“Everything they built will fall and from the ashes of their world we’ll build a better one!” This ominous line, as spoken by the titular X-Men: Apocalypse villain, could very well apply to the X-movie franchise right now; but we’re going to have to wait for the next film to see the prophesied “better one.”
Right up front let me say that I’m so done with buildings, cars, people and any other sort of earthen debris flying up into the sky in a superhero or science-fiction movie. It was cool the first time, but, as is apt to happen, Hollywood has beaten this particular special effect into the ground (or sky, as it were) and X-Men: Apocalypse has it going on…ad nauseam.
The world’s first ever mutant, the BCE baddie named En Sabah Nur (AKA Apocalypse), is unearthed by Professor X’s main squeeze, Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne), and “Hell follows with him” in the form of his four horsemen: Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Archangel (Ben Hardy) and Storm (now played by Alexandra Shipp) – sans the horses.
Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) wants to take over the body and psychic abilities of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) so that he can use them to control the minds of all mutants and mankind; but he doesn’t plan properly for the interference of Xavier’s uncanny students, including Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Havok (Lucas Till), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner – whom you’ll recognize as Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones.)
The X-students are joined by Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and the former shape-shifting and evil-doing beauty, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, complete with gratuitous bust shot.) I don’t think there is any surprise that there is also a cameo by Hugh Jackman as Weapon-X (AKA Wolverine.)
In between the X-tensive and X-hausting end-of-the-world mayhem, screenwriter Simon Kinberg (who penned the much better X-Men: Days of Future Past and the much worse 2015 Fantastic Four) attempts some character development with the myriad of mutants in the cast, but his weak efforts mostly fall flat, thin and half-hearted.
In a blatant ploy to capitalize on Jennifer Lawrence’s current popularity, they’ve made Mystique a primary character this time around; one who is looked up to by the kids in a way that is not-so-oddly reminiscent of Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Unfortunately she is probably the most poorly written and boring hero of the lot.
By now director Bryan Singer and his scribe (Kinberg) should know that you have to have an interesting bad guy in order for your super-flick to function properly, and yet they have made the all-powerful Apocalypse devoid of any personality. Maybe they thought the pastel blue skin would be enough?
The last time Singer and Kinberg collaborated on an X-film their effort (X-Men: Days of Future Past) was quite good; and the resulting space/time continuum rift resulting from that movie allowed them free-reign to do whatever they wanted with this new film without being restrained by the past continuity. But while that is a fascinating approach, the reality is that their follow-through on the concept is confusing to those who have seen the other films. Note: Our memories have not been wiped clean.
All that said, there are parts of this film that certainly make it worth viewing, and if you’re a fan you’re going to see it regardless. The Wolverine cameo is pretty darn cool, although, again, I’m not sure exactly how we got to the point of his appearance (time-wise) in this movie.
The new Nightcrawler is awesome as well, but they could have done so much more with him (give him every other minor character’s screen time and it would have been a much better film).
I also enjoy Singer’s endless in-jokes and nods to pop culture, like slamming the third film in the X-franchise (the one he didn’t direct.) And how can you not be amused by the fact that Quicksilver is wearing a Rush (band) T-shirt while doing his lightning-fast running bit? (A sequence that is worth the price of admission.)
But once again Evan Peters as Quicksilver steals the whole show. They’ve given him a much bigger part this time with just the right amount of interaction with the X-Men to keep his speed-gimmick from getting old. A Quicksilver and Nightcrawler team-up flick could potentially be awesome.
As a fan of the superhero films I take every dang one of them seriously, knowing full well that a couple of bad outings could doom the whole genre for a generation or more; and unfortunately this one is more on the bad side (see Batman v Superman) than the good (see Captain America: Civil War.) But you could still do worse than taking it in with a big bag of popcorn on a Saturday morning, as long as the popcorn’s good. Grade: 6.5/10
Photos © 2016 20th Century Fox