X-MEN: APOCALYPSE Directed by Bryan Singer; Written by Simon Kinberg; Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Lana Condor, Olivia Munn; Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images; Running time 143 min; In wide release May 27.
After wiping the slate clean and starting afresh after the events of Days of Future Past, it makes sense for Director Bryan Singer to take the younger iterations of our favorite mutants and pit them against one of their greatest foes: the first mutant En Sabah Nur, aka Apocalypse.
So how did they do? Was it more X2 or X3?
Let’s start with a rollcall-- state your name, your code name, and your mutant superpower.
I’m Andy Wilson, Citizenbot, and I can compare any other genre movie unfavorably to a film in the Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe.
I’m Adam McDonald, Sithbot, and I don’t get hangovers.
I’m Bryan Young and I’m known around these parts as Swankmotron. (Andy: *whispering* Bryan’s power is Star Wars!)
Andy: This was not a bad movie, but I wasn’t particularly impressed by it. Considering its pedigree and star power, it should be better. Apocalypse is one of those villains that should strike real fear into the hearts of all Marvel comics readers (along with other titans like Thanos, Galactus, or Ultron) but they bungled his introduction and backstory and I never really felt a threat from him. Outside of a few moments I didn’t feel our main characters got a chance to learn and grow (as they had in “First Class” and “Days of Future Past”). All of the character development was saved for the new characters, which isn’t a bad thing except that they’re the side characters. The worst thing is this left me wanting so much more-- specifically they set up the next film so well that I couldn’t help feeling like this was the “Age of Ultron” equivalent to setting up the awesomeness that was “Civil War.”
Adam: No, this isn’t a bad movie by any means. There is a lot to enjoy here, and Bryan Singer is giving us a ton of fan service, especially for those of us who are well steeped in the comics as well as the films.
Bryan: I really don’t like the term “fan-service.” It’s loaded in this context and is generally taken as a negative and the things I think you’re referring to as fan-service are the best parts of the movie.
Andy: Is it fan service when The Rolling Stones play “Start Me Up” or “Brown Sugar” instead of something off their new album? That’s kind of how I see this. The key is don’t get caught winking at the audience. And Singer largely avoids that trap, but there are some parts that are. . . well, a little pandering to the core audience’s tastes.
Adam: This is an extremely talky movie, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. I thought “Civil War” focused a lot on dialogue and discussion, but “Apocalypse” spends the majority of its time letting the characters develop the story through conversation. It was very much like watching the comic of the plot play out in real time, and I actually really liked that. It proves that to be a good superhero movie, we don’t need to spend the whole time watching everyone fight each other. Sure we get some special effects and cool moments with Cerebro and new characters learning how to handle their powers as the come to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, but the dialogue was done supremely well and got me more intrigued and interested in what was happening. Unfortunately, what was happening barely involved the titular Apocalypse or his Horsemen. Considering the fact that this should be his movie, he’s in it surprisingly little, and he and his coterie only really show up in the last half hour to do battle with the X-Men. I was expecting a lot more, but he spent most of his time fussing with Storm and Archangel’s costumes like it was Fashion Week on Project Runway. He wasn’t even pulling strings or being malevolent in the background until he literally launches his plan at the very end and brings about the necessary final battle. It’s almost as if Singer and company couldn’t figure out what to do with him since he was so powerful.
Andy: Speaking of fashion week, can we talk about Psylocke for a minute? I really like Olivia Munn. And so when you go the route of giving her costume a GODDAM BOOB WINDOW?!?!? It’s hella distracting, in more ways than one. Partially because every time I saw it, I had two thoughts. One of them was “Damn it, it’s 2016-- why do we have to talk about how sexist it is to give female characters a boob window?” Especially given Fassbender’s. . . err. . . supposed endowment, we should probably at least go for equal treatment, right? Right. #WheresMagnetosPeenWindow?
Adam: Hehe, boob window. Yes, that makes me laugh like a 14 year old, who cares? And yes, we need to see more of Michael “it dented the tub” Fassbender.
Andy: I believe that will be part of his Assassin’s Creed costume. I not, it's a surefire way to make people go see that instead of Star Wars.
