Cinematic Releases: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) - Reviewed

Can the X-Men franchise survive the Apocalypse?

The X-Men films have been a mixed bag over the years with none of them really achieving greatness. While some have been good (Days of Future Past and First Class standing out from the pack) others have been pretty abysmal (cough cough Last Stand). What First Class did well was keep the story about the characters more so than their powers and actually give them some emotional weight and transformative arcs. In Days of Future Past there was a lot at stake and the film felt important and heavy. Unfortunately, X-Men: Apocalypse falls short on both of these fronts and ends up feeling like a mess of a film.

Continuing the "soft reboot" initialized in First Class we have younger Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) running his educational institute for mutants with Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Then we are introduced in rather rapid fire succession to Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), the winged mutant Angel (Ben Hardy) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who ends up being the comic relief of the film. The first third of the film moves very quickly as it has to introduce a lot of characters. This is actually the strongest portion of the movie and it has some fun Easter eggs for fans of the comics to catch.

Sansa, would you look at the size and girth of Apocalypse? He's huge. 

Once the main villain Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) appears though, the film begins to fall apart narrative-wise. Apocalypse is supposed to be an end game event for the X-Men, an ultimate villain who takes them to their very limits. The film just doesn't convey the gravity of how powerful a villain he really is, and to be honest, the writing didn't really give Isaac (who is an excellent actor) much to chew on. As an aside, his costume and make up design looks awful and it makes him look more silly than imposing. His motivations are very unclear other than "I want to destroy the Earth because...reasons" and once the apocalypse begins it seems like it's background dressing as opposed to a horrific mass destruction. It's not given any time to sink in or make an impact on the audience.

When she said no more 'fappening' photos,
I decided to choke her. 
New to the film series is Psylock (Olivia Munn) a telepathic and telekinetic ninja warrior who is one of Apocalypse's Four Horsemen. Munn is alright in the role, she doesn't really do much other than fight and swing her swords around. The real wasted potential is Storm (Alexandra Shipp) who gets lost amongst the multitude of characters that need screen time. She even has the cool Mohawk/punk rock look from the '80s!  She all but disappears in the third act of the film. Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is used quite a bit to include an even bigger super speed set piece that is a callback to Days of Future Past. While cool, it does seem like a retread.

The special effects are great looking in this film and I did enjoy the faux-retro style that everything had. It harkens back to the late-eighties heyday of the X-Men comics and there are a lot of little visual minutia that fanboys will enjoy picking up. With this caliber of actors and the amount of money spent, it's sad to see how messy and unfocused the story is. As per usual, they tried to cram in way too much stuff into one film instead of letting the events breath and have space to develop. For such an iconic villain to be neutered down is disappointing.

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-Michelle Kisner