So exactly how do you categorize “X-Men: Apocalypse”? Is it the sixth film of the X-Men franchise or is it the third film in the second trilogy? Perhaps a hybrid of both? Do we even count the Deadpool and Wolverine movies? Whatever you call it, it is the follow-up to 2014’s “Days of Future Past” and the third film featuring this new wave of X-Men characters some of whom are actually younger versions of older characters. Clear as mud, right?
“Days of Future Past” made a strong attempt at bringing the first original three X-Men films together with the new ones. Arguably it did a decent job of accomplishing that rather hefty task. But now “Apocalypse” comes along and injects a little more confusion by tossing in more new mutants, bringing back old ones, and leaving you unsure how some of it all fits together.
At the same time the film shows satisfying flashes of brilliance as it deals head-on with weighty topics of personal struggle, loss, and self-sacrifice. It also offers several moments (particularly in the second half) that will genuinely excite die-hard fans. But who knows whether those moments are enough to overcome the film’s many crazy contortions of the source material whether it be characters, back stories, or storylines.
X-Men architect and shepherd Bryan Singer returns as director, producer, and co-writer. This time his villain is Apocalypse (played by an unrecognizable Oscar Isaac), a powerful mutant worshiped by the ancient Egyptians but betrayed by a sect of non believers. His body is buried under a collapsed pyramid until he is unearthed and awoken in 1983. Ashamed of the perceived weakness of Earth, Apocalypse pledges to destroy the world and then raise it in his image, stripping power from the weak and granting it to the strong.
In addition to that we also get a number of side stories intended to fill us in on old characters as well as introduce us to new ones. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) continues growing his school for young mutants. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is smuggling mutants out of dangerous locales around the globe. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is a mill worker living in Poland with his wife and daughter. Then we get into the stories of a ton of new characters. It takes over an hour to get all of the introductions out of the way and the principle story pieces in place.
The first hour is tough. There are several compelling individual sequences, but collectively it’s a mishmash of origin stories and mandatory table setting. To Singer’s credit he does manage to reel in most of his moving parts and piece them together pretty well by the final act. But at the same time it’s hard to ignore how the film turns a blind eye to several glaring plot problems. I mean am I silly to think they might address the 10 million people killed when a city is leveled?
Thankfully the script does allow for some interesting character exploration and development. Characters are overwhelmed with sorrow, crumble to inner turmoil, battle depression and feelings of isolation, and of course struggle with the common X-Men theme of belonging. Most of these issues are handled with a genuine sensibility that allows the characters to be seen as more than disposable even though the script sometimes shortchanges them.
By the third act the movie is pretty much in tune with the common superhero formula – a gigantic, loud, action-packed finale. But I have to say it’s a good one. There are some fun superhero effects and several moments that will bring smiles to the faces of those familiar with the history of these characters. I’m not too sure if it will have the same effect on casual fans.
“X-Men: Apocalypse” won’t do much to cure some people’s comic book movie fatigue, but for those still enjoying these superhero tales there are things to like. Fassbender and McAvoy are fantastic. The story doesn’t shy away from deeper human themes. There are tons of little treats and several fun surprises for fans. But there is also a bloated first hour and several head-scratching oversights as the story progresses. There still is plenty to admire and Singer’s vision is ambitious. I can easily say I was entertained. I can just as easily understand how others may not be.
VERDICT – 3 STARS
Yeah, it was not a perfect movie. Ultimately, what happened was that they crammed TOO much into one movie….again. Singer handled it better than the guy that did Last Stand, but it still felt like there was too much going on. The character of Apocalypse was a…..mixed bag. I liked Oscar Isaac’s performance, but I really don’t like how they restrained the character. This is a mutant who could manipulate his own molecules to make himself larger, and he only does that in somebody’s head. Really?! As far as I’m concerned, this was Michael Fassbander’s film, through and through. Magneto was by far the most compelling character aside from Xavier. I still liked the movie, but it was definitely a step backwards for Bryan Singer. Wolverine’s appearance was freaking awesome, though.
I really struggled with my final score. Could easily bump it up to a 3.5. Definitely like this one better than The Last Stand. Wolverine’s appearance was so cool. Continuity wise it was a little problematic. I was waiting for Apocalypse to size up. A bit disappointing that it was only in his mind. Fassbender was superb. Love what he brings to Magneto. How about that end credits teaser? Intriguing.
I thought about seeing this but I’m fatigued by superheroes as I’ll just wait for it on TV.
If you have superhero fatigue this one won’t cure it. Luckily I have not. Still though, this one has some problems.
I really didnt like it. They lost all the power of the metaphor in favor of loud meaningless destruction. I was very let down by it because I love the series and DOFP.
I think they bit off too much. That first hour was a mess. I do think they reined it in pretty well but still left some pretty glaring plot holes. Yet I was still entertained.
