Hello interweb, Nate here. Why does the X-Men, (un)arguably the greatest superhero team to ever hit comics, get such terrible movies? Now I really didn’t want to make this review but in the end I’ve been reviewing these movies sense Ant-Man (excluding Deadpool since I can’t watch it yet and I haven’t seen Batman V Superman yet) so let’s just get this over with. Also just in case you care: spoiler warning.
Movie Title: X-Men: Apocalypse
Produced by: Marvel Comics
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Writer: Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, and Simon Kinberg
Director: Bryan Singer
Producer: Bryan Singer, Lauren Shuler Donner, Simon Kinberg, and Hutch Parker
Running Time: 2 hr 24 min
I once heard that Bryan Singer banned comic books from the set of the first two X-Men films and I feel like that’s where the problems with the franchise has risen from. Back in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, comic book movies had this weird thing where they’re partially proud to be comic book adaptations but also ashamed since comics are a “lesser form of media” or some BS like that. That’s why a lot of those movies weren’t done well like Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and X-Men. (Granted I’ve never seen the original X-Men trilogy nor First Class but I have heard that the first films were still mediocre but better than the other movies I listed.) However, after Marvel’s Avengers we’ve finally gotten over the stigma of comic book movies and are actually adapting from the source material rather than just referencing them. However Bryan Singer is obviously not part of that “we” and that’s mainly the problems that I see with this film. Most of the characters featured in the film are deep and complex in the comics but this film either ignores or washes the depth from these characters away. In addition, the fun and joy from the comics aren’t kept in tact with the movie and while there was a moment where I thought we were gonna be able to see the characters just enjoy themselves it’s glossed over and we never do.
So what’s the story? An ancient mutant named Apocalypse, who was worshiped as a god in Ancient Egypt due to his strength, has awoken in present day. Once awake, Apocalypse decides that weak has taken over and decides to gather four “Horsemen” to help him destroy our world and rebuild a new one. So with the help of Psylocke, Storm, Archangel, and Magneto, he kidnaps Professor X in hopes of absorbing his telepathic powers to mind control the world. Now the X-Men must defeat their most powerful enemy yet before it’s too late.
Now thanks to X-Men: Days of Future Past, the continuity of this universe is being rebuilt so all of the characters are either reintroducing themselves or they’re just kind of there from previous movies that may or may not have been changed due to the time travel from the last movie. It really is kind of confusing how this continuity is being played out since I thought DoFP completely rebooted the franchise but they reference previous X-Men movies as though they’re still cannon so it’s really difficult to figure out how this universe is suppose to look like anymore. I mean Cyclops was clearly in previous movies and I assume he was in a relationship with Jean (again, haven’t seen the original trilogy) and if he wasn’t they at the very least were team mates but they’re meeting each other for the first time in this movie as teenagers. So from an overall continuity stand point of the franchise, this makes little sense.
However seeing what we are given, is the story any good? I guess but really the problem isn’t really in the story as it is in the characters. The story as a plot seems perfectly fine: super powerful ancient mutant returns and wants to destroy the world and rebuild it with only the strong surviving. That has the potential for a really cool story! Unfortunately in order to pull off a good story you need good characters to continue the plot and the characters we’re given lack character. Most of the characters either have zero backstory, zero motivation, or just adds nothing to the film.
Another problem I have with this film is the tone and what is present within the X-Men comics that is lacking in the film. Now mutants are a metaphor for prejudice and being discriminated due to being different than other people. In the comics a lot of mutants love who they are and enjoy having powers because, as you’d imagine, it’s a whole lot of fun to be able to fly or run super fast! A lot of mutants love who they are and simply wants society to accept them and realize that most mutants aren’t looking to hurt people. This plays into the whole metaphor of minorities as most people don’t really want to change who they are and simply want to be accepted without facing things like racism or homophobia. While the X-Men films seem to get the prejudice thing down, they seem to neglect the idea of the mutants actually having fun with their powers and I really want to see that. There was a point where Cyclops, Jean, Nightcrawler, and Jubilee went to the mall and I was actually excited to see the scene where they’re just chilling there. But it’s just glossed over and we don’t really get to see them just be teens.
