With X-Men: Apocalypse, the 9th installment of the X-Men franchise upon us, a lot of ground has been covered (& subsequently erased) and rebooted yet again in the last 16 years. While X-Men back in 2000 was arguably the first “serious” comic book movie, it was definitely the one that spawned the plethora of comic book movies that have come since. X-Men 2 (aka X2: X-Men United) raised the bar even further with both audiences and critics giving the film praise. X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006 did great box office numbers but was an absolute mess of a movie and killed off most of the cast for what felt like no reason whatsoever. The fans absolutely hated it and so did the critics. All of the hatred was absolutely justified
In 2011 X-Men: First Class debuted and erased (almost all of) the collective hatred that X-Men: The Last Stand brought to the franchise. With 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, the taste of The Last Stand was but a distant memory as the film logically undid all that was wrong with the now convoluted franchise and literally erased The Last Stand from ever happening. One would think that X-Men: Apocalypse would keep up with that momentum. And one would be wrong.
X-Men: Apocalypse is an overblown, cartoony mess of a film that once again butchers characters and timelines and looks like a slightly more expensive version of a CW show. X-Men: Apocalypse is the Batman and Robin of the X-Men franchise. Where X-Men: Days of Future Past had finally fixed all of the issues with timelines and continuity with the franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse just brought them all right back.
The movie opens with the origin of Apocalypse, who as En Sabah Nur, seeks immortality by transfusing the blood of a mutant with his own. Stopped by a coup and buried for thousands of years, he is revived in the present day by those who still worship his legend. Enter the X-Men – but not technically, because as the movie makes a point to let the audience know, there is no X-Men team yet – which is strange because this is the 9th film in the franchise. Apocalypse recruits his four horsemen which include Storm, Angel, Psylocke and Magneto. If three of these seem familiar to you, that’s because they’ve been in previous X-Men films. And we get their origin stories once again! Psylocke is a new addition to the franchise and Olivia Munn makes the character one of the fresh and welcome parts of the film.
Once he has his four horsemen, Apocalypse begins his plan to create an extinction level event and restart the world the way he wants to. We’re not really sure why as it’s never fully explained. Enter the non-formal group of mutants that’s definitely not team X-Men but all study, live or have some connection with Professor Xavier and Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. We’re introduced (again) to Scott Summers who becomes Cyclops when he’s taken to the school for help. We’re introduced (again) to Jean Grey who becomes Phoenix. Hank McCoy (Beast) is here as a professor himself. Jennifer Lawrence once again plays Mystique, though notably, she’s seen almost always looking like Jennifer Lawrence rather then the blue form she’s taken in decades of comics and movies. In fact, Xavier comments on her not being “in her true blue form” to let the audience know (as if they hadn’t already). In actuality, Lawrence has complained about the multiple hours it takes in makeup to look like Mystique.
If you’re not seeing the problems piling on here, see the movie and it will become evident. Once again, the X-Men timeline is wrong in this franchise. Beast is an adult while Cyclops and Phoenix are teenagers. Nightcrawler is a teenager. Jubilee is a teenager. Bryan Singers obsession with making everyone teenagers goes directly against the tens of thousands of issues of the X-Men comic books and completely changes the established dynamics of the group. The original class of X-Men was Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, Jean Grey (then called Marvel Girl) and Beast under the tutelage of Professor Xavier. They were all teenagers and equals who had special strengths and weaknesses but formed one cohesive unit. The value of them being the same age was that they brought history, knowledge and real world experience of a world that hated and feared them to the new mutants that came after them. None of this is now possible because of X-Men: Apocalypse.
X-Men: Apocalypse not only kills the mythology but it has some laughably bad visuals
Even if you completely ignored the horrendous damage that X-Men: Apocalypse once again does to the X-Men, the other faults with this movie are almost equally as bad. Oscar Isaac, a fine actor, is tasked with playing Apocalypse. He’s buried under layers of blue makeup and foam prosthetics that make him resemble a rejected Mighty Morphin Power Rangers villain. Seriously, it’s that bad. Worse yet, whenever he uses his mutant powers he rolls back his eyes and gives out a creepily corny “ahh” as if he’s about to end his scene in the world’s worst porno. Nightcrawler, played by Kodi Smit-Mcphee, doesn’t resemble the German devil of the night, but rather some sort of evil gay Smurf.
Even many of the special FX were embarrassingly bad. At one point, Cyclops splits a giant tree with his powerful blast and it looks as if a freshmen multi media student had done a Adobe After Effects tutorial on green screening. The final 20 minutes of the film take place on a set made up of some big rocks and a lot of backlighting. While sitting there watching it, it reminded me of the sets of Starz Spartacus TV series. Great for cable TV but not even remotely good enough for a huge budget Hollywood movie.
There’s some really amazing moments too!
There are some shining moments in X-Men: Apocalypse that remind you of the greatness of the two previous films. Quicksilver, played once again by Evan Peters, is one of the true highlights in the movie. He is welcome comic relief and simultaneously cool. Jennifer Lawrence is awesome as always, though having Mystique as a sort of X-Men leader is strange. From Fox’s perspective, she’s the biggest star of the series now. There are also some really great fight scenes, particularly the ones with Psylocke. Munn’s Psylocke will be a fan favorite for many films to come.
So, the bottom line is that if you’re a comic book fan first and a movie fan second, you’re going to feel the same way about X-Men: Apocalypse as we do. If you are just there to see a big spectacle and don’t care much for anything else, you’re going to love X-Men: Apocalypse.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments!