REVIEW: 'X-MEN APOCALYPSE' IS AN EPIC, CHARACTER DRIVEN BLOCKBUSTER
Bryan Singer throws shade at 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand and comes out on top with his latest entry into the mutant franchise.
After Brett Ratner’s much hated X-Men: The Last Stand (I still contend that X3 is an alright movie), it’s hard to believe that Bryan Singer has been given the opportunity to direct the last 2 X-Men films. Singer’s involvement spans across 16 years and two generations of Professor Charles Xavier. But don’t worry everyone, we still have just the one Wolverine.
X-Men: Apocalypse is huge in more ways than one. We are introduced to an onslaught of new characters, some of which are better introduced than others. Scott Summers is taken to Xavier’s mansion by his older brother after discovering his laser beam powers at school; Jean Grey is a telekinetic feared by all, even mutants; and Nightcrawler is a teleporter, a tortured soul who has fought for his life.
Of these three introductions, Nightcrawler is the most compelling. Kurt Wagner, after all, is a blue, bizarre looking lizard man. On the back end of these introductions we are exposed to Psylocke, Angel and Storm. Angel has been a fighter, much like Kurt, but he is uninteresting in almost every way. Storm hails from Egypt, and has a lot more screentime than I expected. The way her arc plays out in the film, I think that she will bring an interesting perspective to future films. Probably because she’s better in almost every way compared to Halle Berry.
Olivia Munn’s Psylocke is a joke. The casting choice is poor, and whatever good will acting chops that we saw in The Newsroom has been wiped away – for good. There are so many things wrong with how Psylocke looks throughout the film that none of it works. Her costume is cringeworthy (I thought it was okay until I looked at it on film), and she is short-changed in terms of any semblance of a character. The most you get is, Psylocke is strong, I don’t know what her power is but she wants to be stronger…
One of the strongest components of X-Men: Apocalypse are the nods to previous films. There are well planned cameos back and forth, references to previous films and an ever strengthening network of characters that come together in fantastic, and sometimes hilarious ways. It’s a testament that Bryan Singer has been able to hold together this 16 year franchise, and give it the life it has. In Days of Future Past he united two generations of X-Men, and in Apocalypse we get glimpses of how the timeline has changed going forwards.
Apocalypse, the villain of this movie, is a mixed bag of awesome and questionable. The opening sequence of the film is edge-of-your-seat awesome, so much so that one character is actually compressed into a square and crushed. We all know that 3D is a gimmick, but in the first 10 minutes of this film, the opening credits included, 3D really shines and Apocalypse starts off strong. Now, let me talk about a few things here. Apocalypse looks fine, those that complain about his look need to chill because that isn’t even a huge problem. Oscar Isaac is a fantastic actor, but I have no problem with Apocalypse apparently not resembling Isaac enough. A problem I do have though, is the voice modulation that Apocalypse experiences throughout the film. When you have an actor as talented as Isaac, I don’t think the auto-tune equivalent of film is all that necessary. But what Singer does do with modulation is keep it dynamic, fresh and different throughout the film.
Our veteran actors Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender James McAvoy continue to bring a lot of weight to their characters, which is surprisingly well balanced against the new crew that have entered the fray. Each character has evolved and become something different with every passing film, but Magneto does have a habit of turning bad, doesn’t he?
With a strong start, a large portion of this movie is built up on recruiting old and new friends for both the X-Men and Apocalypse’s Horsemen. The pacing is solid, but being exposed to so many characters makes the film feel like very little actually happens. By the time the third act rolls around, the audience is ready.
The third act is a bloated showcase of the X-Men’s abilities. The lack of movement in the final battle make us feel like we’ve been in the same place for forty minutes, which isn’t exactly a lie. Every character is given a chance to fight, but the pacing loses out as characters duke it out with little flow from conflict to conflict. We cannot ignore the perfect construction of the airport fight in Captain America: Civil War as a point of reference.
X-Men: Apocalypse is a strong third entry into this second X-Men trilogy since 2000. Apocalypse never quite tops the re-imagination of the X-Men in the 1960s set X-Men First Class, but it does surpass Days of Future Past in terms of spectacle, continuing to draw upon a pantheon of easter eggs to make for one enjoyable, albeit very long blockbuster movie.