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Just yesterday I caught a matinee showing of Bryan Singer’s latest entry into the X-Men film franchise, subtitled Apocalypse. I had been looking forward to this film for quite some time, especially considering the momentum the franchise built up after the excellent Days of Future Past, released almost two years ago to the date. Unfortunately, Apocalypse is quite possibly the worst film in the franchise in ten years, and a complete and utter letdown following Days of Future Past, The Wolverine, and Deadpool, each of which was unique and entertaining in its own way. In contrast to those films, X-Men: Apocalypse is a gigantic slog and a total mess of a film. It’s a letdown on such a large scale, that I wouldn’t be surprised if Fox did something drastic with future installments.
The biggest problems with the film lie with its script, setting, and main villain, the titular Apocalypse. The scripted, by series vet Simon Kinberg, fails to build off the momentum of the previous installment. The film is set in the 1980s, but except for a few musical cues and an impromptu trip the mall, you’d never know it. This is a huge missed opportunity, because Days of Future Past got a lot of mileage out of its futuristic as well as its 1970s settings. Additionally, the film never really builds up a sense of the incoming apocalypse either, mostly because the titular villain kinda sucks. Oscar Isaac is an incredibly talented and charming actor, but he exudes absolutely zero personality as the main villain. It’s almost impossible to believe this guy ever commanded a doomsday cult in the first place, that’s how milquetoast he is.
Other than a lack of charisma, Apocalypse the character suffers from other issues as well. He’s weirdly underwritten, especially where it concerns his powers. His mutant powers are never fully explained. I don’t require a lengthy explanation for everything that happens in a movie, but nevertheless some explanation for Apocalypse’s powers would have been nice. It just seems like at moments he can do anything he wants, and at other moments he can’t. Why, for example, is he able to kill a factory full of workers without breaking a sweat, but he can’t kill Quicksilver, Mystique, and Beast in the same manner? He also seems contradictory as a character. He denounces technology, but then uses it to his own purposes. The script can’t seem to figure out what to do with him, and Isaac performance suffers as a result.
The side villains aren’t really much better than Apocalypse himself. Angel, who looks like he might as well be a member of 80s hair metal band the Scorions, has about five lines, most of them in German. Psylocke has no personality to speak of, and probably says about three things throughout the movie. Storm looks great on-screen, but again isn’t give much time to develop her personality that much. She probably comes off looking the best of the three. The fourth horseman, Magneto, joins after the death of his wife and daughter, even though he doesn’t seem to care that much about family he already abandoned back in the US. And as a side note, Magneto has kind of become the “Wolverine” of the later X-Men films. Singer could stand to use the character less.
I have various other issues with this film as well. Speaking of Wolverine, for example, he makes possibly the silliest cameo in the history of cinema. This is something like the third time we’ve seen his origin on screen – and people like to complain about Spiderman and Batman’s origins in movies… I also take issue with the length of this film, which runs at a butt-numbing 144 minutes but still seems undercooked. The timeline of the film also seems to not make any sense at all. Despite taking place 10 years after the events of Days of Future Past, no one looks like they’ve aged at all. According to the timeline of the new films, Charles and Erik should be at least 50 years old each, but they still look about 35. It all makes very little sense. The X-Men film timeline has always been wonky, but Days of Future Past was supposed to make this stuff clearer, not more confusing.
It’s hard to overstate what a disappointing mess X-Men: Apocalypse is. I didn’t even mention how Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy seem to be completely phoning in their performances. Lawrence, who might be the biggest female movie star on the planet, clearly considers herself above this, and why not? This film is awful. McAvoy is just plain too cool for school here and I again can’t blame him. I also didn’t mention Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan as Jean Grey and Scott Summers, respectively. I didn’t mention them for a reason. I can’t believe just how badly Singer and crew screwed up with this film, particularly considering just how well audiences responded to Deadpool and how nicely the next Wolverine stand-alone film was shaping up. But X-Men: Apocalypse is an utter piece of crap that honestly left me thinking that X-Men: The Last Stand might be the superior “third” film between the two of them.