The year of blockbusters continues as FOX offers it’s latest franchise entry into the mix. Although technically a “Marvel” film, the X-Men have long been under the FOX umbrella (thus the reason no crossover with Avengers… yet). After 15 years of the X-men franchise–and depending on whether or not you count Deadpool—X-Men: Apocalypse is either the 8th or 9th film entry into the Fox canon. Over the years, the films have been both up and down in terms of quality. Still, the modern day superhero films owe X-Men (2000) a great deal of thanks in laying the groundwork for today’s films. (Of course, we can all pretend that X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine don’t exist, can’t we? After all, Bryan Singer certainly does…)
Even though they’d likely deny it, X-Men: First Class was definitely a reboot to the franchise. Even with its flaws, it was very much welcomed after the two aforementioned disasters. After Days of Future Past (DOFP) scored high praise with both fans and critics, we have received X-Men: Apocalypse, the third film for this particular cast. The films has received mix reviews, ranging from ‘horrible’ to ‘amazing’ but I, however, fall in-between. The film has an interesting story with amazing visuals, but it lacks any depth or character growth. However, if they had taken a little more time in fleshing out the characters (especially the villains), the film could have been really great. Unfortunately, the film ends up being only entertaining with nothing really memorable (outside of their sad attempt to poke fun at their two weakest entries).
X-Men Apocalypse takes place ten years after DOFP and begins with Xavier’s school thriving, Mystique having become a mutant liberating hero and Magneto trying on the life of a family man. Although the world knows about mutants, it is still weary of their power. Some treat them horribly wrong, while others attempt to live in harmony with them. However, an ancient evil arises and begins to leave destruction in his wake . His goal is to rid the world of the weak (mainly humans) and create a new world ruled by him. He recruits four mutants to be his horsemen (think the four horsemen of the Apocalypse) with the most powerful of them being Magneto. From there, the X-Men band together to stop him before he destroys the whole world.
As I said, the story is interesting, even if it does carry with it elements of stories done before. Apocalypse is mysterious and powerful. Furthermore, his plan to purge the world because man seems hopeless and needs a savior is parallel with many other stories (most recently Avengers: Age of Ultron). It carries similarities to the Bible where as man is truly hopeless and in need of Jesus to be our Saviour. However, in Scripture, the difference is that God has mercy and grace and died on our behalf so that we could be saved.
The visuals again are great, and the slow motion Quicksilver scenes are the highlight of the film (as with DOFP). There is even a Wolverine scene that (almost) fixes what went so horribly wrong in Origins. To finally see the REAL Wolverine on screen and not the watered-down version that has always been done (insert my Wolverine fan bias here, of course) was a sight for sore eyes.
Although the movie was interesting with some parts, you still leave the theater without caring about anything that has just happened. If Apocalypse is so strong, why does he need horsemen? There is nothing explained as to why he needs them, nor is his true origin really touched upon or fleshed out. In the comics, Apocalypse is one of the most intimidating foes and, even though he is shown to be powerful, he wasn’t intimidating. Sure, his power was like no other, but his presence was merely… well… ‘meh’. I don’t just want to see him do powerful things, I want to tremble at his sight and fear him. Unfortunately, they really missed the mark in bringing such a powerful foe to life.
Going back to character growth, there really isn’t any in this film. As a huge X-Men fan, I know my opinion can be biased at times. I love Jennifer Lawrence as an actress, but I am sick and tired of them trying to make Mystique and Magneto good. Let them be fully bad, not just bad when it is convenient to them. She was the focal point of the film in a leadership role and, to be honest, she really sucked at it. She was there, she had the “role”, but that was about it. Personally, I prefer to see the bad Mystique all the way through, not one who is part of the X-Men.
I guess Apocalypse could fit here as well but, ultimately, the ugly consists of all the surrounding characters. The Horsemen, Cyclops, Jean, and Nightcrawler were all bad. Their action sequences were good visually but, as far as fight scenes go, one of the worst I’ve ever seen. The characters themselves were one dimensional and underdeveloped. I ask above why Apocalypse needs horsemen, and with three out of the four he chose, I’m left wondering why. The choice of Magneto makes sense, but what made the others so worthy? They showed nothing that really stood out and screamed “powerful” and, they were weak and outmatched by mere students that had no training whatsover. Again, why do I care about them?
Speaking of students, Cyclops went from being picked on, to all of a sudden being a rebel, to now being part of the team to stop Apocalypse? Meanwhile, Jean was timid and unsure of herself as she tries to keep her deeper powers (Phoenix) under control and Nightcrawler seems to have been included only to add more CGI. None of these characters actually showed any kind of development, unless you count Jean (by direction of Professor Xavier) finally “letting go”. Is it because she needed to so we can see what scares her, or because we needed to again hint at the failure that was X-Men: The Last Stand? I say the latter.
Just Let Go
Speaking of The Last Stand, where poking fun worked with Deadpool, it seemed out of place in this film. In an attempt to give Hugh Jackman more money, the bad thing about his Weapon X scene is that it served no purpose in the film. The whole idea of Stryker and Weapon X being in the film was absolutely pointless and that time could have been spent in actually developing the key characters of the film. So as I appreciate the attempt, what was the point? And continuing to hammer throughout the film the failure of these two films just leaves one thinking, just let go. This likely was Singer’s last stand, so he left it all out and took his shots on what he was not involved with. But ultimately, FOX needs to come to the same realization that Sony did regarding the Spiderman franchise, just let go. Find a common ground with Marvel Studios and allow them to bring the future X-Men to life within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
This will benefit all involved, and more importantly, the fans.