Review: X-Men Apocalypse
There’s been a lot of negative talk about this latest installment in Fox’s X-Men movies, but then again there always has. The negativity comes from die hard X-Men fans who are angry that Marvel doesn’t have the rights at the moment. I’m a die hard X-Men fan of old, and while I see the critics’ points, I also look at it from a writing standpoint as well.
Could the movies be better? Absolutely. Should the core characters be closer to their comic book counterparts? Yes… 100%. But I finally feel like while stupid mistakes or downright ignorance of the source material is done on the writer/directors parts, I believe they are listening and trying to make it right.
You see, there are a total of 9 X-Men movies in this continuity now with more in development. The earlier ones left a bad taste in many people’s mouths who are comic fans. The last movie (Days of Future Past) hit a semi-reset button on most of what is wrong with the series. While Apocalypse is not perfect by any means, it certainly is the first movie truly headed in the right direction with the characters.
Here is my spoiler filled review of the movie, so if you just want to know my overall rating, then skip to the bottom paragraph. I will discuss the continuity issues and fan problems, but the positive as well. Feel free to comment.
Professor Charles Xavier: James McAvoy continues to be an excellent choice for the leader of the X-Men, and for the first time we really get to see him do battle with a foe on a mental level. His fight inside Apocalypse’s mind caused a few geekgasms. My only question here is if Apocalypse is the one who causes Xavier to lose his hair, then did Xavier and the X-Men face off against him in the original continuity? If so, then who was the main team of X-Men? Where was Stryker and company in that timeline? It’s a plot hole that needs to be ignored to make the series complete, but I can’t see past it as a fan wanting to know what happened to his hair originally. I did love the full circle with him and Magneto here. Their speech at the end was verbatim the same speech between the two in the first X movie.
Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto: Michael Fassbender owns the role again far surpassing what his predecessor did. He felt like Magneto in this movie, and as one of Apocalypse’s horsemen I feel he was utilized well. Here comes my issue. We already know Quicksilver is his son. In this movie he has a daughter, but it is not Scarlet Witch. At the very least, Bryan Singer and company could have done what Marvel did in the Avengers AOU and used her quickly. It would have upset less fans and been a nice way to acknowledge what Marvel did to their quicksilver. In other words, when Magneto’s daughter died, all they had to do was claim that her name was Wanda and make her powers something other than talking to the animals, but more akin to her comic counterpart. It’s stupid I know, but I just did not like that this whole chapter of Magneto’s history was basically thrown away. I do however like that Magneto has been set up to be a hero character as one interpretation of him in the comics had him as leader of the X-Men. With Wolverine departing the movie world soon he’d be a great new focus.
Raven Darkholme / Mystique: Ugh where do I begin? When Rebecca R. played the role I was upset that she had basically no dialogue and was just a henchman of sorts. But Rebecca played the role well in terms of Mystique’s sexuality and her cold hearted killer personality. So WTF is Jennifer Lawrence doing? Her version of the character was barely blue in this movie. She had none of that cold heartedness. And unlike the fact that I liked Magneto’s heroics, I do NOT like her as a hero at all. She has no place with the X-Men unless for some deceptive purpose. I just don’t buy her in the role, and it is ashame to see what the original trilogy’s Mystique has been downsized to. (Not downsized in terms of role, but character)
En Sabah Nur / Apocalypse: Oscar Issac stole the show. Apocalypse was my favorite villain in all of Marvel comics. That being said I took issue and pleasure in seeing him on screen. Issac portrayed easily the best villain in the X-Men series of movies yet. He had purpose and echoed much of what he was about in the source material. I would have liked him to have been a little bit bigger than the other characters, but his intentions overshadowed all of that. His abilities to manipulate and rearrange matter was done well, and his recruitment of the horsemen was not far off from how he did it in the comics. Actually if anything the way that he altered Archangel especially made more sense in the films. My issue comes with his technology. Because of rights issues Fox ignored the fact that his armor and pyramid tech was of alien origin. Well okay, maybe they didn’t ignore it, but failed to mention it. After all they did not say anything about it. The audience is just led to believe he had it whether by his own creation or something else. Also in the comics we never really see how his lazarus chamber worked, so the transference of his soul to a new body was acceptable where I was originally upset about hearing this. My problem is less with Apocalypse and more with his horsemen. None of them seemed dedicated to his cause (as evidenced by their betrayal or abandonment of him). Except Archangel of course. I don’t know how they will top him as a villain because you really got to feel his threat. His look and voice also made me happy and I was not pleased when I’d first started seeing and hearing him in trailers.
