Warning: The following review contains spoilers from X-Men: Apocalypse. If you have not yet seen the movie, go watch it first before reading this review.
Concluding a film trilogy is always difficult. The characters in X-Men: Apocalypse even crack a joke about this after going to see Return of the Jedi, saying that the third movie in any big trilogy is always the one that sucks. However, the pressures of finishing a trilogy become even greater when you not only have to reach a satisfying conclusion to various storylines but also deliver the most menacing Big Bad your heroes will ever face and set up the possibility of future stories with new characters. That’s what Bryan Singer had to try do with X-Men: Apocalypse. Was he successful? I’d say, for the most part, he was.
X-Men: Apocalypse is an action-packed spectacle, and in that way, it’s much different than two films that came before it, X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past. While both of those movies feature some terrific set pieces and stellar action sequences, they are both more personal films; while the X-Men fight to save the world at the end of both movies, First Class and Days of Future Past still feel like their on taking place on a smaller, more intimate scale. The reason we are so invested in the storylines of those two films isn’t because of the world-ending circumstances but because of the characters that find themselves in the middle of these situations. It’s the relationships between Charles, Erik, Raven, and the rest of the mutants that keep us glued to the screen.
X-Men: Apocalypse does feature some magnificent emotional moments, similar to the first two films in this new trilogy. Scenes like Erik watching as his wife and daughter are killed by the police in the forest in Poland, or Charles giving Moira back her memories near the end of the film, pack a wallop; even the emotion that Quicksilver displays as he decides whether or not to tell Erik that he’s his son works, despite the fact that it’s a newer storyline that’s introduced fairly late into the film.
However, unlike First Class and Days of Future Past, the relationships between the X-Men do get a little bit lost in the spectacle of Apocalypse‘s world-ending conflict, and unfortunately, the character of Apocalypse isn’t dynamic enough to make up for that. Oscar Isaac does fine work as the villainous first mutant, but for so much of the film, Apocalypse feels more like a coach instructing his team (the Four Horsemen of Magneto, Storm, Psylocke, and Angel) rather than the MVP that he should be. Also, there’s nothing too creative about his plan to “cleanse” the world; he rids the world of their nuclear weapons to ensure that they don’t have more power than him, but his main efforts at destroying civilization as we know it really just involve encouraging Magneto to become his most powerful self and easily thwarted scheme to steal Charles’ abilities.
Still though, despite those complaints regarding Apocalypse, the ending battle against him does feature some spectacular sequences, including the duel inside Apocalypse’s mind between him and Charles. The way that Singer presents this internal fight as a physical one is a smart, effective choice, and it works especially well when the mental bleeds over into the physical as Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey enters the fight and is the one that truly destroys Apocalypse. The those final scenes of the battle in Cairo are staged and shot are impressively; they not only look gorgeous, but you feel the epic intensity that has been lacking in some of the final showdowns from past X-Men films.
Speaking of Turner as Jean Grey, she, Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler, and Alexandra Shipp as Storm are all great additions to the X-Men cast. All of them bring a fresh and fun energy to X-Men: Apocalypse (I especially can’t wait to see what Turner can do with this role if Singer actually tries to do the Dark Phoenix arc again), helping to ensure that the franchise doesn’t begin to feel stale at all. However, their presence does cause one major problem that weighs Apocalypse down, and that’s simply the fact that this movie is overstuffed. Even though there’s so much good stuff in this film, from Magneto’s struggle with his darkness, to Raven’s reunion with Charles, to Scott and Jean realizing how powerful they really are, a lot of these storylines aren’t given the time that they fully need to blossom; they’re still solid stories and arcs within this film, but there’s just not enough screen time for all of them. That’s not to say that that I think X-Men: Apocalypse should have been a longer film (although, aside from a slow beginning, I didn’t feel the 143 running time for this movie at all), but I do believe that separate films could have handled all of these various storylines in a richer, more effective way.
So is X-Men: Apocalypse better than Days of Future Past? No. It’s also not better than First Class. However, just because it’s the weakest film in this new X-Men trilogy doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie. Apocalypse is an exciting, entertaining, and action-packed superhero blockbuster with some great character moments sprinkled throughout its two hours and twenty minutes. It’s worth checking out on the big screen, and I hope you all go to your local theater and see it.
- Can we talk about how amazing that Wolverine sequence was? Did it need to be in the movie? No, but that didn’t stop it from being awesome. I also loved that we got that really nice moment between Jean and Logan before he runs out of the compound.
- Somehow, Bryan Singer was able to top himself and deliver an even better Quicksilver scene in this film than in Days of Future Past. I had the biggest grin on my face throughout that entire sequence as “Sweet Dreams” played.
- Again, I just want to say how much I love this new cast of actors, and that I really cannot wait to see what all of them do with these characters in future movies. That last scene, with all of them together as Charles watches on, got me so pumped.
- Speaking of Charles, James McAvoy does outstanding work again as Professor X throughout Apocalypse. One of the best parts of his performance is how well he’s able to blend comedy into it, especially in those early scenes between Charles, Moira, and Alex.
- Apocalypse might not be my favorite X-Men movie, but it does feature my favorite Michael Fassbender performance as Magneto. He’s absolutely electric throughout this entire film, and I wish we had gotten to see more of him.
What did you think of X-Men: Apocalypse? Did you enjoy it as much as I did? Were you disappointed? Comment below and let me know.
[Photo via 20th Century Fox]