After X-Men Days of Future Past set the bar so high, I was disappointed in the mixed reviews for X-Men Apocalypse to say the least. Complaints about Oscar Isaac, Mystique, and the overused relationship between Charles and Erik made me assume the worst about this movie. Well, pardon my French, but those critics are full of shit because this movie has so much to offer fans that I couldn’t contain myself in the theater.
As this is my first movie review and Comic Crusaders is committed to providing the most honest content for fans by fans, I will just lay it all on the table without resorting to wordy critic speak. Besides, what can I say that hasn’t already been said in one of the umpteen thousand reviews already online? I cannot guarantee this review will not be spoiler free, but I will do my very best to keep deaths, reveals, and twists out of the content. Also, the review is quite lengthy, so for the final verdict, skip to the end. I am quite the rambler when the subject matter is the X-Men.
First off, the story is very solid. Heavy reliance on the Ancient Egyptian history of En Sabah Nur, including his secret to eternal life and the reasoning for his emergence until now. Moira MacTaggert is working for the CIA in Egypt following a cult centered around Apocalypse, and workout her, there is no story. The first act of the whole movie is structured kinda like Giant Size X-Men #1 in that it bounces around focusing on single characters and how/why they fit into this movie. This includes the horsemen, although I feel like all but Magneto get screwed over in that department. Once the real action takes off, it feels more like a team movie. Nightcrawler, Jean, and Cyclops are great because they are so new to the superhero thing that they basically wing it. Once Apocalypse’s master plan starts falling into place in the third act, we revert back to one-on-one fight scenes and some really epic effects. Final battle is fought on many fronts, including one that many could feel is an homage to Shadow King, another popular comic villain. This film opens up the X-Men into a whole new era with its younger cast and unlimited possibilities, thanks to the reset in DoFP.
I want to address all the characters in this movie. The problem with a movie like this with such a large, all-star cast is that inevitably some of them are not featured as much as we’d hope. Jubilee falls into this category, having next to no lines and not a single firework. Angel and Psylocke have some great fight scenes but are so dimensionless that we really don’t care what happens to them. I just hope the X-Force film utilizes Psylocke because Olivia Munn is badass and rocked that costume. Plus, she’s such an interesting character in the comics that her lack of attention in this movie is a slap in the face. At least with Archangel, he’s not technically Warren Worthington III, so who cares? Also, while I do appreciate Storm’s extended encounter with Apocalypse, she has way fewer lines than she deserves. I hear a deleted scene may dive into her back story, so there’s that. A character that’s getting literally no credit is Caliban who is actually done very well. This Morlock in the comics is more timid and clingy, but they nailed his aesthetic and his speech style, so bravo.
Magneto is arguably the central character of this movie, having great emotional scenes of his past and present struggles. Michael Fassbender brings such depth and emotion to Erik that he should win an award, although we all know his performance will be taken for granted. Also, kudos for finally making his control of magnetic fields a relevant power! Charles on the other hand is same old Chuck. Cool scenes and a wonderful portrayal, but Professor X has never been much of an action guy. His contribution to defeating Apocalypse is pretty dope though. Moira is mostly utilized as a tag along for Charles to swoon over, having no memory of the events of First Class. Havok is brought back in as a segway for Cyclops to go to Xavier’s School. Multiple scenes of “Hey! Alex! Long time no see buddy!” in case we forget who he is. Who cares that he is technically like old enough to be Scott’s father but looks 27! In fact, I have a real issue with all these characters that should be middle-aged but still look 30. Jumping decades is fine, but if they can make Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen younger for their 80s flashback in X3, then we can have some stray gray hairs or wrinkles or something. Same goes for William Stryker.
