X-Men: Apocalypse is okay. Allow me to explain.
I know that this is neither a well thought out nor a deeply invested statement for the review of the ninth installment in FOX’s X-Men franchise. So, please, allow me to explain.
To be utterly spoiler free, X-Men: Apocalypse is not a bad movie. Thanks to the success of superhero films that have become a mainstay for the summer movie season, this one has all the ingredients needed to make a delicious store bought cake. It is a block buster, genre movie with two parts action and one part drama wrapped in 80’s pop culture frosting. The more dramatic elements are good thanks to the skillful performances done by the actors in the film: more specifically, the actors that have started their franchise involvement with 2011’s X-Men: First Class. They are the bulk of this movie. The plot is paper thin and doesn’t feel like its namesake but the action and introduction of the newer mutant stars are interesting.
If you are a big fan of the X-Men franchise to date… then catch it in the theaters. I don’t see why you wouldn’t love this one. But for the casual movie viewer, I won’t give this movie a go see rating as it doesn’t feel like it needs to be. The 3D is not spectacular so you really won’t need it. Being that there is very little that adds to big theater experience, it will be just as enjoyable in your living room as it is in the movie theaters. The action and the language is a bit strong at times, so there should be a mild warning for younger viewers. Enjoy!
What? Not enough?
Okay… allow me to clarify my review.
**********************WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW!!!***********************
With Apocalypse, Singer successfully directs a movie that is marketable and simplistic in plot. It doesn’t take much to enjoy the fluffy and fun factors that have been the recipe of the X-Men franchise since its inception. It is a bit slow at times, but for the most part the movie has a satisfying, quicksilver pace. The cast are full of chemistry, especially the veterans Michael Fassbender (Magneto), Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), James McAvoy (Professor X), Evan Peters (Quicksilver), Lucas Till (Havoc) and Nicholas Hoult (Beast). I have to give a spotlight performance to Sophie Turner for her portrayal of Jean Grey as well as a nod to Alexandra Shipp for her role as Storm. Their acting chops add to this franchise more so than any of the other newcomers.
The moments that I loved are inventive and you can tell when Singer and the rest of the writers paid a lot of attention to specific key scenes in the movie. The Apocalypse scene in the beginning was creative and new, intriguing and beautiful. It showcased the basic “all you need to know” about the god-like mutant. The Magneto story from happy married life to the death of his family is done with a dramatic flair that we haven’t really seen for more than 10 minutes in the previous films. The Quicksilver scenes are enjoyable just like it was in Days Future Past. With Bryan Singer back in the writer’s chair as well as the director’s seat, I always worry I will get the same campy movies of the old days that took my favorite comic book characters of all time and neutered them. But thankfully, this time around, there are several scenes that truly work and several character choices that kept Apocalypse intriguing.
But, my problem with this movie is that it feels formulaic. It feels copy pasted and mundane. Although it is enjoyable and I never find myself wincing at performances or looking at my watch, much like Avengers: Age of Ultron, this movie feels like it doesn’t matter and just had the purpose of getting seats filled and concession stands busy.
Many of those scenes and plot lines would have worked if you did them in another movie or tried something totally different. Much like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, there are several elements that would be excellent foundations for individual movies. The addition of Cyclops, Jean Grey and the like would be better as its own movie. It would give us the time to appreciate and connect with these characters rather than just be happy they are on screen. Yes, you need the four horsemen, but unless those four horsemen actually do something that matters in this world, they will remain eye candy to a loud mouth villain who does arguably nothing but talk really loud. Hell, Apocalypse himself is a trilogy worthy epic villain. His story could have quietly built to a massive explosion of shock and awe rather than be the “villain of the week”.
The biggest, “roll eyes” moment for me was the addition of the Phoenix. Yes the same character story line that every X-Men fanboy wants pops up in this one but for only a minute. I can’t help but feel like if they would have built up my care for Jean Grey, then it would make the Phoenix story that much more tragic. In order to do so, you have to allow her story to breathe and build, which sometimes takes more than one movie. It could take more than two movies. But allow the story to build itself and allow the audience to fall in love with Jean Grey. That way it is not just Phoenix being in the movie, but rather, the Phoenix Saga of which it should be… chaotic and tragic to its core. Being that this was just a pop in this movie, I hope that they have the patience to allow the Phoenix story line to form for future movies.
All in all, Apocalypse is a bit random with so many things going on at once that fight to grab your attention rather than improve upon the story that was rekindled with First Class and Days Future Past. With the last two movies, the stories were simplistic and full of the initial heart of the original comics. They served to justify both sides of the mutant coin with their tale of two brothers, in Professor X and Magneto, while building up the surrounding cast without overshadowing their plots with Easter egg filler. Apocalypse is arguably more of the same but done with less efficiency. Although the movie doesn’t have a blatant error or questionable edit, this one seemed to play it safe and just give you everything you ever wanted to see without true direction or bravery.
In the movie, they make fun of trilogy films stating that the third one is always the worst. Well, Singer, this is the third movie in the rebooted section of this X-Men franchise. Very Meta, sir. Very Meta, indeed.