Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Spoilers… and chill.

Right, I finally watched this film. Let’s speed in and talk about what X-Men’s new film is all about.

Throughout it’s history, the X-Men cinematic universe has been going strong. Been the longest comic book-based movie series at a duration of 16 years hasn’t shown on X-Men since its project to rejuvenate itself with the unusual but brilliant use of a reboot that discovers itself as canonical instead of a tabula rasa reapplication. Now it is on its 9th film with ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ and seems promising to keep on trying long and hard to becoming a still successful comic-book universe. However with this introductory praise given to it, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ isn’t great but still is a strong contender for a good X-Men film as well as a fun and, in a way, level example of a summer action film.

The film tries to revolve around the conclusions met at the end of ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’. It has been 10 years since DoFP (well 10 years for the retro 70s stuff, 33 years in the original timeline) and things are different indeed. Mutants are known as been a real thing since Mystique saved Nixon. Xavier is a Professor for ‘gifted youngsters’ whilst Eric (Magneto) is in Poland with a wife and daughter working under a new identity as a metallurgist (seems convenient). Meanwhile we are shown that Mystique is helping mistreated mutants which involves the rescuing of Nightcrawler. As well as all of this, we are shown the awakening of original mutant, main antagonist and guy or donated his name to the title: Apocalypse.

Apocalypse is an odd bend of comic-book villainy and sinister god complex elitism. Although the character does have his strong and powerful moments I did find the character fundamentally boring, simple and in a odd sort of way, out of place. His plans are repetitive and over-arrogant. Plus the amount of betrayal that his followers have on him makes me wonder if maybe he should have tried harder to be more charismatic. Another thing about Apocalypse which is more of a double-edged sword comment than a criticism is his origins and his powers. Apocalypse’s origin does have to change, I understand that; the use of the Celestials (the alien gods that made the mutants and Eternals in Marvel comics lore as well as what Marvel uses in films in the form of the big powerful aliens in that one small scene, in the Collector’s screen in Guardians of the Galaxy). The notion of Apocalypse’s possession to other mutants, slowly grafting his powers and mind into newer, better bodies was a chilling and dark way of showing of Apocalypse as well as adding to his unshaken beliefs and his relentless desire for power. Although used in comics, I feel like it was very simplified in the film. His powers themselves were a blend of fascinating evolution and at the same time a powers for plot cliché ( which I felt mainly arises when Apocalypse revivals he has a ‘stop Xavier using his telepathic array on his horseman’ power). His powers however are quite strong, nevertheless. Molecular manipulation, telekinesis, teleportation, technopathy with a bit of information comprehension and power-bestow are all here as well as an unofficial cameo of Apocalypse’s more well-known size shifting abilities due to a fight in the astral plane against Xavier.

As for the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, I was unsure in what they brought to the movie. Although I was unsure as to why they were the choices, well except Magneto (that seems like a good way to have in the film without putting too much pressure on adding the character), I did enjoy the adding of a new Angel (well technically Archangel) and Storm, as well as a proper Psylocke instead of what we had in ‘Last Stand’. Although Apocalypse increases the powers in all of his horsemen this is not shown to scale and so I don’t have that much acknowledgement to Apocalypse’s donation except for the fact he transmuted Angel’s wings into metal, made Storm’s hair white, allowed Magneto to affect the metals in the Earth’s ores and give Psylocke… the power to be in that skin-tight costume. Like seriously, Psylocke seemed exactly the same to me unless she got a more purple psi-katana, I don’t know really know. Angel’s portrayal in the film seemed to be purely fundamental and a reflection of the comics where he represents the horseman of death. In the film, he is in a German mutant fight club, which is where we also find Nightcrawler. Although it is suggested that even though he is good at it he still fights to live as not fighting leads to been shot. Just a quite side note, their is a cameo ‘easter egg’ of the Blob as one of Angel’s competitors. Storm is just a bit more developed as a character. A pickpocket from Egypt who uses her powers to steal and cope with a large family to take care of, she is also hugely inspired by Mystique for her heroism. The character doesn’t really show off her powers but I liked the way they added Storm into this film and seems like once again this is based on the difficulty on adding Storm’s origins and even her link with Black Panther even if this a developmental story in Storm’s Marvel history it can be a tilt on the character in the movies.

So that is the villains written about but what about the heroes. ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ has a nice roster of heroic mutants and shows the origins of classics Cyclops and Jean Grey. The arrival of Scott Summers is brought in by his brother Alex a.k.a Havoc, originating from ‘X-Men: First Class’ who discovers his brother has gained his mutant ability to emit optic blasts from his eyes. Havoc is an enjoyable character in this film showing his confidence in comparison to ‘First Class’ where he is afraid of his powers and what they are capable of. It is a nice comparison to what Scott is feeling in this film and is a reminder of the fact that not only has he been in the same situation as Scott he was also helped by Professor X and that this is Havoc first move in helping his brother. Jean Grey is already a new member of the school when we first see her. There seems to be more of a balance in her telepathy and telekinesis in this film than previous which although highlighting her telepathic abilities didn’t seem to bring emphasis to them in comparison to the stronger telekinesis. The ‘phoenix’ power is also in this film which if I was honest, I was quite surprised about as it seemed quite early to bring up a more complex, though quite connected part of Grey’s character. The problem that I have with the phoenix concept in the cinematic Jean Grey is that it is very different compared to the comics (and also 90s TV show). Whereas in this it is a latent power boost that manifests in Jean Grey’s mind in the comics is the Phoenix is it’s own entity. An omni-sentient, cosmic being that embodies life and has a special connection to powerful psychics, the Phoenix Force is a big part in Marvel Comics and in the Dark Phoenix saga a main antagonist. Whereas I can see that making the… well… the ‘phoenix force’ a part of Jean Grey’s power is easy and that I can forgive that with the movie been comfortable to watch and understand for even the non-comic book readers, I do hope that a Dark Phoenix story can be brought up with the need for it been a cosmic entity and also that it does try to based itself in the same way that ‘Last Stand’ did. All in all, Jean Grey was nicely played and seemed to be the balance of fearful teen and inspiring superhero whose telepathic prowess makes her a person who connects to others whilst having a notion of fear sent in her direction. Jean Grey is really shown in this film as an Omega level mutant waiting to happen and I hope that future film show what kind of character see can become. Nightcrawler is an overdone comic relief who starts as an a tormented and captured mutant but has time where he seems to be forced to be a bit goofy. At times, Nightcrawler seems underdone in the story but is still shown as an important character who is helpful even when the plot in relation to him isn’t.

