Singer style. In other words, it will please some and bore others.
While the main action of the story takes place in the early 80s – roughly ten years after the events of the previous X-outing, X-Men: Days of Future Past – X-Men: Apocalypse opens shortly after where the previous film’s post-credit scene left off, with a brief but spectacular origin story of the film’s namesake villain among the pyramids of ancient Egypt.
As Earth’s first mutant, Apocalypse (or En Sabah Nur as he was first called) has through time been known as many of mankind’s greatest early gods; in Ancient Egypt, he is naturally worshiped as Ra. However, the 99-percent of Egypt’s peasantry is ripe for a revolution, and they overthrow their pseudo-god, leaving him buried and presumed destroyed. Au contraire. Faux SPOILER warning: He ain’t really dead.
Flash forward a few thousand years and Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) awakens to find the 1980s rife with idolatry and indulgence. Well, he’s not all wrong about everything. Naturally, like all (nearly) omnipotent deity super villains, he crosses the line. His plan for Earth happens to involve the deaths of billions and he must be stopped. And thusly, the X-Men must then assemble. (And yes, we know that is an Avengers thing.)
However, the X-gang really isn’t spending a lot of hang-time together these days. Professor X (James McAvoy) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) still live and teach at Xavier’s Mansion which has come to double as his “School for Gifted Youngsters,” but Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has understandably gone into hiding, considering he’s already tried to take over the world twice in this new timeline. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) has gone rogue, and Days of Future Past breakout fan-favorite X-person, Quicksilver (Evan Peters), wasted no time (wink, wink) resuming the prankster’s paradise home-based in his Mom’s basement.
Honestly, at this point in comic-book filmmaking, I really don’t know if it’s still considered spoilers as to what characters will appear in new films, so I will err on the side of caution and refrain from revealing some of the other mutant introductions you’ll enjoy along the way… and rest assured, there are lots. They all have their own introduction, and some are stronger than others.
However, once the villain’s musings begin to not-so-gently rumble, everyone’s plans begin to change, and the Apocalypse must be faced.
X-Men: Apocalypse is big. It’s a big cast, and it’s a big movie. Where some might begin to find fault with the film isn’t its scope, but its style.
For a comic book movie, it hits all the ceremonial spots: there’s exotic places, fun character introductions, hot actors to look at, and (of course) lots of epic superhero fighting action. But a lot of that action does feel very familiar, sometimes to the point of being redundant for the franchise. Special effects sequences that define some of the most fun and memorable parts of Singer’s X2: X-Men United and X-Men: Days of Future Past are “revisited” in this film, not necessarily in a way that displeases, but in one that certainly doesn’t pack the same punch.
Being re-introduced to younger versions of previously featured mutants from past films is another aspect that lends to X-Men: Apocalypse’s sometimes too familiar feel. These mutants are obviously fan-favorites, but it would have been nice to see a few more new faces.
There are however more than a few fun moments of well-executed fan service, including even a self-referential nod that nicely calls-out the film franchise itself for the abysmal quality of a certain past X-adventure that fans on the internet continue to absolutely brutalize to this day. You’ll know it when you see it.
But despite Singer’s repetitions, the film is thoughtfully shot with a rich and skillful cinematic feel that is sorely lacking in many big effect-laden action films. It also helps that the cast is strong. Fassbender is once again solid as Magneto, Lawrence feels a bit more mysterious as Mystique, and Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner plays nicely as a young Jean Grey.
McAvoy turns in a fine performance, yet continues to read too young for the character of Professor X. He simply doesn’t feel like he has enough years on him to portray the mind and heart core of the mutant-superhero-force-for-good. He lacks the gravitas, even if the acting skill is there.
And then there’s Apocalypse himself. Despite Isaacs’ valiant attempts to act through thick layers of blue makeup and gold costume, Apocalypse never becomes as compelling or as terrifying as he should be. He suffers as a character in that special way that often beleaguers comic book heroes/villains that are supposed to be (nearly) gods, and it’s difficult to connect to him. These characters are always a tough sell writing-wise, and the film doesn’t quite close the deal here.
X-Men: Apocalypse review conclusion
Spectacular in scale and action, but somewhat slight on originality, X-Men: Apocalypse is a fun, but safe film. While overall it’s one of the stronger entries for the franchise, it unfortunately doesn’t break into enough of the new territory needed to stand out in a cinematic landscape thickly populated with so many comic book films.
However, those looking for a hearty dose of superhero action will get their fix here, and the film’s impressive effects and well-choreographed action sequences are worth a trip to the Cineplex for a viewing on the big screen.
X-Men: Apocalypse is rated PG-13 with a running time of 2 hours and 24 minutes.