Title: X-Men: Apocalypse
Release Date: May 27, 2016
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: Bryan Singer
Release Format: Theatrical
Okay, we’ve finally made it to the most recent X-Men movie. It’s been a fun ride down memory lane revisiting this franchise but we are finally caught up. I apologize it took so long but I thank you for being so patient. Here we go. So with X-Men: Days Of Future Past being the most successful film of the entire franchise and effectively fixing most of the continuity issues, what would Bryan Singer and his returning screenwriter, Simon Kinberg, give us next? Would we see an X-Men movie with the original cast returning? No, because that just would have made too much sense after the ending of the last film. Instead, we got X-Men: Apocalypse, a film picking up ten years after the events of its predecessor, where the timeline is even more confusing than it already was and no one seems to have aged a day since First Class, despite twenty years passing by.
At the start of X-Men: Apocalypse, we are given the backstory of the first mutant, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Issac), also known as Apocalypse, who had almost unlimited power in ancient Egypt until him and his four horsemen were betrayed and buried deep underground. Apocalypse is uncovered and released on the earth in 1983, where he recruits four new horsemen; Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who is currently suffering the loss of his wife and child (the trailers showed this, I don’t consider it a spoiler). With his newfound team of mutants, Apocalypse means to destroy the world to build a better one and only the X-Men can stop them.
Now, following in the footsteps of the best X-Men film ever made is a tough act to follow and I in no way thought this could be better. I was right, it wasn’t; not even close. However, I was in no way going to hold X-Men: Apocalypse to that ridiculously high standard. I knew going in that this wouldn’t meet that kind of expectation. Sadly, while X-Men: Apocalypse is ultimately entertaining enough to maybe warrant a viewing, it’s still plagued by many problems and is a massive disappointment. I’ve seen it three times now and while it may not be terrible, it isn’t really that good either. Let me just start off with the first major problem of the film; Apocalypse. As much as it pains me to say it, I did not like this character and found him to be quite boring for the most part. Now, this was not Oscar Isaac’s fault, as he did give a rather interesting performance as the character. The acting wasn’t the problem, the way the character was written was the problem because his motivations and plans are beyond generic.
He wants to destroy the world for “reasons” and build a better one atop the ashes for “reasons”. When you get down to it, he’s just Ultron with a blue tint and, truth be told, I didn’t find Avengers: Age Of Ultron to be too impressive either. Not to mention, the way he recruits his horsemen felt as if it was ripped wholesale from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, as both Apocalypse and Sybok tap into the emotional pains and feelings of others to bring them on their side. I don’t care if this movie is better, it’s the same thing in that aspect and It didn’t really work there either. His powers also seem inconsistent and don’t make a whole lot of sense. We clearly see that he can bend matter at will, reducing people to mere ashes without breaking a sweat. So why does he even need his Four Horsemen to help him destroy the world, or defeat the X-Men for that matter, when he can clearly do it himself? He could probably make the entire planet explode if he wanted to and yet he’s not using his full power on the X-Men? After great villains like Sebastian Shaw, Magneto, and Bolivar Trask, Apocalypse feels like such a massive downgrade and it’s a shame when you factor in how important this villain is in the comics. And trust me, having Apocalypse look like Ivan Ooze from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie didn’t help (although, to be fair, Ivan Ooze is frickin’ awesome).
But it isn’t just that Apocalypse is generic and boring, his horsemen sadly suffer the same fate. The Four Horsemen, barely do anything in the entire film and are almost entirely unmemorable. They fight the X-Men at the very end of the film, in an admittedly awesome climax, but that’s about it. Storm starts off as a potentially interesting character but barely does anything past her introduction with Apocalypse. I think Psylocke only had about four lines in the entire film and, to be honest, it made me upset to see that. I’ve been waiting to see this character done right forever (we saw an Asian version of her that could phase into walls for some reason in X-Men: The Last Stand but the less said about that the better) and her being wasted like this was nothing short of criminal. Olivia Munn looks phenomenal as Psylocke, especially when she’s fighting, and does her best with what little she has, but there’s just nothing to her character in this. I’ve heard rumors that this character was slapped into the film at the last minute, due to a deviant art drawing someone did, and that the original fourth horsemen were supposed to be Charles Xavier. Believe me, it shows. Quicksilver didn’t have much screen-time in X-Men: Days Of Future Past either, but they at least made him memorable.
