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When it has come to the X-Men film series, I have usually been against the grain in terms of what the critics have liked and what I have liked. That trend continues with X-Men: Apocalypse, a film, while flawed, I thoroughly enjoyed and found to be very entertaining.
***Mild to Medium Spoilers***
Picking up ten years after the events of Days of Future Past, the X-Men reform in order to defeat En Sabah Nur, an ancient mutant with a god-complex. Having been revived after a couple thousand year nap, Nur is disgusted with the way the world has evolved and decides to destroy it and remake it in his own way.
The critics have been savaging this film (including our very own Zack), but I honestly found it to be on par with many of the other X-Men films with many of the same strengths and faults. The film shines in the performances of our principles. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are still great and Jennifer Lawrence (who is basically serves as this trilogy’s Wolverine) is much more tolerable this time around (aside: I use to be a big Lawrence fan, but her personal antics have really grated on me in the past few years which have a negative impact in how I view her as an actor).
Newcomer Oscar Isaac is great at the villainous En Sabah Nur. While he’s kept mostly low-key, Isaac definitely brings charisma and menace to the character and is able to make the viewer feel the threat he poses. As I was watching this, I loved how they presented Nur as a cult-like leader – someone who can get people behind him even though he talks about some really crazy shit. He also looked completely badass.
And we get some fun, plucky newcomers as Cyclops, Jean, Storm, and Nightcrawler.
One of the criticisms this film has gotten that I don’t quite get is that Nur’s plan/motivation is muddled. I found it to be clear as day. He is basically everyone’s cranky grandpa in that he hates today’s society and wishes it was more like how he wants it. That said, is plot is incredibly simple, but given how crazy everything is in this movie, it works. The story moves at a good pace and kept me invested the entire time.
I particularly loved how incredibly violent Apocalypse ultimately is. I’ve complained about consequence-free excessive violence in blockbuster films in the past, but here the level of destruction didn’t really bother me and I was rather entertained by it. I suppose, it might have to do with the fact that by the time the film got to that part, I was completely sold on it and was willing to accept anything by that point.
Another issue people have had with the film is the unaging nature of the returning cast members. Honestly, it didn’t bother me. I even appreciated how the film actually waved that in the viewer’s face at various points in the film as if to say “Yes, we know. Just go with it”.
That said, this film is without its faults. The film is incredibly long (particularly the first act), and it has a somewhat forced detour midway through when we visit Col. Stryker’s base. While the sequence was enjoyable, it really served no narrative purpose other than to have a Wolverine cameo. In that way, the film does feel a bit overstuffed. And, like nearly every X-Men film, there are characters that are underserved and seem superfluous to the overall story including background players such as Nur’s henchmen and headliners such as Nicholas Hoult’s Beast and Lawrence’s Mystique (seriously…there is no reason for either to really be in the movie other than that they were in the previous ones).
X-Men: Apocalypse also doesn’t take advantage of the 1980s setting. But to be fair, the narrative doesn’t really allow it to, and it really is set in the ‘80s by virtue of the previous entries.
But, despite these flaws, I still enjoyed X-Men Apocalypse. It keeps one foot on the ground, but isn’t afraid to get incredibly goofy and schlocky. It has a good balance that I appreciate coming from a superhero movie. Honestly, we need something like this to counter-balance both the grim DC Comics films and the self-important Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is super-fun and sometimes that is just enough.