One Liner Review:
A movie with too many characters and jumbled parts, this one works for a while, but definitely goes off the rails by the time it reaches the final act.
Not one of the better X-Men movies, this movie is okay, but it should have been a lot better. There’s really two reasons for that. Character and story. Regarding character, it’s just a matter of too much. Too many characters. This is the film that is trying to relaunch the franchise again and spin it off into a new trilogy, and you can tell that because this movie introduces us to so many new incarnations of characters from the original X-Men trilogy. The characters, for the most part, are pretty good, but there are just too many of them. And the storyline is a little too contrived and simple. Still the action and effects are good, and the movie has enough excitement to keep our attention.
X-Men Appocalypse might be the weakest of the X-Men movies. Then again, it might not be. Only time will tell. What can definitely be determined, right now this early in the game, is that the movie does rank somewhere among the lower end of films in the package. Those movies include X-Men: The Last Stand (X-Men III), X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and then its follow up film, The Wolverine. The only reason there’s any doubt about where X-Men Apocalypse fits in, as of this moment, is because all of those movies came off as lousy on a first viewing, and yet they somehow managed to stand the test of time. All of them have enough redeemable qualities to make amends for the negative ones. And it seems like X-Men Appocalypse just might have that same ratio of positive attributes to serious problems, going for it as well.
The movie opens in Egypt, thousands of years ago, as the first mutant, Apocalypse, is being transferred into the body of a much younger man. It’s a sort of religious ceremony taking place deep inside the heart of a giant pyramid, surrounded on the outside by processions and guards. Of course these guards telegraph, not only to each other, but also to us, the audience, that they are about to start an attack, just by giving each other suspicious looks. And there’s also the question of the mutant thing here. With everything going on inside this pyramid and the ancient spells and magic, at a certain point, you have to ask yourself, is this really a mutant, or is it more of a supernatural spirit kind of thing. Still, going along with it, the scene happens to be pretty cool. It is loud and fantastical, and filled with all kinds of rampant special effects of giant structures collapsing on top of each other. It makes for a pretty exciting opening sequence.
From there, we join with the X-Men. There’s no single establishing scene or situation to give us all of these characters at once, (like the way that director Bryan Singer began X-2, starting out in a museum and showing us each mutant and their powers, all during the same sequence of events.) Here, Singer takes his time to establish each mutant one by one, and that might seem like the best way to go on the surface, but boy does it get tiresome. There are just too many characters to introduce. At times you can tell that Singer is trying to speed things up, lumping three mutant introductions into the same scene as Mystique goes to watch a cage fight featuring the characters Night Crawler and Angel in a fight against each other. These are the new versions of these characters, of course, because each of them has been in the X-Men movies before, going back to the original trilogy. Luckily the last film, X-Men Days of Future Past, altered the timeline so that everything is different now and in many ways the series and characters can start all over.
After we meet these three characters, we join with Scott (Cyclops) at school, sitting there in class, when his eyes start acting up. He deals with a bully in the bathroom, and by deals with, I mean he opens his eyes and blasts the bully into the wall. Then there’s Magneto, now a married man with a young daugther, living the quiet and peaceful life of a factory worker in Poland. This reminds me of the first Wolverine film where Logan had taken up as a lumberjack, trying to put the action-packed, violent, superhero life beind him. He couldn’t do it then, and Magneto sure can’t do it now. In both cases, it’s not that the hero couldn’t help himself, it’s that evil forces came for him and caused such terrible things to happen to him, that the character was forced to turn back to violence, simply for the purpose of getting vengeance.
Magneto’s storyline might be similar to Wolverines in that other film, but it’s done in this movie so much better than it was there. If only more of this film had been devoted to Magneto, the way that X-Men: First Class did. This film is more focussed on telling as many stories with as many characters as possible. There’s Jean Grey, who is living at the X Mansion, and then Storm, who is a rebel in Africa. There’s also Professor Charles Xavier (James Macavoy) and Hank (The Beast, played by Nicholas Hoult,) living in the X Mansion and teaching kids. Right now this is a college for mutants. Xavier wants to one day open it up to everyone. There are so many characters here, including Alex, (Havoc, the brother of Cyclops,) and Agent Moira Mactaggart (Rose Byrne,) making their first real appearances since the beginning of this new trilogy, with X-Men: First Class. That should tell you how overstuffed with characters this film is. It’s got the old (Havoc and MacTaggart, who haven’t been seen in two movies,) the new (Jean Grey, Storm, Night Crawler, Angel, Psylocke, and Cyclops, all played by new actors,) and then the regulars, (Professor X, Magneto, Mystique, and Beast.) There’s even room for other characters who have only popped up in this trilogy so far in roles that were little more than cameos, (William Stryker and Quicksilver.) So, yeah, this movie definitely has a little too much.