Quicksilver is back! I, like everyone, I’m sure, who saw ‘Days of Future Past’ felt like the Quicksilver scene was the best scene we had and ‘Apocalypse’ offers this too. Quicksilver is a more pivotal character in this. Deciding to connect with Magneto with the conclusion that Magneto is his father, Quicksilver choices to visit Xavier’s school. Perfect timing (as always) as the school is about to explode via an accident by Havoc and before we know it the world is becoming more still, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, which is still in my head, is been played and Quicksilver takes everyone out of the school and saves everyone in a cool scene. Quicksilver also has a better character development and has a small bit of fun getting tired of Apocalypse’s loud, annoying attitude and grants him a few speed punches. It’s quick but delightful to watch. Mystique herself is shown as more Jennifer Lawrence than blue, apparently due to her identity as a blue person has been shown to the whole world. Mystique is a strong character in this film but here shape shifting powers are extremely underused. I think see morphs into one person in the whole film and the job she seems to be given is as an extremely moody mutant who wishes to shout that the big picture is mutants are still feared but in a more subtle sided agenda. Her travels to find underground anti-mutant projects, although, presented as been accurate to her beliefs are seldom looked into lead her to have meaning words on the treatment of mutants but not to give it any structure.

In terms of Marvel’s greatest foemance, Xavier and Eric are played well by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectfully, as was the case with ‘X-Men: First Class’ and X-Men: Days of Future Past’. One of the main things about Xavier in this first was the fact that he becomes bald like he is in every representation of him in all media. Explained by Apocalypse’s attempts to transfer into Charles, it seems like a fair method of explaining the condition yet I did wonder if this was indeed necessary. I think it was a good idea and I wasn’t expected it; I was expecting something more on the line of general male baldness but seeing how young Xavier still is in this film, a plot convenience is a respectful decision. Eric’s life of happiness with his wife and daughter, in Poland, turned tragedy is heartbreaking and the push that the character seems to need to end up as a horseman. The story itself is a little sketchy and is pushed a little to much yet it is a like of sub-plot that motivates the story’s fundamental and I do think that although it can be improved, is very satisfying to the story.

There are a fun number of Easter eggs, comic references and movie references to the film which is always especial to superhero movie. The first thing to discuss is Weapon X. I will be honest there was absolutely no reason for the Weapon X sub-plot in the positioning of this film, it is only there for ‘fandom’ and for the basis that the Weapon X project is something that is speculated to have happened in the 80s and so has to be slotted into this film to be in a film as a fun cameo. The escaping of Wolverine, still played by Hugh Jackman obviously, is used to deal with the capturing of Mystique, Hank McCoy, Quicksilver and Moira MacTaggert by returning anti-mutant villain William Striker. The portrayal of Weapon X/Wolverine with the headpiece similar to the one in the comics was a fun little reference to his origins and I felt that even though the scene is pointless in a story it was enjoyable to say the least. The post-credits scene with the Weapon X clean-up lead to a reference to Nathaniel Essex a.k.a Mister Sinister, is an supreme teaser to any future X-Men films. Also it might be that this is a scheme to manifest Cable since in the comics, Cable is a genetic engineering project that Sinister comes up with with the aid of the DNA of Cyclops and Jean Grey. Since Cable is in Deadpool II (or X-Force) it might be that this is a project to merge the two different stories together in an appropriate crossover event.

An interesting reference comes in the form of some of the students going to watch ‘Return of the Jedi’ and leaving it with the discussion of how it was compared to the other Star Wars films with them agreeing mainly that the second film in a trilogy is the best and the third film is usually quite bad. This seems to be a meta-based reference that in the original X-Men trilogy great reviews were made of X2 whereas the third film, ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ was seem in a very negative perception.The fact that Bryan Singer gave up doing the third X-Men film, instead doing ‘Superman Returns’ is seen here as something of a humorous comment.

Anyway with a lot of stuff discussed, in the end, I did enjoy watching of ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ even if it was problematic and overload of different stories that were connected but not the element of the plot. The villain, Apocalypse, could have been better built and his horsemen could have been a bit more characterised as interested individuals. Its good points focus on the fact it doesn’t truly break at the seams as I was to imagine it might have given its complexity. Some scenes were great and worth the watch in the cinema like the Quicksilver scene which is making me wonder if what will happen is that Fox will understand the fan’s love of this cool scene might mean we can see more of it. It really wouldn’t even surprise me if a Quicksilver movie was made with him running in a slow motion perspective for two hours; yet I would still watch that because that sounds more fun than the previous Fantastic Four film. Still I’m looking forward to the other X-Men film which I’m sure they will attempt soon enough and I think that people with leave this film not feeling at all disappointed at what they came to see.