It’s X-Men week here at BagoGames in honor of the newly released film X-Men: Apocalypse, which clinched the #1 spot when it opened last weekend to $80M. Yesterday, Chris and Dylan discussed the new film on the Film Fallout Podcast, which you can listen to HERE. And be sure to stop by BagoGames tomorrow for a unique X-Men Retro Review!
En Sabah Nur is the most powerful mutant of them all. In 3600 BC, an elaborate ceremony is held for the self-proclaimed god to transfer over to another body. By doing so, he takes over that person’s powers and accumulates it into what he already has. As the ceremony is held, his worshippers betray him for whatever reason and his disciples fight to protect him. After a few gruesome moments of body-horror that is used on the people attempting to kill the mutant, the disciples are murdered and plummet down to the depths of an Egyptian pyramid. En Sabah Nur manages to be protected by one of their superpowers before rocks crush him. This sets the tone for what you’re about to see: sometimes gruesome, silly, and absolutely ridiculous, X-Men: Apocalypse is a sprawling film that truly goes all over the place.
The original X-Men was the start of it all. Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, before the Dark Knight trilogy, and before all the garbage in between, Bryan Singer directed an adaptation of the origins of the beloved superheroes. Grounded yet magical, X-Men was what everyone didn’t know they were looking for. Singer came back with the superior X2: X-Men United, a film that is both vicious and loving, both in tone and characterization. We had a bit of a rough patch (X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) until Matthew Vaughn came in to revitalize the franchise with X-Men: First Class. After the magnificent stand-alone film, The Wolverine, the franchise showed that it had legs with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Bryan Singer came back after over a decade to direct that spectacular entry. He decided to stick around for X-Men Apocalypse, the final entry in this prequel trilogy. Does Singer pull off another Days of Future Past or does he fall into Jack the Giant Slayer territory? The answer lies somewhere in the middle…
The main core characters are back from First Class and Days of Future Past. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is teaching kids how to control their abilities after his drug problem in the last film. Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (the still excellent Michael Fassbender) lives under a pseudonym in Poland with his new wife and daughter while he works in a small factory. Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is up to no good doing…stuff. What’s surprising here is how little these three characters ever feel connected throughout the film. I can’t think of more than two or three scenes that these characters have together, and that only counts for scenes featuring two of them at a time. And what stops that from happening is an overstuffed script.
Written by the abysmal Simon Kinberg (producer of the latest Fantastic Four), he can’t even write a good script with help from a story by three other people (Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris) as well as himself. X-Men: Apocalypse should be working at closing the arc of the three central characters in these entries, but neither Kinberg or Singer seem particularly interested in that any more. More focused on introducing new characters and establishing a possible new trilogy, Kinberg rushes every little bit of fan service he can to please people. In the process, he ruins any sort of narrative cohesion the film wishes it had. Quite simply, X-Men: Apocalypse is a mess.
Despite the overstuffed nature of the film, the characters that are the cause of the issue end up being the best parts of the movie. With the return of Quicksilver (a scene stealing Evan Peters), Singer builds a larger version of the kitchen scene from Future Past that is just as fun as the previous film, despite the fact that it slows the momentum of the film down for a scene that isn’t exactly necessary (but it sure is fun). Even his inclusion as a major character this time around adds some fun to what could be a somber film.
Other additions include new versions of characters we’re familiar with. Singer takes another crack at Scott Summers/Cyclops with Tye Sheridan taking over for the buzzkill that was James Marsden. The buzzkill part is more due to his role in the dynamic of the original trilogy, but it was sure easy to hate him. Sheridan’s Cyclops is more vulnerable and open as a likable character without the love triangle. His love story with Jean Grey (Sophie Turner of Game of Thrones fame) is given room to exist with a sense of reality. Cyclops comes across as a guy that just falls for the first girl he sees at his new school rather than anything special about her. Despite this, Turner is really good as Grey. Each issue that Grey deals with is given a tone of seriousness that is needed for the role. You could say that she’s very game for the role, if you will.
The same can’t be said of other additions. Various mutants from the already established (Nightcrawler, Storm, Angel) to the new (Psylocke, Jubilee) work to varying degrees. The one character that is the most problematic is definitely Apocalypse. Played by the usually fantastic Oscar Isaac, Apocalypse is a non-character. More of a walking and talking plot device, any attempt to add depth can’t be found here. Isaac does as much as he can under the multiple layers of make-up, but it doesn’t stick. Even his voice, while distinct and would probably prove distracting, is muddled under several distortions and echoes. A puppeteer or actor like Doug Jones would probably suit the role better, but that isn’t a knock against Isaac. After all these issues, you can still sense a menace to the character that wouldn’t be apparent with nearly anyone else. He’s a delight; he just needs more to do.
That may be the biggest problem with X-Men: Apocalypse. Every character here needs more to do. They need more to do or not be here at all. Singer seems too excited to get a second chance with these characters that he forgets about the ones that need an end. This should have been two films, but at this moment it’s one really broken one. The movie is made up of a series of moments that occasionally work on their own, but don’t work as a whole film. Maybe Singer should have left when he was on top.
- Returning cast is just as fantastic as when they started
- New additions to the film turn out great
- Quicksilver's highlight is just as good as the last
- Script by Simon Kinberg is absolutely atrocious
- Apocalypse is a missed opportunity despite a good performance from Oscar Isaac
- There are at least two movies here that could have been separated