One of my favorite X-Men comics is New X-Men: Academy X which featured new teenage mutants joining Xavier’s school (ran by Cyclops and Emma Frost at the time) and we get to see what it’s like for mutant teens to live their life with the prejudice still very much present. While the powers and prejudice did leave stress on these characters that was explored to a certain extend, they still acted like teens and had fun with each other and their powers. The comic did have it’s dark moments – such as when William Stryker sent his purifiers to bomb a bus full of de-powered mutants after House of M – but it still contains that fun and joy.
There really isn’t a lot of action in the film outside the climax where the X-Men face Apocalypse and it was fun to watch but I’ve seen better fight scenes. Apocalypse pose as a powerful mutant and it takes the entire X-Men plus his four horsemen (who turn against him) to actually defeat him. The biggest problem with that scene is that Apocalypse’s powers were so poorly defined that it’s kinda difficult to judge how accurate the battle is in terms of everyone’s strength.
Now let’s get to the characters starting with our villain. Apocalypse is – well – kind of confusing. Now I have to admit, I never read an Apocalypse story so I’m assuming his character makes more sense there. However here his powers were so poorly defined that I was confused with what he was able to do. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in the comics Apocalypse was the world’s first mutant and thus he had powerful mutant abilities that he used to make people believe he’s a god. Here, I guess he’s not the first mutant and his power is that he steals other mutant’s bodies as well as their abilities? Like if he would to theoretically transfer his consciousness to Cyclops’s body than Cyclops would die and Apocalypse would then be able to shoot optic blasts from his eyes? In addition to that, why does he need four horsemen if all they did was stand around him awkwardly most of the movie? Yeah his horsemen fought the X-Men at certain points of the film, but if he’s so powerful than why did he need them? It also seemed strange that he just simply convinced them to join him because it would’ve made more sense if he mind controlled people to be on his side (although that would negate the need for him to steal Professor X’s body). The last thing I want to point out is that in the comics I’m pretty sure he wants to kill all humans so only mutants live in his new world. Was that his goal here or did he just want to kill everybody? His tag line is “Only the strong will survive” but what does he define as “strong”?
Now let’s get to his horsemen starting with Magneto. This is an X-Men film so it’s no surprise that Magneto will be featured in it. So in the film, Magneto attempts to hide from his past and now has a family with a wife and child. However he uses his powers to save someone and once he is revealed to be Magneto the police shows up and accidentally kills his wife and daughter. Now this scene was actually well done and Magneto takes revenge by controlling his daughter’s necklace to kill all the cops. Now I do want to point out that Magneto is a fugitive after DoFP so the cops weren’t abusing their power when they came to arrest him and the death of his family was an accident. However, after everything Magneto has gone through in his life as a holocaust survivor and losing his family again it does create a sympathetic villain that we can connect with. The only thing I didn’t like about his character was the fact that Quicksilver was about to tell him that he’s Magneto’s son, didn’t, than Magneto turned on Apocalypse in the final fight. While they did give him a motivation for him turning back on Apocalypse, I felt like it was a missed opportunity for Quicksilver not to tell him and it would’ve resulted in a stronger motivation when he saw Apocalypse trapping Quicksilver in the ground.
Now Storm was never a villain in the comics and never should’ve been a villain here. In the comics, Storm is a streetrat who would steal from people to survive before her powers surfaced and people worshiped her as a goddess. Then Charles Xavier would come bye and tell her that she’s a mutant and should come back with him to join the X-Men. Here, Apocalypse takes her to be one of his horsemen and she turns on him after he chokes Mystique sense Mystique is her hero. What? I’m sorry but no. Storm was never evil and she should never have been a Mystique fangirl. Granted, no one should be a fan of Mystique but I’ll get to her in a bit.
Now Angel is technically in this movie and becomes Archangel when Apocalypse recruits him as a horsemen. Now in the comics, Angel was a rich playboy who had these wings on his back that allowed him to fly. During a fight involving the Morlocks (ugly mutants that live underground) his wing got injured on a spike and instead of being healed, it was needlessly amputated. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of X-Men love their powers and Angel is one of them so when he woke up to find out his wings were gone he actually became suicidal and in his state of weakness Apocalypse came to him and gave him his wings back only metal and thus turned him into Archangel. Now part of that story was kept but not the parts that mattered. Instead of a rich playboy, Angel was in some type of mutant wrestling ring and his wings was injured after being electrocuted so Apocalypse came and turned him into Archangel. The problem here is that the story was shortened and simplified to the point where a lot of the depth was lost in the process. Angel’s story is one of a well-off guy with superpowers losing those powers and struggling to cope. This Angel’s story is one of some random mutant fighting for people’s entertainment and he really doesn’t show any signs of caring when his wings are damaged
Psylocke really have no backstory in the film so we really don’t know who she is. She can create telekinetic weapons but that’s kind of it. I really just found nothing of value in the character and she didn’t even seem to hold any purpose.
