James McAvoy - Professor Charles Xavier/ Professor X
Michael Fassbender - Erik Lehnsherr/ Magneto
Jennifer Lawrence - Raven Darkholme/ Mystique
Oscar Isaac - En Sabah Nur/ Apocalypse
Nicholas Hoult - Hank McCoy/ Beast
Rose Byrne - Moira MacTaggert
Tye Sheridan - Scott Summers/ Cyclops
Sophie Turner - Jean Grey/ Phoenix
Olivia Munn - Elizabeth Braddock/ Psylocke
Lucas Till - Alex Summers/ Havok
Evan Peters - Peter Maximoff/ Quicksilver
Kodi Smit-McPhee - Kurt Wagner/ Nightcrawler
Alexandra Shipp - Ororo Munroe/ Storm
Josh Helman - William Stryker
Ben Hardy - Warren Worthingston III/ Angel/ Archangel
Genre - Action/Adventure/Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comic Books
Running Time - 144 Minutes
Ten years have gone by since the events of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST - Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has turned the School for Gifted Youngers into a place for mutants to embrace their powers and be educated at a safe place. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is now considered a mutant hero, even though she refuses to live her life that way. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has started a new life in Poland with a wife and daughter.
While they are trying to build new lives for themselves, the resurrection of the first and one of the most powerful mutants, En Sabah Nur/ Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), bares potential for armageddon as he wants pure world domination. He gathers his Four Horsemen - Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy), and Magneto [whose wife and daughter are murdered after his past is unfortunately revealed]. Apocalypse decides to use Xavier as a conduit to let everyone in on his plans, as well as preserve Xavier’s body for a transfer to maintain his corporal form. Now led by Mystique and Beast (Nicholas Hoult), they recruit a new set of X-Men - Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) - to combat the new threat and stop the world from being turned into Apocalypse’s image.
- The great cast. Many have come out since X-MEN: APOCALYPSE was released, stating that the actors and actresses in the film were pretty much wasted. Yes, some of the actors don’t get to do much, which is a damn shame. But even so, I think the cast do very well with the material they’re given, with not one bad performance in the bunch.
There are too many cast members to go through, so I’ll just highlight a few. Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, and Jennifer Lawrence all return, being able to play their respective roles in their sleep. Fassbender, though, is the star of this bunch. He’s given the best material, crafting a fully dimensional character whose tragic life influences his decisions, both good and bad. Fassbender captures every single emotion perfectly throughout the film - his happiness when he feels normal, his sadness and anger when his world is taken away from him by accident, and his regret when he begins to realize that destroying the world around him is not going to change the past and take away the pain. Just really great stuff. Lawrence plays Raven more than Mystique [she must have gotten tired of the make up], but she does well. Hoult is still funny as the geeky Beast, while McAvoy is still the conscience of the film as Xavier. Add in Rose Byrne as the returning Moira MacTaggert, who doesn’t remember her role in FIRST CLASS to amusing moments, and you got a solid crew here.
For the new crew, Sophie Turner is pretty great as Jean Grey, playing the character as stoic and wise beyond her years while afraid to unleash the full potential of her powers. Kodi Smit-McPhee is a surprising delight as Nightcrawler, being the comic relief of the film and working very well with the other actors. You’d really believe he’d grow up to become the Alan Cumming version of the character from X2. Alexandra Shipp is a more believable Storm than Halle Berry ever was, even though Shipp unfortunately doesn’t get more to do. Olivia Munn looks great as Psylocke, but not much else. But she handles herself well during the final act.
Evan Peters returns as Quicksilver, expanding his character in a way that will probably be important in future installments. He’s part of another X-MEN film highlight, and you can tell he’s having a blast playing the character. And Oscar Isaac is a good Apocalypse, although I wish his character was more than just “I want to conquer the world now” villain. Still, he carries himself very well in the role and I liked that he tried to ham it up a bit. I still think he was a great choice for the role, but the script could have handled the character a bit stronger.
- The visuals. While some CGI is troublesome at certain points - I felt like I was watching a cartoon sometimes - the direction and special effects are good for the most part. X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is probably the X-MEN film that felt the most like its comic book counterpart. It’s very colorful, capturing a 1980s feel at times with shots of Pac-Man arcade machines, perms, pastels, shoulder pads, and Jubilee. The Quicksilver slow-mo scene where he’s saving everyone inside the X-Mansion is another stunner, perfectly set to the tune of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”. While the last Quicksilver set piece was great, I felt that this one was more fun. The final act is pretty chaotic, but in an entertaining way, as the characters unleash their powers in various ways. The characters looked like their comic book characters for the most part, which was a vast improvement over past X-MEN films - especially those films from the original trilogy.
