I’m a little late on this movie, but I hadn’t had the chance to see it until this past week. Like Captain America: Civil War, I probably wouldn’t even review it at this late hour. However, unlike Captain America: Civil War, this movie is not really getting good reviews.
The general critical consensus seems to be that the movie is overblown, too bombastic, and the characters are given too little development. While I will say that the movie does have problems related to these ideas, I don’t agree that they are quite as rampant in the movie as that.
The plot is as follows. En Sabah Nur was the world’s first mutant, but was locked away in a tomb for millennia essentially in stasis. In the present (well, the 1980s), Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has resigned to being a simple school teacher for mutants along with Hank McCoy (Beast, played by Nicholas Hoult), while Raven Darkholme (Mystique, played by Jennifer Lawrence) is travelling the globe looking for mutants, and Eric Lensherr (Magneto, played by Michael Fassbender) is attempting to lie low in Poland in the shadow of his attack on the White House ten years prior. It’s at this time that En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaacs), the titular Apocalypse, awakens and begins his search for mutant followers to fill the role of his Four Horsemen to help “the strong” to take back the world. He finds Magneto, Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and Angel (Ben Hardy). All of these characters are at low points in their lives which Apocalypse takes advantage of to sway them. As Mystique begins to uncover the growing threat of Apocalypse, she goes to Xavier to convince him to get the X-Men back together to fight the growing threat. New members Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Ty Sheridan), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee), join for the adventure.
This film worked for me. It’s a big, fun action romp with some very enjoyable characters. The action set pieces are creative, the visual design is cool, and the dialogue is solid. It definitely has the appearance and feel of the 80’s, with Jean Grey, Kurt Wagner, and Quicksilver in particular looking like Flock of Seagulls groupies. The dark tone is balanced out well by its humor, and the special effects look really good.
Oscar Isaacs turns in a classic, scene-chewing villain performance as the threatening Apocalypse. He has never been a character with particular depth, so Isaacs seems to be just having fun as the menacing bad guy. That fun translates to the audience in his every shouting, Bible-referencing scene.
The young X-Men, Turner, Sheridan, Shipp, Peters and Smit-McPhee are good introductions and all surpass their acting predecessors (with the exception of Nightcrawler maybe, Alan Cumming was really good as Kurt Wagner). Each brings something enjoyable to the table. Sheridan is a budding boy scout as Summers. Turner is really intense yet vulnerable as Jean Grey. Shipp plays a really fun Storm. Smit-McPhee captures Kurt Wagner’s innocence. Peters is funny and charming as the hyper Quicksilver. There is a repeat of his “Time in a Bottle” scene from Days of Future Past that is just as entertaining.
The character of Angel was intriguing from his introduction in this film, and Ben Hardy shows some acting chops as this violent, troubled, and drunken version of this character. Unfortunately, his character arc doesn’t really go anywhere in this movie, and he isn’t given enough to do.
Rose Byrne returns as CIA Agent Moira McTaggart. She, McAvoy, and Hoult turn in solid performances in this movie. Jennifer Lawrence is once again good as Mystique, but I get the impression she is ready to be done with this franchise. She really does not seem to want to be here. It still kind of works, as her character doesn’t really want to be present either. However, since she is the one meant to rally the X-Men, her character isn’t quite engaged enough.
Lucas Till makes a reappearance as Alex Summers aka Havok. He has another moment to shine in this movie that will make longtime X-Men fans excited
As always, Michael Fassbender steals the show as Eric Lensherr. Magneto has always been my favorite part of these films since the reboot. Fassbender brings a depth to the character that gets me every time. Without giving anything away, Eric hits rock bottom in this film, and it is the most powerful and heart-wrenching scene of the movie.
Olivia Munn is… serviceable as Psylocke. I was not looking forward to that casting decision since its announcement. She wasn’t as bad as I feared, and, in her defense, her character really isn’t given anything to do. The fact that her costume is the one they decided to keep for the film is disappointing to say the least.
I was excited to see Jubilee, played by Lana Condor, but she turns out to barely be in this movie despite her appearance suggesting otherwise.
Lastly, Hugh Jackman has a lengthy cameo as Wolverine that rivals the fury and fun of his rampage in X2: X-Men United.
It’s not a perfect film in the least. The beginning of the film is definitely a mess of plot that gives a weak contrast to the rising tension of the of Civil War’s first act. However, once the plot comes together, it turns into a strong movie. Some of the characters could have been given more to do, such as Mystique, Angel, and Psylocke, but that is balanced out by the strength of Magneto, Cyclops, and Jean Grey’s roles in the movie. It has a lot of characters, and, though it does not balance them perfectly, it juggles it well enough.
Like Days of Future Past, this film has a chronic case of not explaining itself. Apocalypse’s powers are not really laid out for the audience. There is a scene where he uses a TV set to learn what the world is like now through… satellites and the news? I think. In the comics, he can communicate with technology thanks to the Celestials, but that’s not a thing in the movie. So, he can just do that here I guess. His master plan involves taking Xavier’s body so that he can assimilate his telepathy. However, he does things in the movie that kind of imply he has telepathy already. So, you just kind of have to take the movie’s word for it that those instances were accomplished through other means.
Also, Apocalypse ends the Cold War. That’s not a complaint. It was awesome.
If you have enjoyed the most recent editions to the X-Men franchise, you’ll enjoy this one too. It has its flaws, but its strengths do more than enough to balance them out. It’s not the best of Brian Singer’s X-Men tenure (that title still belongs to X-Men: First Class for me), but it is a solid finish to the new trilogy of films. It’s just a generally fun time.
Final Score: 7/10
P.S: So there is my first film review for the site. I hope you liked it. I enjoyed writing it, and I hope to hone my film critiquing skills as I go on.