X-Men: Apocalypse is the ninth film to be released in the X-Men series (and the fourth to be directed by Bryan Singer), and takes place a decade after the events of the previous film, X-Men: Days of Future Past.
To give a brief overview of the plot, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), a long-dormant demigod and the world’s first known mutant, is accidentally reawakened in 1983 during an excavation. Upon his revival into a world where humans now hold power over mutants, Apocalypse decides the best course of action is to simply destroy humans and remake the world to his liking.
Of course, professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), head of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, does not intend to let that happen. With some help from his old flame in the CIA, Moira MacTaggart (Rose Byrne), Xavier puts a strategy into motion to stop Apocalypse in his tracks. Unfortunately, Apocalypse is also after Xavier, having plans for him to play an important role in helping him assume complete control over the other mutants of the world. Apocalypse and his four new lieutenants (he has always kept four fighters at his side, known as the “Four Horsemen”) kidnap Xavier, and the military begins taking mutants from the school for interrogation while a young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) attempt to organize a rescue and save the world.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed the film. The atmosphere is all ‘80s, and it was great getting to see the younger iterations of characters we’ve already seen, and introductions of some who hadn’t yet been featured on the big screen.
One of my biggest complaints about the movie would have to be Apocalypse’s new Horsemen. With the exception of the insanely powerful Magneto (Michael Fassbender), our forever flip-flopping hero-villain, the other three were kind of pathetic, even after Apocalypse enhances their powers. Storm (Alexandra Shipp) had the excuse of being young and new to the scene and her abilities, but the others? Apocalypse asks for powerful mutants and then, after he basically picks up a kid off the street, he finds Psylocke (Olivia Munn), whose main abilities in the film seem to be psychic energy projection, wearing a revealing swimsuit-style costume, and being altogether underwhelming. She then leads him to recruit Angel (Ben Hardy), a drunken birdboy who cage fights.
For the most part, I really liked the casting choices for the younger versions of the familiar characters: Smit-McPhee was an adorable and endearing Nightcrawler, and Turner was captivating as always in the role of Jean Grey. Quicksilver (Evan Peters) stole the show again in my opinion, with his cool charm and fast feet: his character’s ability to move at supersonic speeds made for some stunning action scenes, especially one mind-blowing three-minute sequence near the middle of the film.
I’ve heard complaints about the large cast and know that this has always been a bit of an issue with the X-Men, given the vast number of characters, not all of whom everyone watching will necessarily be familiar with prior to viewing. I was reminded of this during a scene with Jean when a family member quietly asked me, “Who is that girl again? What is her power exactly?” Though most people are likely to be more familiar with Jean Grey and her abilities prior to viewing, I can understand how things could get a bit confusing for those less versed in comic lore. However, if you’re familiar with even one or two of the previous movies, the complaint becomes less about not knowing or forgetting characters, and more about wanting to see them done justice. It’s a shame that some notable characters were given next to no screen time, and felt simply thrown in for the recognition value; the biggest example of this being Jubilee (Lana Condor), who we barely get to see at all.
The second half and ending of the film felt very rushed — so much buildup led to a rather lacklustre end. (Again, the Horsemen are an example of this: I was expecting to see a far more epic, drawn-out battle between them and the X-Men, but in the end, they really didn’t put up much of a fight.)
At one point, while talking about film series, Jean says, “At least we can all agree that the third one is always the worst.” Well, as far as the First Class trilogy is concerned, I’m honestly not sure that I can! Apocalypse is definitely in a tight competition for my second favourite with First Class, both close after Days of Future Past.