The Apocalypse is finally here.
Fan-favorite villain Apocalypse finally makes his debut appearance in 20th Century Fox's X-Men franchise.
Especially after the time bending and game-changing events of Days of Future Past, expectations for this next X-Men movie are accordingly high. With rising star Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse, most of the First Class cast also being there, and even director Bryan Singer returning, all signs point to yet another great entry for the franchise.
Yet after basically everything has been set to zero with Days of Future Past, can X-Men: Apocalypse direct the franchise to new and exciting paths? Or does it fail and lead the franchise to an uninventive halt?...
Since the dawn of civilization, he was worshiped as a god. Apocalypse, the first and most powerful mutant from Marvel's X-Men universe, amassed the powers of many other mutants, becoming immortal and invincible. Upon awakening after thousands of years, he is disillusioned with the world as he finds it and recruits a team of powerful mutants, including a disheartened Magneto, to cleanse mankind and create a new world order, over which he will reign. As the fate of the Earth hangs in the balance, Raven with the help of Professor X must lead a team of young X-Men to stop their greatest nemesis and save mankind from complete destruction.
X-Men: Apocalypse picks up 10 years after the events of the vastly game-changing events of Days of Future past, which retconned pretty much everything between X-Men 1 and 3.
Now once again focussing on a much younger team of X-Men and a new villain that is made out to be the most powerful one the team has ever faced, X-Men: Apocalypse turns out to be very surprsing in how "safely" the movie as a whole feels. Especially considering how brave the major universe changes were that returning director Bryan Singer introduced in Days of Future past, X-Men: Apocalypse sure enough is not a bad film, yet it's most probably the most predictable and standard X-Men film in the entire franchise.
|For what it's worth: be prepared for X-Men movie 101.|
After a rather exciting introduction to the ancient villain Apocalypse, X-Men: Apocalypse is set during the 1980s where Apocalypse returns from his Egyptian grave (The Mummy-style) and now aims to reshape the world in his vision - and now it's up to the X-Men to stop him.
What becomes very apparent after only a couple scenes, is that X-Men: Apocalypse featuers a very fast pace. While the story itself develops in a rather unusual comicy and standard fashion (even for X-Men movies), X-Men: Apocalypse's story mainly feels more like the movie is checking of boxes of what makes a solid X-Men movie without really delivering all too much interesting or anything new that we haven't seen before in previous entries.
The movie basically follows a very predictable structure where Apocalypse starts teaming up with his Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse all the while a new generation of X-Men is simultaneously rallied together as soon as they meet Apocalypse and recognize him as the threat to the world he is. After a brief and out of nowhere detour to General Stryker's labs, the final fight against Apocalypse begins, ends and the movie is over. There is really not too much else that happens. And that's exactly the key aspect that makes X-Men: Apocalypse not the worst but by far one if not THE most forgettable entry in the franchise: the lack of anything new and exciting to add to the universe aside from what we already know and already saw.
|"We will build a better world!" - "Which one?" - "Eh...a BETTER one!"|
And while X-Men: Apocalypse of course boasts the same succesful formula of the previous Singer directed movies, like entertaining action scenes and charismatic protagonists, one might find it hard to shake off the feel that the studio wanted to have fan-favorite villain Apocalypse to be the main antagonist of the movie, yet didn't know what else to do with him.
This goes very much hand in hand with X-Men: Apocalypse's lack of any well explained or new themes that we haven't heard of countless times before: Magneto wants to take revenge on humanity...again, Xavier wants to convince Magneto to become a good guy...again, Apocalypse wants to kill off humanity and build a better world...yet never explains what exactly this new and better world looks like.
It all leads to X-Men: Apocalypse still being a respectably entertaining movie, yet playing it all just very safe and only thematically always scratching the bare surface of what its themes otherwise could've lead to.
The story is topped up with numerous plot conveniences to direct the movie once again towards very predictable outcomes and paths that prevent (at least longtime fans) to get entirely invested in the storyline. Once again, X-Men: Apocalypse just feels like "X-Men movie 101", where even occasional glimpses of novelty, like Magneto actually trying to live a new life as a normal human being in Poland with his wife and daughter (!), sadly get undermined after a short time through some clichee plot device that you can see coming from miles away.
|Magneto trying to lead a normal life? Now THAT I haven't seen before.|
But with X-Men: Apocalypse playing it very safe, this though also means that director Bryan Singer once again brings back the same mix of comedy, action and serious tones that made X-Men by far 20th Century Fox's most well established (and only successful) superhero franchise to date.
