As X-Men: Apocalypse crawled its way to an unsatisfying conclusion, I found myself in my first real “love-hate” relationships with a movie this year.
There’s a lot to enjoy about the latest X-Men film that reunites the younger cast after the older generation officially passed the torch in Days of Future Past. There are some great moments, particularly from Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who one-ups himself with an even more outlandish speed scene, and a towering performance from Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse who works as best as he can with the films choppy script.
But then there are some not so great moments, and a lot of that has to do with the film’s script that has no grasp on its own pacing or tone. One would think that with an enemy named Apocalypse who has the power to bring on the actual apocalypse there would be some sense of impending doom throughout the course of the film, but there isn’t. There’s hardly even any sense of urgency despite the fact that he is pretty much destroying the entire planet.
One minute the school is getting attacked, the next there’s an uninteresting and unnecessary prison escape that does nothing for the story other than toss in a self-serving cameo, and then all of a sudden we’re at the climactic fight. The villains are underdeveloped, we hardly get any of their origin stories or even why they’d want to team up with Apocalypse (whose own motives are hardly ever discussed) and we’re left with a big fight that feels bored with itself as it goes through all the motions of what we’ve come to expect.
I will say that as far as characters go, Michael Fassbender’s Magneto still proves to be one of the best written characters in the series. Tragic on a Shakespearian level, he is constantly suffering from everything that has befallen him, and any insight into his psyche is one fraught with anger and fury, but even here he is underutilized. For much of the final fight he just kind of floats there.
The opening minutes of the film sets up lofty expectations for the audience as we’re introduced to the foreboding Apocalypse, whose backstory is muddled in confusion and is never really touched on again. Over the course of the nearly two-and-a-half hour movie we never really get much out of anyone, save for Magneto, as we frequently bounce from one character to the next without much character development from anyone as most serve merely as plot devices who don’t have much else going for them.
With the returning members like James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, and Rose Byrne comes even more newcomers like Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler, Olivia Munn as Psylocke, Alexandra Shopp as Storm, and Lana Condor as Jubilee. Some time is devoted to the heroes, but nothing deeper than the bare minimum in terms of character development and origin stories. Much like every other Marvel movie, we’re getting far too bloated without any major changes to the already established characters. Is it so hard for Marvel to kill off one established character?
So I love the movie for being fun and exciting, but I hate it for having so many opportunities to really deliver on just to have it drop the ball more often than not. The climax is unoriginal and uninspired, nothing drastic or game-changing happens and there doesn’t seem to be a major concern in the world that the entire planet is getting destroyed. Like every other film in the Marvel franchise is proving: these are fun movies, but if you’re looking for anything new or exciting, you might just want to skip out until Marvel finally decides to take a risk or two.
Until then, what we’re getting is becoming mightily disappointing.