X-Men: Apocalypse is the end of the second X-Men trilogy, but it also lays the foundations for the next films. James McAvoy's Charles Xavier accepts the need for the X-Men, and recruits Nicholas Hoult's Beast and Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique to act as their mentors. But with the torch being passed to a new generation of mutants, it's time to ask: Who are these new X-Men?
Tye Sheridan's Cyclops
I have to admit that, as a fan of Cyclops, I found James Marsden's portrayal lacking. For me, the Cyclops of the first X-Men trilogy was wooden and stand-offish, with only one emotive scene, right before his death in X-Men: The Last Stand. In contrast, though, Tye Sheridan's take on the character seems just right; there's a lot more natural charisma, coupled with a hint of teenage rebellion. The take seems inspired by Brian Bendis's younger Cyclops in the All-New X-Men comics.
Although X-Men: Apocalypse has some dodgy moments regarding CGI, it gets Cyclops's optic blasts just right. There's a sort of untamed savagery to the way they're done, and it perfectly suits a mutant who can't control his powers.
Sophie Turner's Jean Grey
Famke Janssen's Jean Grey was the stuff of legend and a hard act to follow, but Sophie Turner pulls it off with ease. Where Janssen's Jean is an older, more confident mutant, Turner's lives in the shadow of her own telepathy. The ability to know what everybody around her is thinking, coupled with psychic transmission of her dreams, makes her something of a pariah in the school community. As such, she naturally gravitates towards Cyclops, whose uncontrollable optic blasts (and aggressive attitude) achieve the same.
Over the course of X-Men: Apocalypse, we see Jean Grey grow in power and confidence. Although hesitant (perhaps a little bit overly hesitant, for purely dramatic purposes), she reveals her true potential and single-handedly defeats Apocalypse. Her power-levels clearly remain at this cosmic scale; the end sequence shows Jean, along with Michael Fassbender's Magneto, rebuilding the school!
It's pretty certain that the X-Men films are headed down the direction of the Phoenix Saga, and — although initially I wasn't sure that was such a good idea — Turner's portrayal has changed my mind. She channels a version of the character who, again, feels inspired by Brian Bendis's All-New X-Men. Given I'm rather fond of that portrayal, I couldn't be happier.
Alexandra Shipp's Storm
The X-Men films haven't always fared well when it comes to portraying their villains. The typical problem is that they focus on one or two villains, with the rest relegated to background presences; sadly, this happens with the Four Horsemen. Alexandra Shipp's Storm is criminally underused, although the little we see of her — from her encounter with En Sabah Nur in Cairo to her confrontation with Cyclops — is generally excellent.
It's clear that Shipp's Storm is younger and less confident than anything we've seen before (either in comics or in film). When Beast tosses a car at her, she cowers in fear and remains huddled in a corner for quite some time. That's something Halle Berry's Storm would never do — it's also something very much out of character for the Storm of comics.
That said, this latest version of Storm is powerfully evocative of the Storm comic book fans know and love. Even the hairstyle is identical to one the character had in the 1980s (Storm changes her hairstyle more than any other superhero in the world). Alexandra Shipp clearly has real potential.
Kodi Smit-McPhee's Nightcrawler
Alan Cumming's Nightcrawler was a fan-favorite in X2, although contract negotiations for his return in X-Men: The Last Stand fell through. It's no surprise that we're finally seeing Bryan Singer return to this iconic German teleporter.
Kodi Smit-McPhee is absolutely wonderful as the character, portraying him with a level of youth and charm that we haven't seen since the X-Men: Evolution animated series. Many of the core elements — such as Nightcrawler's Catholic faith and swashbuckling enthusiasm — are played to perfection. X-Men: Apocalypse couldn't have gotten Nightcrawler more right, and I'm excited to see what comes next!
Evan Peters's Quicksilver
Rounding the team out, Evan Peters finally joins the team as Quicksilver! The Quicksilver of the X-Men films is tonally very different to anything we've seen in the comics; much less assured, with precious little arrogance, he even has moments of self-deprecation. Quicksilver's life has been on hold since the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. For all his power, he's achieved nothing, still living in his mother's basement. This has taught him humility and makes him a far more effective team player than in any other portrayal I've seen.
Fox got the effects for Quicksilver's powers right in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse does its best to one-up that famous scene. To the film's credit, it actually comes close to succeeding. Still, future movies would do well to stop trying to one-up themselves, and instead carefully integrate the powerset into the broader team movie. The final battle with Apocalypse shows signs that Singer has already learned this lesson, so I'm optimistic.
All in all, it's pretty clear that X-Men: Apocalypse leaves the X-Men in a strong place! With the team disbanded after X-Men: First Class, this is a new "Original Five" who look set to be champions of the mutant world. I can't wait to see what happens next.