Hank McCoy / Beast: While I like Nicholas Holt in the role, and that he finally doesn’t look like CGI garbage like he did in First Class, I absolutely despise the lack of his true form. He’s still taking a serum to make him look normal, and then when he does become Beast again he’s in a flight suit most of the time. Still his character seems close to the comics, but I’d like to hear more obscure quoting of classical literature, as this version of Beast is more of a genius and less of a genius with classic appreciation.
Moira MacTaggart: Other than being happy with her role in this movie I was glad that they set up the introduction of her son. Singer has said that he’d like to make Proteus a villain in a future film, so it was only logical to acknowledge she had a son here. My issue is that her son was also the son of Charles Xavier in the comics, so why not just mention that he had a son with her? or since the father wasn’t in the pictures does that mean that she was indeed pregnant with Xavier’s son the last time we saw her? I guess time will tell, but it was a good way to bring her back into the fold.
Scott Summers / Cyclops: FINALLY! Cyclops isn’t a sissy. In the original trilogy he was overshadowed by Wolverine and portrayed as a crybaby. Here we got the classic leader of the X-Men with his actual 90s comic book costume at the end. I’m overly happy with this version being introduced.
Jean Grey: I feel like we’ve been down this road with Jean, but she was ruined by Last Stand and even her appearance in Wolverine 2. This gives her a fresh start and a younger face to go with it. The chemistry between her and Cyclops is perfect, and there was even that nod to her and Logan’s connection as well. I was surprised that they decided to foreshadow the Dark Phoenix aspect of her character. I’m not sure I care to see the Dark Phoenix saga portrayed on screen as I was never a big fan of it, but after Last Stand I could see why they’d want to leave the possibility open. It also was thrilling to see her final attack on Apocalypse in her Phoenix mode.
Ororo Munroe/ Storm: Haircut? I hated that hair in the comics and I do in the movie, but for the 80s it made sense, but the true focus is that finally we got a true Storm. Halle Berry was awful in the role. I can’t say that enough. But Alexandra Shipp has brought life back to the character from her accent to her origins. I can’t wait to see more of her.
Psylocke: Another character that was ruined in the Last Stand was finally brought front and center in the right way. While her role was not a huge one it was meant to introduce her to audiences in a way that she will be remembered. Olivia Munn is not only gorgeous in the role, but she did a great job, and they left it open for her to be there for Deadpool or any other number of X roles.
Alex Summers/Havok: One issue that the new timeline creates is one of age. Havok in this movie has to be 40 years old, while Cyclops is 20 years younger. It does happen sure, but they fail to address why aging doesn’t seem to affect the mutants on a normal level. All that aside I think his death was chosen wisely as it set up his younger brother’s role as leader and with a purpose. RIP Havok and your terrible 80s mullet.
Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver: Okay so you still have a really bad outfit (semi acceptable by the end of the movie), but every second he spends on screen is pure pleasure. Quicksilver stole the show again.
Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler: I was surprised to see Nightcrawler work so well in this movie. He was as much comic relief as Quicksilver and was a very crucial part to the team. And like Cyclops seeing him in his 90s comic garb brought moments of joy to me.
Colonel William Stryker: I think his role in the movie felt strange. Aside from the fact that in the first Wolverine movie Stryker was older looking he didn’t age much here. For the mutants I can accept that sort of, but he’s a normal human. All that aside I want to know how he got a hold of Logan for the Weapon X program. Mystique had grabbed him in the guise of Stryker at the end of the last movie, so did she just deliver Logan to Stryker’s doorstep and tell him to go all Weapon X with him? There is a flaw here that I’m not sure is worth talking about because it really doesn’t affect anything, but as a viewer it’d be nice to know.
