The X-Men are back…yet again, it would seem.
Professor X still is collecting a team
Of mighty good mutants, both young men and ladies,
But what kind of evil would threaten the ’80s?
An evil so great none remember his name,
Who’s awfully annoyed at the loss of his fame
And wants to subdue the whole world since he can.
Now that’s an original motive and plan!
A good thing for us that some teens will defend us
From egos tremendous and costumes horrendous.
Destruction is nigh…yet again, it would seem,
But we know the future, so don’t worry, team.
MPAA rating: PG-13
Most were doubtful as to whether Bryan Singer could follow up the success of Days of Future Past with a worthy sequel. X-Men: Apocalypse confirmed that those doubts were not unfounded, yet this is no The Last Stand. Singer has proven that he can produce a great X-Men movie, so it stands to reason that he can also give us a mostly good one. Even if Apocalypse is the awkward third child of the most recent reboot trilogy, it still received enough care and attention to be a worthwhile member of the family.
Set in the 1980s, ten years after mutants were revealed to the world in Days of Future Past, the film reintroduces younger versions of other characters from the original trilogy: Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit McPhee), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). In Cyclops’s case, we get a firsthand example of a new student being introduced to the school (through his brother Alex Summers/Havoc from First Class) and learning about his new powers, echoing the early days of Rogue’s arrival in the first X-Men. In addition, there’s quite a bit of globe-hopping, from Magneto’s too-good-to-last family life in his native Poland to Mystique’s mutant rescue missions to Moira McTaggert’s discovery of the long-dormant super-mutant known as En Sabah Nur or Apocalypse (unrecognizable Oscar Isaac). As Apocalypse gathers empowered minions to his cause of, you know, the end of the world, it’s up to the X-Men to band together and stop him.
I do want to make it clear that I enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse, seeing all of the characters together again, the action-packed showdowns and references to other films, from Nightcrawler’s Catholicism to an explanation for Xavier’s baldness. While the reason for his presence is never really resolved, a visit from Evan Peters’ Quicksilver proved to be the highlight of the whole movie; he got the best scene in Days of Future Past, and once again his standout moment alone was worth the price of admission.
I liked a good deal of this Apocalypse, but there are some unavoidable flaws that bothered me as well. The most noticeable issue is an excess that’s hard to put into words. Certain scenes were just a bit…much. The opening scene, in which ancient Egyptian rebels bury Apocalypse under a very poorly constructed pyramid, has a lot of noise and effects without much context. Other scenes are similarly over-the-top. One big oh-no calamity is blaringly melodramatic, intercut with worldwide reactions and an extravagant “you-are-nothing-compared-with-me” speech from Oscar Isaac. Likewise, the pacing sometimes lags in the big fights as the clearly overpowered Apocalypse delivers “I-will-destroy-you” monologues while the heroes encourage each other to “release your power!” which they, of course, do. It’s rather wearisome by the end.
The other problem is one that seems to have annoyed me more than others: continuity. I love and value attention to continuity, and it’s one of the aspects that made Days of Future Past so amazing, since it delivered a satisfying and believable closure to both timelines. Yet for the events of X-Men: Apocalypse to make any sense with the original trilogy, we must assume that Days of Future Past began an alternate timeline, such that the other films never will happen or at least not as the movies depict events. In Apocalypse, characters meet when they shouldn’t yet, Wolverine shows up with Stryker in a way that seems to ignore Origins, and the writers have given up trying to make Mystique into the villain from the first X-Men. Remember that last tantalizing little Stryker/Mystique scene from the end of Future Past? It’s entirely disregarded. The other prequels had their continuity issues too, but so much in Apocalypse has to be taken separate from the other films that it indeed feels like an alternate timeline, making one wonder why Singer had to muddy the waters. I suppose that’s not hard to believe; unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men films have probably gone on far longer than anyone expected them to, leading different filmmakers to essentially make it up as they go along. It’s just made more confusing for us continuity seekers when Singer actively tries to reference events that will happen, like the whole Dark Phoenix debacle.
I’m not the first to point out Jean Grey’s self-referential line as she and her friends exit a screening of Return of the Jedi: “Well, at least we can all agree the third one’s always the worst.” As X-Men films go, Apocalypse falls squarely in the middle of the pack; it’s nowhere near the best, but DC’s efforts this year have at least saved it from being labelled the worst superhero movie of 2016. As much as I enjoy these movies, I can’t help but feel that, after nine films, the X-Men franchise might be ready to end. Hugh Jackman is supposedly hanging his claws up after one more outing as Wolverine, which is allegedly set up by the after-credits scene that will make no sense to non-comic readers. There’s so much comic material still uncovered, but I wonder if the X-Men have been played out. I wish the franchise could end on a high note like Days of Future Past, but only time will tell.
Best line: (Charles, defying Apocalypse and still able to sum up the entire point of the X-Men) “Those with the greatest power… protect those without. That’s my message to the world.”
Best line: List-Worthy (joining First Class)
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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