It may be hard to believe, but X-Men: Apocalypse is the fourth superhero film in five months. And to me, it’s the best of the lot.
Where this movie excels is its ability to blend past, present, and future into a narrative that is both very compelling, massive in scope, and foreshadowing as to what’s to come. From the opening sequence, to the final shot that will make many fans happy, X-Men: Apocalypse just works on all levels.
One could argue that the biggest challenge of X-Men: Apocalypse is the villain himself. As he’s portrayed in the comics as not only a “survival of the fittest” kind of being, but one with extraordinary powers that truly make him seem like a god. How this was to be explained without feeling shoehorned was key, but basically every aspect of Apocalypse himself is both very streamlined, and very believable. From how he got his powers, to how he lived so long, and why he wasn’t “around” for many millennium. It’s enough to please both casual fans of the movies, and the diehard fans of the comics and cartoons.
Then there’s how he used his powers. At times he was simple and quick, other times he was forceful and terrifying. He was a truly horrifying villain, and with all the powers he had, he could not be taken down easily without complaints from fans. And they didn’t. They made him something to truly fear, and yet understand. You could see his pain as he saw what the world had become without him, and how desperately he wanted to “cleanse” it.
For me though, what really worked was how Apocalypse not only went about his plan, but how he got his Horsemen. The Horsemen are arguably one of the biggest parts of the Apocalypse mythology, and though we all knew who they were, it was unclear how they would come together. Seeing Apocalypse work with them, and work on them, showed the kind of power and influence he had. It was noted in an interview that Apocalypse does have the power of suggestion in the film, and they perfectly show this at times. Yet at other times, he’s just incredibly eloquent in how he speaks and acts to the point of inspiring. You see this truly with Magneto, who once again was a highlight of the film.
I have seen critiques that Magneto had a smaller role than he should’ve, and that he was “marginalized” for this film. I don’t agree. He had a role to film, and that role was fulfilled beautifully and concisely, with no need for fluff. If anything, this film shows more than any other why he’s a beloved character. He didn’t ask for the life he got, it just keeps going wrong. Ironically, it was an act of good that made things go wrong, making him all the more tragic when he turned dark once again.
Not to be outdone, Xavier had some great scenes in the film as well. One that stuck out to me was an opening scene where he talks about expanding the school (which is now back in full swing and full of mutant students) to more of a university. One where humans and mutants could be together in harmony. This hopeful Xavier is one that is very true to the comics, and seeing him throughout the film not give up that hope, and believing in not only his students, but the world in general, was very beautiful.
Mystique herself, played possibly for the last time by Jennifer Lawrence, was a scene stealer herself. It was interesting to see her new role as “hero of the mutant race” yet also see her still reeling in the darkness and influence that Magneto had put in her in past films. If Xavier is the voice of hope, and Magneto is the voice of pain, then Mystique is the voice of realism. She sees the world for what it is, no blinders, and its’ that attitude that really makes her special in this film.
But what Apocalypse will likely be known for is the introduction of the “classic” X-Men, and having them mingle with the “First Class” crew. Jean, Scott, Kurt (Nightcrawler),and even Pietro, all had great parts to play. All the while, showing their potential in the future. In my opinion, Jean and Scott came across the best here arc wise. As they showed not only great growth, and overcoming great fear and loss, but also showed a natural chemistry which will no doubt lead to their future relationship. This could’ve easily gone very, very, wrong. But instead, it was done with tact, and fun.
Speaking of which, this movie is nothing if not fun. There are numerous jokes, puns, and poking fun at previous X-Men films. The best one being after the team watched Return of the Jedi (1983 everyone!) and Jean Grey noted, “At least we can all agree that the third film always sucks”. No doubt a reference to X-Men: The Last Stand, which is hated by the fanbase. Even in its darkest moments, the life and light that the X-Men have is a welcome addition to the film.
The action and effects of Apocalypse were top notch, and had some very surprising moments. From Magneto laying waste to Auschwitz (I actually liked that), to massive city-wide destruction, and more, this was a sight to behold. Again, scale was one of the biggest things Apoclaypse had going into it going in, and it did not disappoint.
Oh, and as for a certain “cameo”? No, not Stan Lee. Yes, Wolverine was here, but in a fun twist, he had less lines than First Class, but had a bigger meaning and impact than all of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This “entrance” if you will was ripped straight from the comics basically, and it worked in numerous ways, all the while “guiding” him to the path that’ll he’ll need to go to in time.
Funnily enough, in the span of about 5 minutes, two combined scenes seemed to callout and apologize for past “sins” in regards to previous films. Giving a more true and pure version, while again promising more to come.
While I will give this an incredibly high score, I can see why some may not like certain things. Personally, my only flaw is that certain characters were window dressing. Archangel and Psylocke particularly. I won’t fault this too much as in potential they could be brought back later (mainly Psylocke), but I do wish a little more depth had been given to them. Storm is the exception as she showed her true colors and came to her senses at the end, and you know she’ll be back. The others? Hard to say.
Also though, for the casual fan, one who isn’t well versed in X-Men lore, some scenes will not make sense. Or lack significant impact as they don’t know the histories of the characters. Archangel, Jean, even Jubilee might not come across as important in some scenes because they don’t know what’s happened in the comics. I personally had to look up the end credits scene because even I didn’t understand it.
That being said, I truly believe that X-Men: Apocalypse did a magnificent job from being to end. There was no plot holes that I could see, and I was looking. Every character choice felt true and real, from alliance to betrayal. From joke to leading moment. It’s great.
If First Class was about rebooting and restarting the X-Men franchise, and Days of Future Past was about reconciling with the original trilogy, then Apocalypse was about showing hope for the future. The team is finally here. No misinterpretations, no hopeful suiting up. They’re here:
“You’re no longer students, you’re X-Men.”