There are so many characters, in fact, that for about half the movie, the story of the villain is simply about him going around from place to place, recruiting members to join him. He gets four horsemen, and these four characters are Magneto, Storm, Psylocke, and Angel. Now, Magneto has got that great story, and Michael Fassbender delivers, the same way he has for the entire trilogy. This character has always been the most interesting one in this new trilogy incarnation. Ian Mckellan played him just fine, in the original trilogy, but what Fasbender does with the character is something far more powerful. He makes him seem real, and not just a comic book villain. In the first movie of this new trilogy (X-Men: First Class,) Magneto watched his mother get murdered, and then went on a rampage through Chile, hunting former members of the Nazi Party. Here, in Apocalypse, Magneto again has a powerful and disturbing story.
Apocalypse recruits Magneto and then the two of them along with the other members of Apocalypse’s posse break into Xavier’s school. This moment happens to coincide with the exact minute that Quicksilver is arriving at the school. It leads to his big scene, which is really just a rip off of the “Time in a Bottle,” Pentagon kitchen scene from the last movie. Now, on the one hand, it’s understandable that this movie would try to do something similar with the character as that film did, since the Quicksilver scene was the thing that people walked away from the movie talking about most. But here, it’s not nearly as original or entertaining as it was back then. Here, Quicksilver is running around the mansion trying to get characters out while the whole place is exploding all around him. Sure, the effects are cool, but the humor falls way short of the mark. Quicksilver might have a sip of a character’s Big Gulp here, and mess with another character’s hair, there, but it’s almost like it doesn’t make any sense. Who cares what the character’s hair is going to look like, outside of the building, when he has just escaped a massive explosion. The song that this scene is set to, “Sweet Dreams,” is fun, but the humor just isn’t there.
After the school blows up, William Stryker arrives at the devastation site before even the fire trucks get there. He and his men kidnap a bunch of mutants and take them to his lair, the dam at Alkaline Lake. Now there’s a problem here. We’ve seen all this before. We’ve seen Stryker and his forces break into the mansion, kidnap characters, and then bring them to the very same dam. It all happenend in X-2: X Men United, and it was done in that movie about a thousand times better than it is done here. In that film, the scene where Stryker’s men broke into the mansion and faced off against an angry and ferocious Wolverine, was fantastic. Here, the kidnapping scene simply consists of a bunch of mutants getting shot with tranquilizers and then thrown into the back of a van.
The same can be said of the scene at the Alkaline Lake Dam. So much of X-2 took place at this location that we really don’t need to go back there. Good movies keep moving forward to offer us something new. The first film in this new incarnation of the series, X-Men: First Class gave us a sequence on the beach during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then the last movie gave us the White House Lawn during the time of Vietnam. With this movie, there is nothing in American history to ground the story in, (nothing that they use, anyway. Why not deal with the Berlin Wall coming down and the U.S. conflict with Russia?) As a result, the big set pieces are either here, in Stryker’s bunker, or else in Egypt, dealing with a mythical, yet totally unrealisitc situation that has nothing to do with real historical events at all. Especially not from the eighties, which is when this movie is supposed to take place.
So there’s definitely a good amount of negative to this movie, but there’s also plenty of positive. They don’t get into eighties history, but they certainly capture the atmosphere of that time period with unique clothing and music choices. While there are too many characters in the film, each one of them, individually, is pretty cool. There’s the depressed Cyclops who has a reason to be as upset as he is. Then there’s the version of Night Crawler who sounds exactly like Alan Cumming did when playing the role in X-2, but has a whole new look (much, much younger.) Even Angel gets redone for the better, this time with powerful razor sharp metal wings. But these things are all materialistic compared to a good story. The effects and action are both pretty great. And while the storyline might not be anything special, it does give us enough to put the different groups of characters in different situations, all at the same time, and somehow find a balance. Take the Stryker bunker scene for example. There are enough sets of characters here, that we can follow three different groups at once, and in this case, that happens to be a good thing. This is not one of Bryan Singer’s finer X-Men movies, (in fact, it is probably his worst,) but it still has enough going for it, to be a decent film. The movie’s worst thing about it is the overload of characters (because it definitely hinders the story,) and yet, the overload of characters might also be the best thing about this film… after all, they all look pretty cool and are a lot of fun. One way or another, this will always be known as the X-Men movie where they through every character in they could and nearly got away with it.