X-Men: Apocalypse

'X Men - Apocalypse' movie poster

Release: Friday, May 27, 2016

[Theater]

Written by: Bryan Singer; Simon Kinberg; Michael Dougherty; Dan Harris

Directed by: Bryan Singer

In the midst of Magneto’s metal-throwing rampage, a burning hot ember of emotion buried deep underneath the rapidly cooling coals of X-Men: Apocalypse, I glance over to find my friend fast asleep, head buried into his shoulder and a small puddle of drool starting to form. All I could do was smile, really. It was the perfect summation of everything I was feeling on the inside throughout much of Bryan Singer’s fourth go-around as the helmer of this most consistently inconsistent of superhero film franchises.

For about an hour I couldn’t come to terms with the disparity in quality between Singer’s previous installment and his latest; how is it possible to be so enthralled by one entry and bored to tears with the next? Seeing as though I wasn’t someone put off by the tweaks made to X-Men history in Days of Future Past, I then had the troubling thought that I was still better off than the purists, those who had a lot more invested in these adaptations.

Apocalypse is, if nothing else, a perfectly good waste of Oscar Isaac’s talents. As the titular super-villain En Sabah Nur, Isaac couldn’t look more disinterested. Was part of the plan caking the man in make-up to the point where his disgust over the poor (and I mean really poor) script would be concealed? If it was, that plan failed. In the early going Nur rises from the dead in modern (well, 1983) Egypt after being entombed under tons of rubble resulting from a last-second violent uprising that occurred during an attempt to transfer his consciousness into another mortal body. He quickly learns of how modern society has come to be and is profoundly disturbed by it. Like Tony Stark’s ultimate fuck-up, the Ultron program, Nur/Apocalypse is big on the cleansing of mankind but very slight when it comes to personality. (It’s a little painful to be comparing an Oscar-caliber actor’s charisma here to that of a robot, but here we are.)

Nur’s extinction-level plans simply boil down to nostalgia for them good ole days. With a perpetual scowl set upon his seasick-looking face, he sets about bestowing untold amounts of power upon already powerful, albeit vulnerable, mutants the world over, enticing them to join him in his effort to restore world order. His recruits include the likes of Ororo Munroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp); Warren Worthington III/Angel (Ben Hardy); Elizabeth Braddock/Psylocke (Olivia Munn); and Eric Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender). While each character’s alter egos manage to jump off the page from a visual standpoint, no one other than Magneto is given anything to do. Even their action scenes register as perfunctory.

Elsewhere, mutants both new and old are . . . doing something. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is professing at the school where he professes things, teaching students to learn how to accept being gifted with powers; Magneto, prior to being wooed by the job offer from the False God, is eking out a quieter existence in Poland following the disastrous events in Washington D.C.; Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is continent-hopping as a mercenary-for-hire, rescuing fellow mutants from their current miseries all while denying her heroism. The false modesty is soooo Katniss Everdeen Gwyneth Paltrow. And we are reacquainted with sidekickers like Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult); Jean Gray/Phoenix (Sophie Turner); Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan); and Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Kodie Smit-McPhee).

Aside from the dismal performance from Isaac, one that reminded me more than once of the kind of collapse Eddie Redmayne had in Jupiter Ascending last year, Apocalypse suffers from a total lack of enthusiasm in reintroducing its sprawling cast. The characters themselves, of course, are universally welcomed back, yet their presences aren’t so much felt as they are foisted upon audiences expecting an epic action spectacular. (More on that in a little bit.) It was during these protracted intros where my mind started to really wander, where my head started sitting heavy in the palm of my hand. ‘Why is this girl in front of me constantly reaching out towards the screen? Like, does she know someone in this thing or something?’ ‘Is she having spasms?’ ‘Do I need to call a doctor?’ Thoughts no one should be having during a film that features so many likable and unique characters, a film steeped in mythology now 15 years in the cinematic making, I was totally having, and constantly. It was as if Charles Xavier had somehow gained access to my cerebral cortex. Leave my cerebral cortex alone, Charles.

There is actually a defense against critics blasting Apocalypse for lacking originality in its ambitions to out-epic the competition. Sometimes a ‘back-to-basics’ approach can be rewarding. You can simplify the thrust of the narrative to the ultimate in superhero standoffs, wherein all roads to the end of days run through mutants brave enough to face up to Nur and his four horsemen. Unfortunately in this case there is such a lackadaisical attitude in bringing back the characters to face their toughest test. This is in some ways one of the most personal outings for the X-Men yet, but this latest installment feels cold and detached. Much of that can be traced to Isaac’s prominence, though the build-up to the climactic fight is just as off-putting.

Look no further than said capstone battle. Hasn’t Singer learned anything from the Bay’s and the Emmerich’s? Threat of annihilation by virtue of large-scale, pixelated destruction isn’t really a threat at all. In fairness, Singer tries to make up for some of the transgressions by ripping himself off and including another über-slow-mo sequence that shows off the greatness that is Quicksilver. That’s gotta count for something in the way of originality, right?

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Recommendation: If we’re talking hierarchy of awesomeness, X-Men: Apocalypse is a tier or two down from Singer’s previous output, Days of Future Past because it doesn’t express the same level of enthusiasm nor does the story work as cohesively as the ones that have come before it. The clichés are much harder to escape here as are the cheesy one-liners and there’s a sense of franchise fatigue. A poor performance from Oscar Isaac doesn’t help matters either. Still, there’s enough here to say I’m willing to see where the franchise goes from here. I’m also liking how the past is catching up to “the present.” It’s an interesting way to build a full and complete picture of the X-Men universe. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 144 mins.

