This is a bad movie.
“Everyone knows the third movie is always the worst” Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) so humorously quips as exits a screening of Return of the Jedi alongside Scott Summers (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee). It was obviously intended as a tongue-in-cheek jab at X-Men: The Last Stand, the third film of the original trilogy not helmed by Bryan Singer. Ironically, it ended up being more applicable to X-Men: Apocalypse, as Singer has brought us the worst the second worst X-Men film to date, beating only X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Apocalypse focuses on well, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac).Apocalypse is the world’s first mutant, who has become increasingly powerful as time went on by adopting other mutants’ powers. He rules over ancient Egypt until he is betrayed by his worshipers, who lock him in a tomb. There he hibernates until 1983, when he awakens and seeks to rule over the world once again. It’s up to Professor X (James McAvoy) and the new young mutants Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler to stop him, alongside Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Quicksilver (Evan Peters).
Apocalypse opens strongly in ancient Egypt. The action scene of Apocalypse’s four horsemen defending him as he adopts another mutants power was really fun and contained some unique imagery for a superhero film. The four unnamed mutants under Apocalypse’s command had interesting powers and watching them try to fight off the oncoming rebellion was the most engaging action scene in the entire film. It featured these weird elements of body horror that gave the action some weight, and helped give the film some real momentum right out of the gate.
There are a few other good scenes as well. Quicksilver once again steals the show with another slow motion sequence, although this one drags on a bit too long to the point where it became repetitive and I found myself just waiting for the film to move on. The scene in which Magneto (Michael Fassbender) joins Apocalypse is probably my favorite in the movie, as it calls back to Magneto’s origin in organic and emotive ways, and really works in the context of the franchise. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine cameo is fun, and gave a nice nod to his classic Weapon X appearance, but is completely needless in the context of the film, and serves only to further extend the already bloated run-time to a slogging 144 minutes.
Unfortunately, the film never quite reaches these “highs” again as the rest of the film spends it’s time setting up countless needless characters, fails to develop any of them, and wastes them all in absolute bore of a third act. It spends so much time building for a massive event, only to not give any satisfying pay off.
There is very little actual plot to this film. Apocalypse awakens, wants to destroy the world, goes out to recruit four mutants to act as his new “horsemen” for unexplained reasons, and then the X-Men fight him at the end (Spoiler alert: the world doesn’t end). There is not really much to spoil because it’s about as bare-bones as that. There is no sense of urgency, no dramatic weight behind any of the events that occur.
Singer has a tendency to add countless number of mutants to the X-Men films only to seemingly waste them, and that trend continues with Apocalypse. Apocalypse recruits Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and Angel (Ben Hardy) to act as three of his horsemen. Why do they join? What are there motivations? Do they feel conflicted about destroying the world? I have no fucking idea because they maybe had 2 lines each. They simply join up with Apocalypse, and then receive some cool looking armor. Well, besides Psylocke, who remains in a one piece swimsuit complete with a boob window and constant wedgie, for no other reason than unashamed sex appeal. The argument that it’s accurate to the comics holds no water when the comic book costumes have always been completely disregarded by the rest of the franchise.
The only Horseman that held any real motivation was Magneto himself, although his story felt like a retread of his character development from previous X-Men films. But, at least I understood why he and what he was doing. His character was sold by the usual rock solid performance from Fassbender, who has undoubtedly been the best part of this newer trilogy, alongside McAvoy’s Professor X. Their friendship/rivalry remains the most interesting conflict in this film, but it is all too briefly focused on in favor of stuffing the film with an ensemble of characters that Singer doesn’t know how to properly handle.
The newest version of Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler are introduced, but get so little screen time and development that it’s hard to say how I really felt about them. Out of the three, Nightcralwer was by far my favorite, as he primarily served as comedic relief, which worked very well. I loved Smit-McPhee’s interpretation of the character, and am excited to see him in future installments. Sheridan’s Cyclops was good as well, but once again is given so little to do that he left little impact on me. Turner’s Jean Grey is the worst of the three, as her performance fell completely flat. At least her accent wasn’t as terrible as I had feared, but she still did so little to engage me in her character.
You can tell how done with the franchise Jennifer Lawrence is, as her performance as Mystique reaches an all time low. She appears visibly bored, and gives absolutely no effort in her performance. It is made all the more apparent when she’s acting against McAvoy, who thrusts himself into the role of Professor X giving an expressive and emotive performance, all the while Lawrence constantly has this sort of dead look in her eyes.
Apocalypse is a total waste of a villain. His motivations are non-existent, his powers undefined, his plan incomprehensible, and – worst of all – he’s totally ineffective. I never once felt that Apocalypse was much of a threat, and often found myself bored when he was on screen. Singer completely wastes the talent that is Oscar Isaac by burying him in pounds of makeup and prosthetics and modulating his voice, rendering his performance inconsequential.
The failure of Apocalypse’s character is one of the many reasons why the film completely falls apart in it’s final act. Apocalypse unleashes destruction that is excessive even for modern blockbuster levels, but the film does nothing to address the weight of anything he has done. Total cities are destroyed and leveled, but it’s such a CGI-laden mess that I didn’t care. This applies to the climactic fight as well, as the X-Men face off against Apocalypse and his Horsemen. I wasn’t invested in any of the characters, which meant I wasn’t invested in the action. This made the piss poor CGI standout even more, as I found myself focusing on how shockingly bad the effects looked.
At the end of the day, the biggest problem with X-Men: Apocalypse is the fact that its boring. Events happen, and then they resolve themselves, and the the film ends, without any real dramatic flair. It failed to make me care about most of the characters, there conflicts, or the action. There are some good performances in the film, and couple of genuinely enjoyable scenes, but they are few and far between.