Still haven’t seen this. I’ve heard some very mixed reviews though. Some people loved it and some say it kind of continues the pattern of the third film ‘always being the worst one’. I still need to get round to seeing it at some point, as I’ve seen every other X-Men film
You should definitely see it. It’s funny, in the movie they even make a joke about the third movies being the worst. I can easily say I liked this one much better than The Last Stand. This one is actually smarter and is going for something bigger. But it does stumble in several places. I think your ability to look past those stumbles will determine how much you like this one.
Great review! I am with you – this was good, not great. I liked it, didn’t love it. I am a HUGE fan of the X-Men franchise, so I am always excited when new films come out. There were things here that worked, and others that didn’t.
Exactly. I don’t think it is nearly as bad as some people say but it isn’t nearly as good as it should’ve been. And what did you think of that end credits teaser? Pretty cool.
In agreement, of course. We actually didn’t stay for the post credits scene for a change, to be honest o.O
It’s pretty interesting. Have you followed the X-Men much from the comics? If so there is one particular nugget in the scene that may bring a smile to your face.
I read a lot of the comics when I was a kid, but I haven’t read them in years. Maybe I recognise it, maybe not. Will definitely have a look see when I get my hands on the DVD/Blu-Ray for my collection!
I’ve never been a huge X-Men fan but I did find this one quite enjoyable. It was long, but Magneto’s story was by far my favourite!
Fassbender brings so much to that character. I think there were a couple of glaring questions about how they handled his story, but I was always the most intrigued when he was on the screen.
I had a little trouble judging this one as I saw all the flaws but was totally entertained. It was like getting a comic with all action scenes and nothing else. I guess for that moment, that was what I needed from the movie.
You relay the exact issue I have had in rating this. The flaws are there and they are obvious. But I have always considered the fun factor when rating a movie. Despite my struggles I was definitely entertained by this.
I enjoyed reading your review, Keith. I’ve had a love/hate/obsessed/casual affair with this lengthy franchise. I sure adore the cast here. You bring up a good point about the challenges of having such a large cast, to juggle their stories so that everyone gets air time as well as pulling the threads together to create a whole is a daunting task.
Thanks so much Cindy. I’m somewhat caught in between with this movie. Its shortcomings are obvious. At the same time it does some things really well and there were moments where I was having so much fun. I’ve honestly been back and forth with this thing.
A good read, Keith, although you liked it more than me. I had similar problems with it, and thought Isaac was wasted, but considering how many characters he has to get through I think it’s impressive that Singer manages to juggle so many individual storylines; some work better than others. I liked the Wolverine sequence but unfortunately it showed up how little bite there was in the rest of the movie.
Thanks man. I can see where people would struggle with this thing. I certainly have. I do think in the end that the positives outweigh the negatives for me. Just not by much. I too really liked the Wolverine scene, but even it offered some continuity problems. I do think Singer bit off more than he could ultimately chew.
Maybe three or four fewer characters would have been better.
Yep. That would bring the total character count down to what…40? 😉
Stellar review of a movie I felt was kinda disappointing. But as you make mention of, there are several moments to really savor out of this and I did like the inclusion of Olivia Munn. But let’s say that was not so much for the performance though. 😉 I liked the idea of Apocalypse but thought it was ridiculous how unrecognizable Oscar Isaac was!
Thanks my friend. It was such a mixed bag. There were parts I legitimately loved. There were also parts where I felt (like you) really disappointed. I can kinda see why this flick has underperformed. As for Munn it is always good to SEE her on camera! 😉
I haven’t seen this one yet Keith and not really that enthused about it to be honest. I’m such a big fan of the X-Men series but for some reason this one just didn’t look… well, good. I guess my hunch is right, though 3/5 isn’t terrible. I still might rent it later.
The trailers didn’t excite me at all. I think that’s why I didn’t rush out to see it. But I’m glad I finally did. I did bounce back and forth between a 3 and 3.5. Also if you’re a fan of the series you definitely should see it. Would love to hear your thoughts.
I couldn’t get on board with this… it was just too long and too messy.
It is pretty messy, isn’t it? I’ll admit, I admit it did have a few big moments that excited the fanboy in me. But didn’t you leave it thinking it should have been a lot better than it actually was?
I felt like it was a waste of a good opportunity.
Yep. The story it was based on is really good. It didn’t translate nearly as well here.
I quite enjoyed it; while it doesn’t feel like the best of the franchise, it’s the most epic and one of the most fun. Plus, Apocalypse is a pretty terrifying villain.
I was shocked when I realised that was Oscar Isaac!
It’s hard to see Oscar in that costume isn’t it? This is one I’m really anxious to watch again. My kids still haven’t seen it so I have a good excuse. 😁
LOL. Given all the action, the kids probably won’t have too much trouble enjoying it.