It isn't very often that we get two of the cinematic pleasures that are Marvel films in the same month. With Captain America: Civil War still fresh on everyone's mind, it's good to be a superhero film as fans are going to be looking for another comic book movie to feed their insatiable hunger. That felicitous film is X-Men: Apocalypse and it's only less than two weeks away. It's very rare to see press for a film begin so early. This past week, reviews have been flooding in for the latest installment to the X-franchise. Some have been less favorable than others, leaving fans to think the worse of the denouement to the reboot trilogy. Last week, I had the fortune of attending an early screening for the film. Let's dig in shall we? Spoiler-Free of course!
Where should we start?
As if they should even be questioned in the first place. McAvoy as the Professor and Fassbender as Magneto? Utter perfection. Fassbender's Erik Lensherr is handed more emotional scenes than the entire franchise has ever had. He has one scene that had everyone in the theater gasp in unison. His scenes were so powerful and weren't wedged in to fit tonally. Marvelites, prepare for a few tugs at the ol' heartstrings.
Although, Jennifer Lawrence doesn't seem to give her all as the shape shifting, Mystique. Her monotonous line delivery and the slothful composition of the mutant makeup seems to signify that she's finished with the franchise, making it surprising to hear that she would like to return for future installments. Although I can't blame her for trying to skip a 9 hour make-up process and she has claimed to have a love for her character, it would still be saddening to hear that she was honestly trying in this film.
It's a bit of fun to see Rose Byrne's Moira MacTaggert interact once more with McAvoy's Professor X. Last time we saw her character, she had her memories of the events of First Class wiped away by a kiss from the professor. Their chemistry is thriving in the scenes they have together, however, her general presence in the film carries a bit of redundancy.
However, everyone returning to roles that they have played in previous films aren't the performances you should be focusing on. The actors portraying everyone's favorite mutants do the best with what little they're given. It's the screen time and story arcs of the newer characters that seem lazily blended into the popular storyline. The development of fan-favorite characters such as Cyclops, Jean Grey, Nightcrawler, and Storm is a hit with some and a miss with others. Cyclops and Nightcrawler hit hard. Their development is quick yet effective. They manage to be unique adaptations while strongly resembling their comic book counterparts.
Meanwhile, Jean Grey fades behind the intensifying of her powers which seems to be setting up a future film rather than re-establishing the character with a new actress. Storm is very much like her comic book counterpart with the accent and her look but still manages to miss. Alexandra Shipp was beautiful as the character in the few scenes she's in and I cannot wait to see more of her in Josh Boone's New Mutants. If you're excited to see the gum popping Jubilee on the big screen, all I can say is don't get your hopes up. There are various pieces that seem to be missing from the young actors' performances. Maybe they're lying on the cutting room floor. Perhaps we could expect X-Men: Apocalypse (The Jubilee Cut)?
En Sabah Nur is one of the X-Men's most powerful and terrifying adversaries. If you were to run into this guy in an alley, you should be pissing your pants, right? These days, in the golden age of cinema, it shouldn't be all that difficult to create a force to be reckoned with. The movie doesn't do a good job with that. Although, you'd probably think it would be the look and voice that poorly executes the villain, it isn't. It is the very development of the character. The world's first mutant has:
'...control of his body on the molecular level and structure-- allowing him to shape change and elongate with virtually unlimited range, to increase density and allow his body to mimic metals and armors, to teleport, and to be virtually immune to the effects of age. Apocalypse can also increase and enhance his strength to levels surpassing that of the Incredible Hulk. Apocalypse can grow to giant sizes, and gain the power of flight, sometimes through turning his arms into wings or jets. Apocalypse can also transform himself into a variety of human disguises. He has exhibited energy absorbing and projecting abilities in the past. Apocalypse has been termed an "External," due to his mutant ability of immortality. Briefly, Apocalypse has shown potential to be a powerful psionic.' (Retrieved from Marvel.com)
The film does a shoddy job of presenting the full extent of the antagonist's abilities making him less terrifying than the average moviegoer should perceive. Oscar Issac is an astonishing actor and does a great job with what he's given, but he isn't given much to work with here. It was the waste of the actor's talent leaving you to believe he was miscast. It's less of a questioning of his acting abilities than a question of could another actor have done a better job if the villain was given the same treatment. The antagonist's mission to 'cleanse the earth' carries out as paper-thin as Age Of Ultron's let's-drop-a-city-like-a-meteorite idea. Lastly, the way the villain is defeated in the film's conclusion was slightly disappointing (don't pretend that was a spoiler as we all know in popular comic book fashion that the bad guys always lose).
