If this film had come out ten years ago, it might have been quite a success. However, we’ve been bombarded with so many superhero and disaster films that filmmakers have been forced to evolve their stories in order to keep us intrigued. X-Men: Apocalypse is a by the numbers superhero film, it doesn’t disappoint us especially, but it doesn’t surprise us either.
X-Men: Apocalypse is the eighth film in the X-Men franchise, and it focuses on the end of the world. The film is about how the first mutant from Ancient Egypt, named Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), awakens and recruits four mutants he calls his ‘horsemen’ to help him ‘cleanse’ the world of weaklings. In his way stand the rookie mutant students of Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence).
The film follows the typical generic guidelines of a superhero/end-of-the-world film: there is a recruiting process for the good and the bad guys, then a motivation to fight, and finally the big showdown. It’s definitely predictable, but not to the point where it outright bores you. I think the film was burdened with introducing so many new characters into its universe. It’s almost like it’s trying to rush along its franchise’s size to match Marvel’s (something DC also tried to do, which also hindered its movies).
The director, Bryan Singer, was very successful in launching the X-Men franchise in 2000, and also in helping reboot it with the previous film to Apocalypse, X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, I feel that in this film he has fallen into a work ethic similar to that of Joss Whedon’s with The Avengers: Age of Ultron, where the creative reins were handed more to the studio execs than to the filmmakers. There are brief moments of Singer’s genius (remember this is the man who brought us The Usual Suspects) like a great scene in which the superfast Quicksilver (Evan Peters) slows time down with his speed in order to save the kids in an exploding building all to the tune of “Sweet Dreams” by Eurythmics.
The cast is impressively expanded, with young castings like those of Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, and Kodi Smit-McPhee in the roles of Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Nightcrawler respectively. And Singer tries to put Jennifer Lawerence’s Mystique to the forefront of the X-Men, giving her more screen time, however Lawrence seemed very low energy throughout the entire film, she was more in it for the paycheck than anything artistic. As I mentioned before, the film tries to introduce too many new characters all at once and immediately wants us to feel emotionally attached to them. Maybe no one has told studios, that you can take your time in developing your own superhero universe, people prefer quality to quantity; that way, when you decide to kill off a character, we’ll feel sad or angry.
In terms of the villain I was a bit disappointed; Apocalypse was supposed to be this mutant with powers similar to the God of the Old Testament. But the film just had him churning out monologues and pacing, he doesn’t really do much until the final fight. Oscar Isaac, who is an incredibly talented character, is frankly wasted in the role that could have been played by anyone.
In the end the film is a simple by the books superhero flick. Is the film a step down for the creative team and actors? Yes, but it isn’t the usual dud studios usually churn up when they’re given the creative reins (ahem Batman vs. Supermanahem).