X-Men Apocalypse, a film directed by X-Men alumni and overtly enthusiastic Wolverine/Hugh Jackman fanboy, Bryan Singer, is the third iteration of the X-Men film prequels and the sixth in the franchise as a whole.
Following in the footsteps of the legend that is Star Wars, the X-Men film franchise began with a trilogy set in the 2000s and was followed by prequels set years in the past. With X-men First Class and X-Men Days of Future Past set in the 60s and 70s, it’s only natural for the third film in the prequel trilogy to be set in the 80s (though looking back, other than Jubilee’s outfit, I don’t recall seeing any bright colours, jackets with shoulder pads or even big hair and thick moustaches).
This film follows on from the previous two films with the Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters (“Institute”) now open and in full swing, with Charles Xavier taking on more of a professorial role rather than a freedom fighter for mutant-kind, Raven a.k.a Mystique continuing on her role as role model and mutant saviour and Hank a.k.a Beast being the Institute’s resident handyman of sorts. As for Magneto? The once tortured and merciless Polish orphan finally shunned his megalomaniacal behaviour to become a doting husband and father instead.
While all seems well at first, the rise of the great and powerful Apocalypse (or En Sabah Nur as he was called in his native Egypt), an ancient mutant who is said to be the first and most powerful of them all, creates an insurmountable disturbance that shakes up the world and threatens the very existence of mankind.
Apocalypse, despite being all powerful, does not move without his four horsemen, four great warriors to which he bestows special gifts in order to protect and keep him safe. The set-up of X-Men Apocalypse follows as Apocalypse recruits his four horsemen, consisting of the weather witch, Storm, the psychic warrior, Psylocke, the winged boy, Angel and of course, Magneto, who once again falls back to his dark roots. With the baddies banded together to bring destruction to the world, it’s once again up to the X-Men to stop them. But what happens when there is no X-Men and no Charles Xavier to lead them?
With the team disbanded and the two remaining ex X-Men taken into custody by a young William Stryker (remember Colonel Stryker from X2 and the Weapon X project?), it is up to new students, Jean Grey, Scott Summers and Kurt a.k.a Nightcrawler to attempt to save the day, with Quicksilver, Magneto’s son, assisting.
Despite having an excellent premise, X-Men Apocalypse didn’t do the characters and the Apocalypse storyline justice. Being a long-standing X-Men comic book follower and loyal fan of the original X-Men (that consists of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Ice Man and Angel), this film only added to my frustration of the film franchise butchering much loved characters and story arcs. Apocalypse was and has been one of the greatest enemies of the X-Men. With such power and might, one would imagine him to be a lot more frightful in both appearance and demeanour. Instead, I couldn’t help but see the Power Rangers villain, Ooze, each time Apocalypse appeared on screen, highlighting his old and less than formidable appearance. Not to mention his lack of prowess as a fearful monster set on destroying the world.
Apocalypse didn’t look scary or menacing at all. There was far too much talk about destroying the world and why mankind failed than any real substantial destruction carried out by Apocalypse himself. It was rather bizarre that for an age old being from ancient Egypt, Apocalypse took to television to learn English and about the events of the world. Did he not realise that content on television are often stereotypical, biased and man-made? A little foolish, I think, to view the world through the mindset of others rather than actual hard truth and facts.
Apocalypse was not the only one. Each of his horsemen lacked pazzaz despite being in the perfect position to showcase their fantastic powers. It was utterly disappointing that the super cool Psylocke was only given just one good scene in the entire film and Angel felt like a little bit of a cry baby. Magneto too lacked his usual lustre and was simply far too emotional. To me, only Storm felt worthy of her position as a horsemen of Apocalypse.
As for the students of the Institute, it was rather interesting and quite nice to see a young Scott Summers transition from breaking the rules to becoming a young hero worthy of being the leader of the X-Men one day. This was the same for Jean Grey, Nightcrawler and Quicksilver, all of whom played vital roles in saving Hank and Raven. In my opinion, Bryan Singer redeemed himself just a little bit by actually giving these new recruits some good points, though this could have been done much, much better. He would have earned extra points if he had Charles Xavier sing ‘Let It Go’ (You’ll understand this Disney reference when you watch the film). Of the lot though, Quicksilver stole the show once again with an epic super speed sequence set to Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’, which was both funny and entertaining, possibly one of the only scenes that was truly entertaining in the entire film.
Looking back, as a comic book film, X-Men Apocalypse is just another Bryan Singer let down as he continues the trend of taking apart well developed characters and focussing all the glory on one character played by a ‘famous’ actor. In previous iterations, Wolverine/Hugh Jackman was his central character, lead star and main focus. With Wolverine out of the picture, it appears that Raven/Mystique/Jennifer Lawrence is Singer’s new go to. After all, when did Mystique ever play the hero? When did she become a leader and the leader of the X-Men no less?
However, despite the film’s many faults, taking the X-Men film franchise as stand alone and separate from the comic books, X-Men Apocalypse righted many wrongs and tied many loose ends together. We see how Charles Xavier loses his hair, we learn of the development of the Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine love triangle, we are provided with hints as to how this film and William Stryker ties in with X2, we are given the opportunity to finally witness just how the real X-Men team are born and we are also teased with several easter eggs setting up for more X-Men films set in the 90s, 2000s and so on. Who knows, a future film could reveal where Psylocke ran off to after one fight scene.
In conclusion, X-Men Apocalypse was a film I hated to love and loved to hate. It was good but it was also bad. As a film that wraps up and brings together all the other X-Men films and reinforces the fact that X-Men 3: The Last Stand is erased from the timeline, I would recommend it. Ultimately, I enjoyed it and should you require a film to veg out to, you’ll likely find that this film is for you. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.