Only The Strong Will Survive
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Lana Condor, Olivia Munn, Ally Sheedy
Director: Bryan Singer
2016 | 144 Minutes | PG-13
“Everything they’ve built will fall… and from the ashes of their world, we’ll build a better one.” – Apocalypse
The world’s first mutant, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), is awakened, seeking to destroy the world. Only the young team of X-Men can hope to stop him.
I put off writing this review for one reason or another but with Logan coming out this weekend, I thought I should probably get this thing finished and posted. Maybe I’ll post a review for Logan once Deadpool 2 comes out… I think I’ve been pretty clear about my overall dislike for this franchise. I REALLY hope to one day see X-Men movies that are much closer to the source material… preferably as a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Until then, I just have to hope that Fox can start creating movies that don’t completely stomp all over what I loved about the X-Men comic books as a kid.
I’ve talked about the major issues the previous X-Men movie timeline had HERE. With Apocalypse we are introduced to a whole new set of timeline problems. It’s mostly because we have characters that were introduced in First Class at a certain age, shown again in Days of Future Past looking not much older and now shown again in Apocalypse, nearly 20 years after the events of First Class, still looking practically the same age. With Mystique, there is an obvious way to explain this away. Charles Xavier, Magneto, Beast, Havoc and Quicksilver don’t have the luxury of being able to shape shift their wrinkles away and yet, here they are, looking pretty darn good for guys who should be 40-50 year olds.
One of the many problems with this franchise is that they have actors signed to multi-movie contracts so they keep using those characters whether they make sense for the story or not. Case in point, Mystique… She certainly made a lot of sense to use in Days of Future Past but now she just seems like she’s here because she’s Jennifer Lawrence. The writers have even concocted a lousy excuse to keep her in Jennifer Lawrence makeup as long as possible rather than her natural naked blue form, which she had previously expressed a desire to stay true to.
The disrespect for what has happened in the comics is my biggest gripe with any of these X-Men movies though. Apocalypse’s Horsemen seem to be chosen at random by the writers, with no other reason for them being there than it seems like they might look cool on screen or “How do we keep Magneto as the focus of yet another movie while having Apocalypse showcased as the big bad of this movie?” It was likely also a lazy way to introduce viewers to characters that Fox might want to use in future films. I wish that they had gone with a more traditional group of Horsemen.
Angel is a great choice since he’s probably Apocalypse’s most well known follower in the comics but his presence would have been WAY more impactful had he first been a member of the X-Men. As it stands in this movie, he’s just another mutant joining the cause. His background is also drastically changed from being rich kid, Warren Worthington III, to now being a mutant cage fighter.
Psylocke has also been a follower of Apocalypse in the comics but, again, her presence on the team would have been a stronger emotional pull had she first been a member of the X-Men.
Storm and Magneto have never been one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen in the comics from what I can tell. I can’t claim to have read every single comic book ever made but I don’t know where the idea came from to put each of them on the team other than the fact that obviously the studio and/or director wanted them there.
Caliban is introduced to the movie viewing audience. It would have been pretty awesome to see him transformed from this skinny little dude into the physically imposing hulk he becomes in the comics. The size/strength and Caliban’s mutant tracking ability would have made him a perfect fit for Apocalypse’s team… But no…
Apocalypse proves himself a force to be reckoned with but the manifestation of his powers leaves a bit to be desired. Apocalypse’s powers have always been pretty ambiguous but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comic book where he beheaded dudes with sand, fused dudes to walls or learned via digital osmosis. They’re not only really weird, hard to grasp powers but they’re also not explained at all. Just that he has a lot of powers and a little glimpse of how he gets to have so many powers.
In the comics Apocalypse typically transforms his horsemen… enhances them. They are genetically enhanced and mentally conditioned to serve him. In X-Men: Apocalypse he gives Angel metal wings, drastically increases Magneto’s power and changes Storm’s hair color. Maybe Psylocke’s hair color is changed too but it isn’t made clear. Plus each character gets some chunky looking plastic armor. I’d have preferred to see MUCH more drastic changes to their looks.
Because of the chunky plastic costumes the characters can’t move naturally. It’s especially evident when we see Olivia Munn’s Psylocke stiffly flipping through the air. This is a character that is supposed to be ninja level in her martial arts abilities.
Stepping back to the cage fighting opener… There’s a fun nod at The Blob, who we had previously seen in the much maligned X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He’s only briefly seen in Apocalypse in the closing moments of a cage fight with Angel but he’s wearing something close to his classic ugly black singlet with big yellow belt, which is fun. After that Nightcrawler is brought in to fight Angel. Apparently Nightcrawler can’t teleport through this magic electric box that he is kept in. And apparently Singer & Co. thought it would be fun to add goofy looking feathered hooks onto Angel’s wings. Worst of all, the cage fight showcases Bryan Singer’s inability to choreograph a fight scene for the modern day. The wirework is of the same quality as his first X-Men movie from 16 years prior. It just looks so unnatural for people, even super powered people, to move in this way. This super dated style of action choreography persists throughout all of X-Men: Apocalypse’s action.
The scene that most people were talking about had Quicksilver supposedly stealing the show again. Those people need to get their eyes checked. He does get a big signature scene again but it isn’t anywhere near as cool as his scene in Days of Future Past and it has some really awful green screen use that really ruined the whole thing.
There’s also a big dose of suspended logic required as Quicksilver goes to great pains to support the neck of people he is running around in one later scene but if someone remembers back to his big “show stealing” scene, he literally throws people around and never once supports their necks. If his speed is truly “break-neck” fast, then his early scene would have ended with a pile of dead bodies.
The other most talked about scene revolves around Wolverine escaping the Weapon X program. It’s a fun scene and gives a brief glimpse of the kind of brutality Wolverine is capable of but the entire thing is REALLY shoe-horned in. It was completely unnecessary to the plot.
I have oodles of complaints about the super hero movie logic going on and oodles more about how much better it could have been had they followed the comics just a little bit closer but I’ll close out my rant with the ever present X-Men movie complaint… The black costumes. They’re back. They’re slightly different than we’ve seen before but they’re still black. They are introduced in a way that very easily could have introduced some cool looking super hero suits but instead the X-Men are wearing black paint ball gear for the big finale. They explain away the black paint ball suits by calling them flight suits. Those aren’t flight suits. Military people don’t wear things like that. Look it up, Singer & Kinberg. These suits don’t look like the comics and they don’t look tactical. They look like a cheap cop out.
I will say that many of the actors perform as if this isn’t the dredges of super hero moviedom. James McAvoy and many of the new younger cast members are great but Michael Fassbender’s Magneto steals the show again.
I want so desperately to enjoy the X-Men movie franchise. I LOVED the comic books and animated series as a kid and teen. Their stories grabbed me in a way that no other super hero could but the movies just don’t resemble those same heroes or their stories. These are X-Men in name only and I just don’t see my enjoyment level with these movies improving unless something major changes.