Bryan: For my part, I felt like this was the film Bryan Singer wanted to make in place of X3, and he would have made it with his original cast in the mid-2000s if he’d have had an opportunity. But he didn’t, so this is what we’ve got, undoing the mess Fox created in his absence. It showed me all the things I wanted to see in an X-Men film (even parts that might seem to “meander” or seem unnecessary) and it gave it to me in a package that made more sense than other movies in the genre I’ve seen this year. The failing in this movie is that not every ingredient supports one or both of the film’s main themes. This was the great strength of “Civil War,” every character had something to say about the dueling themes of the film. Psylocke should have had character motivations that played into the overall theme of the film. Angel as well. In fact, the only Horsemen who was fleshed out in this way was Magneto, and he remains one of the most complex characters in the history of comics or comic based films.
Adam: The film also meanders off onto an unnecessary tangent that pads an extra 20-30 minutes on that didn’t really need to be there. Sure, it gave us a few cool moments, and as Bryan and I discussed earlier, more lip service to fans, but it didn’t add anything to an already too long film.
Andy: I know! This movie was long and felt long. However, I’ll defend that portion of the movie only because it’s some of the best stuff in there. This is the problem with “Apocalypse”-- the main storyline and characters aren’t as interesting. All of the time they spend developing Jean Grey, Cyclops, Nightcrawler are the best moments of the movie. They were trying to stuff too much in so they can set up the next movie. I really want to see that next movie now. Unfortunately, this one was just kinda meh.
Adam: And lastly, and I swear this is the last of my gripes, because I really did like it, this was full of examples where something worked cool in previous films, so they just took the same ideas and recycled them. The Quicksilver scene in “Days of Future Past” was the highlight of that movie, so of course they added one here and made it bigger and better. Was it fantastic? Of course! And it was also the best moment of this movie as well (well, second best for me, but I can’t say more since it’s a huge spoiler), but it would have been nice seeing them try something new or different.
Andy: That Quicksilver scene. It was as good as anything in “Civil War.” I don’t mind it being recycled and remixed to such great effect. But the only problem is the X-Men are a team. I want to see Quicksilver working with Cyclops and Nightcrawler to set up shots and aerial kicks and so on. I’m a broken record, but I want to see that next movie. And ultimately Quicksilver could’ve had much more of an emotional impact considering his parentage, but that got really muddled and was a wasted opportunity.
Bryan: Again, it’s a case of the character being able to serve multiple purposes, but ends up with only one. It was a bit of a wasted opportunity. This movie is a mess, but an ambitious and fun mess told by people who actually understand how movies ought to work, even if they can’t get all the pieces moving themselves all the time.
Adam: Anyway, I’m not trying to be a downer, because there was a lot here to love. Aside from the dialogue, everyone gives great performances and fully inhabit their characters. McAvoy and Fassbender absolutely own the movie every time they are on screen, but even the newcomers have fun things to do and make us believe they are X-Men. And I absolutely loved Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse. The amazing way they played with the pitch and tone of his voice along with his absolutely godlike powers made him a worthy and malicious foe that the world was right to fear. I just wish we got more of him doing stuff instead of just plotting.
Andy: Well, yes and no. Yes to McAvoy and Fassbender. Yes. Amazing. But Apocalypse’s outfit and makeup looked stupid. Sorry, not sorry. The fact that Oscar Isaac could even act under all of that is testament to his prowess. I just never felt the threat. What were his motivations? He had opportunities to destroy the world multiple times and didn’t. . . so why? The one thing I truly loved, though, was a final showdown with Charles Xavier. That was worthy.
Bryan: This movie replicated for me the feelings of reading “X-Men” comics in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Except there were four lines of comics with inter-threaded storylines required to completely understand the stories and the characters, and I was only able to afford three. I had a great time anyway, because I was reading some good comics and I had to fill in the rest myself. As I said before, the film is a bit of a mess, but it doesn’t take away from all the classic moments it gave me, as well as a promise for the future. And the fact that it was entertaining went a long way as well. I’m giving it a 7 out of 10.
Adam: In the end, this does indeed fall prey to the third movie curse as it doesn’t live up to “DoFP” or even “First Class”, but it’s still an incredibly fun time, and I will be more than happy to shell out money to go see it again when it hits theaters. I’m just really hoping that the next film in the series plays out the way it logically should with this ending. 7.5 out of 10.
Andy: Yup. That next movie, tho. I keep going back to my review of “Age of Ultron.” I feel like I’m overly nitpicking a movie I actually enjoyed, but there you go. I think that’s a sign of trouble and a serious case of sequel-itis. X-Men fans should go see this, as should casual fans. But just don’t expect too much of it. 7 out of 10