I always felt the “X-Men” franchise (for all its ups and down) has not really been given its proper recognition within the superhero genre. Even when it’s praised for some reason I always got the feeling that it still falls under the radar. It’s always had more to say politically and socially than most other comic book movies. The series for the most part has been pretty consistent (other side of “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) as well in delivering at the very least a decent movie. The newest entry (directed by returning franchise veteran Bryan Singer) “X-Men: Apocalypse” has the tough job of following the nearly universally acclaimed “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (my favorite of the series) and (if you want to count it) “Deadpool”.
Nearly everyone had seen this movie ahead of me (most of the world actually). So, I did read a lot of the reviews beforehand and I have to say while this movie does have some weaknesses (not so many glaring faults) this isn’t nearly the misfire I heard about. I started to suspect we would be dealt another “Last Stand”. To be sure this is no “X-Men: Days of Future Past” or even an “X-Men: First Class” for that matter. But, it’s certainly a solid superhero movie and far from a bad movie. Some weaknesses aside (because the movie isn’t flawless) the movie is well written, directed and well acted by most of the cast for the majority of the running time. “X-Men: Apocalypse” is another solid entry in this year’s impressive list of comic book films and TV shows.
“X-Men: Apocalypse” takes place 10 years after the events of “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. The world is still spilt on how to feel about mutants. Raven has gone rogue unsure of herself, Professor X has been busy recruiting people for his school, and Erik has been living in secret in Poland with a wife and child. Some of the new students at Professor X’s include Jean Grey (now played by “Game of Thrones” actress Sophia Turner) and Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan). Little do they know an ancient force has returned. The very first mutant has awoken from his slumber and wants to reclaim his rule and cleanse the world.
There is a lot going on in this movie. And if I’m not mistaken this is the longest running time in the franchise. However unlike another big comic book movie that had a lot going on (like “Batman V Superman) this doesn’t feel messy or cluttered. Most things in this movie have a purpose and drive the main plot forward. The characters serve the movie rather than the movie serving the characters. The movie takes it sweet time in the first act introducing new characters and setting up character arcs and origins of our main villain. For the some looking for grand action quickly you may be disappointed. But “X-Men” is a series about so much more than its action. The first act of this movie is really keeps true to that. The movie’s story generally keeps its focus (it does divert a little in the middle but it does serve the movie).
Unfortunately despite the running time some of the characters get short shifted. Storm is introduced but very little is done with her character and her arc doesn’t amount to much other than a blank slate, which was disappointing. Arc Angel also had a similar situation along with Rose Byrne’s character that isn’t given much to do in the film. The main antagonist Apocalypse starts to lose some of his luster in the middle portion of the film due to narrative shift. Oscar Isaac himself does a good job as the chief bringer of doom but I did want to see more of him (considering the movie is called Apocalypse) and I wanted him to have a clearer plan.
However nearly all the other characters get their due. James McAvoy as Professor X is as good as he has been since his introduction into the role in “X-Men: First Class”. The younger actors Sophia Turner, Tye Sheridan, and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Nightcrawler) all do a wonderful job portraying their mutant counter parts. Even Peters as Quicksilver is just as standout as he was in the previous “X-Men” film (perhaps even more so). Michael Fassbender once again remains the emotional lynch pin in the series as Magneto. His character evolution from “First Class” remains (even going as far back as when Ian McKellen played him in the original X-Men) the most interesting character in the X-Men film universe. The turmoil his character is put through this movie is palpable and Fassbender once again showcases why he is one of the best actors working today. His chemistry with McAvoy is also given time to shine even though I wanted a little more interaction between them (but that’s just a fan’s desire).
Jennifer Lawrence returns as Raven/Mystique. Over the course of the past two movies it’s clear her character has taken a different path than what she was in the original with (insert name). She has less style and less use of her powers. Lawrence isn’t bad in the movie, she is fine, but I think between her growing disinterest in the character and the somewhat flat material given to her Lawrence is actually quite forgettable. This brings me no joy to say, I do quite love her as an actress.
If there has been one constant through most of the X-Men movies (with the possible exception of “X-Men: The Last Stand”) their finales are normally smaller more personal confrontations than typical big budget blockbuster films. It lets the action revolve around the characters and their motivations rather than letting the action become the star. “X-Men: Apocalypse” attempts this in a few places but really falls back on action clichés. In many ways I feel like the end battle is being made up as they went along because there are some sections of the end that just don’t feel well thought out or appear to be random. There are some keys opportunities that are missed in the final battle (that takes up a big chunk of the running time) and is clearly the movies weakest points whereas the finales of the two previous X-Men movies were very strong. It still has its moments but it for sure could have been better.
If you wanted too, you could choose to look at these past three films (“X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” and “X-Men: Apocalypse) as a trilogy instead of the ninth movie in the franchise because these past three movies work really well as one. And while there are number of weaker points throughout the movie, the strengths far outweigh the flaws in my eyes. I was locked into the movie nearly the entire time and had a good time. It’s not quite the achievement I had hoped for and it isn’t as good as some others in the series but it’s far from being another X3 or “X-Men Origins”.