Hank is still a big nerd with a thing for Mystique and he isn’t Beast until he “forgets to take his meds”. He is not as active in this movie as the last two, for the sake of new characters. At first I hated that Mystique was in disguise as Katniss for most of the movie, but that was before I realized the reasoning. Because she is the face of mutants in the media (due to the Paris summit from DoFP), she avoids the spotlight by not always being that naked blue chick. Her role as leader seems way off the mark, since Hank is an active part of the school and also a former X-Man, but he’s not Jennifer Lawrence, so… that’s not happening. Another gripe is that Hank takes meds to suppress his mutation when he is literally an authority at a school for mutants. Talk about self-hatred… Whatever happened to Mutant and Proud?
Apocalypse is a very intimidating and influential presence in this movie, thanks to his stacked power set and crazy voice echo thing he does. He preys on the vulnerable to do his bidding and buffs them up for good measure. I think Oscar Isaac is a great actor, but I do agree his talents were somewhat masked by prosthetics and CGI. His powers are still not clear-cut, but by glossing over them the idea of “overpowered” is pretty obvious.
Quicksilver is exactly the same as in Days of Future Past, which is not a bad thing at all. His big scene is on a much grander scale than the last one, complete with bending physics and goofy gags, but I preferred the prison break scene solely based on the novelty of it. This film also addresses his relationship with his father, Magneto, who still has no clue about missing all those child support payments. His struggle is endearing and kinda heartbreaking.
Scott and Jean are just fantastic in this. We really get to see their struggle with uncontrollable powers despite being otherwise normal teenagers. Their connection is one borne out of exclusion and does not rush into romance, which I’m grateful for. That Cyclops vs Storm showdown is so freaking cool, but Jean letting loose is the real treat. Not only that, but she has so much heart that I think she’d make a much better leader at this point than Cyclops would. He does have that cocky air about him that comic Scott has. Sophie Turner really is a breakout actress in this film and I much prefer her to Famke Janssen.
Although he’s only an extended cameo, Wolverine really is worth a whole discussion. While it’s hard to do so without spoilers, I can say that fans of the comics will have a great time and I was extremely pleased with his usage. It ties together a few questionable ends. He and Jean share a great moment and Scott exhibits his classic displeasure with Logan. He taps into that berserker rage we all love and isn’t wasted.
Now, I saved the best for last. Because I am so biased, I feel like Nightcrawler could have been a major disappointment and although many aspects of his character from X2 carry over to this younger version, Kurt sees a major upgrade. I’m not touching physical continuity, other than the fact that his scarring is completely ignored, as is his parentage. He is more powerful than he is in the comics, able to teleport two people (Scott and Jean) multiple times without feeling fatigued and his fight scenes are incredibly fast. What I love about Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Nightcrawler is his awkward need for acceptance which is so cute and often funny. I am genuinely disappointed that the entire mall sequence was cut because it supposedly lets our young mutants be fun and lighthearted. Not a lot of humor in this movie, but Nightcrawler takes the majority of the laughs. He’s still religious and timid, but he has so much more vivacity. I’ll finish with this: while the White House scene in X2 is still the greatest action scene for Nightcrawler, this movie shows his character way better and lets him be heroic as a valued team member with great potential for future movies. And spoiler alert… he’s blue.
This jam-packed movie has great special effects on a much larger scale than anything we’ve witnessed in an X-Men film. Earthquakes, nuclear missiles, and the coolest modern pyramid ever, not to mention Psylocke’s psiblade and Archangel’s metallic wings. However, there is so much action in this movie that I feel as though we miss a lot of personal moments through the editing process, especially the mall sequence. Early reviews soft-spoiled the only piece of that scene that made the cut, so I am looking forward to the Blu Ray for that.
Verdict: X-Men Apocalypse is a must see, with non-stop action and a whole gallery of awesome characters. While some characters aren’t given the screen time they deserve, breakout characters like Nightcrawler, Jean Grey, and Magneto totally make up for that. Most of all, this movie is a gold mine for X-Men comic fans, using costumes and references only the truest of believers will appreciate. Go see this movie. It is full of destruction to epic proportions and has a villain worthy of the X-Men. I can’t recommend it enough.
Bamf-tastic! 4.5 out of 5 Stars