Movie Review: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

The newest X-Men movie is here. With such great predecessors as First Class and Days of Future Past, does Apocalypse live up to the hype and the example that has been set? 

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I believe that everyone would agree that X-Men: First Class breathed new life into the X-Men film franchise, especially after the disastrous X-Men: Last Stand and Wolverine: Origins. James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender portrayed compelling, young versions of Professor Xavier and Magneto, and Jennifer Lawrence made Mystique so much more than a painted body to look at.

Then, came Days of Future Past, which combined the fans’ favorite parts of the new films and the old (all the while managing to create a new movie timeline ala J.J. Abram’s 2009 Star Trek). Plus, it was just a great story!

Finally, came Apocalypse. Which was probably the most hyped up of the three and the one that had the most potential.

Too bad it didn’t deliver.

What To Do About Mystique?

First, let me address what is probably my biggest problem with these new X-Men films: Mystique.

Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Mystique in First Class was stellar. I didn’t expect such a performance and it’s apparent that neither did the filmmakers. After First Class, Ms. Lawrence’s career took off with The Hunger Games and she became the most popular member of the cast. The filmmakers would have been fools to not capitalize on Ms. Lawrence’s popularity and feature her more prominently in the films.

But they have the character of Mystique all wrong.

Mystique is not a good guy. She’s not even a misunderstood good guy. She’s bad. Like, REAL bad. She shouldn’t be leading the X-Men. I would much rather see Ms. Lawrence stretch her acting chops and portray a sinister version of Mystique (since she has predominantly played heroic characters in other action films).

30FC90E600000578-0-All_powerful_Main_baddie_Apocalypse_Oscar_Isaac_is_shown_as_he_s-m-83_1454903060778As great an actress Ms. Lawrence is, I’d be fine if I didn’t see her Mystique character in X-Men films from here on out. (I actually think the filmmakers missed out on a great storytelling opportunity in not killing the character of Mystique off in this film. It would have given Charles Xavier some understandable and poignant reason to seriously mobilize the X-Men.)

Disjointed Beginning

The opening act of X-Men: Apocalypse is really a collection of random scenes with little transition between them. There are a lot of new characters introduced in this movie and it makes sense to build them up, but the filmmakers jump so rapidly between scenes that we only get blurry images of these characters that are to be the main focus of the film.

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Not only are new characters introduced in this film, but we are reintroduced to old characters and where they have been in the 10 years after the events of Days of Future Past. If you’re wondering how much can change in 10 years, the answer is… not much. The film feels like it takes place more like a few months (maybe a few years) after the events of Days of Future Past and I find it very, very hard to believe that next to nothing has happened in the lives of mutantkind’s defenders in those 10 years. (Plus, none of them have aged a day.)

One of the characters we catch back up with is Magneto. His hook into the story is very poignant, or rather… it could have been rather poignant. With so much jumping around, we weren’t really given a chance to let our teeth sink into the emotional weight of just what happens to Magneto to bring him out of his self-exile.

This film also features a half-baked love story between Charles Xavier and Moira MacTaggert (a character you might remember from First Class). I thought this plotline was completely unneeded in an already chockfull movie. It had next to no impact on Professor Xavier’s character and mattered very little to the rest of the movie. The time spent explaining who Moira was again and why we should care about her could have been better used exploring the new characters who were actually pivotal to the movie’s plot.

A lot needed to happen in the exposition to set up the cataclysmic events of the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, this movie did not allow itself enough time or clean transitions to properly build its narrative.

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Lot Of Coincidence

This movie relied too heavily on coincidence to progress its plot, and it translates as lazy story-telling and filmmaking. The X-Men films have always been hesitant to put its heroes in super hero tights (for whatever reason, I don’t know why). The filmmakers solve the issue in this movie by having the heroes find perfectly tailored flight suits in a government facility (along with a new cool fighter aircraft since Beast’s new Blackbird got blown up before it even had a chance to see any action).

imagesAlso, let me say that I hate not-Beast Beast. These films really don’t want Beast to be all blue and furry. Not allowing Beast to be blue and furry is like not having Hulk be green. It doesn’t make sense! They should not be separated. I understand all the makeup that must go into getting an actor ready to be all blue and furry; Mystique’s makeup alone takes around 8 hours to do. So, I can understand from a filmmaking and economic standpoint why they don’t have Beast blue and furry for two-thirds of the movie, but the explanation why he isn’t is just lame.

There’s one line where he says he has a serum that keeps him from being furry (which is just stupid) and then towards the end of the film he wakes up and is blue. The following lines of explanation can be summarized as “Oh darn. Now I’m blue again.” That’s it. Then, Beast goes from being a normal-looking guy to real Beast for the rest of the movie. Another example of coincidence advancing the story.

Also, want to know how Charles Xavier becomes bald? He shakes his head violently for a few seconds and his hair is cut off by a razor-sharp energy field that is encasing his noggin. Not lying. That’s the film’s explanation for why Charles Xavier is bald.

