The X-Men movies are an interesting phenomenon, when it comes to comic-book movies. While most movies in the series are good enough, some of them are outright bad (X-Men: The Last Stand and Origins come to mind). Yet in recent years, the movies have become better in my opinions. X-Men: First Class and Days of Future Past are both movies that show that there’s still a lot of fun to be had with them. So, where does Apocalypse end up in this? I’ll tell you what I think, but I have to warn you: Minor spoilers ahead!
X-Men: Apocalypse is a fine movie. It’s not great, not bad, just good. Good enough, which is how I’d describe the franchise as a whole. But let’s start with the story: Right at the beginning we see a ritual where a powerful mutant in ancient Egypt tries to transfer his mind and his powers into the a new body in order to live longer. Of course everything goes wrong and the super-powerful mutant gets trapped, only to be awakened thousands of year later in the 1980’s where he tries to blow up the world. He’s helped by Storm, Psylocke, Angel and Magneto, who turns evil again because of a tragedy. The X-Men, which aren’t called X-Men at that moment, try to stop him of course. The biggest emphasis is put on Professor X, Jean and Cyclops, who are still young and developing their powers. This means that their powers are still unstable, but they can still hold their own in battle. Raven is back too, driving the plot and Quicksilver has a bit more scenes than before, which is a great addition.
Overall, the plot is very by the numbers and easily the weakest part of the movie. That’s mostly due to the fact that the movie tries to do too many things at the same time. It tries to re-establish a lot of characters at the same time, which lead to most of them not getting enough screen time to be really fleshed out. We know practically nothing about Psylocke, Angel or the main villain by the end. The movie relies on the knowledge of its audience for all the other characters. This means that they all seem exceptionally flat and boring, which really saps the energy out of the movie. And by the end of the movie, not a lot of has been achieved: Professor X turns bold, gets his girlfriend back and we know that Jean is really powerful – which technically isn’t something new, but they hint at the Dark phoenix saga, so there’s at least some development. A general problem is that very few characters have proper development arcs.
The villain is the biggest disappointment, especially since Oscar Isaac plays him and gets nothing interesting to do. He has no personality and no charisma. His motivations are never really explored (there’s no reasoning behind his hunger for power) and you really have to ask yourself why the other four mutants follow him by the end. Magneto does the same character-arc he did in the past few movies, which means he turns evil and then turns good again. There’s this entire set-up for a big reveal with Quicksilver that goes absolutely nowhere – which is too bad since the character is one of the highlights of the movie. His action sequence, while being similar to the one we saw in Days of Future Past, is a lot of fun and easily the most entertaining bit this time around. Other action sequences are fine, but lack real impact and drama.
Still, overall the movie is enjoyable. It has enough speed and action to make you look past many of its flaws. And yet, I feel like the movie is overburdened, something I already notices with Civil War and Batman vs Superman. I can only imagine how confused someone, who has never seen an X-Men movie, must be going into this. There are so many pre-established characters that are not properly explained and so many references made, that it becomes harder and harder to follow these movies. Sure, if you’re there for the action, it’s completely serviceable. But a lot of charm and many in-depth characters are lost in the process.
Overall, I’d give the movie 6 points out of 10. It’s entertaining, but compared to other films of the genre, it doesn’t manage to pull of anything interesting. However, compared to this year’s comic book movies, it certainly beats Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice on nearly every level.