Therefore, the movie does a good job in keeping viewers entertained throughout with it's enjoyable changes between the more menacing scenes of Apocalypse roaming (or rather teleporting) around the world in search for his new Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and then scenes with the young X-Men students trying to cope with their uncontrolled powers. It's a rather nice balance throughout the film further showcasing that X-Men: Apocalypse despite its severe lack of novelty is still a capable good ole' fashioned popcorn blockbuster movie for what it's worth - just nothing that will make it standout among the rest of the franchise.
|Of course Quicksilver once again steals the show.|
However, looking at the acting, X-Men: Apocalypse boasts a noteworthy amount of newcomers that mostly portray younger versions of X-Men members we already met in previous installments.
For example Game of Thrones-star Sophie Turner now plays a young Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan a young Cyclops and Kodi Smith-McPhee a young Nightcrawler. Though we get a nice first feel of what personalities those characters have and how they compare to their older version from the previous X-Men movies, Jean Grey, Cyclops and the rest of the younger X-Men are a bit downplayed in terms of character development. Most of the focus during the movie clearly lies on the interactions between Apocalypse, Xavier, Magneto and Mystique, with the other X-Men and Four Horsemen only there to fill the screen occasioally with some fights.
Regarding the rather big cast, it can be always expected that some characters always get somewhat of the short end of the stick, yet considering that the main characters of the movie mostly only linger on with the same old themes and antics we already heard several times already, one would've wished that X-Men: Apocalypse would've shifted its focus on the new younger characters a bit more and didn't as much ditch them aside as simple bystanders and witnesses only there to show off their powers during the final battle. But this will hopefully change in the next movie, considering that there they will have already been established as full-on X-Men team members.
|One would wish we would've learned a bit more about these guys.|
Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse does a great job in portraying the ancient, powerful and menacing villain.
Apocalypse is well established throughout the movie as an ancient being whose powers are largely almost limitless, which might work in the movie's favor for posing him as an almost godlike villain, yet indeed occasionally makes it hard to tell what Apocalypse can and can't do.
However, as already mentioned, while Apocalypse certainly is well portrayed by Isaac, the movie does a very lackluster job of clearly defining what goals Apocalypse has. Does he want to enslave humanity or kill them? Does he want to establish an elitist world with only the strongest mutants or simply an all-mutant world? What does his new world look like? Why hasn't he done that before? etc.
All those questions are never given a clear answer in the movie, making Apocalypse sadly oftentimes come off as a cool looking and powerful yet also just endlessly rambling and preaching diva of a villain.
|Here we go. Yet another speech.|
What's even more disappointing though are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. While seeing Psylocke, Archangel, an evil Storm and Magneto teaming up with Apocalypse as a villain team is a cool concept, X-Men: Apocalypse very much wastes any true potential this idea has. Aside from Storm and Magneto, who still barely even do anything as the "oh so powerful" Horsemen, Psylocke and Archangel are flatout throwaway characters who barely even talk, and even worse, fight and go down like any other run-off-the-mill evil henchmen we saw countless times in other X-Men movies. Considering that Apocalypse even supposedly significantly increased their powers, makes it all even the more disappointing.
Last but not least, X-Men: Apocalypse delivers servicably enough in the action department. Whereas the final battle might be quite a bit underwhelming for some (especially after we saw what's possible in Captain America: Civil War), the movie nevertheless does just good enough to keep the entertainment value up, with fan-favorite mutant Quicksilver once again stealing the show with yet another hilarious and cool super-speed/slow-motion scene.
|The Four Horsemen sure look cool, but that's really about it.|
Overall, X-Men: Apocalypse might not be a bad movie in itself but nevertheless fails to add anything substantial to the long running X-Men franchise. Especially after the game changing Days of Future Past, one would've hoped that director Bryan Singer would return to bring back yet another heavy hitter of an X-Men movie. Sadly though, X-Men: Apocalypse ultimately feels just as average, predictable and standard as X-Men movies could come, relying heavily on the series' well established formula with little new to it that we haven't already seen before.
Though this means that X-Men: Apocalypse for the most part will still mostly make for a good enough entertaining time in the theater with equal amounts of comedy and action, fans expecting to be surprised with any new ideas or themes, will definitely feel let down to some extent.
X-Men: Apocalypse is ultimately a servicable yet quite uninspired and standard feeling entry in the franchise, that despite its still functioning narrative formula sadly only barely moves the franchise forward in any new exciting directions.
Final Verdict: 5 out of 10