Not only does the film flub its dominating villain, but it also manages to botch his quad of minions, the four horsemen. Although they are the one's to bring most of the action the film has to offer, their presence is as intimidating as a cardboard cut-out (most like their creator). The henchmen offer nothing more than a few stellar fight scenes, swanking about with their upgraded abilities to give the visual effects team hard work. Also, don't be surprised if one of the horsemen turns out to not have as much screen-time as the trailers seem to allude to.
You would think with a title such as Apocalypse, lots of people are going to die and things are gonna go kablooey. Yeah, there's not quite much of that. The very few action pieces of the film are short-lived and underwhelming. This even includes the final battle. The final act of the film is slightly anti-climactic. Like I said before, there are a few excellent fights mixed in. Every great superhero film begins strong, grows even stronger, and should deliver a vigorous, gripping third act. Apocalypse manages to bring all but the latter, leaving the true highlight of the entire film to be Evan Peter's Quicksilver.
Hey guys, that reminds me. Remember when everyone crapped on the look of Quicksilver for Days Of Future Past but he ended up easily being the best part of that entire film? Guess what? He does it again! It's the same scene. Everything is in slow motion except this time...it's an eighties song. Still, the film manages to make this scene amazing and fresh despite it being a carbon copy of the previous film's formula for his introduction. It felt totally original and brand new. He gets a ton of more screen time and a little more growth adding more layers to the character. I was smiling and giggling the entire time he was on screen and the 3D aesthetic blends well with his character's ability. You could easily only go see this movie just for his scene alone. To 3D or not to 3D? That is the question and the answer to that question is...3D! That's coming from a time where the golden age of 3D is dead with it being run into the ground by numerous sloppy blockbusters these past few years.
Is it worse than Batman V Superman? NO. Is it as bad as X-Men: The Last Stand? Hell no! Is it better than Days Of Future Past? No. Is it better than Civil War? No. Is it better than Deadpool? Nah. Does that make it a terrible film? No. Although, you might leave the theater with a bittersweet taste in your mouth (and it won't be the cherry coke with white cheddar popcorn). It's worth the price of admission and maybe a second time if you've got the patience or genuinely enjoyed it but not a third viewing. Seeing it again probably isn't a choice for those who saw it early as Fox redacted a post credits scene from screenings that is rumored to feature Nathaniel Essex himself, Mr. Sinister.
Apocalypse is most definitely a popcorn film. That being said, it is satisfying to watch, especially in 3D and definitely with Quicksilver's scenes. The film partially suffers some of the same defects as Batman V Superman. It is overstuffed with fan service and the underdevelopment of primary characters nearly kills an altogether amusing comic book film. The movie focuses way too much on the already well-established Professor X and Master of Magnetism, Magneto, when it should expand upon the way more interesting mutants who clearly have a long way to go. A rebooted Dark Phoenix Saga is rumored to be in the works and has been teased by director, Bryan Singer, so don't lose faith in the franchise just yet. With Deadpool 2, Gambit, New Mutants, and X-Force on the way, you definitely have something to look forward to. I give it an overall 7.7/10 and I really wish I could give the film a better rating.
Only the strong will survive on May 27th.