I went into the midnight viewing of X-Men: Apocalypse with some trepidation. The last main X-Men offering, Days of Future Past, was sublime. No other word for it. It completely captured the tone of the Marvel comic and it manages to carry the story through three timelines whilst bridging the gap and resetting the entire franchise. I have nothing but applause for that movie.
Apocalypse doesn’t reach the same heights, unfortunately.
Mild spoilers to follow
I think a part of it goes down to the fact that it’s following Days of Future Past; anything will pale in comparison. I prefer the X-Men movies to the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, but recent offering Captain America: Civil War did something that Apocalypse didn’t manage – it introduced new characters successfully. BUT (and it’s a big but), Civil War probably only exceeded because it was only introducing two new main characters – Black Panther and Spider-Man. Here, in Apocalypse, we are introduced to a young Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, Jubilee and Angel; as well as Psylocke and Apocalypse himself; AND we were re-introduced to Moira McTaggart, who most probably forgot all about anyway. That’s nine characters. And that’s how the first two thirds of Apocalypse falter.
Some of the new characters are great – Sophie Turner as Jean Grey is the standout of Apocalypse. She’s tortured and somewhat naive, but by the close of the film she manages to come into her own while delivering a truly spine-tingling hint at her true power, and of her phoenix alter-ego. Likewise, Kodi Smit-McPhee as a younger Nightcrawler is just brilliant. He’s nowhere near as dark as Alan Cumming’s previous version, but Smit-McPhee is just as troubled – though he’s much funnier for it. And though he doesn’t really have that much to do, Ben Hardy as Angel looks stunning; his wings – first feathered, later metallic – are beautiful to behold. It’s a shame that he didn’t have much more to do because I love the character of Angel, but unfortunately it’s a fate that befalls many other new characters.
Alexandra Shipp’s Storm is essentially an extended cameo. Though she looks brilliant, she gets about five lines of dialogue and fails to match the heights of Halle Berry’s previous portrayal (though that wasn’t hard to achieve, because Berry is terrible). Likewise, Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops is basically just there for the sake of it. They’ll likely get larger roles in future films, but for now it’s a huge disappointment.
As is Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto. The former is clearly tired of donning blue makeup, because Mystique appears as J-Law for the majority of the film. The latter once more does something bad and has to redeem himself, which is growing tiresome. We all know Magneto won’t die (he has to turn into Ian McKellen, after all), so it’s rather pointless to see him on the brink of death.
And the main villain? The less said the about Apocalypse the better, really. Oscar Isaac’s villain is meant to be big – the whole movie is named after him! – but he doesn’t do much for most of the movie after he recruits his four followers. He’s intent on purging the world and starting anew, and yet for the most part he simply teleports in his orb of purple energy. He looks great, but fails to deliver. Apocalypse is meant to be one of Marvel’s greatest villains, but he isn’t served well at all here, unfortunately.
It’s not all bad though. Promise.
While J-Law is sans blue suit, she is still undeniably great. Mystique has become a sort of god for mutants everywhere following her very public unmasking in Days of Future Past, and here she’s leading the team of X-Men. I sincerely hope she returns for the next movie to show how she is tempted by Magneto again, because we all know she ends up on his side. Even Fassbender has some decent material earlier on in the movie, but the latter part is a letdown. We finally learn that Quicksilver is his son in this movie (not a spoiler – it’s in the trailer!), and I get the feeling this is being set up for future movies.
Speaking of Quicksilver, you’ll all be wondering whether there’s a scene that can rival THAT SCENE from Days of Future Past (you all know the one!). And yes – yes, there is. I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say that it completely blows the previous scene out of the water. Quicksilver is a highlight of Apocalypse. As is the reasoning behind James McCoy’s Professor X losing his hair, and the final climactic battle. It excels on every level, blowing Civil War’s fight out of the water.
I think on future re-watches Apocalypse will grow on me a lot, but I think on first viewing I had high hopes and it failed to deliver. In the grand scheme of things the introduction of a new crop of characters is needed, but their introduction is a disappointment. Apocalypse will still rake in millions at the box-office, though. It’s not a bad movie; it’s just not great either.