The following review contains spoilers for X-Men: Apocalypse.
With the exception of First Class and Days of Future Past, the X-Men movie franchise has made it difficult to be a fan of the X-Men movie universe. Even the first two movies in the series, which are generally looked upon favorably, have not aged well and were blatantly ashamed of it’s comic book origins. They did everything to distance themselves from the original source material, which is something the franchise as a whole has had a problem with. Now though, we are in an entertainment climate where the goofy comic book stuff X-Men was so terrified of, is now the most profitable thing in Hollywood. So with the latest installment in the series, X-Men: Apocalypse it could be reasonable to expect the filmmakers to finally embrace the X-Men’s weird side and put forth a true contender for comic book movies, right? Well, that’s partially true. It’s certainly a contender for worst comic book movie, at least for this year.
Apocalypse picks up ten years after Days of Future Past; The Xavier school is up and running, Mystique is off in Germany having mutant freedom fighter adventures, and Magneto has fled the country to start a life that’s so idyllic the movie might as well have put a counter in the corner of the screen counting down to when tragedy strikes. Order is broken when an ancient cult resurrects Apocalypse, a powerful mutant that immediately plans on destroying the world after living in the 80’s for about an hour, and it’s up to the X-Men to stop him. It’s a very typical run of the mill superhero story, which wouldn’t normally be such a bad thing, but with the movies we’ve seen so far this year, it’s kind of taking a step backwards. Superhero movies have gotten to the point where they’re getting bogged down with tropes and cliches and so far this year, they actively pushed against those tropes. Deadpool openly mocked them and Batman V Superman and Civil War turned those tropes on their heads and satirized them to various levels of success. Apocalypse does none of that and bold-facedly gives us another “heroes save the world” plot with plenty of superhero landings and third act senseless collateral damage. It isn’t objectively bad, but it’s tiresome nonetheless.
I feel bad for all the actors here. Everyone does their best with what they’re given, it’s just a shame they aren’t really given much. Oscar Issac, who’s normally great, is given a very uncomplicated one note villain in the titular Apocalypse. It’s the kind of villain who has “Destroy the world” on the top of their to-do list and a string of question marks for every other entry. Most of the returning characters are just bland and don’t really do or change much and the new crop of mutants have either very little character development or are simply set dressing. I’m looking at you, Jubilee. She has more plot importance and screen time in that fake 80’s style ad than she does in the entire movie! The most particularly offensive character is this movie’s version of Storm. All we know about her is that she looks up to Mystique as a hero and that she was a street urchin. That’s it. We have a great character who, at least in the comic books, is one of the most important members of X-Men, reduced to a one-dimensional henchman. The same could be said of all Apocalypse’s Horsemen with the exception of Magneto who, unlike many of the other characters in the movie, actually has a character arc. It’s just cliche and stupid.
To me, Magneto is one of the most complex and interesting villains not only in marvel comics, but in marvel comic book movies. He shares the same passion for mutants and mutant kind as our heroes, but his violent methods put him at odds with Xavier and the X-Men. In both First Class and Days of Future Past his actions aren’t inspired by some angsty need to see the world burn because the world hurt him so. He mainly just wants proper respect for mutant kind, even if he has to get his hands dirty doing so. He acts with flawed, but reasonable logic. He only attempted to assassinate Mystique and the president in Days of Future Past to try to save the future of mutant kind, and when he seeks revenge, he’s very discreet and only targets those responsible. Nothing about his character would suggest that he’d indiscriminately commit mass genocide when the majority of the people involved have no affect on his life what so ever. If he is to murder someone he has a specific reason to do so.
The dull characters and paint by the numbers plot really bring this movie down. It could have possibly been better with some visual style in the same vain as a Zack Snyder movie, but the cinematography visually reflects it’s plot, boring and uninspired. So uninspired, in fact, the movie straight out copies the famous Quicksilver sequence from Days of Future Past. So nice they did it twice! I really hesitate to call this the worst superhero movie so far this year; that dishonor still goes to Batman V Superman. But where as Bats V Supes tried and failed to be unique, X-Men: Apocalypse simply does not try. It’s at best another dime-a-dozen superhero flick that will adequately use up two and a half hours or your life and at worst piss you off for it’s unabashed laziness and contempt for the comic book it’s based on. Frankly, your money can be spent better elsewhere.
Written by Remy Williams June 1st, 2016