Review: ‘X-Men Apocalypse’ provides decent summer entertainment

It’s summer which means heat and an overabundance of big-budget movies to go see. One such movie I have been anticipating for quite some time is FOX’s “X-Men: Apocalypse.” So after much delay I decided to take myself to go check out the latest entry in the blockbuster franchise. I’ve got a review coming right up for you.

“Apocalypse,” the sixth film in the franchise and third in the “First Class” trilogy, picks up ten years after the events of 2014’s “Days of Future Past” which saw the existence of mutants being revealed to the world at large thanks to the actions of Mystique/Raven (Jennifer Lawrence). Now it’s 1983 and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has finally opened his school for mutant children to come and learn how to control their powers. Meanwhile, Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has been living a quiet life in Poland with a wife and daughter.

Naturally, the peace ends when an ancient mutant known as En Sabah Nur or Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac)  awakens after thousands of years and finds the world not exactly to his liking. He then begins a journey to gather the four “horsemen” who will assist him in creating a world where the strong rule.

I left “X-Men: Apocalypse” mostly pleased with my viewing experience. Here was summer movie that checked off all the boxes a good superhero blockbuster should albeit, one that didn’t really break the mold at all. It’s the definition of a workhorse summer movie. Popcorn entertainment for sure.

While “Apocalypse” is technically the end of a trilogy of films, it really feels like the beginning of a whole new chapter. This is largely due to the reintroduction of classic characters like Jean Gray (Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner) and Scott Summers/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan). The new cast members handle themselves well in their roles, particularly Turner, and I look forward to hopefully seeing them in future films.

That said, I really felt like some of the veteran cast members got a bit of a shaft in this movie. Hardly any time is devoted to the relationship between Charles and Magneto. A relationship that has been so central to all of the “X-Men” films. However, both McAvoy and Fassbender turn in great performances. Both men have come to embody both roles incredibly well. While I’ve never been a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique she turns in a better performance in this film than in the previous two. I think after “The Hunger Games” and this franchise Mrs. Lawrence seems to be over the whole big tent pole movie thing. She just seems uninterested in the whole ordeal. The entire trilogy has always been pretty fast and loose with her character anyway. One second she’s a good guy, the next, she’s kind of bad guy. I gave up trying to track it. It just never felt like she had an arc to me.

Oh boy is the movie violent too. But you’d think with a title like “X-Men: Apocalypse” that I would have expected that sort of thing and to an extent I did. I suppose it just astounds me how violent superhero movies have gotten. In the rush to create a bigger and bigger spectacle worse things keep happening to the world. In this film multiple cities are shown being ripped apart, which no doubt means thousands of (unseen) people died. Beyond that, there are some pretty graphic deaths in the film. Parent’s beware of this one. I would not recommend this movie for kids. The scenes of mass destruction and up close violence are a little too much for young kids.

The plot moves along at a brisk enough pace. I never felt bored when watching the movie because the story was always humming along to the next beat. Lost in that pace, however, are the characters of Psylock (Olivia Munn) and Angel (Ben Hardy). They serve as two of Apocalypse’s Four Horseman but they have precious little to do. They’re just sort of there and then they aren’t. Even Storm (Alexandra Shipp) gets scarcely more development than the others.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the great performance Evan Peters turns in as Quicksilver. After debuting with a bang in “Days of Future Past” he returns with another standout sequence midway through the film. It’s so much fun to watch. The less you know the better. It’s impossible not to like this character and I felt his story in the film was simple and well done.

This all builds to a climax that is a bit of a letdown. The action is decent but nothing really stood out and the manner in which Apocalypse is defeated is pretty typical. Oscar Isaac is great as the titular mutant but Apocalypse as a whole is pretty underserved. I suppose with a threat as big as Apocalypse his defeat was bound to be disappointing. It all lacked the same sense of urgency that permeated the time twisting climax of “Days of Future Past.”

All things considered, I enjoyed “X-Men: Apocalypse” even though the final product didn’t achieve the heights I had hoped it would. The cast (for the most part) was well used and a number of the story beats really landed for me. The action was decent, if rather unspectacular. The uneven climax and underused characters aside, you could definitely do worse when it comes to a summer movie.

What did you all think? Let me know in the comments below!

“X-Men: Apocalypse” is now playing in theaters.

Some stray thoughts:

  • After sitting out for “Days of Future Past” it was great to see Rose Byrne back as CIA Agent Moria McTaggert. I’ve been a huge fan of her’s since Damages. 
  • Stick around for an obligatory comic book movie post-credit sequence. Although it probably won’t make any sense to most people. It certainly didn’t to me.
  • Hugh Jackman has an utterly pointless cameo as Wolverine toward the end of the second act of the film. It really grinds the pace to a halt and really just serves as a chance for us to see him stab a bunch of guys. I wasn’t impressed.
  • Many people have pointed out (although it didn’t bother me too much) that Apocalypse looks a little too much like Ivan Ooze from the old Power Rangers movie. See for yourself.

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