Review: Since 2000 – 16 years prior to X-Men: Apocalypse, X-Men franchise has initiated a huge tidal wave of comic-book superhero movies into a stronghold of sub-genre. Consistently blending in metaphor, real-world issues, historical patrons, sci-fi flexibility, and abundant of interesting characters, X-Men stand-alone cinematic universe has also evolved into the most standfast, stable, and sustainable one among similar others.
With 5 canon movies and 3 spin-offs, X-Men has a large and deep universe with longest time-span to unofficially make two ‘timeline sagas.’ The original, present time saga consists of Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000) and X2 (2004) and concluded in a letting-down Brett Ratner’s The Last Stand (2006); while the clean-slate, retro saga was initiated with Matthew Vaughn’s First Class (2011), followed by time-travelling heavy Days of Future Past (2014) who cleared the mess before directly passed on to Apocalypse.
Dubbed after X-Men’s archnemesis, Apocalypse jumps back to thousand years prior to the original timeline towards what DoFP’s post-credit scene has hinted – the Ancient Egypt. An ancient mutant – even believed to be the first – called En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), was worshiped as a god. Yet, a treachery has buried him deep under the pyramid and forces him to sleep for millenniums.
Meanwhile, Apocalypse takes 80s setting, 10 years following the event at the retro-side of DoFP. Charles Xavier a.k.a Professor X (James McAvoy) has founded his academy for gifted child, which he co-run with Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult). Erik Lensherr a.k.a Magneto (Michael Fassbender), now an international fugitive, alienates himself in Poland, where he’s having a new family. Meanwhile, Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) also goes undercover after achieving unintentional celebrity status. Their fates are once more inter-tangled after Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) accidentally wakes the Apocalypse, En Sabah Nur, from his dormant state.
After two strong predecessors, Apocalypse actually has all the potentials to be X-Men’s most essential movie; say a larger-than-life villain, new old-characters, and complexities between the X-Mystique-Magneto trinity. Yet, Apocalypse just cannot reach its full potential to at least follow FC or DoFP even when it clocks-in at 144 minutes.
Among all possible direction, it’s surprising that Bryan Singer – the father of cinematic X-Men – picks a disaster movie approach to mantle Apocalypse, making it into a mutant-induced 2012. Charles and Erik’s on-and-off bromance as well as Raven’s involvement in it which fuel the predecessors is carried along; only this time, the script doesn’t bother elaborate it, instead relying on audience’s perception in regards to FC and DoFP.
The X-Men side is always the most interesting part of the franchise. Singer recognizes this sense of being ‘different’ – which unites the protagonists (or sometimes the antagonists) – profoundly; for he’s the one who develops this tone, which is preserved properly until now. How X-Men sees their characters not as a super individual, but as a pack of unique individual, is always becoming the game-changer (honestly, it’s something which other superhero assemblies haven’t been able to copy).
The return of old characters in new faces is worth-celebrated; the all-new Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) blend into the universe pretty well. Their second debut is awe-inspiring and definitely another game-changing factor. Only, their introduction is overshadowed by other urgency, making it less powerful than their first debut in X-Men (2002) or even similar introduction in First Class (2011).
The most apparent letdown of Apocalypse is the titular character. Apocalypse as a villain just cannot reach its full potential, as the strongest mutant who can transfer his consciousness to a new body and absorbs the power. Apocalypse’ goal is obvious – mutant superiority; however, what he brings on-screen is only total destruction, making him fall-short as a one-dimensional villain.
There’s a moment where Apocalypse gives dire threat when he’s trying to transfer himself to Charles, which might give him almighty status; but that’s the closest to real threat in Apocalypse. As a demagogue and an essential figure as he’s described, it would be a great thrill to see him playing god, which doesn’t add up to his deeds on the screen. Even, his concept of Four Horsemen isn’t as menacing as it should’ve been – putting great characters like Storm (Alexandra Shipp) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn) into such a great waste.
As a movie which bears ‘Apocalypse’ in the title, X-Men: Apocalypse fail to convince the audiences that Apocalypse is a most essential villain in X-Men universe; it only delivers ‘apocalypse’ as a literal disaster movie with some mutants to save the day. However, as an a movie which bears ‘X-Men’ in the title, it is able to maintain the stability of the franchise, with a reintroduction of the new saga. More X-Men movies are still expected to come.
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Adaptation Directed by: Bryan Singer Written by: Simon Kinberg (screenplay & story), Bryan Singer (story), Michael Dougherty (story), Dan Harris (story) Starred by: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan Runtime: 144 mins Rated PG-13
Post-credit scene: YES (check below!)
TRIVIA: Wolverine makes a more than cameo here and there’s a brief scene involving him and Jean Grey… which is kinda awkward.
TRIVIA: There’s a post-credit scene which deals with Weapon X program and Essex Corp. Mister Sinister, everybody?
TRIVIA: Phoenix – Jean Grey’s alter-ego (who appears at The Last Stand) makes an important cameo here with flames resembling a real phoenix.
TRIVIA: Blob from X-Men Origin: Wolverine also makes a cameo as a mutant beaten by Angel.