‘X-Men: Apocalypse’: 5 of the Movie’s Biggest Problems
It’s already been a busy year for superhero movies. We’ve already gotten Deadpool, Batman v Superman, Captain America: Civil War, and now, X-Men: Apocalypse. Having seen it ourselves, we can say for sure that it didn’t quite measure up. To its credit, it wasn’t a complete dud. On a scale of X-Men Origins to the first X-Men movie, we’d give it about a 6 (maybe a 6.5). If you’re hitting the middle of that scale as a superhero franchise, odds are you’re doing just fine. And yet, the series set the bar high with its initial installments, making it hard to pick and up and move on after a decidedly mediocre effort.
In a vacuum, X-Men: Apocalypse is a halfway decent superhero movie. But there’s also a 16-year history of movies in the franchise to contextualize it, with quality ranging from “groundbreaking,” to “oh my God who made this and thought it was OK to show to other people?” Falling somewhere in the middle isn’t necessarily bad per se. We also know that 20th Century Fox won’t stop making X-Men movies anytime soon, and that setting a standard of excellence is imperative. So with that, let’s look at some of the key issues the film had, and whether or not they can be fixed for future projects.
1. The X-Men continuity is all over the place right now
When the first X-Men movie released back in 2000, the idea of a shared superhero universe was just a glimmer in the eye of Kevin Feige. That idea wouldn’t fully come into play until the release of Iron Man in 2008, meaning that X-Men came to life with little concern for things like consistency or continuity. It’s why there’s a tall black man playing Bolivar Trask in X-Men: The Last Stand, and another Trask played by Peter Dinklage in Days of Future Past, and it explains how nothing in X-Men Origins matches up with anything else in the X-Men universe. 20th Century Fox attempted to explain that away with time travel and alternate timelines, but there’s no escaping the fact that this franchise has never really been mapped out story-wise.
That takes us to X-Men: Apocalypse, a movie that retcons virtually everything from the original films in the series. Ignoring the fact that none of Professor X, Hank McCoy, Magneto, Alex Summers, or Moira MacTaggert appear to have aged a day in the 20 years since the events of First Class, now we’re being asked to just sort of accept that everything is new and that nothing from the previous films ever happened. And while that may serve the needs of 20th Century Fox in keeping the franchise alive indefinitely, it does a massive disservice to a story we’ve been following for over a decade and a half.
2. Apocalypse wasted world-class actors left and right
We’ll say this for X-Men: Apocalypse: On paper, its cast numbers itself among the best in all of superhero cinema. James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, and Jennifer Lawrence are on the Hollywood shortlist of “best actors in the business,” and the film wastes their talents at almost every turn. Fassbender, while acting his ever-loving heart out in the time he’s given, is back-seated for the latter half of the film after a promising start. Isaac is buried under 20 tons of questionably bad makeup and CGI. Even Lawrence and McAvoy feel thrown aside in favor of introducing the younger cast members. X-Men: Apocalypse didn’t play to the strengths of its considerable cast, and suffered for it in the end.
3. After 16 years, it feels like the main franchise has run out of new ideas
While it might not be true for future spin-off projects like Deadpool 2, Gambit, or Wolverine 3, it’s hard to feel like Fox has anything left in the tank for the main thread of the X-Men franchise. The first X-Men movie was about a world unsure about threat mutants pose to society, whether it can be contained, and why it’s unfair to treat all mutants like an oppressed under-class. It was a stellar jumping-off point for the franchise, and now 16 years after the fact, the story has barely progressed past that point. More or less, every film in the franchise has prominently featured Magneto as the primary villain, who either reforms his ways in the 11th hour, or is defeated/captured by the X-Men. Despite the title indicating otherwise, that exact narrative plays out again in Apocalypse. At some point, you have to either give your audience something new, or give them a good reason to accept that things are staying the same. This movie gives us neither.
4. X-Men: Apocalypse isn’t really about anything
You would think that a film featuring a villain with strong ties to the biblical apocalypse and an obsession with remaking the world would be interesting on a thematic level. Sadly, Apocalypse isn’t. Instead, we get a series of ham-handed introductions to recognizable characters, as the film attempts to reestablish the original X-Men team (albeit in their younger years). Meanwhile, our main villain’s four horsemen lack anything that resembles characterization. Psylocke (Olivia Munn), while a katana-wielding badass from an action standpoint, gets almost zero back-story as to who she is or why she fights. Angel has maybe five lines of dialogue. Storm is an orphan who’s maybe Egyptian(?) who just sort of accepts global destruction as OK in her book. Magneto, for all his grappling with his grief and violence, makes decisions that make no sense in the greater scheme of his character. When you can’t even begin to understand your villains, it makes it difficult to grasp the greater themes of the movie itself (of which there are few, if any in this case).
5. We need to talk about Magneto, because this is getting ridiculous
**Major spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie**
We’ll say again, this point pertains to the ending of the movie in very specific detail, so if you haven’t yet seen the movie, we recommend ducking out now. For those of you who’ve seen Apocalypse, you probably already know what we’re going to say here: Why the hell is Magneto consistently allowed to fade back into obscurity after almost destroying the world on multiple occasions? After he almost causes World War III in First Class, Professor X still doesn’t seem to have any qualms about breaking him out of prison in Days of Future Past. Magneto of course betrays his trust and tries to kill the president soon after that. Then in Apocalypse, after almost leveling the entire planet, Xavier gives him the “Well, you seem super duper sorry,” treatment, and lets that genocidal maniac walk away scot-free. Try to destroy the planet once, shame on you. Try to do it three freaking times, and maybe it’s time to stop letting this psycho run free.
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