We are neck-deep in super-hero movies this year! From the lovably dickish antics brought by Deadpool to the dark and gritty ‘Watchmen’-style Batman v Superman, we have a lot to choose from, to mull over and to discuss as movie buffs and comic book fans alike. And that isn’t even counting the new Captain America: Civil War, TMNT 2 and many others. But with so many super-hero films, one can feel overwhelmed or even a sense that it is too much. In recent years, we have been bombarded with new and unlikely popular hero films from DC, Marvel and others and it sometimes feels like we are in a bubble that might pop very soon. Jet lag might set in and the general public might get bored soon. And given the most recent high-budget hero films, we might just be heading towards the downward spiral of the genre.
I don’t mean to be overly negative, but with the recent success of Deadpool in comparison to other heavy-hitting hero films, we might need to re-evaluate the direction the industry is heading. Let me ask you this, when was the last time (other than Deadpool) that you REALLY enjoyed a comic-book film? As a person that does reviews, I certainly enjoyed a lot of the recent ones– but I found myself making concessions of sorts… Sure I may have enjoyed Avengers: Age of Ultron, but I remember thinking “well… I enjoyed it….but….” And a lot of the films in this genre have started to feel the same way for me. Civil War? I enjoyed it, and even rated it pretty well, BUT was it better than Captain America 2? No….was it even as good? Not even close. And the reason for this is the same issue I brought up in that review: With the exception of Deadpool, too many films within this genre are focusing far too much on world building, on the ‘bigger picture’ and forgetting to make a GREAT STANDALONE FILM. Instead of ONE really solid movie, we are starting to get several movies rolled into a ball and thrown on the silver screen with the promise of “See!!! We are building up to something! This film may be sub-par, but just hang in there until we get somewhere! Muahahhaha!”. But how does this concern X-Men Apocalypse? They’re certainly not in the MCU, so shouldn’t their films feel more cohesive and fluid? Nope…. as dense as Disney is making their universe, the X-Men have a fairly large universe of their own with nearly infinite characters to choose from. What make DAFP and Deadpool so good is that, while they did introduce certain characters, they didn’t stretch themselves too thin– the introduced a core group and let you stick with them throughout the film and, what’s more important, both movies were concise and even rewarding at the end of the film.
Taking place in the mid-to-early 80’s X-Men Apocalypse follows the McAvoy timeline in which the X-Men (sort of) have to battle the first Mutant ever to be born, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) who has lived on through the ages, acquiring new and different powers by transferring his consciousness into other beings. After an ancient Egyptian coup d’etat that leave En Sabah Nur entombed from thousands of years, he finally awakens only to discover that the weak have inherited the earth. He intends to take it back by force, first stop to recruit young upstart mutants as his ‘four horsemen’. Will Professor X and other random teammates win against a god? Watch to find out!
Realistically, I liked a lot on this film– if I am being perfectly honest, I probably enjoyed it more than Civil War. Maybe it is because I managed my expectations better or maybe it is because I have less experience and therefore less attachment to the X-Men, in any case there is some solid stuff to be had in this movie. For starters, Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is a stroke of genius in this franchise. Can I please get a Deadpool team up? Please? He steals the show when he is on-screen, which is saying a whole hell of a lot considering that he has to contend with Michael Fassbender’s performance. He is a hilarious and light-hearted addition to the film that could have easily felt drab and dark. He, again, has a slow-motion scene in this film that feels more extended than his first, but makes you cry in laughter the whole time. And by the end of the film it looks as if he is officially joining the X-Men, so I hope yo see him front and center in future films.
I am also convinced that Fassbender cannot turn in a bad performance, like he literally just can’t! If you NEED a reason to watch this movie, go see it for Magneto, he is already an incredible character in his own right, but Fassbender has added so much depth to him that it is rather captivating. Add that to his on-screen chemistry to McAvoy, who also does an extremely good job at portraying Professor X in his own right, and you find where this movie really shines. Ignoring all the much and add-on characters, hell, even ignoring the main villain in this film– McCavoy and Fassbender bring the thunder and lightning and they do it in such a way that you find yourself actually a bit annoying when either character is not on-screen. If this franchise has done anything right, it is those two characters in the McAvoy timeline.
And the rest of the stuff I like is rather small stuff… I liked seeing a younger Cyclops that isn’t a total douche, Jean Grey was also solid and hell, Nightcrawler was funny as hell! But they feel like filler rather than main characters and it would have been nice seeing them in their own X-film. Wolverine has a bad ass cameo even if said cameo provides nothing to the story and Storm actually has an accent, so that’s a win. But these are all minor things in the grand scheme of things and this movie is by no means perfect. It falters a lot and I suspect the movie falters most where it counts.
To begin with, we get the same jumping around that we got from BvS and Civil War and it makes the beginning of the film super disjointed. Additionally, Magneto starts off as a horseman and does some pretty nasty shit that is just skirted at the end of the film– which feels a bit ridiculous. But where this movie fails most of all, is having a compelling villain that is nuanced rather than two-dimensional. As much as I enjoyed Isaac’s overall performance, I feel like the character was written in such a way that he is missing certain crucial aspects to make him a truly great villain in this film. What makes Magneto a great villain, aside from his beastly power, is that he is relatable– you see him struggling to be good and feel sad for him when he fails. You want him to be the hero in spite of the fact that you know he wont be. Apocalypse is far too removed from humanity to feel any sort of affection towards him, so you really need to make him a super-menacing villain that, when he is plotting, the audience feels a sense that there is no way he can be overcome. Sure, it seems like that’s what they were going for in the movie… but the execution feels off. It’s like they wrote an amazingly menacing villain only for it to turn out that, while he can destroy the earth, he’s a bit of a nerd… do you get where I am going with this? the illusion is just shattered. And that’s how I felt about Apocalypse, he was definitely powerful, but his one-dimensional way of thinking borders on comical to me and distorted my view of him. Add that to the fact that he had a rather shitty recruiting process to the scene in which he is literally taking time detailing his underling’s armor and you have a menacing villain no more.
Side note: I could have done without Jennifer Lawrence in this film. I like her as an actress over all, but her character as well as her portrayal seemed rather ‘meh’ to me.
So while I did enjoy individual parts of this movie, on the whole it comes up lacking. Is it terrible? No, it is rather enjoyable, but it is by no means the caliber of Days of Future Past. When I left that film I had a sense of hope for the franchise, when I left this film, however, I wasn’t so sure. They laid some decent groundwork for certain characters, but you cannot hold back hoping that the future movies will get you where you need to be, production companies need to get back to making solid stand-alone!