However, that is nothing compared to what this film did to Angel. Angel’s character is butchered beyond repair in X-Men: Apocalypse. The kind-hearted Warren Worthington, who was tortured by Apocalypse in the comics, making the transition into Arch-Angel and seeking his revenge, is now a cage fighting lackey with no intrigue. I wouldn’t mind the changes if they did anything fun or inventive with him but they don’t… at all. On top of that, his appearance doesn’t make any sense. The film takes place in 1983, where we see Angel as a teenager. Yet, in X-Men: The Last Stand, he’s a nine year old boy in 1996 and a young man in 2006. I understand that X-Men: The Last Stand was erased from the timeline by the last film but the dates just don’t add up in the slightest. What was the point of fixing the continuity issues in X-Men: Days Of Future Past if you were just going to create all new ones with X-Men: Apocalypse? If you wanted to do Apocalypse and still use Angel, why didn’t you just set this film in the present with the original X-Men team? I want to pretend X-Men: The Last Stand doesn’t exist as well but it’s a bit hard to do that after they acknowledged it as official canon in the last movie. Usually, I can ignore the continuity issues (I did it for First Class & Days Of Future Past) but this was just dumb. Being that Angel was one of the original X-Men in the comics, it feels like such a slap in the face.
Remember when I said in the previous reviews that I didn’t care for Mystique being in “Jennifer Lawrence mode”? Yeah, well you can just get used to it I guess because I can’t recall more than three moments in X-Men: Apocalypse where we actually saw Mystique’s natural blue form. Compared to the last film where she was constantly in her natural mutant state, this seems like a huge step backward. She gave this whole speech in X-Men: First Class about being “Mutant & Proud” so… what, did we just decide to throw that out the window all of a sudden? Look, I’m not ragging on Jennifer Lawrence here, she was fine. However, her character is now being seen as this unsung hero of the mutant masses and it just doesn’t feel right, regardless if it’s a new timeline or not. I mean, it could have worked if they did something emotional with it. If Mystique had died to save Charles or Beast or even Nightcrawler from Apocalypse, that would have hit this home in a good way. However, at this point, it feels like they’re changing Mystique’s personality, movie by movie, to fit their story needs and it just feels awkward. Oh, and despite having a ton of scenes with him, they never touch upon the fact that Mystique is Nightcrawler’s mom with Azazel; not even so much as a hint. C’mon, that’s two times you’ve done this to me, Bryan Singer. You are wasting so much potential with this.
Speaking of wasted potential, remember how the last film hinted but didn’t outright say that Quicksilver and Magneto were father and son? Surely they’ll explore that deeper in this film, right? Well, they outright say it this time but don’t do a thing with it and it’s more infuriating due to the fact that, at a certain point in the climax of X-Men: Apocalypse, there was a perfect opportunity for them to do something with it. It would have created a meaningful moment, especially when you consider what Magneto was going through, having just lost his wife and daughter. That’s really the biggest problem this film has in a nutshell; Mystique’s unsung hero arc, Quicksilver being Magneto’s son, Jubilee being formally introduced and Psylocke being horsemen are all good ideas with potential, but while X-Men: Apocalypse addresses these good ideas, it rarely delivers on them.
By the way, were any of you excited to see Jubilee in this movie? Remember all the promotions with Lana Condor? Weren’t you pumped to finally see this character be important? I was too, but you best lower those expectations right now because Jubilee doesn’t do anything in this movie. Lana Condor does well in the role but, that being said, she doesn’t have much of a role. She’s an entirely superfluous character. Evidently there were scenes cut from the film where she used her powers because there were none to be found in the finished film. It’s actually kind of a shame since we see her having fun with the main X-Men of this film and yet, they still have her do nothing. Why is it that the only movie able to give this character an actual role was Generation X, a made-for-tv film from 1996? I liked Lana Condor and all, but this is just sad. I mean, why did they bother? All I can say is, much like with Psylocke, do not promise me a character I want to see in all the marketing campaigns if you aren’t going to use them. Jesus, I think Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand got more screen-time than this poor woman did.
