At the end of the day, “X-Men Apocalypse” is a big step up from the films in the series that preceded it, but it’s still just a Bryan Singer “X-Men” movie. Its two and a half hours of surface level action and superficial ideas that still haven’t broken in to the more complex themes of prejudice, racism, hatred, and bigotry that have made the X-Men property so beloved and widely embraced. Six movies later and only now FOX seems to be getting that a big advantage of the “X-Men” movies is that there are so many fascinating heroes and average people turned in to heroes of varied shapes, sizes, and colors. Only now that Marvel has embraced the team movie are Singer and FOX transforming the “X-Men” in to a team franchise.
Director Singer is gradually taking steps in the right direction, placing Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Nightcrawler front and center, while they do battle with someone other than Magneto, for once. This time around we’re met with one of the first mutants En Sabah Nur also known as Apocalypse, who has risen from his tomb and is readying to destroy the world to rebuild it in his image. Or something like that. Packed with a plethora of powers, he also begins recruiting his four horsemen. This includes a loyal adaptation of Storm, finally, a semi-loyal iteration of Archangel and Psylocke, and Magneto. He’s once again injected in to the narrative if only because Michael Fassbender injects more pain and turmoil than Ian McKellen ever did.
What with Apocalypse assembling his team, Mystique and Professor Xavier begin traveling the world looking for their own recruits. They inevitably meet young Nightcrawler, Scott Summers, and Jean Grey, all of whom are pushed in to the main hero roles. The indication of their importance is painfully overdue, and the trio of Codi Smit McPhee, Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan do a wonderful job as these potential heavyweights of the X-Men, all of whom are filled with immense power and have to figure out how to manage it as the film progresses. Oscar Isaac also steals the film wholesale with his turn as villainous Apocalypse, delivering every single monologue like his life depends on it, and I was pleasantly surprised. That said, the core problems are still there like most of Singer’s films.
The movie is much too long and dull for it to suck the audience in and there’s not much of an explanation as to why we’re ten years in to the future and everyone still looks the same age. It’s also still inexplicably centered on the inner turmoil of Professor X (McAvoy proves he’s the superior Professor X) and Magneto, both of whom should be background presences rather than primary protagonists. Mystique is also one of the major X-Men, now, by virtue of the fact that Jennifer Lawrence is a top billing movie star; Lawrence as always looks bored throughout most of “Apocalypse” and it’s embarrassing how future films hinge on her reprising this fairly boring iteration of the X-villain. Singer and FOX also still seem so embarrassed by the concept of the X-Men and still insist on downplaying so much of what makes the comics so dynamic and exciting.
And yet, they’re never above restaging the Quicksilver Slow motion scene from “Days of Future Past” if only because it’s the only thing audiences remember from that bore two years ago. Sadly it’s still painfully stupid the second time around. In either case, based off of what’s been a long running if crummy series of movies, “Apocalypse” is the strongest sequel yet, even though Singer is still a terrible director. I won’t revisit “X-Men: Apocalypse” any time soon, but I don’t regret giving it a chance.