SPOILER WARNING: This post will contain major spoilers for X-Men: Apocalypse. If you haven't seen it yet, turn around now!
The superhero genre takes another big step forward with X-Men: Apocalypse. Singer has crafted a solid outing again for the franchise while also teasing and setting up future installments. The X-Men films are far from over, as they begin another chapter with the young X-Men team.
I couldn’t help but notice some of the differences and similarities between Disney/Marvel’s Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron and X-Men’s super-villain, Apocalypse. They have one goal in mind: to destroy the world and all of humanity along with it. Both characters were portrayed by phenomenal actors in James Spader (Ultron) and Oscar Isaac (Apocalypse). With two different franchises and two menacing villains, one cannot help but compare and contrast them both.
Please understand that I am not talking about their comic book portrayal. For this article, I am strictly focusing on the movie versions of the characters only. I have made a list of five categories that discuss different aspects of these particular characters. Each category has a winner. Read on to find out which villain emerges victorious!
Ultron: First and foremost, Ultron’s entire body is made up of the very durable metal called Vibranium, which can repel most standard attacks. Ultron can also be seen in the film firing concussive blasts of energy out of his hands. Another power he had in Avengers: Age of Ultron, was some sort of ability to pull objects towards him. We see him utilize this power towards Iron-Man as well as Captain America. Being artificially intelligent, allows him to get inside the minds of computers and hack them while learning vital information. Last but not least, Ultron also has the ability to fly.
Apocalypse: Apocalypse also has many abilities shown in the film. He has the ability to teleport, which he uses to retrieve his horsemen and navigate his way around the world. Apocalypse also has the power to decimate his enemies using any inanimate object(s) around him. In one scene, we see him use sand to decapitate some humans. We also see him push a man inside of a wall and harden it, killing him instantly. In another scene, we see him turn the ground into quicksand, killing a group of construction workers.
Like Ultron, Apocalypse can also touch a form of media (in this case a TV), and learn about the history of the world through the news. But perhaps his most powerful ability shown in the film is the ability for him to get inside someone’s mind, particularly Charles Xavier's. He confiscates Cerebro and captures Xavier to use him as a way of communicating his plan to the world inside of the minds of everyone else.
Verdict: While both of these villains were pretty powerful, I have to give the nod to Apocalypse here. His powers are quite unique and very impressive. Also, director Bryan Singer portrays his powers on-screen very well with all of the necessary special effects added in.
“You (Quicksilver) and I can herd them. But you (Scarlet Witch) can tear them apart, from the inside.” -Ultron
Ultron: Ultron learned that Stark had a history with these two characters because the records showed that nuclear weapons belonging to Stark had killed the family of the Maximoff twins. Ultron used this backstory to his advantage to recruit these two for his evil plan. Ultron’s ultimate goal was to eventually destroy the Avengers, but first he needed to make sure that the Avengers were torn apart as a team.
He enabled Wanda to showcase her powers, implanting haunting visions inside the individual minds of the Avengers. The biggest impact was on Bruce Banner, as he went full-on Hulk inside of a major city. This led to the Avengers losing a major battle, and allowed Ultron to continue his plan of decimating the planet.
“Together we will cleanse the earth for the strongest.” -Apocalypse
Apocalypse: While Apocalypse makes his motivations very clear (which I’ll touch on later), he needs the help of four horsemen to assist him on his quest of “cleansing the earth.” Over the years, Apocalypse has had four horsemen as his guardians, named War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death. In X-Men: Apocalypse, Magneto, Storm, Psylocke, and Archangel become his new horsemen.
Unfortunately, his Horsemen are very underutilized. They are used moreso as a distraction than for helping to conquer the world. Apocalypse has his Horsemen fight the X-Men at the end of the film, while he is busy trying to transfer his consciousness into Charles Xavier’s body. It was a huge let down for me, since the build up to the final epic battle was done so well.
Verdict: While I enjoyed both the Maximoff Twins and the Horsemen characters in their films, I have to give the nod to Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. They had more to do in the film and truly gave the Avengers a hard time, preventing them from destroying Ultron.
Ultron: Talk about deceptive marketing. In the trailers, Ultron was portrayed as this angry, frightening, and authoritative villain. While I didn’t mind some of the quirkiness that Ultron brought to the screen, his overall scheme was let down due to the humor that Spader brought to the character. The stakes didn’t feel high enough in the film. I knew the Avengers were eventually going to defeat him, but it would have been nice to be on the edge of your seat questioning if the Avengers were actually going to succeed on taking him down. Fan's were disappointed by this final product of Ultron. Critics also pointed out how cheesy his dialogue was. This made the film feel a bit uneven and didn't sit well with most audience members.
While I will say that some of the humor worked, it just felt too forced, and the stakes didn’t feel as high as they should have been. We all knew the Avengers were going to come in and save the day at some point. But when you have a villain cracking jokes all day and not appearing to take himself seriously, it can be rather difficult to feel that the world is in peril. This was a major let down of what the comic book character of Ultron stood for, and thus failed to deliver in the film.
