By: Muneeb Arshid
You can call it a pre-sequel, an origin of an origin, or any other cliche comic book trope, but at the end of the day, the only thing that will be remembered of X-Men: Apocalypse is the intense lack of nothingness happening in the film. When a comic book series, or any long-running series of movies hit oh I don’t know, like their sixth or eighth (depends on whether you count the stand-alone Wolverine flicks as canon) foray into the story, you, as the audience are looking for a little something more, not just from the story but from an overall picture. The audience needs to know that these stories are going somewhere and that they mean something (as much as they can for a comic book rendition). Well, X-Men: Apocalypse has seemingly done the opposite.
The joint 20th century Fox/Marvel adaptation of the beloved comic books and their characters have a history dating back to the animated series of the 90s, but more recently the live-action films that begin with the original X-Men in 2000. The original was a great origin story with all facts considered that anything prior that was comic book related was utter hogwash. They followed up with X-Men 2 which some regard as the best X-Men film to date. That was then followed by the recently retconned X-Men: The Last Stand, a movie that even Apocalypse could not stop itself from referencing it as being a “weak third film in a series”. That quote as in regards to another big franchise of the 80s which lost its way in the third film. Five years and a Wolverine Origin film later, Fox decided to go another route choosing to instead take the prequel route with X-Men: First Class which was an origin story of sorts for two of the more recognizable characters from the earlier films: Erik Lensherr/Magneto and Charles Xavier while moving the timeline back into the 70s. First Class was a hit not only at the box office but also with critics as they were able to focus more on the early “X-Men” while being able to solely do a character study on two characters who have differing views of the world partly due to their differences in their upbringing. First Class was followed by X-Men: Days of Future Past (DOFP) which melded together the current timeline with the past and once again focused on themes left behind from First Class. The concept of the film may have been goofy but ultimately worked in a way that showed audiences the consequences of the past and how they have affected mutant-kind in the future.
Which finally brings me to X-Men: Apocalypse which was teased in the post-credit scene of DOFP and I’ll be honest had me intrigued to see what Bryan Singer and co. would be able to do. What they did ended up bringing to the big screen is a bore-fest of 2 and a half hours of constant exposition and introductions of new characters. The story is set in the 1980s where after the events of DOFP, Jennifer Lawrence‘s Mystique is now seen by the rest of the mutants around the world as a hero for her actions in 1973. We also have Erik Lensherr (once again wonderfully portrayed by Michael Fassbender) who has heeded Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) advice and has gone into “hiding” and joined the working class. Xavier on the other hand, is now running his very successful school for the gifted with many of the characters that we saw in First Class and DOFP who are teaching the next generation of mutants. Certain plot elements occur, one of which being the recent “revival” of the self-proclaimed first ever mutant En Sabah Nur/Apocalypse (Oscar Issac). This revival ends up being the catalyst for the remainder of the movie ultimately culminating with the final destructive battle against Apocalypse. While all this is occurring we are also introduced to the younger versions of the original X-Men from the first film. Sophie Turner plays the young Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as young Scott Summers/Cyclops, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler and is the only new addition that gives a convincing performance. Ben Hardy plays Angel, Alexandra Shipp as Ororo Munroe/Storm and Olivia Munn as Psylocke. A common problem with this film is with the new additions to the cast. There were countless times during the film where I actually longed for the older versions of each of these classic characters to come back. Problems ranged from either the actors not being convincing enough for you to believe that “yes she is definitely Jean Grey or he is definitely Cyclops”, or that the characters were either misjudged or miscast completely as in the case for Psylocke and Jean Grey respectively.
It’s always very tricky for an established franchise to take the prequel route and continue with it. X-Men did a fine job with both First Class and DOFP without falling into too many of the cliche prequel tropes. That comes to a screeching halt here with Apocalypse with the re-introduction of these characters and with a storyline (and villain) that did not convince one bit. The previous two films worked because they were a character study in the case of First Class and an unusual, but very well done political thriller in DOFP. However, none of that exists here in Apocalypse, whereby the viewer is able to be engaged with some aspect of the film. It is simply a nuts and bolts, to the formula, superhero flick lacking the quality of the better X-Men films of the past, but also many other comic book films from other Universes. The plot is centred around Apocalypse’s revenge against the world for essentially not taking him to be GOD. And as a true to form revenge flick, the film moves from action set piece to action set piece while lacking the grace of some others. Now, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing where the film is constructed with mind-numbing action sequences if the villain themselves is convincing the audience with both their motivation behind the destruction but also possibly winning over the audience as well. Apocalypse does none of that and poor Oscar Issac is stuck dealing with his terribly dialogued character. If Apocalypse isn’t causing the destruction of the world or gathering cronies to do it for him, he’s stuck destroying the eardrums of audiences worldwide with his terribly boring monologues that are meant to be motivational to the rest of the world but comes off as the preachy old man that everyone is disinterested in listening to. And if listening to those speeches was hard enough, just imagine how ridiculous Oscar Issac would’ve thought he sounded while delivering them.
Oh and let’s just talk about those action set pieces for a second. Man of Steel gets a lot of flack for all the destruction that occurs in the final battle sequence, something that even became a plot point in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice as well. The Marvel movies, for the most part, have made sure that the action and destruction do not become overbearing or too noticeable in terms of their damage, in an attempt to somewhat ground the films for the audience. X-Men has done a pretty good job at that as well assuring that the battles are occurring at secluded areas and seldom involving major metropolitans, the last two movies aside, though. Apocalypse really hammers the Man of Steel comparison home with the final battle essentially destroying an entire city while also causing copious amounts of damage to other major cities around the world and consequently many innocent lives being lost. A movie like the X-Men where the main superheroes are vilified and many people hold anti-mutant beliefs, this is the perfect type of film that would be able to tell a story that can have permeations in the real-life world. However, that sort of message ultimately loses its credibility when the amount of destruction caused by the mutants (good or bad) ends up fuelling the fire of those who are against all mutant-type.
For all the hype surrounding this film after DOFP, it can very easily be said that X-Men: Apocalypse is a resounding disappointment. In my eyes, a very boring, resounding disappointment. In a year where we are going to see at least 6 comic book movies from across the Universes, there is definitely a lot of work required for each of these movies to one-up each other. X-Men: Apocalypse has not done that. With many people branding this movie close to or worse than X-Men: The Last Stand, it is no surprise to see that out of the four movies so far this year, many people have this one even below Batman V Superman. And on the whole, for Fox as a comic book film entity, they seem to be having a lot of trouble in the past year, save for Deadpool of course, first with the disaster that was Fantastic Four and now Apocalypse, they really need to ensure that they can win back the audience with their next venture.
We, the crew of TFL give X-Men: Apocalypse a very shouty, but boring D grade (4.8/10).