X-Men: Apocalypse is an interesting film. It’s not particularly good, and the second half of the film was a complete mess, but I didn’t feel angry walking out of the film. Maybe it was because my chicken sandwich I ordered at the Alamo Drafthouse while watching the film was so good, or maybe it was because I saw it at the Drafthouse. But I honestly can’t really recommend seeing Apocalypse in the theater just because it’s not a very good film. It’s a shame since Bryan Singer, who directed the first two X-Men films way back in the day and 2014’s solid Days of Future Past, is at the helm of this one. I hate to bandwagon like all of the other critics have, but Fox’s X-Men franchise might’ve just peaked, and it either needs to evolve or go away, like another Marvel Fox property (Fantastic Four).
Apocalypse takes place in the 80s, a decade after the 70s-centric time travel romp that was Days of Future Past. The core cast of the last two X-Men films are in tact, with Magneto (Michael Fassbender) becoming one of the Four Horsemen to a character named Apocalypse (Oscar Issac), the film’s main baddie who looks more like a roided-up Smurf than a menacing unstoppable century old mutant. Anyways, Professor X (James McAvoy) and company must band together to stop this new evil from taking over and destroying the world. Pretty groundbreaking storytelling here.
Singer directs a screenplay by Simon Kinberg, a man whose judgment is not as trustworthy as many thought it would be (its worth noting that Kinberg is signed on to produce/write one of the many Star Wars spinoffs that’s headed to theaters in the next couple of years). The screenplay is a muddled and fascinating mess at times. The film opens early on with Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, whose still a wanted man a decade after the events of the last X-Men film, now living a quiet life with a wife and daughter somewhere in Europe. The film might be a mess (an incredibly goofy one at times), but Fassbender really gives it his all in these films. He’s one of our generation’s best actors, and his stature is able to levitate some of the goofier moments in the film.
The same can be said for a lot of the cast. McAvoy continues to do fine work as Professor X, even if his screentime is a somewhat limited (not really a spoiler). Jennifer Lawrence continues to charm her way through every project she signs onto as Mystique, even if you can tell the actress is waiting for her contract to be up with this series so she can move on to bigger and better things. Rose Byrne, an actress that I’ve adored for the years that I’ve run this website watching her work, returns as CIA agent Moira Mactaggert, and while she’s in a lot of scenes and is somewhat crucial to the plot, her character feels wasted at the same time. And this might just be the biggest fault of the film, since Bryne is an unbelievable talent. An actress that’s been able to show a wide range throughout her career, including a very impressive comedy presence as of late. Shame on you Fox for wasting Rose Byrne’s time with this crappy sequel.
Speaking of wasted talent, Oscar Isaac gives easily the worst performance of his career as the titular Apocalypse. Not only is this all-powerful being incredibly flat and boring, but Isaac’s incredible acting range can’t even save him from this god-awful performance. Luckily the Al Pacino of our generation will be able to bounce back since he has a slew of interesting projects coming up in the near future (and not just Star Wars sequels). Another performance that disappointed but didn’t shock me was Olivia Munn as the mutant villain Psylocke, one of the Horsemen for the character Apocalypse. The actress/OU alum (Boomer Sooner!!) is just portrayed as eye candy throughout the film. While Munn is a gorgeous woman, and looks fantastic in that costume/bathing suit, she can actually act, and isn’t half-bad at it. Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom was a bit of a mess, but Wilde could deliver Sorkin dialogue like it was nobody’s business on that program. I’d be shocked to learn that Munn had more than 20 lines in this film, which is pretty embarrassing. While a big film like this will get people noticing Munn for her gorgeous looks, it’s also worth noting that the actress is more capable of better material. Hopefully that’s the case as her career progresses.
Believe it or not, there are a few more things that I liked about the film. It was great seeing Evan Peters as Quicksilver again, who has a bigger role this time around. There’s also a fantastic sequence involving his slowing time power that rivals the one in Days of Future Past with Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” playing during the sequence. That was a lot of fun. Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones is a new addition to the cast as a young Jean Grey in this prequel. The character isn’t all that interesting, mainly due to Kinberg’s mediocre script, but the talented young actress is able to give it her all in the role. I’ve always enjoyed her work from Game of Thrones, and its nice to see that she’s now getting big Hollywood roles. Hopefully she gets bigger and better roles down the line. Also, as mentioned earlier, the film might be a mess and really not good, I was never bored and I never dreaded it the way I dreaded Batman v Superman. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse at this point, but this film had some genuinely fun moments scattered here and there, and there was never any dread that I had with Warner Bros. spring disaster. Like the late summer DC film Suicide Squad, hopefully the Fox X-Men films can get their mojo back with next spring’s third Wolverine film, which will be the final performance by Hugh Jackman in the role.
If you’re a huge X-Men fan, this review probably didn’t persuade you from seeing the film this past opening weekend. Hopefully for the casual fans of the series like myself, you’ll wait for HBO to watch this one if you feel like you really need to see this film. There are better mainstream films playing in theaters at the moment (The Nice Guys will probably be your favorite of the summer like it’ll probably be for me). Other than Finding Dory, the summer movie season doesn’t look all that impressive, which looks like I’ll probably stick to seeing the indie flicks for a good chunk of the summer. I recommend you do the same, because there’s some pretty impressive looking stuff coming out. In a throwaway scene during Apocalypse, Jean Grey is walking out of Return of the Jedi and tells her group of friends that “the third one usually sucks”. Fox tried to warn us, but I guess it was too late.