By Darin Skaggs
The X-Men film series is one of the strangest franchises out there. They began with two solid movies, those being X-Men and X2: X-Men United. For the third movie X-Men: The Last Stand, they lost the director of the previous two, Brian Singer and gained director Brett Ratner to take over, which made comic, movie and action fans quite disappointed. Another failed project came with X-Men Origins: Wolverine. That film got a sequel of sorts where Wolverine had another side adventure that was not too bad. Then the franchise had a soft reboot in X-Men: First Class from director Matthew Vaughn where they took a look at our beloved characters, mostly Xavier and Magneto, back in the 1960’s. Then twelve years after directing the second X-Men movie, Singer returned to make the craziest and most interesting in the series. Days of Future Past both had Singer apologizing for leaving by going back in time and essentially resetting the timeline of the franchise and merging the two timelines having it all be in the same universe. In the new addition to this overdone, overwrought series; X-Men: Apocalypse, Singer returns yet again to make a messy, odd misfire of a movie.
Apocalypse is a film that takes place in the 1980’s, pretty much exactly one decade after the events of Days of Future Past. The film starts with the set up for a villain, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) who is betrayed by some of his followers and is trapped for centuries under a collapsed Egyptian pyramid. The movie then goes to show us what all the mutants from the previous film are up to ten years later. This includes the high school versions of the beloved characters from the first three movies like Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Kurt Wanger/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Most of the cast from the previous film are back as well. This movie takes all we know and tries to tell a new story here with the second coming of Apocalypse who is accidentally woken up. He gathers four “horseman” to be his right hand men and talks about destroying the world.
The film is juggling way too much and somehow finds a way to tell some of the same arcs that these characters have already gone through. Magneto (Michael Fassbender) finds himself trying to live a normal life with a wife he loves and a daughter he adores. Because of his history and known powers has an inevitable tragic outcome for his stories. He then realizes he cannot have his normal life and wishes to harm humanity in some way. We have seen this before, if not every time in some sense. It is the same, or at least similar enough for us not to be invested. The newer characters, like Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and even Apocalypse are useless. They do nothing except prove they have skill and power and then stand around proclaiming about their hopes to destroy the world. The familiar characters are decent. It is clear that Singer knows who these people are, like Xavier (James McAvoy) and his students.
In fact the performances are what makes the characters work here. Singer might have a grasp on the characters he has formed over the years, he also knows who to cast in those roles. Fassbender and McAvoy have settled well into their roles and the newcomers do great work with what they are given. Others shine, Nicholas Hault is great as Hank McCoy and Evan Peters is a good Quicksilver. Jennifer Lawrence however just seems bored, she is settled into her role like Fassbender and McCoy, but she has no passion in the performance. The real crime in this movie is the use of Isaac. He plays the big villain, he is invincible, at the beginning he is a God to his people, but his character has absolutely nothing to do. If you go into this movie not knowing who plays Apocalypse, you will not come out looking up who played him to make sure you check out his other work, which is something you would do if you see any of his other acting jobs. It is not even a bad performance, it is just so bland. It is like they were scared to mess up this character, so they did not even attempt anything too big.
The action and special effects are give and take here. The final battle is a confusing, pointless disaster. Meanwhile, the Quicksilver scene is one of the best sequences is the entire superhero genre. The humor here matches the other X-Men movies. They are hit and miss, full of sarcasm and could possibly make you roll your eyes at the pop culture references. Overall the movie is not terrible, but not a great X-Men film. It does have enough to be worth the viewing.