Apocalypse: The opening scene of this film should automatically indicate to the audience that this villain is not one to be trifled with. We immediately know that this mutant is a god-like figure, and has been worshiped as one for many years. As soon as he is resurrected once again, we as an audience fear for the worst. His presence alone is enough to give us chills, and he's made all the more formidable by his roster of followers. Simon Kinberg wrote the character of Apocalypse very well, giving us a clear indication that nobody should want to face this mutant in a battle to the death.
The way Apocalypse speaks is menacing, especially once those voice-over effects were added. From time to time, Apocalypse’s voice will sound heavier and angrier as he delivers his speeches to his four Horsemen as well as to the entire world. There was absolutely no humor to this character whatsoever. This made Apocalypse feel like a real villain who would be very difficult to take down in a fight.
Verdict: Ultron's humor proved too much of a distraction towards audience members that it took away some of the enjoyment in the film. The stakes didn't feel high enough in the film. Spader did all he could with the character, but unfortunately the humor just didn't seem to work.
With Apocalypse, I wasn’t sure if the X-Men were going to defeat him in the final battle. His abilities topped everything they were throwing at him. In the end, the X-Men did triumph over him but Apocalypse proved to be a formidable foe.
4. Fighting Their Enemies
Ultron: Avengers: Age of Ultron had some pretty epic battle scenes. From the opening act to the films' climax, the movie delivered on the action. However, what made some of the action scenes stand out among the rest was that Ultron is not afraid to take on the Avengers mano y mano. There are various scenes in the film where he actually takes on an Avenger one-on-one. The first Avenger he fights is the one who created him; Iron Man. In one of my favorite action scenes of the movie, Ultron fights Captain America on top of a truck. Finally towards the end of the film, Ultron snatches Thor away from the battle and brings him inside the church to destroy him.
Ultron shows how vicious he is in combat situations and shows off his powers against the other Avengers. My one disappointment though is that I wish he could have fought the Hulk in a one-on-one battle. But sadly, only Iron Man had the privilege to do so inside his Hulkbuster armor.
Apocalypse: Regrettably, Apocalypse is not seen fighting the X-Men for very long. In fact, he is defeated shortly after the X-Men band together. There were only two scenes where he actually fought a mutant one-on-one. The first scene was when Quicksilver is seen punching him left and right. However, the fight doesn’t last long, as Apocalypse uses his powers to grab a hold of Quicksilver’s legs and winds up breaking them, to prohibit him from running circles around him.
The other battle is much more intense, except this one is shown taking place inside of Xavier’s mind. Xavier fights Apocalypse inside of his head, but is eventually overwhelmed by his power. But with the help of Jean Grey and the Phoenix, they are able to defeat Apocalypse and bring his reign to an end.
Singer could have done so much more with this character. He could have had him take on Magneto, or better yet, grow large in size (in the real world) like he did in the comics and the '90s cartoon series. If the Russo brothers could do it with Ant-Man/Giant-Man, Singer could have done the same with Apocalypse.
Verdict: Apocalypse may have had the coolest powers, but his fight against the X-Men was a little underwhelming. However, Ultron wasn't afraid to combat the Avengers himself, and certainly deserves the victory here.
“I was meant to be new. I was meant to be beautiful. The world would’ve looked to the sky and seen hope, seen mercy. Instead, they’ll look up in horror.” -Ultron
Ultron: For me, Ultron’s motivations were never very clear. The first time we hear of him, he corrupts J.A.R.V.I.S. and learns about all of humanity in the span of a few seconds by simply hacking into the internet. After losing his decrepit Iron Man suit of armor, he builds himself a new one and already has plans to destroy the world. This all happens in the span of about fifteen minutes, and he goes on to gain new armor throughout the film.
Everything happens so fast and we never really get a proper introduction to this character. Before you know it, Ultron is defeated and the Avengers live to fight another day. That’s pretty much all she wrote, and this is a major reason why Ultron was a big let down in the movie.
“I’ve been called many things over many lifetimes: Ra, Krishna, Yahweh. I was there to spark and fan the flame of man’s awakening, to spin the wheel of civilization.” -Apocalypse
Apocalypse: On the other hand, I felt that the character of Apocalypse was developed very well. The opening scene of the movie showed us how important this character was. We learned that he is a god worshiped by many in ancient Egypt. He knew his place in the world was to rule over man. He believed in the motto of survival of the fittest. Apocalypse also went directly to each of the mutants he recruited as his Horsemen, to explain why they should fight by his side. I believe Singer made Apocalypses’s motivations very clear in the movie, as he allowed plenty of screen time to give a complete backstory to the film’s title villain.
Verdict: Every film, especially a comic book one, should have a strong villain. If the villain isn’t what fans were expecting to see, it could really impact the movie going experience. A villain is meant to drive the protagonists' story forward, and prove to be a formidable challenge for them to have to overcome. It shouldn’t come easy and the stakes should be high. This is why I believe Apocalypse was developed far better as a character over Ultron.
Out of a possible five points, Apocalypse wins the score at 3-2.
Do you agree with my decision? Who did you think was a better developed movie villain? I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comment section below and please share!