I will admit that the middle portion does drag a bit somewhat. Plus there are multiple scenes with Mystique and Nightcrawler teleporting that ruined the flow and pacing for me during the first act, making me question when the hell these scenes were taking place since the rest of the film was moving forward in time. But overall, I thought Bryan Singer did a commendable job juggling a vast amount of characters and keeping it coherent for the most part.
- Weapon X. The Wolverine cameo in APOCALYPSE is one of those moments that you’ll either like or you’ll either hate. I was torn where to put this moment since I do feel it was shoehorned into the story just to have Hugh Jackman portray the character one more time to bring in audiences. We saw this moment in deeper length in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. But it was great to see Wolverine wearing the classic Weapon X head gear, and watch him go in full berserker mode with blood even involved. And the Jean moment with Logan is an interesting one, as it deepens their connection for the future. So yeah - it was a forced moment that didn’t need to be in this movie. But it was fun - and the best part? I don’t need to watch X-MEN ORIGINS again because of it since it’s in a better movie. So thanks for that!
- The potential for some cool stuff in the future. I think the real reason for X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is still introduce characters for another trilogy. Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, and Storm are now together again. One character unleashes their full power, most likely leading to the next sequel which will supposedly take place in space, as well as recreating the angle of THE LAST STAND in a more faithful way. And the end credits unveil the next major villain - a villain I’ve been anticipating since these films became a success. X-MEN is not my favorite comic book movie franchise, but the future has me excited for stuff we haven’t seen in an X-MEN movie before. So that’s a plus.
- A cliche narrative. X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is a blast to watch unfold on screen. But how many times can we have a comic book movie where a villain just wants to destroy the world to change it into his or her image? This year alone, we’ve had three superhero films where the villains were more personal antagonists, not foes who were overly power hungry. It’s your typical good-vs-evil film that’s pretty generic and predictable. If you have no clue how this film will end, you probably never read a book or watched a movie a day in your life.
It also didn’t help that a lot of characters didn’t get much development, due to the amount of them. What is Psylocke’s story? How come Angel was portrayed much better in THE LAST STAND than here? Why not explore Storm more? I also kind of wish Apocalypse had appeared in previous films, just to establish him as a more epic and dangerous villain. He mostly just stood around for the most part. Marvel has an issues with their villains in these films, and APOCALYPSE is no exception. Still, I had fun with the narrative, even if it has been done to death.
- Continuity issues. As a stand alone film, APOCALYPSE is fine timeline wise. But as a person who has seen every one of these films, I keep wondering why certain characters appear younger in this timeline, but were older in the previous timeline - and vice-versa. Are you telling me that in the original trilogy that Jubilee was a 30 year old student, because she’s clearly represented here as a teenager? Same with Angel. Why is William Stryker younger in 1983 than he was in X-MEN ORIGINS? Same with Charles Xavier. Do Magneto and Xavier even age? Even Moira looks great after 20 years. I understand that in the last X-MEN film, Beast claimed that the timeline will eventually lead to the same future, no matter how much you try and change it. That’s a great excuse, but you also have to explain why this timeline is so convoluted. I guess I’m not supposed to think that deep about this, but it’s tough after you’ve watched all the films days before this movie.
THE FINAL HOWL
Not everyone is going to like X-MEN: APOCALYPSE. Some might find it too long. Some may think the actors and/or characters were wasted. The CGI won’t work for everyone. And yes, the narrative is pretty cliche and tired by this point. X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is definitely a flawed film that has nagging issues you can’t ignore. But even so, I had a lot of fun with this film. It felt like a comic book brought to life, with colorful characters and performances that I found enjoyable. Plus, it sets up new stories that could be really great if the right people are involved. It’s disappointing as a follow up to FIRST CLASS and DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. But as a popcorn flick for the Summer Movie Season, I was into it. I didn’t expect much out of this film based on the trailers, but I came out of it pretty satisfied. Not a complete success, but I was entertained. And that’s all that matters sometimes.