The X-Men franchise has always succeeded with its quiet moments, digging deep into the well of its layered characters until the “boom! pow!” action springs forth naturally. If you don’t believe me, just look at the airplane scene from the last film, “Days of Future Past,” which beautifully exemplifies the antagonistic, yet respectful relationship between Xavier and Magneto, as well as feeds the film’s final act. “X-Men: Apocalypse” contains no such moment. Instead, we’re left with some inconsequential banter and Xavier’s goofy crush on a character so bland, the movie knew you wouldn’t remember her from the previous films, so it brought clips.
In the beginning, there was Apocalypse—his friends call him En Sabah Nur—who has the unique ability to switch bodies midstream, granting him eternal life and the powers of whichever mutant’s body he takes over. Because Apocalypse goes through bodies like the rest of us go through toothbrushes, he has acquired quite the collection of abilities. And, as with most ancient evils, Apocalypse is uppity and takes long slumbers. He is awoken in the 1980s, at which point he gives the modern world a once-over and finds it inexplicably inherited by the meek. Apocalypse immediately begins to gather his four horsemen, so they may aid him in the “cleansing” of civilization. The X-Men, as you can guess, take umbrage.
Even at its most manic, the film never loses its visual coherence. Director, Bryan Singer, in his fourth venture into the X-Men toy box, has an eye for framing action. Not only do the fight sequences feel well calculated, but they’re brimming with sadistic imagination. In the film’s opening, a character is thrown across a room—which seems painful enough—but is then contorted midair, having every limb twisted until he could fit in a carry-on. It’s horrifying and the perfect appetizer for the villainy to come. Unfortunately, the film’s larger sequences lack the same amount of visceral gusto, and consist mainly of bright colors clashing against other bright colors.
The film taking place in the ’80s, we are introduced to the teenage versions of some characters we’ve come to know, such as Scott “Cyclops” Summers (Tye Sheridan, of “Mud” fame) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, of “Game of Thrones” fame), among others. As seems to be a trend lately, these big-budget films are doing an excellent job of casting, going after young talent rather than potential movie stars. With a promising start—Scott mismanaging his powers in high school—the script proceeds to let them down, giving them either nothing to do or everything to do.
That seems to be this film’s major fault: it operates solely in extremes. One of Apocalypse’s four horsemen is Magneto, and we’re made to believe that his reasons for joining the blue menace is an impulsive one, brought on by a horrible tragedy wedged into the movie. Apocalypse’s reasons for destroying the world are because he believes mutants are superior to humans, yes? Sounds an awful lot like Magneto. So, there clearly could have been a more subtle, sound motivation for Magneto’s actions weaved into the story, as opposed to death, death and more death.
“X-Men: Apocalypse” feels more like “X-Men: A Day in the Life.” There are no significant character junctures or intriguing narrative developments to push this film beyond a series of events. Even a villain named Apocalypse fails to make much of an impression–“Really bad day” is more like it. It’s almost as if the filmmakers got their dates mixed up and caught the X-Men on a slow day. But even a slow day with the X-Men is a little fun.
2.5 out of 5