If Days of Future Past was a series high point, Apocalypse is the nadir of this modern iteration of the X-verse.
There’s this moment in X-Men: Apocalypse where some of the new, young class of X-folk go to see Return of the Jedi and one of them remarks that “the third one’s always the worst” or something along those lines. It’s meant to be taken as a dig to the mess that was Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). But the joke’s on you, you disrespectful punk-ass mutant-powered kids! This is by far the worst of the latest crop of X-Men films.
It’s difficult to see a promising series bottom out like this. What could have been a satisfying trilogy conclusion is instead treated like little more than a disposable midpoint episode in the centre of an otherwise solid run.
It’s not fair to hate on the movie for existing, because of course there are going to be X-Men movies for as long as there are movies being made. But what we get with X-Men: Apocalypse is so outside the realm of what we’ve come to expect from this series that it’s frankly off-putting. That isn’t to say the story goes to some sort of extreme plane of disgusting behaviour – because it doesn’t. But it is so monumentally boring and half-baked that the movie inevitably sullies whatever goodwill this new crop of X series has brought to fruition at the box office.
The story revolves around an eons old god named Apocalypse who was trapped by his enemies and locked in a suspended state of body swapping until he’s awoken in 1983. He’s also allegedly the first, and therefore most powerful, mutant of them all. He rises and begins the search to find his four “horsemen” to eradicate the world of all humans and non-submissive mutants. By happenstance, he stumbles across Storm (Alexandra Shipp) who leads him to Psylocke (Olivia Munn) who leads them to Angel (Ben Hardy). And then Apocalypse watches TV and sees a news broadcast commemorating the decade anniversary of Magneto’s destruction in Days of Future Past. Apocalypse decides Magneto’s got to be the fourth part of his crew and seeks out the reclusive metal-bender (played again by potential series MVP Michael Fassbender). Magneto’s basically ineffective to the story as a whole here, which is a crime because Fassbender does some of the whole X-world’s absolute finest acting in one particularly wrenching scene.
Apocalypse’s plan is lazy, undercooked, and grossly miscalculated. For a gathering of supposed extreme cataclysmic circumstance, Apocalypse doesn’t choose the best four mutants out there, but rather just the first four mutants he meets. As a result of being slapped together for no character or plot motivations, there is zero charisma in this rag tag posse of fan favourite mutants. In short, if Apocalypse is the baddest mother out there, he does a rather piss poor job of putting his master plan in action.
The film’s villain wants to wipe the planet clean of these impurities but of course Professor X (James MacAvoy) is all “helllll no!” and gathers his best and brightest students to unite to stop the end of the world. Heard this one before? You’ve definitely seen it before, and you’ve seen it done far, far better. There’s only so much viable mileage one can get from putting the same crop of characters through the same motions without any real interesting developments. X-Men: Apocalypse is the sinking ship that’s run out of steam for director Bryan Singer. If the franchise is to go on, it would be best led by a new voice willing to take some chances with stories, characters, stakes, and genuine, irreparable consequences.
Apocalypse nearly literally just picks the first four mutants he meets after waking up and appoints them his horsemen. What the hell does Storm have to offer in assistance to the so-called all-powerful “first mutant”? For that matter, what purpose does Psylocke serve here at all? It’s a damn shame that she isn’t given more than four lines of dialogue, despite her heavy presence in the marketing materials.
There’s no denying that Munn suits the superhero form perfectly well. But her enthusiasm and commitment to what little substance she’s served, prove that she’d be give some due respect in a future film. Without giving away anything approaching spoiler territory, one is left with the feeling that the filmmakers want to keep Psylocke a part of the universe. Based on her role in Apocalypse, however, you’ve got to wonder why?
Every beat that’s ever been hit in a previous X-Men flick is replayed here to vastly diminished returns. For a movie with Apocalypse in the title and starring a villain actually named Apocalypse, the stakes feel incredibly low. There’s no tension, no suspense, and no drama to be found. What humour is present is quickly swept under the rug before audiences are returned to the dour, predictable, and – worst of all – bland proceedings this mutant movie serves up.
In the long march of X films (which now sort of includes the surprise hit Deadpool) we’re left unenthused for the future of a formerly strong series. There are genuine moments where what once worked then still delivers now, but it’s infused with familiarity instead of surprise. When the livestock starts to turn like this current primary X-Men series has, it’s time to take it out to the pasture.
Two genetically mutated raindrops out of five!