Review: X-Men: Apocalypse
PLOT: Professor Xavier must round up the X-Men - which includes some new members - in order to take on Apocalypse, a centuries old mutant intent on destroying humanity.
REVIEW: Set some ten years after the events of X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is another satisfactory entry into the X-MEN franchise, but it lacks the big thrills of the previous two entries. Perhaps at six installments, the series is starting to show a little bit of wear, or, short of that, a case of the "been theres, done thats." They're predictable, in both a positive and negative sense. I suppose you can't blame them, because they're going with what works, but at the same time, there are almost no surprises to be found at all.
In this installment, the X-Men are up against perhaps their greatest foe yet: Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), who after being buried in an Egyptian tomb for centuries is awoken and immediately sets about collecting a team of supervillains as he prepares to exterminate humanity. Apocalypse, who we're told might be the first mutant ever, is one of those baddies that thinks the Earth would be better off without all these people mucking it up. He's possesses seemingly unlimited power, but he still needs a few other mutants to do his bidding, like weather-controlling Storm (Alexandra Shipp) or sexy warrior woman Psylocke (Olivia Munn). But the main piece of his new gang is Magneto (Michael Fassbender), ever conflicted about which side he wants to be on and recently in a real mankind-hating mood. Apocalypse acts as sort of a mentor to Magneto, unlocking powers even the latter didn't know he had, and the two of them combined are a cinch to turn the world upside down.
Meanwhile, Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) has some new help on his hands: Scott Summers aka Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) arrives, with his power to shoot energy beams out of his eyes; Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), able to teleport at a moment's notice; and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), a psychic proving to be one of the more impressive students yet. And of course Xavier's trusty assistant Beast (Nicholas Hoult) is always by his side, while former flame Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) reemerges to give the Professor some butterflies (and provide some assistance). Lurking around the periphery is Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who, not unlike Magneto, struggles with her allegiances, but at the moment agrees to help the X-Men with their current predicament.
That's really all there is to the plot, honestly; both groups try to get their acts together for what we all know will be an epic battle in the end that will determine the fate of the world. What I think APOCALYPSE is lacking that made FIRST CLASS and DAYS OF FUTURE PAST a little more intriguing are the political and social ramifications those movies dealt with. Including historical figures and incidents into the plots made them novel and added unexpected color. Here, there isn't much more than a standard "end of the world" scenario on the horizon. Naturally, there are countless deliberations about the pros and cons of being a mutant, but they all start to sound alike after a while (especially after so many movies dealing with the same subject matter).
A significant problem with the movie is the villain. The casting of Oscar Issac as Apocalypse is baffling; the actor is unrecognizable in all the make-up and he's often left just standing there, grumbling and moaning. Apocalypse probably could have been played by anybody. And as a character he isn't very interesting: his speeches are humdrum, his design unappealing (might have worked in the comics, but not here) and he's never compelling or scary. His team of villains, with the exception of Magneto, are also a pretty silly-looking bunch; when they're all hanging out together they seem like a team of cosplayers posing for a heavy metal album cover. They inspire chuckles, not intimidation.
James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are reliable as Xavier and Magneto, of course, but even they're repetitive here. It's really gotten to the point where they might be recycling dialogue from previous films and I wouldn't realize it. Jennifer Lawrence looks thoroughly bored playing Mystique again, although she's not given any stand-out moments as she was in the last film. A couple of the new heroes are fun; Tye Sheridan and Kodi Smit-McPhee are welcome additions as Cyclops and Nightcrawler, but I found Sophie Turner to be a rather bland Jean Grey. And, as was the case in Days of Future Past, the highlight of the film is a sequence with Quicksilver (Evan Peters) coming to the rescue. It's basically a retread of his scene in the last movie, but it's no less entertaining. The character also has a little more to do in this one and is consistently the most enjoyable member of the team to watch.
The action sequences are definitely enjoyable, as usual director Bryan Singer can be counted upon to bring the thunder when he's got several superpowered mutants throwing down on one another. There's one scene in particular that's really exceptionally cool, but I don't want to spoil it here. (If you've seen a few of the trailers or ads, you can guess what I'm hinting at.) The finale, while mired in lots of swirling CGI and crumbling buildings, does have a handful of memorable confrontations.
At this point the X-MEN movies have really settled into a predictable rhythm; while you could of course say the same for some other big franchises, these particular movies just don't inspire a lot of excitement in me. That said, if you really enjoyed the last two films, you'll likely find plenty to appreciate in APOCALYPSE, even though its villain is a drag and the heroes are going through the motions once again. I'm giving it a 6, but you may well bump the grade up higher if you're an X-Men fanatic.
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