I’m two weeks late on this review, but in my defense I have been very busy. Regardless, here finally is my review for X-Men: Apocalypse, a very strange superhero movie in my eyes.
Regular readers of this blog may recall how Apocalypse made it onto my top ten most anticipated movies of the year list. Following up the excellent Days Of Future Past, one would be hard pressed to not be excited about Bryan Singer’s next entry in the franchise. However, while it’s fair to say that everyone was looking forward to this movie, I never felt that there was any real hype building around it’s release. The two other notable releases from this genre in 2016 thus far, Batman v. Superman and Civil War, were discussed far more than Apocalypse ever was. This could be due to it’s mediocre trailers, which failed to wow me like the trailers for the former were able to. One might also point to the fact that two versus movies were able to build off of each other as something fresh for the superhero genre, as opposed to the standard team up movie found here. Whatever the reason(s), the fact remains that Apocalypse was never able to reach the same level of hype, at least in my social circles, despite it’s promised scale.
Upon it’s US Memorial Day weekend release, my suspicion of Apocalypse was only heightened. It received very mixed reviews, currently sitting somewhere around 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Furthermore, it’s box office returns for it’s opening weekend were not nearly as high as the other major superhero blockbusters released this year. Even with the extra day off on Monday added, it only brought in around $80 million. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a solid opening weekend. However, one cannot help but notice that the established Fox franchise film failed to reach the triple digits of it’s Disney and Warner Brothers counterparts. It couldn’t even match Fox’s other major superhero release from earlier this year, Deadpool, which managed a triple digit figure despite it’s R rating!
Needless to say, the cards seemed to be stacked against Apocalypse when I walked into the theatre. And perhaps my lowered expectations contributed to my experience, because I thoroughly enjoyed it! Apocalypse did not disappoint me by any means. It is, in my opinion, a fulfilling entry in the X-Men canon.
I must begin by talking about the two stand outs in the film, who have been the standouts of the reboot trilogy since X-Men: First Class-and those standouts are James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. I have praised Fassbender on this blog multiple times before, and he continues to solidify himself as one of the best actors working today with his third performance as Magneto. Meanwhile, McAvoy turns in yet another solid performance in a role that will surely go on to become one of his most notable, Charles Xavier aka Professor X. Together, these two rival the previously untouchable Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart-who played the same roles at older ages in the original X-Men trilogy. It is McAvoy and Fassbender’s chemistry that makes the movie; their brotherhood is the heart and soul of the story, as it arguably has been for the entire reboot trilogy. Both actors sell their turmoil at an incredibly believable level, allowing the audience to attach to the characters more closely than ever before. We are able to understand both men, sympathize with both men, and root for their friendship.
Another returning cast member is Evan Peters as Quicksilver. Quicksilver made his debut in Days Of Future Past, where he was arguably one of the main highlights. He returns to once again make his case as the most fun character in the movie. His funky personality is only heightened by his humorous uses of his super speed. For those familiar with his big scene in the previous film, prepare to be amazed as he tops himself! He did have one very interesting arch in this movie that was curiously left unresolved, despite every arrow pointing to the resolution coinciding with resolution of the film itself. It was an odd choice to leave his major character moment as a “cliffhanger”. I’m sure Singer & co. will explore this element of his character in future films, but it was an odd decision nonetheless.
A newcomer to the franchise that I must talk about is Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers, aka Cyclops. I have been a fan of Sheridan’s since his amazing performance 2013’s Mud. While he has apparently turned in a couple of other notable performances since then, this is the first movie I personally have seen him in since Mud. It’s fantastic, therefore, to see him back on the big screen. I felt as though I was watching the next DiCaprio take a giant leap in his career, and deliver in spades. Sheridan delivers excellence in every sense of the word with his iteration of Cyclops, a character that had been previously owned by James Marsden. Equally excellent is another newcomer, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey. Turner’s Grey is a disturbed one, made an outcast by her peers and forced to reserve her true strength for the safety of those same peers. Furthermore, she finds herself haunted by visions of the end of the world. Turner portrays her inner turmoil in dealing with these things perfectly through impeccable dialogue delivery and good facial acting. We feel the pain and Jean Grey, and I’m excited for the future of that character in this rebooted franchise.
Jennifer Lawrence returns to the big screen as Mystique, but sadly I did not feel like she really contributed anything to the movie. Her performance was fine, but very bland for an actress of her caliber. This is partially her own fault, and partially the fault of the writers, who failed to give the character as much depth as she had in previous films. They attempt to do so, but that element of the story is so unexplored that it didn’t matter by the end.
The same can be said for three out of four of Apocalypse’s “four horsemen”-or his super powered henchmen. It is my understanding that Apocalypse always had his four horsemen in the comic books, and I understand the desire to be loyal to the source material. Even so, every one of the horsemen (except Magneto) barely spoke or contributed during battle. They had no arch, no depth, nor any role to really play in the story other than to pay fan service and kill the runtime for Apocalypse himself.
Speaking of Apocalypse himself, let’s discuss the main protagonist for a moment. He is an effective villain, despite some noticeable shortcomings. While indeed he is a frightening foe, he doesn’t really do very much. Most of the leg work is done by Magneto, honestly. It’s his power that I really feared in the final act. Apocalypse’s most frightening element wasn’t any power he used, more so his ability to combat the powers of the various X-Men. Self defense was his super power. While it definitely presented a worthy adversary, it left me as an audience member wanting more from his character. So, yes, while Apocalypse is a fine enough villain, he had lots of room for improvement.
I want to touch on how truly odd this movie is. It manages to be extremely mature while also being extremely immature. It explores serious issues within it’s main characters, specifically Magneto and Professor X, while disregarding human life lost in the mass destruction. That disregard would not have been as big of a deal in the past if it had not been for this year’s other two major super hero releases, Batman v. Superman and Civil War. Those films took the comic book genre to a point of understanding when dealing with the loss of human life in the grand spectacle of battle. As a result, Apocalypse‘s disregard civilian life is striking. Yet, as stated earlier, it explores serious issues within it’s main characters. These issues are not light; I recall struggles with loss being at the forefront. That’s heavy material, and it takes a mature film to pull it off. Apocalypse does it perfectly. It is, therefore, the most mature immature movie I’ve ever seen. It’s strange!
Like Apocalypse, the film itself manages to overcome it’s weaknesses and be effective despite their presence. I walked out of Apocalypse feeling very satisfied with my experience, although I immediately noticed the flaws. The thing about those flaws is that while they were noticeable, they didn’t take away from my experience. This is mostly due to the strength of it’s stronger points-they overpower the weaknesses by far. And the issues themselves were minor; it was nothing like Batman v. Superman where I left having felt bored throughout half the film and extremely entertained through the other half. No, in Apocalypse I was entertained thoroughly throughout the entire runtime. The flaws, then, were really questionable decisions made by the filmmakers more than anything; they didn’t interrupt the experience. And, when dealing with a movie, what more can you really ask for than a good experience?