I’m willing to admit that going in to X-Men: Apocalypse I was pretty skeptical as to how much I would enjoy the movie. Having an uneven history of quality in the franchise has made me a bit cautious as to my optimism in the series and while there have been some great entries into the series, like X-2, there have been some pretty egregious misfires, namely X-Men 3 and Origins: Wolverine. Given the early press buzz surrounding this flick, I was braced to not enjoy it and was pretty sure that it would be another problem filled superhero movie that I would in turn have to rant about on the podcast. Imagine my surprise when Bobshway turned to me after the credits and asked how I enjoyed it, and I was able to emphatically reply, “I really dug it.” Trust me, it even caught me off guard. I actually liked something. It might be something that everyone else, outside of the Nerd Funnel crew, dislikes but I really did enjoy the movie in a way that made me hopeful for the next titles upcoming in the series.
X-Men: Apocalypse is much less dense than many of the super hero movies that have been released this year and it totally works in its favor. Where I felt that both Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Captain America: Civil War got lost under their own needlessly complex villain plots and pseudo-high minded ideals, Apocalypse was much more straight forward and felt like a much more streamlined movie. Essentially, the ancient evil mutant Apocalypse fancies himself a god and after being reawakened in the early 80’s after thousands of years of being buried under rocks, is ready to force the world to bend to his will. He starts by recruiting a group of four mutants as his personal bodyguards, including a mohawked Storm, the assassin Psylocke, metal winged Angel, and the perennial X-Men villain, Magneto. From here, Apocalypse enacts a plan that is pretty simple, re-shape the world using his powers in conjunction with his followers, capture Xavier to utilize his psychic abilities, and then wreck shop on the people of the world. Very simple, very straight forward, and most importantly, not needlessly confusing for the sake of being confusing.
I really enjoyed the way that the plot played out and it reminded me more of the best movies in the super hero genre. It delivered a story that was complete, self-contained and while setting the table for the next movie in the franchise, it is not obsessed with seeding ideas to the detriment of the current film. And while there were many characters and moving parts in the story, it felt like all the heroes were necessary to the story, and not add-ons for the sake of selling action figures.
We travel between a few different groups of characters throughout the movie. Simultaneously we follow the stories of Jean Grey and Scott Sumnmers, Charles Xavier and Moira McTaggert, Apocalypse and his horsemen, and Mystique. Jean Grey, deftly played by Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner, is coming to terms with the awesome powers she posesses and finds companionship in new to the Xavier School, Scott Summers, played by Tye Sheridan. While most of the movie going audience will know that these two will eventually get together, it was interesting to see the beginnings of their relationship and the idea that they connected by both being outsiders despite growing up to be the most model of X=Men. The Xavier/McTaggert storyline has James McAvoy’s Xavier stammering and nervous when he re-encounters Moira McTaggert after having erased her memories. We get to see a different side of Xavier than we are used to in the movies and McAvoy really has fun playing up the nerves that one has when approaching a person you really like. It is charming to see a character who we typically think of as quite stoic and rational be a bit off his game when confronted by a lost love. Mystique’s story is most about her dealing with being the poster child for mutant freedoms after the events of Days of Future Past. Jennifer Lawrence plays the reluctant hero well, and is charming in the role despite the somewhat predictable character arc. Apocalypse himself, masterfully played by Oscar Isaac, is scary in his blind determination to become a god, and his powers are made terrifying by their seemingly limitless potential. He is given a simple plot and Isaac sells it well, elevating what could have been a simple villain into a more interesting performance than it probably should have been. The mutants working under Apocalypse tend to fair the worst, not because of bad performances but simply because they don’t have much material to work with. They could have been built with deeper stories or more interesting things to do, but in its current form, not without bloating the movie. Other than Magneto who is dealing with another familial tragedy, none of the other Horsemen really have much of an arc.
All the X-Men play a role in the final battle, much like the final battle in the Avengers, and they all get to participate in a meaningful way. And while it dragged a bit long in certain sections, it was overall very entertaining to watch the spectacle of the X-Men ganging up on the nearly god-like Apocalypse.
Despite the overall like I had for the movie, there are a few issues that stood out to me. The CGI throughout was good especially in the Quicksilver sequence, which was one of the highlights of the movie. However there are moments that were very noticeable and felt somewhat unpolished or just unfinished. Also, not all the acting in the movie was completely even throughout, with a few actors really standing out and showing experience over some of the new comers.
But overall I really enjoyed this movie. It possessed the simplicity I look for in super hero movies lately and I was happy that it was delivered clearly and concisely without being reductive or feeling the need to pad out what was a competently delivered story.