Warren Worthington III / Angel / Archangel: As angel I felt he was more fun to watch, but we didn’t get his wealthy background here, which was a little upsetting. That is one thing that Last Stand got right. Angel’s transformation into Archangel was cool to watch, as it visually stood out as a memorable scene, but it’s as if Singer has a problem with the color blue. Like Mystique and Beast, Archangel never gets his blue skin. At the least I’d have liked them to make him paler, but instead we got some strange tattoo like strands on his face. Also disappointing was the decision to kill him off. He was badass in the fight scenes, and I’d have liked to see him in an X-Force movie at some point. Too bad.
Jubilee: Knowing that this was going to be in the 80s Fox had the perfect opportunity to utilize this character, and while she had a decent amount of small role screen time we never actually saw her use her abilities. Hopefully they correct this in the next one, but the decision was probably made to reduce the amount of overcrowding of characters.
Weapon X: Yes! Yes! Yes! We will be getting an R rated wolverine movie and this was the perfect setup for classic wolverine. For the first time we really got to see him go on a berserker killing spree and all the animalistic rage was let loose. Even the Weapon X head gear proved that some semblance of the comic pages can come to life. Now to hopefully see him in his suit at some point. My question is how much did Jean reveal to him in their brief mental bond. She said she helped him remember, so is this Wolverine knowing who he is or is he still Logan looking for his past? Time will tell.
Caliban: The decision to include him in the movie was wise, and though he didn’t get enough screen time they definitely portrayed him correctly as far as powers go. The question I have is that since he can sense and track other mutants why didn’t Apocalypse take him with them? It seems he was tracking his horsemen recruits, so were they returning to Caliban after each portal jump?
CAMEO ROLES: Stan Lee appeared in the most serious cameo he’s ever done, and with his real life wife too. It’s always a pleasure to see him in these movies even if forced in at times, but he didn’t feel forced here and worked well. Dazzler was on the cover of a record album, but I am still holding out hope for Taylor Swift or someone to make a cameo as her at some point. The Blob kept with his original trilogy storyline in that he was in a fighting circuit. We don’t see much of him other than his defeat, but got the classic Blob spandex and all, so it was a welcome addition and well placed. Pestilence, Famine, War, & Death were introduced in the beginning in ancient Egypt and while not much was shown of them and their abilities it was a more dedicated set of horsemen than Apocalypse got in the 80s. This brings to question why they were so much more dedicated and if Apocalypse was the first mutant, then where did these 4 get their powers? Were they too mutants or did he create them much in the same way that he enhanced the others’ powers? Sentinels appeared in the danger room sequence which makes one wonder how and why Xavier kept some of the mutant hunting robots, but it was still a cool cameo.
That end credits scene: The man from the “Essex Corporation” was collecting samples of blood. Weapon X’s was the vial showed here so we can conclude a few things… 1) Mr. Sinister aka Nathaniel Essex will be a villain in one of the next movies. He is a character known for his genetic tampering. With Logan’s blood this can only lead to one conclusion… Hugh Jackman is said to be retiring from the role after Wolverine 3. I’ve no desire to see them recast this role, but this would be a way to do it… however the best way to do it is to introduce X-23. In the comics she is Wolverine’s clone/daughter. It would still give a wolverine character and not negate all that Hugh has done, since he afterall was the man practically carrying this series.
Where do they go from here?
This is an important question, so here’s some thought. There is still plenty they can do. We know there is going to be a Legion tv series. Deadpool will be teaming with Cable in the sequel of the former. X-Force is in the works, presumably with the team: Deadpool, Cable, Psylocke, X-23 & Gamit? Perhaps that is how Sinister will be brought in as a villain. Of course a Gambit movie is also in the works, which I wonder what can be done here. We still have the Brood, Dark Phoenix saga, & Shiar (Singer has stated he wants to take the X-Men to space). And then there is the Savage land that has been unused, but perhaps can be the base of operations for Sinister. And could (going out on a limb here) the Avengers Infinity War bring a merger of different Earths where we get an Avengers/X-men crossover? Actors on both sides have voiced interest.
Final analysis: X-Men Apocalypse is not perfect by any means, but it does help to bring in some people who’ve been so hateful of this series because they were die hard fans. It has also replaced X-Men 2 as my favorite of the whole franchise (Deadpool being the exception, as nothing will touch that anytime soon at least in the Fox-men universe). With a threat that felt genuine, the introduction of characters true to the source, and a story that kept viewers surprised and on edge, I give the movie 4 out of 5 on my ratings scale. What did you think? Comment below and thanks for reading.