The X-Men have always been a fascination of mine. I wasn’t much of a comic book kid but the exploits of the X-Men still made it into my cultural lexicon. When they finally hit the big screen in Jesus Christ 2000?! Holy Shit. That is a long time ago. Anyway, the first X-Men movie really paved the way for all other superhero movies. It was a gold standard. And for the most part, most subsequent films have been above average.
And that’s why X-Men: Apocalypse is so disappointing. I’m going to explain why in a very detailed fashion.
Hold on to your centaurs, it’s about to get nerdy.
Apocalypse is possibly the last in the trilogy “reboot” series of X-Men movies. When the studio decided that it’d be more profitable to go back in time and hire younger actors to play our favorite heroes. After The Last Stand, that was probably a good idea. The titular Apocalypse is an ancient mutant who had figured out how to transfer his essence from body to body, essentially making him immortal. When he finds a Wolverine like mutant (Oscar Isaac) he prepares to transfer into him, which would effectively make him immortal. The ancient Egyptian non-mutants, tired of his shit and in a thrilling scene, collapse a pyramid on top of him before the transfer is complete.
Fast forward to the 80s, CIA agent Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) unwittingly releases him. Apocalypse awakens to find that the weak have inherited the Earth and sets off to recruit followers and rebuild the Earth in his image. He succeeds in recruiting Angel, Psylocke, Storm, and Magneto.
Meanwhile, Professor Xavier’s (James McAvoy) school is in full swing where we get to meet younger versions of Nightcrawler, Cyclops, and Jean Grey.
Here’s where it gets nitpicky and spoiler-y.
How much bad shit does Magneto (Michael Fassbender) have to go through? Like seriously, his parents were already killed in the holocaust. The freaking holocaust! He’s trying to live a quiet life in Poland with his new family (a la Origins: Wolverine) when he uses his powers to save a co-worker. Of course, the police find out and accidentally kill his wife and daughter. Jesus, that was dark.
It’s this extra character motivation that doesn’t make sense. Clearly, Magneto is on board to destroy the world with Apocalypse. He made that very clear. As he has in every single one of the movie’s he’s been in. X1 he tries to turn people into mutants against their will. X3 he literally assembles an army. Days of Future Past he almost kills the president. The dude hates humanity, and has all the reasons why. But yet, for some fucking reason, at the very end of Apocalypse he decides to fight against the one guy that could end it. Oh, because he’ll kill Mystique and/or Charles? It’s been made very clear that he gives no shits about them when it comes to the greater good for his kind. (X3 he abandons a non-mutant mystique. Apocalypse, he’s totally okay with Apocalypse taking Charles’ body/powers for his own ten minutes before he turns on him. Erik Lehnsherr is a complicated character and casting Fassbender was a stroke of genius but you can’t have him go against his nature. He only works with the X-Men when it benefits his cause. It clearly doesn’t benefit him at the end of this movie. He’s a villain, no matter how much Professor X feels for him or vise versa.
Which brings us to Mystique. When First Class came around I was underwhelmed at the idea. But it was surprisingly good, and I loved seeing young Charles and Erik interact and develop a bond. I hated the clear shoehorning of Mystique into the storyline because it was clearly only to cast Jennifer Lawrence. J-Law is a great actress, but she sucks in these movies. I can’t pinpoint why. But it’s not good. And neither is the treatment of the character based on everything we know about her. In the originals she is a silent badass, fiercely loyal to Magneto, and has a raging hard-on for Wolverine (who doesn’t?) In the new ones, she is Charles’ adopted sister. Something never mentioned before. She’s still really into Magneto, but she also plays the good guy way too often. At the end of Apocalypse she becomes the leader of the X-Men. What the hell is going on? She’s villain! Her motivations for being so are already clear! Please don’t make another movie explaining why she turns evil again.
A minor character who is also treated horribly is Angel. I will be the first to say that the first 45 minutes of X3 are great. Like seriously great, the rest sucks but the beginning is great. And part of that is Angel. A symbol of those trying to hide, and then literally fucking spreading their wings and flying. In Apocalypse he’s the only on screen superhero death we see. THIS IS THE SAME TIMELINE. I’m all for killing people for character development, but this is bullshit. Evil and he dies. Not cool.
Other characters are treated poorly too, but it’s nothing worth whining about. (Except Beast. The whole point is that he’s always Beast! Stop letting him take medicine that fixes that.)
There are some decent parts. The most fun portion is again thanks to Quicksilver, using his ability to run really fast to do pretty much the same thing he did in Future Past. He’s also the only one with actual jokes.
Wolverine. Oh, Wolverine. That scene where he just fucking murders everyone is so much better than his solo movie. And it’s 80 minutes shorter. Add to that the fact that Jean Grey released him is just that much more satisfying. Ties in perfectly with the original films. Best part of the movie, hands-down.
Another portion that technically ties in, but I don’t think intentionally, is the Phoenix Jean’s alter ego. To kill Apocalypse, Professor X tells Jean to release all her power. As we know from X3, the Pheonix is the most powerful mutant ever. And the reason Professor X and cyclops die. Him telling her to let it out is one of the most sad things that’s happened in the series. Theoretically, that release is setting her on a path for destruction later in the timeline. It’s a sick irony that Professor X was the one to make it happen.
But that’s only if it was intended. X-Men: Apocalypse ruins most, if not all, the goodwill that First Class and Future Past built up. Especially since Future Past made me think we were going to get another X-Men movie with the entire original cast. Longtime character motivations are butchered or just made up. It’s not even a movie that could’ve been better. Just a film that shouldn’t have been made. For non-nerds, my girlfriend enjoyed the film, having seen no other X-Men movies. But I’d say find the Wolverine part online, and skip the rest. It’s not the end of the world, after all.
1 1/2 out of 4 stars.
Even nit pickier:
That is the stupidest reason for Professor X to be bald.
Nightcrawler is the plot Deus Ex Machina again. But this time he gets even less characterization.
Havoc died offscreen. Which is fine, because I barely noticed him anyways.
What the fuck was Beast building? An atomic bomb? Just going to gloss over that bit?
Please don’t make Olivia Munn the next movie’s villain. I mean, don’t make the next movie, but if you do, don’t.