No kidding. When reviews first came out, it felt apparent the jaded critics were simply backhanding the third installment to the new X-Men series. And they should be. It’s been nine total X-Men films overall and the superhero movie genre is oversaturated to the point where a movie can do a lot of things right but if it’s not offering anything new or groundbreaking or remotely interesting, it’s ordinary. And ordinary, in a genre that is about the extraordinary, just won’t do. This is X-Men Apocalypse.
The movie has a lot of good things going for it and the X-Men fan in me enjoyed it thoroughly. It’s a superhero orgy. You’ve got the more familiar X-Men faves in Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm finally debuting among others like Angel and Psylocke. The plot is straightforward and simplistic to a degree that it’s like a mini-series from the 1990’s cartoon (which is legendary). But that’s what probably didn’t make the movie anything special. It was too simple as a story. I could feel entertained watching it and within ten to fifteen minutes, forget about it. And here’s why:
Plot buries everyone: in fiction writing, writers usually go one of two-ways: they create a plot and put the characters in it or they create the characters and make a plot around them. The movie is clearly a product of the first and that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you had a well-developed plot that wasn’t very predictable and humdrum. This comes at the expense of the many characters who were great in their very limited roles. The film was overstuffed. There wasn’t enough screen time to develop in following a plot that already got bloated trying to assign roles for everyone.
Apocalypse, Who Cares? what an undeveloped and one-dimensional villain Apocalypse was. He’s one of the most popular villains in X-Men fandom, second most relevant to Magneto (who we’ll get to later). Not even Oscar Isaac, who consistently produces enjoyable characters, could outgrow the cookie cutter character he got trapped in. Villains like these are outdated. Apocalypse stayed too true to his roots here but simply being an all-powerful genocidal maniac doesn’t make one a great villain. A little bit of extra story and development would've made us care a bit more. Maybe.
Contrived: you could see it from a mile away with Magneto. Michael Fassbender is just about going through the motions now. Without spoilers, the character is simply a victim of playing the role in his plot. Magneto turning on humans is a foregone conclusion in every film. But the fact that it has to be on every film becomes quite. Jading. And while I really loved the Wolverine cameo here, that entire portion of the film was put there just to accommodate him. Again with the stretching of a run time to fill characters.
Great action and strong characters: at least the X-Men were all intact and nicely polished. Aesthetically, they were all pleasing most especially the Four Horsemen. Props goes to Olivia Munn for pulling off Psylocke. And the fight scenes were great up until the final part where the movie had one of its finest and most epic CG bloodbath moments and a redeeming quality in some form.
Verdict: the movie does a lot of things well and any X-Men fan will love it. Easily. The movie, while having a lot of great characters barely uses most of them. The plot is forgettable and run-of-the-mill and the so-called great Apocalypse is so underwhelming it’s just hard to have a great film with a fossil like him running the show. While the predecessor, Days of Future Past had an intriguing premise and a brilliant ending, this one is simply pedestrian. Perhaps the tongue-in-cheek reference should suffice: “The third one is always the worst one”. ★★☆