Fans of the Superhero movies owe a debt of gratitude to director Bryan Singer, along with the creators of 1998’s “Blade” it and Singer’s 2000 “X:Men” film ushered in the era of the modern age of Superhero Films. To me though Singer will forever be known as the director of one of the greatest films of all time, “The Usual Suspects”. After a misstep with his second big-budget feature, a poorly adapted Stephen King film, which let’s face it, most filmmakers fail when adapting that man’s work. His next film introduced cinematic Wolverine, Professor X, and Magneto, all brilliant casting that carried itself into 6 more X-themed films across a 14 year span. In that time the superhero film has grown exponentially, from the dark of “300”, “Sin City”, and “Watchmen” to the lightness, though sometimes dark Marvel Cinematic Universe.
We now expect more from our cinema heroes, we don’t just want spectacle and well-rendered CGI, we want great stories, characterization, fun, and those moments that just plain wow us. The first right step for the X-Films was 2011’s “First Class” which I felt really began to build a universe that could give the team at Marvel some competition, and with 2014’s “Days of Future Past” which was helmed by Singer after a 8 year hiatus from the series it was becoming clear that Fox had somewhere to go with the X-Men. Even a side-step like “Deadpool” helped the mighty mutants keep up with the kings at Marvel Studios. Enter “X-Men: Apocalypse”.
En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) aka: Apocalypse (neither name is made clear in the film) is a powerful ability sucking mutant who ruled the world thousands of years ago. When he is awaked in modern time, or the 1980’s, he sees what humanity has become and decides to wipe it out and start again. He assembles four powerful mutants Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to carry out his plan. The only ones able to stop him are the X-Men who along with their leader Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) have traded training young mutants to use their abilities to help mankind, to trying to focus on the controlling of their powers and their education. Apocalypse’s plan turns everything upside down and with the help of the reluctant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) the X-Men must learn to fight again for the world that fears them.
It’s hard to know where to begin with this film, as nothing really happens. I mean there is big character moments, new mutants, old familiar mutants, a clear idea of what’s happening, an evil plan, a fight against said evil, and facing one’s true nature. But, again, nothing really happens. It’s all things we’ve seen before, and also done much better elsewhere, here we get the A through X superhero playbook that is run step by step. Yeah there is an attempt to one-up the previous film especially with the Quicksilver character who had one to the best comic book movie moments ever in the last film. And while the new scene is enjoyable with the great song to go along with, it still feels like Singer and the rest of the filmmakers are trying too hard. The casting is hit or miss as well, and even when they get someone like Tye Sheridan who plays young Cyclops, they do very little with him. Same with Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler, they are present and speak, but it’s all forgettable.
The same can be said for most of “Apocalypse” like its basic tired storyline, it just moves along as most of the cast is posing and posturing, but not being developed in any way. There are moments that try to impact the audience on an emotional level like when Magneto is brought to Auschwitz to help boost his anger and his power. While Fassbender acts his heart out, you feel nothing. He does get a powerful moment earlier in the film, but not much after. The same with the rest of the film, they just could not find that ever-elusive balance that superhero movies strive for, where everyone gets their development time while action is going on and the villain’s plan is extra villainous. Even the 80’s references are lame, where “Days of Future Past” kept it’s 70’s setting in the background where it belonged, it didn’t beat us over the head with it like here. And while Jennifer Lawrence was the best thing in those Hunger Game movies, she can’t carry the weight of the X-verse all by herself. It seems now everyone is aspiring to the Marvel Method, and most are unable to achieve it, even a franchise that started it over a decade ago.
–Robert L. Castillo