Looking at the majority of reviews for X-Men: Apocalypse, it's clear that it's not been doing quite as well as Fox were hoping. And so I, as a... *checks cue cards* "mindless consumer", went into Apocalypse not expecting much. From what I'd heard, the latest installment in the X-Men franchise was nothing more than another stab at what Batman V Superman tried to do but in a new skin pack.
And honestly, those claims aren't completely unjustified. Watching Apocalypse, there were points where it felt very reminiscent of Dawn of Justice. However, unlike Dawn of Justice, this movie isn't trash. Don't get me wrong; I loved Batman V Superman as a fun action flick, but on pretty much every level, X-Men is far superior.
That's not to say it's without flaws. No, Apocalypse is very flawed. Not movie-ruining flawed, but flawed nonetheless. However, despite its shortcomings, I bloody loved this movie. It took itself seriously enough for me to believe the stakes were real but also wasn't afraid to poke fun at itself when appropriate. The acting was on point throughout and, contrary to the reviews, the main villain was actually pretty good.
X-Men: Apocalypse's greatest strength is the fact that it knows its audience. It knows that, as a sixteen year old film franchise and a fifty year old comic series, it's got fans of all ages. Apocalypse has something for everyone, ranging from the obligatory Quicksilver sequence that adults and kids alike can love as well as some darker moments from Magneto that panders to the older viewers present.
It's also perfected the art of fan service, dropping nods to fans of all X-Men media. As someone often referred to in the comments section as a... *shuffles cue cards* "filthy casual," having only ever watched the movies and the '90s cartoon, I found there were a load of cool references throughout that made me feel like a smart little boy. From knowing who Jubilee was without her being named to seeing the dam from X2, there's no denying Apocalypse's Easter Egg game was on point.
Visually as well, the movie is spectacular. As far as I could tell, the effects never really let up, with Cyclops' energy beams and Nightcrawler's poofing standing as particular highlights. It's great to see so much care going into a film like this in an age where just existing is guaranteed to make an assload of money. Even with Batman V Superman's symbolism and Civil War's outstanding visual effects, X-Men is still one of the best looking movies of the year so far.
But that's not to say it's perfect. As the movie continues it's evident Apocalypse is suffering from Phantom Menace syndrome in that there's no clear protagonist. In some scenes it appears to be Cyclops whereas others seem to focus on Mystique or Xavier. That's not to say any of these characters couldn't hold it on their own, though. It's obvious Tye Sheridan's Scott Summers is going to be leading the charge during the next wave of X-Men movies, but Apocalypse still felt trapped between two eras. On one hand, it's trying to finish Xavier and Magneto's story while on the other, it's trying to introduce the next generation of mutants that'll take on Magneto the next time he throws a bit of a wobbler.
Otherwise, the heroes of the piece are all fairly well developed and have very clear motives. With the exception of Sophie Turner's occasionally clunky accent, there's no lapse in the acting and everyone is written really well, providing us with some much needed chemistry.
And then there's the Horsemen.
I won't lie; the Four Horsemen, Magneto, Storm, Psylocke and Angel, were a huge disappointment. Aside from Magneto, who saw development in the previous two movies, none of them are particularly compelling at all. Storm has a few good moments that are few and far between, but honestly, if I hadn't spotted him on a cast list just now, I would have completely forgotten Angel was even in the movie at all. Aside from some rather fetching face tattoos and an implied drinking problem, Angel's character is about as compelling as earwax. Psylocke was only memorable due to her unique visuals and heavy promotion in the trailers but brings absolutely nothing to the table. I'm pretty sure she's got fewer than five lines in the whole movie.
Magneto himself is a real mixed bag. Fassbender's acting is phenomenal as always and he really brings home the kind of emotion that's necessary for a role like this. There's a moment early in the film, that I won't ruin for you, that really makes the audience resonate with his motives and what pushes him to do what he does. Of all the characters, Magneto feels the most human, showing raw emotion at times when anyone else would have kept calm and dealt with it.
But at the same time, the way he addresses his past is not executed well. Throughout the course of the movie we're shown flashbacks to First Class and Days of Future Past rather than being given anything new. Imagine Civil War, but instead of being shown Tony Stark's relationship with his parents through that weird memory thing, we were made to rewatch that VHS tape from Iron Man 2 where his Dad says he doesn't hate him or whatever it was. I can't remember; that movie wasn't great.
As a standalone movie, Magneto's development isn't bad, but it's certainly not good. It definitely relies on the audience being aware of what went down in the previous two movies, which isn't wrong to do seeing as it's the final act of a trilogy, but it didn't have to be so reliant on a different story to tell this one.
And now, to Apocalypse himself. Let me just make it clear right off the bat that Apocalypse is, in almost every way, a less sassy, slightly more compelling Ultron. Seriously, their motives are pretty much the same, the both take a bunch of jacked up superheroes under their wing and they both have a serious case of god-complex.
While a lot of people seemed to like it, I was slightly put off by the opening sequence set in Ancient Egypt. Maybe it's because I like to pretend I'm a classic civilization nerd but everything just felt wrong to me in that scene (Pyramids were meant to be tombs, not temples you morons!) Otherwise, I liked his backstory, though I felt it could have been tied into the previous films a bit rather than having him completely disconnected but that's just me getting nitpicky.
Overall, he's a pretty good villain. He's the perfect blend of Mary-Sue powerful but also doesn't give the impression of being a chump if he gets his ass handed to him on a plate. He's no Loki, nor is he anywhere near Ian McKellen's level as old-school Magneto, but he's still better than 90% of supervillains we've seen recently.
X-Men: Apocalypse is a good movie. In fact, I'd go as far to say it's a great movie. It's not quite as good as Days of Future Past, nor is it likely to challenge Deadpool any time soon, but it's still a solid installment in the franchise. As alluded to in the movie itself, it's very much the Return of the Jedi of the new trilogy. Does it have problems? Yes, quite a few in fact. Do they ruin the movie at all? Of course not. Is it better than Last Stand? Does a bear crap in the woods?
However, don't go in expecting something that'll leave you thinking long after you've left the theater. It's not much of a think piece, rather a slightly predictable typical superhero film you'd expect from anyone that isn't Marvel Studios. It may not do anything that innovative, but what it does it does fantastically.
If you haven't seen Apocalypse yet I highly recommend you give it a whirl. If you have seen it, go see it again, because I can guarantee you've missed like two thirds of the Easter Eggs at least. Go on, you know you want to.
X-Men: Apocalypse is in theaters now!