Movie Review: X-Men: Apocalypse
Before I start this review, I want to warn THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS.
So, where to start with this review of X-Men: Apocalypse. I had to really ruminate on it before writing this. But, the more I've thought about it, the less I like the film.
The film begins in ancient Egyptian times with En Sabah Nur, aka Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the first mutant, going through some ceremony to transfer his soul into another mutant with healing powers. Suddenly, there is an attack which results in the deaths of not only the marauders, but Apocalypse's four lieutenants (or horsemen). Also in the process, Apocalypse is entrapped deep within the Earth until he is freed by worshipers in 1983.
In the meantime, Charles Xavier (James McEvoy) has realized his dream of the Xavier School for Gifted Children along with Hank McCoy, aka Beast (Nicholas Hoult). They've just been delivered a new student in the way of Scott Summers, aka Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), by his First Class alumni brother Alex, aka Havok (Lucas Till). Raven, aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), has become a crusader rescuing mutants from abuse. And, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has taken on the guise of a metal worker in Poland, happy with a family. When Apocalypse is freed, though, a wave of energy reverberates all over the world. This results in Magneto being discovered and his family accidentally being killed in the process of his arrest, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) seeing the end of the world in her nightmares, and Mystique bringing Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), to Xavier's school after rescuing him from a cage match with Angel (Ben Hardy).
To identify what was going on with the energy wave, Xavier visits Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) with the CIA, whose memories of him he wiped during First Class. She tells him about the research she's done on Apocalypse. Xavier brings her to school to discover Raven there asking for his help to reach out to Magneto who has, along with Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel, have become Apocalypse's new four lieutenants. When Xavier tries to reach out with Cerebro, he catches the attention of Apocalypse who arrive at the school to kidnap him.
This results in a bunch of madness that includes the Xavier School blowing up but not before Quicksilver being able to rescue all the students, a few of the characters being kidnapped suddenly by William Stryker (Josh Helman) and brought to a military facility, and Wolverine, as Weapon X, being freed. The latter allows the kidnapped people to escape only to realize Apocalypse is now using Xavier's mind to communicate with the world and his four lieutenants helping remake the world for Apocalypse to take over. Lots of fighting ensues with Xavier working with Jean Grey to reach her maximum potential by releasing what looks like the Phoenix Force which is enough to weaken Apocalypse enough for everybody, including his lieutenants, to attack and defeat him.
After all is said and done, Magneto and Jean use their powers to rebuild the Xavier School and Mystique stays on to train a new era of X-Men under a newly bald Xavier.
If I could sum up the film, it would be a flimsy, inconsistent story strung along by some cool moments. Now, truth be told, I haven't really been a fan of this latest trilogy mainly for the same reasons. But, of the three, this is probably my least favorite.
So, first the good part. There are some really fun action sequences in the film. Once again, Quicksilver steals the show by displaying his super speed in similar style as exhibited in Days of Future Past. A cage match featuring Angel and Nightcrawler is pretty fun to watch. Psylocke dressed in her comics inspired costume using her psychic knives was pretty cool. A berserker Wolverine donning the similar helmet and wiring seen in the comics clawing his way through the military base is a total geek out. And, seeing the Phoenix Force manifest in Jean Grey was exciting.
But, these moments feel few and far between all the questions I kept asking myself during the film. There were so many things that didn't have to happen in this film and I think it took away from our getting to know some of the newer characters. I think about Captain America: Civil War and how well they balanced all these characters so nobody was doing things out of character and everybody had their own motivations. While I felt they did a beautiful job in showing us Magneto's motivation for becoming one of Apocalypse's lieutenants - revenge for his family, once again at the hands of humans who feared him - I didn't get why some of these characters were in the film. For example, I didn't really get why Storm, Psylocke and Angel just suddenly surrendered themselves to Apocalypse and why he picked them specifically. And, while I was excited to see Jubilee (Lana Condor) in the movie, she disappears half way through never actually displaying her own powers. In essence, she was an over glorified tour guide for Nightcrawler.
And then, some of the characters demonstrate great power and then call it in later. For example, Quicksilver can move so fast that he rescued a whole school from an explosion, yet he wasn't fast enough to react to a pulse weapon being used by Stryker. Maybe it was a budget thing, but it felt like one moment he was powerful and the next not so much. The same goes for Storm. She has these amazing powers to control the weather, but, at one point in the movie, she kind of hid in the shadows.
My biggest question in this film was why Stryker was in the film at all. Why did he kidnap them and bring him to the military base when he clearly didn't have any plans for him? And, when they get to the school, he hand picks a few people to be taken (who coincidentally were the main characters) and tells him men to leave maybe 30 mutant children learning to use their powers. Keep in mind, he tried to kidnap all these children in X2. And why did he decide to take Moira MacTaggert when she isn't even a mutant? Oh, I know why all this happened. To add a totally unnecessary scene featuring Wolverine as Weapon X escape in bloody fashion. Again, it was fun to watch, but, I couldn't figure out why it was in there outside of adding a gratuitous cameo.
Speaking of Wolverine's transformation to Weapon X, one of the biggest inconsistencies between this movie and Days of Future Past is how Wolverine ended up with Stryker. If you remember, Wolverine was extracted from the river by Stryker, who was actually Mystique in disguise. So, how did he end up with the actual Stryker?
I actually had no idea why Moira MacTaggert was in the movie at all outside of Xavier giving her memories back to her and implying they should get back together again. Nothing against Moira, but, in an overstuffed movie, I felt her place could have been filled by some other interesting mutant character.
And, why is Mystique a good guy? I get that Magneto is the Malcolm X to Xavier's Martin Luther King, Jr. and is more ambiguously a bad guy. But, I don't recall Mystique being that good of a person, especially taking over teaching duties. I get that its Oscar award winning Jennifer Lawrence, but I'd think, as an actor, it would be a challenge to play somebody who is inherently evil, but with whom you can still relate.
Other things that didn't make sense were Hank MacCoy at a school teaching kids to embrace their mutant abilities, yet was still taking drugs to keep him human looking.
I also had a problem with Apocalypse himself. I love Oscar Isaac, but I did not like him as Apocalypse. This might be because I picture Apocalypse to be much larger and more ominous. In my mind, his comic book counterpart sounds deep and loud and threatening. I felt Isaac's performance was too understated. He always sounded like this exhausted person. I also felt he was too powerful, especially at this juncture, especially given the younger class. He should be like Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He's been around for the last 6 years, making an eventually appearance here and there, but, when he does attack, we also get a sense that the heroes will know how to fight him.
Did I think X-Men: Apocalypse to be the worst movie I've seen? No. But, in this day where super hero movies are becoming more common place with great films such as both Captain America: Civil War and Deadpool most recently in our minds, you can't help but feel that Apocalypse could have been much better. The X-Men universe features so many amazing characters that continue to be ignored. I know other X-Men movies are coming down the line. But, for now, I can't really recommend this film unless you are a hardcore comic book fan that can enjoy the geek out moments.