It is truly amazing just how long the X-Men franchise has been going without a full-on reboot. Beginning in 2000, 20th Century Fox‘s saga consists of the original trilogy, the First Class era, Deadpool and two Wolverine movies. (The less we talk about the first Wolverine, the better.) The ninth installment of the franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse, is now here, concluding the First Class trilogy.
Apocalypse has received mixed to negative reviews from critics, a stark contrast from the positive reception to the last two films. But is Apocalypse really an underwhelming disappointment, or is it a pleasant surprise?
I really enjoyed X-Men: Apocalypse. Sure, it’s not on the same level as Days of Future Past or First Class, but it is still a very good entry in the franchise. It is definitely the most comic book-y installment yet – not counting Deadpool – and it feels much more like a superhero film than previous movies. From the action to the visuals to the costume designs, Apocalypse feels more fantastical. This should please fans who have wanted to see the movies embrace the source material.
One of the best things about Apocalypse, like the films before it, is the acting. Everyone delivers in this sequel. Michael Fassbender continues his perfect streak as Magneto, and I remain invested in his story arc. James McAvoy is also flawless as Charles Xavier. Nicholas Hoult is good as Beast, while Jennifer Lawrence is fine as Mystique. Oh, and Evan Peters’ Quicksilver steals the show again, in a scene that surpasses even his big moment in Days of Future Past.
Apocalypse (re-)introduces several new X-Men characters to the franchise. Scott Summers/Cyclops finally gets some character development, after being largely underused in the original trilogy. Tye Sheridan is very good in his performance. Meanwhile, Sophie Turner is excellent as the new Jean Grey. Alexandra Shipp is good as Storm (albeit slightly underused), while Kodi Smit-McPhee is pretty good as Nightcrawler.
As for the titular big bad, Apocalypse, Oscar Isaac’s performance is solid. The character did look a bit goofy at times, but he still came across as creepy, powerful and intimidating. He is certainly one of the better comic book movie villains of this year. In addition to Storm and Magneto, Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen consists of Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben Hardy). Both characters had cool action sequences, but otherwise, they don’t have a very big presence in the movie. And, like Storm, they are a bit underutilized.
The action sequences in this movie are cool. This is by far the most destruction porn we’ve seen in the X-Men saga, as Apocalypse and his Horsemen wreak all kinds of havoc. Some of the CGI does look unfinished, with some obvious green screen scenes. But otherwise, the action was exciting and engaging. Bryan Singer’s directorial work is still great, while John Ottman’s score gets me pumped every time.
Like most X-Men movies, Apocalypse is packed with a lot of different characters. However, I thought that Singer did a fine job balancing them. Everybody, save for Jubilee, had at least one moment to shine. Which reminds me…the Wolverine scene teased in the last trailer is so great. The character only has a cameo in the film, but his part is very exciting, and it will leave you anticipating his next solo film.
As for flaws, I do have a few nitpicks. The plot doesn’t feel as unique as First Class or Days of Future Past. It’s fine, but it feels kind of…generic, at times? It plays out exactly the same way you would expect it to go. The storyline in Apocalypse feels more “safe” than that of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War, both of which are bigger event films that don’t follow the three-act setup page-by-page. It doesn’t help that the Apocalypse trailers and TV spots have spoiled just about every surprise in the film. Fox had a pretty terrible marketing campaign, which showed way too much from the movie. Fingers crossed that next time, they’ll be more held back. And again, the CGI at times is unfinished, while Apocalypse occasionally looks (unintentionally) hilarious.
In summary, X-Men: Apocalypse is another solid installment in the franchise. While not perfect, the film boasts some strong acting, engaging storytelling, and more. It embraces the X-Men’s comic book roots more than previous entries, while characters like Quicksilver and Wolverine steal the show. Apocalypse may be the weakest installment of the First Class trilogy, but it is still a very good film. I’m excited to see where this new era of X-Men movies will go.