Also, Wolverine saves the X-Men from William Stryker and then runs away half-naked into the Canadian wilderness. A good story has the characters acting, not watching as other characters act and solve their problems for them. (And to be perfectly honest, Wolverine’s scene was a little cheesy…)

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Tissues Anyone?

There is a lot of crying in this film. There’s nothing wrong with crying, but I feel that the emotional level of this movie did not translate over to the audience. The audience should cry when the characters cry. We should be made to feel the very raw emotion that causes them to cry. There was so much crying in this movie that even if the audience did have any emotional connection to the characters, they would have been tapped dry by the end of the movie.

Apocalypse?

Apocalypse’s powers have always been a bit of a mystery, even in the comics. I actually kind of like the explanation they give for why Apocalypse has such a varied Power Set in the movie; it reminds me of Sylar from Heroes. However, there isn’t a lot of extra explanation as to Apocalypse’s motivations or background.

Apocalypse hails from Ancient Egypt, but for whatever reason, Ancient Egypt has some sweet technology incorporated into its architecture. In the comics, Apocalypse’s sweet armor and sci-fi technology is related to a spacefaring species called the Celestials, and while I realize that that explanation would certainly not have fit into the movie, I still would have liked some sort of explanation.

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Apocalypse’s motivations for this film are also a bit muddled. It’s understood that he likes powerful mutants. He repeatedly mentions tearing down “their world to build a better one”, but the way he goes about it is very, very complicated. He gathers an ensemble of powerful mutants, gives them sweet new duds, and then puts them on guard duty. Then, he kidnaps Professor Xavier to take his powers and body from him? Apocalypse’s machinations do not seem well-thought out.

The one thing I did like about Apocalypse was who played him. Admittedly, I’ve only seen Oscar Isaac as Poe in The Force Awakens and now as Apocalypse, but I’m very impressed with this actor’s breadth of skill. Apocalypse was certainly creepy, speaking most of his lines in hushed whispers.

As great a job as Oscar Isaac did with Apocalypse, poor explanation of both character and motivation kept him from becoming a really great super villain.

Quicksilver Runs Away With It

Evan Peter’s Quicksilver was an immediate fan-favorite in Days of Future Past. He had only one scene in the movie and still somehow managed to come away as one of the best parts of the movie. Another example of a performance that probably exceeded filmmaker’s expectations, Evan Peter’s character was brought back for the next film and given a much bigger part. Quicksilver has another great, slow-mo/high speed scene and is then included heavily in the movie for the rest of the movie. He’ll probably be people’s favorite part of the movie again.

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Looking To The Future

There was a lot to do about the casting of certain mutants for this film, but these characters turned out to have very little screentime or impact on the movie (reminiscent of Days of Future Past with Bishop and Blink). Characters like Jubilee, Angel, Nightcrawler, and Psylocke had very minor roles and turned out to be one-dimensional. I just don’t understand why so much hype is built up around the casting of tertiary characters in these films.

However, I am very excited about what the future holds for these X-Men films. This movie assembled a very exciting roster of X-Men and I hope the next film can feature the adventures of a cohesive super hero team without having to waste time introducing new characters.

In fact, the possibility of what this movie sets up may be my favorite part of the movie.

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The Acting

cob-twitpic-xmen-apocalypse-55a1b84b68fa6As I already mentioned, these films have had a stellar ensemble since First Class. I’ve been much more impressed with the cast’s acting abilities in past films. It might have been because poor character development and weak motivation, but I just didn’t feel as drawn in by MacAvoy’s Professor Xavier or Michael Fassbender’s Magneto in this movie. Oscar Isaac and Evan Peters both had great performances, but Isaac’s Apocalypse failed to cement itself in fond memory.

The Music

X-Men: Apocalypse‘s soundtrack is composed by John Ottman, who returns after composing Days of Future Past, and has done Superman Returns and X2 in the pastThis may seem odd, but this film’s soundtrack felt very “X-Men.” Which is understandable since he composed the last movie’s soundtrack and a past X-Men movie. When past venues were revisited, I could hear musical cues and themes from the past movies, but also incorporated new themes for new characters. The soundtrack fit the movie very well.

The Kids

Is this movie appropriate for children? I’d say no. This movie was surprisingly more bloody then past X-Men films. It was far more gruesome as well, with people’s bones being broken or their bodies collapsed or heads being decapitated. Along with being far more violent, there was a lot more cussing in this movie. The f-bomb was also randomly (and very uncharacteristically) dropped by Magneto at some point of the film.

df-03057_rPlus, let’s be honest, Mystique is basically naked.

I would not recommend this film for young audiences.

The Grade

While there were some great performances and the action sequences were flashy, a very disjointed opening arc and rushed character development kept X-Men: Apocalypse from capitalizing on the great wealth of potential that it had access to.

I give X-Men: Apocalypse a grade of…

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Have you seen the latest X-Men film yet? What did you think of it? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments below.

PS – Yes, there is an after-credits scene. Just assume there will always ben an after-credits scene in any super hero movie from here on out.

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