The latest installment in the ever changing X-men movie franchise is out now. This franchise has changed direction and seems to be constantly retconning itself, which ironically makes it just like the comics. The comics continuity is a nightmare of death, resurrection, time travel, and bizarre familial connections.
Considering this movie is coming out just a few weeks after Captain America: Civil War and that the X-men are also a Marvel comics entity, even though this is produced by Fox and not Marvel Studios, it’s inevitable to compare the two. Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a tightly wound continuity that is closely monitored and growing. The X-men franchise is a series of only loosely connected movies. Technically, Apocalypse is the 6th X-men movie, it’s the 3rd movie in this rebooted series, but it’s also the 9th movie in the X-men universe once you include the Wolverine movies and Deadpool. Again, if you’ve read X-men comics this is still easier to understand than the backstory of most characters.
This movie covers a lot of ground and moves quickly from one point to the next. We get the re-introduction of Xavier’s school and the ever growing list of mutants, we cover the fall out from the Days of Future Past finale and the world at large now being aware of mutants, Magneto’s life in hiding and new family, mutants being hunted and persecuted, Jean Grey dealing with her growing powers, the Weapon X program, there is also everything surrounding Apocalypse and his rise, fall, return to power. The movie is filled to the brim, and much like a movie like Age of Ultron, I think it would benefit from fewer storylines. We could easily lose the Weapon X scenes, even though it’s among the most entertaining scenes in the film, it really doesn’t add anything to the plot though.
The movie’s biggest flaw is just doing too much. Too many storylines, too many characters. The 4 Horseman are introduced but then simply stand around in the background looking like they are posing for album artwork. Olivia Munn’s Psylocke has possibly two lines in the whole movie. Angel/Archangel starts out promising as we see him fighting in a mutant fight ring, a nice throwback to Wolverine’s introduction in the first movie, is relegated to the background quickly. Storm suffers a similar fate as her fellow Horsemen. Most of the mutants at Xavier’s school stand around and are glorified extras. The highly anticipated Jubilee has 1 line and gets interrupted. I believe that there are more moments with some of these secondary characters in deleted scenes. We get the return of most surviving characters from First Class and Days of Future Past, and while it’s nice to see them again, it just adds more characters to an already packed movie.
One good thing the movie has going for it is a solid cast. Michael Fassbender continues to really shine as the tortured Magneto, and James McAvoy continues to do the best he can with his Xavier. I feel like Oscar Isaac is mostly wasted under a ton of makeup, and Jennifer Lawrence is good but her performance feels weakened once her blue face returns. The new cast members all seem to deliver, especially considering the awkward dialogue and effects work.
Aside from the Weapon X scenes, the real shining moment is Quicksilver and his speed work. Much like the sequence in Days of Future Past, they give us an extremely entertaining sequence mixing some great effects work and multi-speed camera work. The rest of the movie is pretty standard for what we are accustomed to in a modern blockbuster. Although Bryan Singer does rely on a lot of effects work and uses almost as much slow-motion work as Zack Snyder did in 300, but not nearly as effectively. There are also several “tunneling” scenes where we follow the virtual camera as it burrows into the earth itself.
This movie is a mixed bag of good and bad. It’s nowhere near the mess that was X-men 3, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to the fantastic X2 or First Class. I believe this movie has the best use of a Metallica song, it’s on the nose but I really enjoyed the scene. There are moments of brilliance, but most of the film is a variation of what we have seen before.