Quoted: “Does it ever wake you in the middle of the night? The feeling that one day, they’ll come for you? And your children?”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.cinemablend.com

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25 thoughts on “X-Men: Apocalypse

  1. Great review Tom, though I am sorry to see it let you down like this! I liked this well enough, but didn’t love it like some of the others. Then again, I am a huge X-Men fan and will watch them all anyway, good or bad. I had fun with this, though there are certainly some terrible flaws lurking.

    • I think I can chalk this up to not being the most die-hard X-Men fan (actually, that was a point I made earlier — I wonder if I’m better or worse off by not having too deep a relationship with anyone, particularly the villain. Some purists might be more offended by it, like everyone seemed to be over Doom’s appearance in the recent Fantastic Four flick. . . while those just looking for an entertaining ride might just be disappointed they didn’t get quite that.) Either way, I wish I could have liked this more. Really do. 😦

    • Definitely better than The Last Stand. I know that movie gets a ton of hate, and there are major issues with it. While Apocalypse has some issues for sure, there is also a lot to really like. Maybe just wait for a DVD/Blu Ray release xD

    • It’s been a while since I’ve watched The Last Stand but I think I liked this one less. I don’t remember being so offended by Stand but then again, it does have Brett Ratner attached as director and I have never really liked anything that guy has done. In all reality this is probably the better movie but it’s not by much (not to me at least).

  2. Yeah, this was a disappointment wasn’t it? I’ve seen worse, but at $250m that really isn’t good enough. I like your comparison between Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending and Isaac in this – very funny and I can see where you’re coming from. I don’t think it’s the actor’s fault in this case, but his character is so joyless and dreary, and Isaac just doesn’t feel like a good fit as a villain here. I love how he decides he’s going to end the world after watching 5 minutes of MTV or something.

    • Haha yeah, that was merely one of the things I found almost offensively stupid about this. I felt like I was a child back watching old cartoons and the ultimate in cliche villains — those who were susceptible of having the wool pulled over their eyes all too easily — was standing before me in the form of Apocalypse. I couldn’t believe how lame this whole thing was. Totally totally lame.

  3. I didn’t find this movie boring at all; it actually held my attention from start to finish, and I’m usually one to have severe movie ADD. From what I understand regarding the comic books, this isn’t a simple chunk of the comics to tackle, but from what I saw, it’s a decent installment.

    • Yeah Courtney I’m glad you got more out of it. I simply couldn’t, I nearly fell asleep at several points during it and my friend actually DID fall asleep, and that’s saying something given that we had great seats for it. I so wanted to like it more, although I can’t say I didn’t like anything about it. I’m not one of those who are complaining about the Weapon X scene; I thought that was actually a highlight

    • Mmm, based on my relationship with this franchise — which by the sounds of it is starkly different to yours — you might want to stay away from Apocalypse. It’s not as entertaining as Days of Future Past.

      • A few friends have said it’s not bad and another said that Apocalypse is a great villain, a comment I did my best not to laugh based purely off the makeup. I’ll give the film a fair shot, as I do with every film I watch, but the deck seems stacked against it.

  4. Well said on so many points. I couldn’t believe how tired Apocalypse felt (and how bored I was by it) when Days of Futures Past was so good. And I was so excited by the addition of Oscar Isaac who turned out to be unrecognizable (and not in a good way).

    • Tired is the right word man. Tired and unenthusiastic. Read a lot of things accusing Fassbender and Lawrence of sleepwalking through their roles here and I don’t see that quite as much as I did with Isaac behind all this fucking make-up and stuff. Of course those other two have been much better in other things — even in earlier installments — but a big thing for me here was having a legitimately threatening villain and that’s not what I got

  5. I enjoyed this. Not sure why they cast Oscar Issac and then make him unrecognizable. That part could have been played by anyone. I found it amusing that Jennifer Lawrence got to spend most of the movie looking like Jennifer Lawrence. Still, everyone did what they could. These movies are more about action than performances anyway. Definitely some thrilling highs throughout. I have yet to write my review but I’d probably give it a 6/8 on your scale. It’s not the best X-Men movie, but far from the worst .

    • Yeah they are more about action than performance but they are also typically engaging story-wise. I thought the story was pretty terrible quite frankly. I was left wanting

  6. Yeah….. I thought Days of Future Past was pretty weak so if this is even worse, I’ll skip it. I guess it’s a renter! What a shame – I loved the first two films. : (

    • The major impression I’m getting from the X-Men series is that it’s the most inconsistent of all the superhero properties that have been converted into films. 🙂 I actually totally loved DoFP but I understand it really tinkered with X-Men history to make the story work. So I can see how that was problematic for some (I’m not sure if that’s your issue with it, but I realize that’s a biggie for a great many). Here, there’s just such less enthusiasm involved it’s hard to reconcile that both director and the writer(s) have returned from last time. Like, wut . . .

      • Yeah, I know nothing about X-Men history so that didn’t bother me. ; ) Actually, what DID I dislike about that one? Hmm…. I dunno! All this superhero shit is getting all messed up in my mind now!!!! Lol

  7. Pretty much agree, Tom. Did enjoy the new cast more than I expected, though there are some head-scratching moments. Thankfully, it’s not ‘The Last Stand’ mess that I’ll forever hold against Brett Ratner.

    • I’ll need to go back and revisit Ratner’s turn as an X-Men director. That movie got slaughtered critically and commercially. I will have to make comparisons because Apocalypse, excluding a few bright spots, really could be the nadir of the franchise for this reviewer. Unfortunately. Of course, there’s always going to be more films so maybe this will all be forgotten by this time next year 🙂

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