Now let’s get to the heroes starting with Cyclops. Now there’s two things I want to point out: 1. Cyclops’s optic blasts are not lazers. They are concussive blasts of energy and thus do not produce heat. This may be a minor nitpick but it kind of bugged me. 2. Scott is Havok’s OLDER brother, not younger brother. You could count this second one as a nitpick but honestly I feel like that’s kind of important given their background. Scott lost his parents and brother in a plain crash and the only reason he survived his because his powers surfaced and softened his fall. The impact still landed him in a coma and caused permanent damage so that he couldn’t control his powers anymore (yes his lack of control isn’t naturally part of his powers). Because he lost everyone he loved (until he found his brother later and it turned out his father went and joined the Guardians of the Galaxy) he has difficulties with relationships since he’s afraid of losing his loved ones again. Here, he shoots up a school’s bathroom and his parents send him off to Xavier’s school.
I don’t really have much to talk about Jean. Her phoenix powers helped take down Apocalypse in the final fight and I guess this may hint another shot at the Dark Phoenix Saga, but otherwise I really don’t care.
Quicksilver was a popular character from DoFP so of course he’ll come back for this one. I find it weird that he’s probably the only character in the movie shown to have fun with his powers. Granted super speed is probably one of the funner powers, but still! I liked his scene here in the Xavier Mansion more than the kitchen scene in DoFP, but I have to admit the science geek in me kept wondering “how are none of their necks broken?” The scene was fun but ya know…science…
I liked Nightcrawler in this movie. That’s kind of surprising considering how much I love his character in the comics and most of these characters are nothing like the comics, but I still liked him. His personality was cute and his Catholicism was still present. Although if there is anything to complain about his character I do find it dumb how they didn’t include the angry mob trying to kill him because of his demon like appearance. Also kudos for the actor actually staying blue the entire movie! All our other blue X-Men seemed to have missed the memo.
So let’s talk about those blue X-Men! Both Beast and Mystique was rarely in their natural blue look and for Mystique that kinda contradicts her whole “mutant and proud” attitude from earlier movies and with Beast it takes away the tragedy of the character.
Let’s cover Mystique first. Mystique is NOT a hero. She’s done good things in the comics before but for the most part she’s a pretty evil character. Although let’s face it, the only reason she’s the hero here is because Hunger Games made Jennifer Lawrence everybody’s celebrity crush. I don’t even think Jennifer Lawrence wanted to be in this movie sense she seemed disinterested in the role and refused to be blue most of the time. I know DoFP kinda messed up the continuity here, but any fans of this franchise liked Mystique because she wasn’t afraid to be herself. Although I guess Lawrence cared so little about this performance that she wasn’t willing to wear the blue body paint long enough to actually play the role of the character. I’m not even bringing up the comics for this one, I’m judging this decision purely based on previous movies with the semi-established continuity!
Now let’s talk about Beast before I wrap this up. Beast apparently takes medications here to suppress his mutant form. Do I really need to say anything else? The tragedy of the character is that Beast looks like – well – a beast, and yet he’s probably one of the most intelligent and sensitive X-Men there is. But because he looks like an animal, people don’t take him seriously and every time he has tried to cure his mutation it just messes around with his appearance more. Now he can just simply take medicine and look like a normal person? What?!?!
Okay, one final complaint before I end this. Jubilee. Why was she advertised in the trailers and yet she had so little lines? I admit, I like her look. But she could’ve at least shot some fireworks!
With all that’s said and done, X-Men: Apocalypse shoe horns the characters back and doesn’t even attempt to adapt them. I almost feel like Bryan Singer just looked at the covers of the comics and made a movie based off those! I give it a 2/5 and suggest that if you watch it that you wait until it comes out on DVD. Give the rights back to Marvel!