The X-Men franchise has always been a solid presence, as far as comic book films went. The original film kicked off this whole superhero movie movement we’ve been living in, while some of the sequels (not all mind you) have really shown how a comic book movie should be made. And now after five films and two spin-offs, they finally bring one of the comic’s most notorious villains and biggest threats to the screen. Should be great, right?
But really, it turns out not that great, and quite disappointing compared to the usual quality of the series. I mean, I still liked it for the most part, but its a pretty weak film. I mean, there are a lot of characters, and while films like X2 and Days of Future Past were able to juggle their large casts, this one wasn’t. Lots of characters which should have been flesh out were merely eye candy for comic geeks: Psylocke, Angel, young Nightcrawler, and of course Apocalypse himself.
The major problem I had was that Apocalypse is too powerful a villain, so that he becomes uninteresting. His powers aren’t defined other than “powerful”, and the character himself is given no weight. It was played by “now” actor Oscar Issac, but it really could have been anyone under that thick blue make-up. And the destruction was too outlandish that it became hard to connect to. They needed to scale the powers back so that the powers they did have had weight and wasn’t just like “well, they can really do whatever they want”. It all becomes white noise after a while. So stuff is flying around and buildings are falling down. So what? Large visuals don’t equate to cool visuals.
Also, and this is less important to the movie but still a gripe, the continuity of this series is seriously messed up. I realize its not something the filmmakers care much about, but at the same time they kind of do as they still try to connect loose threads while others are flailing and frayed with no solution. The ages for example. So Michael Fassbender is going to age into Ian McKellen in only 17 years? Havok is 20 years older than is brother but looks maybe 5 years older? Whatever. Also, didn’t Mystique capture Wolverine at the end of the last movie?
Now that said, I was still able to enjoy this movie on a surface level despite its glaring issues. James Macavoy puts in another great performance as Xavier which really holds the film together. Fassbender as well does great, even though his character’s arc really fizzles out. Jennifer Lawrence was… well, she didn’t actually need to be in this move. But I did like the addition of young Jean and Cyclops. And Quicksilver is an interesting addition as well, with a scene reminiscent of the last film but more stakes applied to it.
And while I really disliked the villain, it did lend this theme about the need to come together to face an overarching threat. Its not a theme explored nearly as well as the theme of fear and oppression of others like the other films do so well, but it still there. (Would have been better had the villains actually been interesting, but…). There’s also a pretty great moment at the end with Jean (spoiler coming up I suppose):The whole time, Apocalypse has seen Xavier as his biggest threat and made his plans around him, but then this young girl who he knew nothing about was able to overpower him. That’s a neat idea in a movie lacking neat ideas.
Apocalypse is certainly one of the weaker X-films, and when you compare it to its predecessors it doesn’t hold up. Not story-wise and certainly not character wise. But there’s still stuff to like. I just wish they were more concerned with giving us smaller things that mean more than larger scale chaos that is essentially meaningless.