Fan is short for fanatic, excessive, single-minded, zeal. There isn’t a great reason to love something but you do anyway. I am an X-Men fan and I honestly can’t be reasonable about X-Men: Apocalypse, because they made a film for a fan like me. Bryan Singer and his team have crafted a movie that stays true to the spirit of the source material, pays service to the previous films, and delivers assurance for the future of the franchise. The movie is far from perfect but if you are someone going out of their way to read this review, you are going to enjoy it.
An ancient mutant, En Sabah Nur (a serviceable Oscar Isaac), is awoken in the 80’s with one goal, to rule the world as he once did. Recruiting servants (including Michael Fassbender’s Magneto) he begins his conquest only to face a resistance of Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) team of mutant students, the X-Men. The plot lacks a lot of the emotional and social resonance that previous entries of the franchise have had. Apocalypse (as En Sabah Nur is called) is more engaging than some of the cookie cutter villains that the MCU movies had had, but he still feels lacking and has the gravitas of a high school production of Shakespeare. This isn’t a problem unique to Isaac’s role as many of the returning players feel like they are just going through the motions. Fassbender in particular is powerful in one of the film’s most heart wrenching scenes but once he gets dragged into the main plot he loses anything unique about him.
The new cast is a real highlight of the films. Tye Sheridan plays Cyclops different than some comics fans may expect but really taps into the vulnerability of the character and, when given the chance, is a confident leader. Sophie Turner’s role as Jean Grey is a highlight of the movie, taking a character who is sometimes difficult to like and making her easy to sympathize with. But the real star for this reviewer was Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler, in a role that balances fun with a nervous fear in ways that made me want more from the character. The rest of the new comers are serviceable, but aren’t given enough attention to make a huge impression. With this new generation, Fox can look confidently at the future of the franchise.
The action and set pieces for this film flex between fist pumping fan service and middling generic, action par for the course for the franchise. Using Evan Peters’ Quicksliver, Singer expands on a favorite segment from X-Men: Days of Future Past but each use brings diminishing returns. A second act set piece is an exciting moment for fans to finally see, but feels wholly unnecessary. As the young characters become more and more comfortable with their abilities, the audience becomes more engaged in the action on screen and the climax is filled with enough fan-service to bring a smile to anyone’s face.
The end result is a film that is objectively a mixed bag. It has huge problems with a very slow first act, a weird second act detour, and a climax that doesn’t feel totally earned. The script is very kind to some character, but many of the roles, like Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique, seem like nonentities. It isn’t as good as some of the previous entries of the franchise and doesn’t stand out in the glut of superhero films that have been released in the last few years. If this came out 10 years ago it would be fantastic, but the bar has been raised and the film falls short. That being said I enjoyed every second of the feature, it has enough big X-Men moments to widen any fans’ eyes. I want to watch it again, I want to see the next chapter of the story they are telling, I was left wanting more. And really, isn’t that the most we can ask for when we go for a night at the movies?
Just as an FYI we started a Patreon this week. If you want to cut to the front of the line we just started a Patreon if you want to support it and get a line cutting reward. Our first goal is only $15 and it gets rid of those ads and makes the hosting for Xavier Files entirely reader supported.
This week is a big celebration for us here at Xavier Files since, you know, a movie is coming out. We will have daily content that you can see below:
Monday: Debut of the new Xavier Files webcomic
Tuesday: Character Entry on Apocalypse
Wednesday: The 2nd installment of the webcomic
Thursday: X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse article
Friday: Review of X-Men: Apocalypse
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