Well… The critics have REALLY been up and down on comic book movies this year, haven’t they?
Being next out of the gate after the frankly fantastic Civil War does the X-Men’s 8th outing (or is it technically 6th? 9th? 3rd? Who fucking knows at this point? Dammit X-Men!) not many favours at all as it proves to be not as delicately balanced as Steve Rogers’ third adventure. And yet I found X-Men: Apocalypse, despite it’s doomy title to be a rather fun, if slight affair.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first.
Yes, this the least of the “new” trilogy (preceded by First Class and Days Of Future Past) and yes, it’s by far be the weakest of Bryan Singer’s X-entries. It simply isn’t as tidy as 1 or assured as 2 and certainly isn’t as intelligent as DOFP and the film has SUCH a bulk of characters that time between them is stretched way too thin. So much so that it honestly feels that there is no lead character. The old characters have to make room for the new recruits (or is that old/new recruits? Dammit X-Men!) and yet still have to be established due to the ten year gap between stories. Without a clear focal point (like Cap America or Batman) to anchor the movie you just flit from scene to scene like Nightcrawler ‘porting through an action set piece. Marginalising McAvoy, Fassbender OR Lawrence is baffling enough but underserving ALL THREE is a shocking mistake I didn’t think a director of Singer’s caliber could make.
Also some of the newbies fail to register at all (this is the second strike out for Angel who, despite looking awesome, has nothing to do but flex his wings).
And while it’s a relief to finally get a new active mutant big bad who isn’t Magneto (or Sebastian Shaw), Oscar Issac’s monologuing, titular Apocalypse, while a tangible threat, isn’t that memorable. Also, despite a nod to Return Of The Jedi, the time period isn’t used particularly well. In First Class we had the Cuban Missile Crisis, in DOFP we had Vietnam and a supporting role for Richard Nixon, here we get shoulder pads and big hair. Missed opportunity.
But all these problems, while admittedly irritating, are not completely damning, simply because every decision made seems to be steering the franchise into being more in line the comics. The sheer amount of fan service paid here is staggering including everything from actual comic accurate costumes (finally!), cameos of other mutants (Caliban! The Blob appearing for the first, or is it second time? Dammit X-Men!) and the predictable guest appearance of a reoccurring character spoiled in the trailers turns out to be maybe the greatest scene this character has ever been in.
Also the film repeatedly looks to the future, rumors of the next film doing the Dark Phoenix storyline right and taking the franchise to space are not only mouth watering, but shows still how much material the long running film series (16 years!) has yet to mine.
The film has an energy too it too, as if drunk on it’s own future, throwing bright primary colours everywhere, making this look quite possibly the best looking X-Men movie yet. It’s gleefully nasty too with loads of creepy powers related casualties (drowning in solid concrete? *shudder*) to freak out the young-uns.
In closing, the whole film seems to be somewhat of a trade off. To make things more like the comic and therefore expanding where future movies can go it seems to have sacrificed a fair amount of intelligence, which while certainly frustrating, also results in a healthy amount of fun. Very flawed, yet not a total write off.
This franchise ain’t X-tinct yet… but that’s more likely because of Deadpool. Dammit X-Men!