Okay, now that I have finished whining and complaining about nine whole paragraphs, I’ll talk about some of the good now. The acting is pretty spot on for the most part. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender could play the roles of Xavier and Magneto in their sleep by now. They both feel so comfortable in these roles and both get a good amount of character development in this film. Charles Xavier finds himself reuniting with old friends from his past, including Moira McTaggert (Rose Byrne) and Havoc (Lucas Till), while also training the X-Men of the future and trying to save Magneto from himself… again. Magneto gets the most development of out of the two. When I first saw the movie, I didn’t like the idea of Magneto giving up his mutant cause to have a family with a non-mutant woman, if only because it seemed incredibly out of character for him. Magneto has never struck me as someone who would just give up his cause for mutant supremacy at the drop of a hat. However, this plot point has not only grown on me but has also become my favorite thing done with this character in the series. Why? Because it shows him living his life Xavier’s way; living among the humans, trying to lead a peaceful and happy life amongst them. He tried doing things the way Charles envisioned and his family was killed anyway. Now, more than ever, this character has more than enough reason to believe that Xavier’s way is impossible because he has lived it. It’s so tragic and heartbreaking seeing this character try so hard not to be a villain, only to get pulled back into that mindset once again.
I wasn’t too sold on Sophie Turner as Jean Grey when she was first cast in the role. I love Sophie Turner on Game Of Thrones but I just wasn’t seeing her as Jean Grey, personally. But I have to admit, as the film went on she began to seriously grow on me. Her acting resembled Jean Grey from X-Men: The Animated Series the more I think about it. I’m not sure if that was the intention but she still did a great job as the character and I wouldn’t mind seeing her play Jean Grey again, especially after that amazing climax that I won’t dare spoil for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie. I will say this, though; My dreams came true and I felt like a little kid again. Sorry, I’ve said too much already.
The other mutants are perfectly serviceable in their roles. Kodi Smit-McPhee is well casted as Nightcrawler and gets a few humorous moments. Being that this takes place in 1983, seeing the mutant who actually looks like demon wear a Michael Jackson Thriller Jacket is actually kind of hilarious. So props to whoever made that wardrobe decision. Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops started out as a whiny little brat that I wanted to punch in the face but there’s a certain point in the movie where his character makes a turn for the better. Unfortunately, this series still has no idea how to handle Cyclops but with this film showing him as just a young kid, who still doesn’t have control of his abilities, it at least has an excuse. He’s still a young man learning and it makes sense why he’s not the fearless warrior we all know and love yet. Not perfect, but I’m willing to give that a pass. What I won’t give a pass to, however, is the fact that Turner and Sheridan have no chemistry together on screen. Hell, his first encounter with Jean in X-Men: Apocalypse made me want to stab him. The film slowly begins planting the seeds of their romance as it goes on but I just wasn’t buying it. It’s something I really hope the next film improves upon.
Evan Peters, no surprise, crushes the role Of Quicksilver, once again demonstrating the cocky nature of the character perfectly. However, there’s another side to that this time as he’s not just here for a cameo, but rather to try and find his father, Magneto. This doesn’t go the way I would have wanted it but, for what it’s worth, it does give the character more of an inner conflict to deal with throughout the film and he’s utilized even better in X-Men: Apocalypse than he was in X-Men: Days Of Future Past. I love that instead of leaving this character behind, they actually make him part of the team and seeing him try to take on Apocalypse was both epic and hilarious. I’d even say his “speed scene” in this film is far superior to his one in the last and even the song choice was better. The Eurythmics would be proud.
Of course, there is also a Wolverine cameo in this film because, god forbid this series can do ONE MOVIE without Hugh Jackman. Don’t get me wrong here, I love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. As far as I’m concerned, no one else will ever play the role better. However, while his cameo is pretty awesome, X-Men: Apocalypse pulls it off in the most convoluted way possible. There’s a whole sequence where the main cast is taken to Alkali Lake by Stryker (Josh Helman) and it’s such a detour from the rest of the film that you could swear the only reason they had the sequence at all was to squeeze in another Wolverine cameo. Yeah, the sequence is well shot, Wolverine actually spills blood this time and it looked sick, and there’s even a nice moment with Mystique and Quicksilver, but it comes out of nowhere and you’d miss nothing if the entire sequence were cut. Oh, no, I take that back, you’d miss where they got the random flight suits which all magically manage to perfectly fit them… yeah, like I said, convoluted. And before you ask, no, they do not explain the ending of Days Of Future Past where Mystique impersonated Stryker to gain control of Wolverine’s unconscious body because lord knows that continuity wasn’t suffering enough already. I will say two nice things, though. One: Wolverine wears something in the sequence. I won’t spoil it but fans of his origins will be impressed. Two: It sets up an awesome after credits moment that I also won’t spoil.
