I have to say… in some ways, it was as bad as expected, and in others, I was duly impressed.
A lot of the more recent X-Men movies – Last Stand, Wolverine, First Class – have been gigantic letdowns. They’ve had plenty of fireworks, plenty of conflict, but not really that much story. They’ve also had some colorful characters, but “colorful” is all they’ve been. They haven’t really given any of them their proper due. That’s where Days of Future Past surged forward so well, with an intricate plot that brought things back around to being about the characters, and it happened to have some exciting fireworks as well. 🙂 But one success doth not a proper franchise revamping make.
Based on the trailers, I didn’t really have that much hope for Apocalypse. It certainly had the fireworks, but I didn’t see promise of much else, particularly when it came to the villains.
I am so glad to be wrong! 🙂
The story, when you get down to it, is fairly simple: ancient evil mutant returns and tries to conquer the entire world all at once. But for such simplicity, the movie gets both complex and intricate, because instead of focusing on the conflict and the battles and the superpowers, it focuses on the characters. Apocalypse takes the time to do justice to fairly impressive roster, to build and develop each of them, and give each of them something significant that brings them into the conflict for some actual reasons instead of “just because.” When we got to the end, I wanted the good guys to win not just because they were on the right side, but because I cared about them. And, really, when you have a cast of roughly a dozen people to care about all at once, that is no small feat. Major props to the writers and the actors for that!
Seriously, they had so many threads, and such tragedy, and everyone was kept busy with something, and the movie actually felt like it belongs to a longer franchise while also being able to stand on its own, and it was fantastic!
That said, I haveto say, this is not a “great” movie. A “pretty good” movie, yes, but not “great.”
I think my single biggest complaint would have to be about the titular character, the villain, Apocalypse. As much as he talked about tearing down the modern world and building a better one in its stead, he never got into specifics. Instead, they showed us what world he would prefer at the beginning of the movie, one where he is worshipped as a god. As long as he has that, I doubt he much cares about anything else. On which note, they also showed us how little he cares for others, including his own followers. So, while I might complain about his lack of development, or at least his lack of a concrete plan, they still made him nasty and powerful and sort of easy to comprehend: he’s offended that the physically strong do not rule the world, so he intends to make it so. So he felt kind of flat… but also not, if that makes any sense.
Then there’s the matter of his demise. For being so powerful, as the single strongest of the X-Men’s classic enemies, they made his end seem a bit too easy. Sure, they had several iconic and powerful mutants ganging up on him, letting loose with all they had, but they didn’t really do anything clever, just hit him with all their biggest guns. Also, these were their younger selves, the junior versions of most of them, and already they bag the biggest bad in the world? It was a bit like seeing a giant done in by a few rats, ya know?
And then there’s Jean Grey. Out of all the X-Men, she is easily one of the most powerful, but I felt they didn’t really do her proper justice either. She was there, and she played a part, especially at the very end. But for a movie that built up most of the X-Men as people, and did a good job of that, it felt like they were mostly just building up Jean’s raw power, her curse as the Phoenix, instead of Jean Grey the person.
Also, they went to the trouble of bringing in Jubilee right there alongside Jean, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler, and then they didn’t bring her into the fight or even show us what she can do? Sheesh! Is she ever going to get her day in the big-screen sun?
And don’t get me started on the continuity errors. Seriously, there is no way all of these movies can actually take place on one or even two coherent timelines.
Finally… well, they had several world-shaking events in this movie, but didn’t really show the extremely-serious repercussions of any of them. Worldwide earthquake? Meh. All the nukes sent into space right at the height of the Cold War? Eh, that’s nothing, right? A declaration broadcast telepathically to the entire world, followed by global devastation? Just a bump in the road, that. Good grief!
So, not “great.” But still “very good.”
Magneto, especially, had a compelling and heart-breaking arc. He’s often been the villain because of his beliefs and his childhood trauma as a Jew at Auschwitz. Now, however, he’s a villain because, when he tried doing things the right way, he was hurt again, in the worst way I can imagine. And then to see him come back from the very brink? I actually liked that, quite a bit.
Mystique was surprisingly great too. She didn’t mean to, but she became a symbol in Days of Future Past, representing courage and hope. She’s had some trouble with that accidental burden, especially in the wake of everything she’s lost. But as she fights for what she has left, namely Xavier and Magneto, she eventually finds a way to rise to the challenge. She’s the hero who doesn’t mean to be a hero at first, but learns to accept it.
And so it goes for most of the characters. Professor X, Cyclops, Havoc, Beast, Nightcrawler, Storm, Quiksilver, even Angel and Psylocke, I could believe and be interested in each of them. I say again: no small feat.
So, there were flaws, but I didn’t really care about them while I was actually watching the movie. I was too busy enjoying what they did right.
All told, I’m giving X-Men: Apocalypse…
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.
Grade: Solid B-Plus.