Review: 'X-Men: Apocalypse' is a Muddled, But Fun Superhero Adventure

John Allegretti ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, James McAvoy, Lucas Till and Nicholas Hoult in X-Men: Apocalypse. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
X-Men: Days of Future Past introduced the time travel reboot, where the setting and characters of a franchise were reset while still keeping in the same continuity as previous films. While Days of Future Past was a cool film, it spent most of its time steering the franchise back to its roots instead of concentrating on the story. For better or for worse, X-Men: Apocalypse does the same thing. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his mutant friends are once again threatened by Magneto (Michael Fassbender), the United States government, and a mysterious blue-skinned being who calls himself Apocalypse.
The newest X-Men installment is set in 1983. We know this because in one scene the mutants argue about the best Star Wars film after walking out of Return of the Jedi. A chuckle ran through the audience when Jean Grey said “Everyone knows the third one is always the worst.” While that doesn’t exactly hold true for Star Wars, it’s a pretty accurate description of the X-Men franchise. The Last Stand was the worst out of the original three films, and in this new X-Men-time-travel-reboot-trilogy Apocalypse sticks out as the weakest. It’s basically the Return of the Jedi of the X-Men franchise, and that isn’t to say it’s bad (although Jean Grey might disagree), it’s just the weakest out of the three.
Jennifer Lawrence and Oscar Isaac in X-Men: Apocalypse. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
X-Men: Apocalypse contains tons of characters and spends its first 30 minutes establishing what they’ve been up to since the last film. Chief among them is Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, who has gone into hiding after his failed assassination attempt on Richard Nixon. Erik lives a quiet life in the German countryside with his wife (who he presumably met since the last film) and daughter, who seems to exhibit mutant powers of her own. But when Erik uses his abilities to prevent an accident he is brought to the attention of En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), a powerful mutant also known as Apocalypse. It’s clear that Isaac had a total blast hamming it up when onscreen. His performance is a cross between Eddie Redmayne from Jupiter Ascending and the Emperor from Star Wars. But if there’s one big problem with Apocalypse, it’s that the main villain isn’t as threatening as he should be. The X-Men movies have always been a bit campier than the other Marvel films, but Isaac ranks low when compared to the franchise’s previous villains. The other villains of Apocalypse, however, are a different story. After being awakened from a two millennia-long sleep, En Sabah Nur recruits four deadly mutants as his aids in bringing about the destruction of the world. Among them are a rebooted Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto himself.
The smaller characters from the franchise are also back. Evan Peters returns as Quicksilver, a character who was one of the most delightful part of Future Past, but was left behind by the film after his scene was over. What’s great about Apocalypse is that it reintroduces Peters in a sequence that rivals the one in Future Past, then keeps him on board for the rest of the movie. Mystique plays Jennifer Lawrence, someone who started out in the franchise as a side character femme fatale but has gone on to become the hero of all mutants after the events of Future Past.
Sophie Turner, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Tye Sheridan in X-Men: Apocalypse. Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
One of the best parts of Apocalypse is its pacing. The film never drags during its 144 minute runtime, a miracle in an age of bloated blockbusters. The climactic battle is a little contrived, and misses out on a huge emotional opportunities though. There’s also a few elements that might confuse people who haven’t seen the previous X-Men films. The movie was natively shot in 3D, which puts it a step above Marvel Studio’s post-converted productions. Apocalypse’s lack of a post-credits scene will no doubt annoy people who want a peek at the next X-Men film, but producers have already confirmed the fourth installment will take place in the 90’s. Given Jean Grey’s Return of the Jedi joke, the next movie will probably be Xavier and Magneto fighting over what they thought about the Star Wars prequels. Lord knows those guys will go to war over anything.
Overall Grade: C
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