REVIEW: X-Men: Apocalypse

This is a burning trash heap of a film. Wow, what a piece of shit. I had an ok time though.

X-Men: Apocalypse has no idea what it wants to be. It’s all over the place, trying to cram in as much as possible and fails to ever establish any kind of central idea beyond just wrecking shit. It’s obnoxiously referential and reverential to the X-Men, more interested in simply depicting certain characters than depicting them well or with purpose. There are many long diversions throughout the film that are entirely pointless to the overall story and so the movie just feels endless. The action is poorly staged. The big CG effects look fake as shit. The main plot sucks and the way it ends is inevitable from jump point. The movie is dour and not enough fun. There’s little pathos to be found here, and what is there is literally just a retread of what we’ve already seen.

And yet… I didn’t hate my time with it. As much as I’m going to shit on this movie I didn’t have a bad time. The actors that have carried through these last three X-Men films are good enough to sell material that doesn’t work intellectually. There were enough little moments that made me smile. This is the worst X-Men movie besides X-Men: The Last Stand, but it never makes that movie’s sin of hating its own characters and audience so it’s still infinitely better. I think I even like this more than the first X-Men movie (Which I’ve never been keen on), although that one was at least only 104 minutes.

The core problem with this movie is that Apocalypse sucks. This is 20th Century Fox getting to their Darkseid rip-off before Marvel Studio can get to theirs (and before Warner Bros. can get to actual Darkseid) Unfortunately Apocalypse himself is just boring; he’s a force of nature not a character. That’s not to say there aren’t good stories built around him, but what’s interesting about him is generally just the mess he leaves in his wake.

What makes the original Apocalypse storing interesting and memorable isn’t Apocalypse himself but Angel’s transformation into Archangel. The story of a man at rock bottom making a deal with the devil and then having to live with that mistake is at least a story with some pathos. If there’s any character this movie seems to have contempt for it’s Angel, whose inclusion seems totally perfunctory. He’s given barely any characterization and is ultimately dispatched in the most unceremonious way. And it’s not that it HAD to be Archangel filling the void I see in this movie but they don’t do anything with him AND they don’t fill the emotional void that leaves in the story. Ultimately this movie feels toothless, despite how big the movie want to make everything seem, nothing was really at stake and the only thing lost is Charles Xavier’s hair.

And there is a model for what I’m talking about here: The Dark Knight. Inherently I also don’t think the Joker is an interesting character; he’s a force of nature and the best stores with him recognize that and use it as an advantage. The Dark Knight shines because the climax is about dealing with the aftermath of the Joker; that’s where the real drama is and it justifies the longer running time.

The movie attempts to fill this slot with Magneto. In theory his arc from living a simple life as a normal man who joins Apocalypse after that life is destroyed but then regains his humanity by the end could fit, but it doesn’t work. For one, this is literally the same arc Magneto goes through in every one of these goddam movies. This is the third time in a row he’s talked off a ledge at the end of the movie. He’s incredibly fickle. And of all three times this one is the most infuriating because the swing of him going from attempting to murder the entire world to being a loveable scamp with a heart of gold just isn’t believable. He’s not scarred by the attempted genocide he took part in, if anything he’s refreshed and feeling better than ever. It’s a tribute to Michael Fassbender’s acting that so much of Magneto’s stuff here works at all, because it’s honestly really bad material.

Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen in general are just completely half-assed. In the comics their transformation came with some explicit mind control, but here that doesn’t seem to be the case or it’s at least super unclear. It’s very unconvincing that any of these characters would be super into ending the world. Archangel and Psylocke have basically no characterization at all except for being shitty people (With Psylocke looking remarkably comics accurate and Archangel looking like shit). With Storm the movie wants to establish her as being a hero and not just a piece of shit but that just makes her place in the story more confusing. She’s so pointless it’s barely worth mentioning, except the movie is so goddamn in love with setting her up to be in future movies it’s actually embarrassing given how little it does with her. It also ticks me off that the Four Horsemen aren’t thematically coherent. Death, Famine, Pestilence and War; those ideas are tossed aside just so they could include the characters they felt like including. They lack any flavor.

Apocalypse himself also never actually comes off as charismatic at all. On paper I might think Apocalypse isn’t great, but this is also a super boring version of him. Oscar Isaac is unrecognizable behind the makeup, this could have been played by anyone. Also he hilariously learns all about human history, after being asleep for thousands of years, by putting his hand on a TV which is so cliché and lame it’s both funny and sad.

Cyclops is in this movie. Man… It’s such a bummer because I actually think modern comics Cyclops is fucking great (Basically once he went crazy and became Magneto 2.0) so seeing young Cyclops get reintroduced in all his suck just feels like such a waste. Because yea, this Cyclops totally sucks… sigh.

Jean Grey is in this movie and as soon as she shows up you know 100% how this movie is going to end. It makes the fact that this series is just a soft reboot of the first X-Men movies a bummer because they’re locked in to making some of the same mistakes again with Cyclops and Jean Grey.

Quicksilver is back and gets a total retread of his big sequence from the last movie that just goes on too long. I appreciate it for trying to insert a different kind of energy into the movie but it just ends up feeling tired and forced. “Oh you liked this thing? Well here, have moooooooore!”

Wolverine gets his own sequence even though he has nothing to do with this story. It’s violence that lacks any weight because this is such a stale bloodless movie. I liked seeing Hugh Jackman in the silly Weapon X getup, but this movie is so bad at violence it’s just another pointless sequence in a movie full of them.

Nightcrawler is here, he’s cool if y’know underdeveloped. Jubilee shows up just for a scene where the younger characters talk about going to a mall (which they do off screen.) I’d actually rather have watched a movie about the X-Men having fun at a mall.

Coming on the heels of Captain America: Civil War all the super hero action here feels so flat. The climax feels amateurish in comparison, there’s no dynamism or flow to any of it. Nothing looks impressive or cool, there’s no shot that will stick with me.

I had an ok time at the theater, and there are some fun ans funny parts here, but this movie does more wrong than it does right. Jennifer Lawrence feels like she’s playing a version of The Girl on Fire by the end of this movie and this movie kinda feels similar to a middle of the road Hunger Games movie by the end; in that it feels like really good actors carrying pretty shitty material. It also feels anchored by the world of the early X-Men movies and Bryan Singer himself. It’s too in love with itself and its world, willing to endlessly retread rather than break new ground and push forward. This movie doesn’t ruin the series but this is stagnation.