Despite everything, though, I have to admit that the climax of X-Men: Apocalypse was a ton of fun. Now, do not get this twisted, it isn’t perfect. How Charles Xavier goes bald is so laughably terrible and idiotic that I actually screamed in the theater, “Oh, hell no! Flag on the play!” amongst my obnoxious laughing. Sorry, I had to be that guy but I get very emotionally invested in these characters in case you couldn’t tell. Also, there was the problem of me not really caring about many of the characters in the scene, especially the horsemen, who had pretty much been reduced to footnotes in the movie by this point. It was the same issue I had with X-Men: First Class, where the climax was great but the characters felt a tad too superfluous for me to really get invested. However, the fight scenes were so inventive and fun to sit through that I managed to turn my brain off a little bit. I’ll go as far as to say this climax has the best fighting choreography of the entire series. It’s brilliantly shot and executed and the final battle between Xavier, Apocalypse and… well, let’s just say a seriously awesome fist in the air cameo, was fantastic. There’s also a beautiful resolution between Xavier and Mactaggart as well as a scene featuring some of the characters in their classic uniforms. Didn’t last long but it did get me pumped for the next film.
Overall, X-Men: Apocalypse is a convoluted mess of a film that messes up the continuity worse than before. On the bad side of things, the main story is a complete mess, the villain is a joke, the horsemen are reduced to nothing more than footnotes, this series has no idea what it wants to do with Mystique at this point and it wastes characters that could have been interesting to explore (Jubilee, Psylocke). However, despite all the things I hated about this movie (Can someone please tell me the incredibly important reason why Jubilee was in this movie? Anyone at all?), there is quite a few things I did like that I feel are worth recommending the movie for. There’s some really good acting, it’s not devoid of emotional moments or intellectual conversation, the action is awesome (especially in the climax) and Magneto’s story arc is probably the best thing they’ve done with him in this series so far. I wanted to love this movie and I didn’t but, in the end, I still got some nice character moments and some cool action out of it. It’s days like this that I wish we had an “Okay” rating on TheNerdStash.com because that’s what I think this movie is; when all is said and done, X-Men: Apocalypse is just “Okay.” Sadly, we don’t, so I can only choose between Good and Bad and X-Men: Apocalypse did just enough good to warrant a pass on my part; barely enough, but still enough. X-Men: Apocalypse is passing my critique by the skin of its teeth and here’s hoping the next film is a whole lot better.
- Characters – Apocalypse is a huge step backward for this series as the main villain and The Four Horsemen are treated like an afterthought but other characters like Quicksilver, Magneto, and Xavier get enough development and screen-time to make up for it… a little.
- Cinematography – The film looks great, even if the 80’s aspect is barely touched upon. The action is beautifully shot and the final battle is breathtaking.
- Story – The story is the biggest downfall of the film as it is an incredibly convoluted mess, featuring an entire sequence at Alkali Lake that could have been cut entirely for the time. The moments with Magneto work as they do add more layers of depth to his character, but overall the story of X-Men: Apocalypse is nothing special in the slightest and is almost entirely forgettable.
- Acting – The acting is great for the most part with Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy being standouts.
- The Final Battle
- Great Acting
- Breathtaking Action
- The Cinematography
- Magneto's Story
- Sophie Turner as Jean Grey`
- Convoluted Mess Of A Story
- Many Forced And Out Of Place Moments
- Bad Villain
- A Grab-bag Of Missed Opportunities
- Continuity Has No Meaning At This Point
- The Four Horsemen Aren't Interesting
- Psylocke And Jubilee Are Shafted
A graduate of Full Sail University with a Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing, Adam is a Writer and Film Critic, looking to make his mark on the world. When he isn’t at the movies, writing for The Nerd Stash, playing Duck Hunt (respect the classics) or delivering pizzas to his neighbors, he is back at school earning his Masters Degree in Film Production.