By Jack Dignan
How does one top X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which, in my opinion, is the greatest X-Men movie yet? It seems like a tough question, and as much as I would love to say the only way to top it is to bring in Oscar Isaac as the villain, but that simply is not true. As a matter of fact, it can't be topped. Well, not by this movie, anyway. X-Men: Apocalypse is the highly anticipated comic book sequel, and the seventh film in this franchise (eighth if you count Deadpool). The franchise has many high points and low points, and while the last film was their highest point, Apocalypse fits in somewhere in the middle. A disappointment? Most definitely.
Set in 1983, ten years after Days of Future Past, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) is happily running his school, teaching young mutants about their powers and hoping to one day have all mutants be accepted in society. Soon, an ancient being known as Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) awakens from centuries of slumber, and after exploring the world, he decides to cleanse it, eliminating the weak and letting the strongest mutant prevail. To do this, he gains the help of four mutants, including Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and attempts to destroy the world. It's up to Xavier and his school of mutants to take down Apocalypse, reforming the X-Men and facing a threat with greater power than they could ever know.
After a shockingly gruesome introduction to the character of Apocalypse, the latest installment in the X-Men saga takes its time to reintroduce all these characters, as well as giving us our first look at the new cast, including younger versions of characters we've seen in previous films. It's this initial set up that has some of my favourite moments in the film, and if I'm being perfectly honest, the first act is by far the film's greatest act. It's dramatic, emotional and full of fun nods to the fans, but also serves as an entertaining, dark and engaging build up for what you'd expect to be the best X-Men movie yet, right? Wrong.
The second act is where this film lost me, and while it does have a lot of great and memorable moments, it's a slow moving drag. The stakes are set up, but never really felt, and a lot of the actions taken by several characters just feel rather stupid. To be fair, it's not all bad. There's a scene with a certain character shown in the last trailer that's short but sweet, and Quicksilver's introduction is a lot of fun, but after an initial confrontation between the X-Men and Apocalypse (one of the best scenes in the film), everything goes downhill for a while.
While certain characters are given a lot of development and incredibly interesting sub-plots, a lot aren't. Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) are easily my two favourite characters. They're developed, interesting and their relationship plays out well on screen, a lot of their scenes clear standouts amongst some not-so-fantastic moments. Magneto's introduction is powerful and pulls on the heartstrings, but once he becomes one of the four horsemen, his character isn't given a lot to do until the end of the finale.
Speaking of the four horseman (Apocalypse's followers), none of them are overly developed outside of Magneto. Psylocke (Olivia Munn) looks extremely cool in action, but the film didn't tell me anything about her character that the trailers didn't. She's a superhero with... a power stick? While the comics explain who she is, the film doesn't translate any of that. Storm (Alexandra Shipp) doesn't do much either, and Angel (Ben Hardy), like all of the underdeveloped characters, looks cool, but does very little.
Apocalypse, in the comics, is a badass villain, but on film... not so much. His character is loud and destructive, but his motives are unclear. The filmmakers attempt to give him a backstory and explain why he's doing the things he's doing, but nothing is clear. It's all a bit of a haze, despite Isaac's terrific performance and his intimidating and haunting appearance. The destruction, however, is rarely caused by him, but instead it is something someone else does while Apocalypse sits back and gives an evil speech. He's clichéd and uninteresting, and it doesn't really help when a good chunk of the dialogue in this film is laughable.
Despite my many complaints, there's still a lot of fun to be had here. It may seem like I'm ranting, which I technically am, but I did like this film. It's extremely problematic and poorly written, but at times, it's also a lot of fun, especially the action sequences. The final fight is a great display of all of these character's powers, and watching all of them work together was just insanely awesome, despite some terrible CGI. The fact of the matter is that filmmakers attempted to do a few too many things with this movie, and while it's not perfect, it's a good time at the movies. I am extremely excited to see where these characters head next, especially the younger cast as they stole the show.
To sum up, X-Men Apocalypse is a lot of fun, full of action and great character moments, but it's bogged down by a poor screenplay with a lot of uninteresting and underdeveloped characters, as well as a clichéd villain whose motives are unclear. It had potential to be great, but settled for just being fine.