Film Review: X-men Apocalypse

X-Men Apocalypse Review

2 out of 5 stars

Full disclosure: I have seen all the X-men movies, most of them multiple times, so there is an implied sense of comparison here.

Launching from the previous film in the series, X-man: Days of Future Past, this one proudly exclaims everything is new again, which the filmmakers appear to take as license to revisit old scenarios, set-ups, right down to specific lines of dialogue that were delivered before in previous X-men movies.  Mutant cage-match fight, check. New kid in school who has trouble with power control, double check.  Pawns swayed into following a powerful new leader, triple check.  Quirky mannerisms, costumes and set dressing of another era, check.  The “us (strong, next evolutionary step, mutants) versus them (confused, fearful, lost, humans)” conversation, check.  Scenes of mass destruction, check.  The cute/fun appearance of Quicksilver to cheekily save the day, check.  Alkali Lake facility, Stryker, Wolverine cameo … check check check. “Time to fight” speech, check. “I am not a hero” speech, check.  Destruction of Xavier’s school, check.

Out of all the X-men movies, this one seemed to use the most inserted “flashback” scenes from the other films, which just underlines the problem.  At this point, I would love to see more fresh new stories rather than recycled bits.

Between the recycled parts our bands of heroes are running from one set-piece, fight, or  recycled bit to another with little examination as to why they were running from one bit to the next bit.  It was just boring, and at 144 minutes, a little exhausting for me.

This is all the more frustrating because every now and again you are given glimpses of stories that would be more interesting.  Magneto (Michael Fassbender), who is given the most material to work with, has some great character moments; his attachment and love for family, his grief and rage when things go sideways, his struggle against the man he was versus the man he wants to be,  the identity of Magneto versus the identity of Erik Lehnsherr.  THAT is enough for a movie on its own, but it gets sidelined here by Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac, a brilliant and engaging actor, here wasted under layers of makeup – is he meant to be a cyborg?).  On the subject of missed opportunities in stories, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is also passing good and ripe for a story all her own.  Quicksilver’s (Evan Peters) desire to connect with his father, another payoff missed.  A story of Alex and Scott Summers, older and younger brother coming to terms with the mutant abilities they have in common, how to handle the division between human parents and mutant children, being the outsider, missed.  The romance between Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) and Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), briefly referenced, but another missed opportunity.  New character Caliban’s implied Underground Railroad story, missed.

Ironically the main story here is Apocalypse, who is given just enough backstory to occupy a very quick C.I.A. brief (“Legend has it he was the first mutant, and he always has four followers.” – which is on display in all the trailers for the film). If you were to make a movie about Apocalypse – why not tell us something about that character’s motivations.  Why is he this way?  What prompted his opponents and their label of him as a False God?  We catch a glimpse of this in the pre-credit sequence, but beyond that, there is very little to back up the character.  Why does he want to destroy mankind?  Why is it always just four followers?  What is the logic behind his follower selection process?  (I can understand the appeal of adding Storm to his group – control of weather is pretty huge.  And I understand the appeal of Magneto – affecting all metals is big.  Angel has the power of flight and sharp feather blade projectiles – which could be handy.  But what is the appeal of Psylocke (Olivia Munn)?  She has a sword and cleavage and skin-baring unflattering outfit which does not match the rest of the team and just made me feel bad for Olivia Munn (she should sue her costume designer).

None of these questions gets answered.  Instead we get mutants siding either with Apocalypse and Co. or Xavier and Co. with the fate of humanity at stake.  Humanity in general, while being in the crosshairs of Apocalypse, is oddly not present in the conflict, aside from a brief scene or two of military personal wringing hands as things happen that they cannot explain.  Sitting in the dark theater, I could almost relate.

2 out of 5 stars

X-Men Apocalypse Directed by Bryan Singer, Screenplay by Simon Kinberg from the story by Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris and Simon Kinberg.  Distributed by 20th Century Fox.  144 minutes.

 

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