Posted on Monday, May 9th, 2016 by Angie Han
Captain America: Civil War only just debuted, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is still in theaters across much of the country. But with six (count ’em) major Marvel and DC adaptations out this year, there’s no time to waste. So buzz is already building on 2016’s next big superhero showdown, X-Men: Apocalypse. The first reviews are in, and critics have a lot to say about Bryan Singer‘s latest entry in the mutant franchise. Get the X-Men: Apocalypse early buzz after the jump.
If you’ve seen one cinematic apocalypse, you’ve seen them all. At least that’s the feeling conjured by “X-Men: Apocalypse,” the latest entry in one of the more reliable comic-book franchises around, this time disappointingly succumbing to an exhausting case of been-there-done-that-itis.
Narratively jumbled and jammed with so many characters that you give up keeping them all straight while simultaneously lamenting not seeing more of those you might actually want around, Bryan Singer’s fourth entry in the enormously profitable series he inaugurated 16 years ago undeniably builds to a cataclysmic dramatic reckoning. But mostly it just feels like a bloated, if ambitious attempt to shuffle as many mutants and specially gifted characters as possible into a story of a resurrected god ready to take over the world.
It’s not all bad, though. There are some funny in-jokes, like a swipe at the terrible X-Men 3 (aka Last Stand). Turner is promising as Jean Grey, and Evan Peters’ Quicksilver gets another super-slo-mo showstopper scored to Eurythmics’ period-appropriate synth-jam “Sweet Dreams.” But all in all, Apocalypse is a third-tier X-Men movie that arrives at a time when studios and filmmakers who traffic in spandex need to be at the top of their game. We know all of the clichés and all of the tropes too well at this point to settle for place-holding mediocrity. We know the difference between an instant classic and a dog. Apocalypse isn’t quite a dog. But it is a movie with way too much of everything except the things that should matter the most—novelty, creativity, and fun.
With “X-Men: Apocalypse,” however, Singer seems to have acquired a new mutant power of his own: Monotony. Whether it’s the lack of an interesting villain, or the fact that the series’ time-travel element is forcing these mutants to meet each other (and the audience) all over again for the first time, this latest entry marks a shocking letdown from Singer’s earlier contributions; what once soared now slogs.
Most importantly, the character of Apocalypse galvanizes these last three X-Men movies into an actual trilogy rather than a cynical hodgepodge of contractually obligated blockbusters — the first X-Men series asked who we are, and this one deepened that inquiry by asking what we must make of ourselves. “Apocalypse,” for all its faults, has the audacity to make the MCU look small, and the conviction to make the DCU — if there even is such a thing — look foolish for confusing self-seriousness with gravity. If only these characters were allowed to be as complex as the ideas they fight for, “Apocalypse” could have represented a new beginning for superhero cinema. It’s one thing to show Magneto destroying Auschwitz; it would have been quite another to show him rebuilding it.
While a well-intentioned idea, ‘Apocalypse’ spends so little time delivering meaningful action, the story still feels flimsy and ineffective. Real talk between characters is rare, with the mutants all speaking in aphorisms and monologues, like they’re perpetually campaigning in an election. Singer attempts to add dramatic heft to these lines by slowly pushing into close-up as Important Ideas are uttered, but you’d care a lot more if the film convinced you that their fates might truly turn on any event.
So, yeah, what works best is the individual moments. Fans of the films and/or the comics will all find lots of little nods and callbacks that should make them happy. There are some key moments that fans will want to discuss and dissect in fine detail, which is always a good sign. These movies all feel like one big ongoing movie to me at this point, and I don’t mean that as a negative. If you buy a ticket for X-Men, you’re going to get X-Men. You’ll see some of your favorite characters handled in a new way, and you’ll see promises for things that they could do in future films.
it’s quite possible no actor has benefited less from his involvement in these X-Men prequels than Oscar Isaac. As a general rule of thumb: When you cast one of the most handsome and charismatic actors on the planet, don’t put him beneath 50 pounds of latex and blue paint and have him give a one-dimensional performance of hissing and screaming and arm waving. Completely unrecognizable in his makeup and armor, Isaac never gets a chance to use any of his many gifts as a performer; almost anyone could have played this part. Apocalypse can look cool on the page, but in live-action he seems kind of silly. His mutant abilities are vague and the way he sets out accomplishing his goals don’t make a whole lot of sense. (With all that power, what’s he need with the Horsemen? Just destroy everyone already!)
After sixteen years working with the characters, it’s obvious Singer knows them well enough to mix and match from different eras of the comics and still make it work as a cohesive story. The relationships between the characters also transition well from the comic page even with so many new actors in the roles.
At times, it feels like Singer is trying to fit as much as humanly possible into this movie, just in case it’s his last. By the time it gets to the climactic showdown against Apocalypse, it’s obvious what an unstoppable force he is, and everything leading up to that point does pay off.
Sifting through the pieces of “X-Men: Apocalypse,” it feels poorly reverse-engineered. People like Nightcrawler, Jean Grey, and Storm, right? Let’s bring them back but younger. Jennifer Lawrence has tons of fans, so let’s bring Mystique back but ditch the blue makeup, and favor low-cut tops for most of her screentime. Throw in Wolverine, plot sensibility be damned. Shake with global crisis. Stir in some more Charles v. Erik biz, and a spring of Quicksilver for garnish! The ingredients for great thrills are there, but in Singer and Kinberg’s hands, they become a recipe for disaster.
But, as the film climaxes, it simultaneously loses momentum when it needs excitement most. These superheroes are more about shooting lasers and conjuring storm clouds than hand-to-hand combat, which can get a bit dull after almost two-and-a-half hours. Words are withheld that could have possibly sped the process along (shortening an unjustifiably long running time), fights rarely escalate into choreographed brilliance, and most scenes only seem to care about repetitive nostalgia. It’s almost as if Singer is trying to re-create moments from his original films, as a way of one-upping himself. Plus, some of the animation here is spectacularly lackluster – specifically, Apocalypse-ravaged cityscapes that look like they’re ripped from old-school computer games.
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is between good and really good. The Quicksilver scene is insane. Cast awesome. Some amazing stuff. Just not a homerun.
— Steven Weintraub (@colliderfrosty) May 9, 2016
Alert! X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is a groove & a gas. Outstanding cartoon fun after snoozier DOFP. Loved it. But note: I also dug GODS OF EGYPT.
— Jordan Hoffman (@jhoffman) May 9, 2016
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE has a shockingly high body count. And not just in an off-screen, MAN OF STEEL way. People get gleefully mutilated.
— Peter S. Hall (@PeterSHall) May 9, 2016
Throats get slit left and right, decapitations like whoa in APOCALYPSE, to the point where I wonder why it even matters next Wolverine is R.
— Peter S. Hall (@PeterSHall) May 9, 2016
X-Men: Apocalypse shoots for cartoony stars. Very campy, very twisted, very *fun.* Fassbender, Isaac & the kids alchemize goofy into gold.
— Maester Patches (@misterpatches) May 9, 2016
Quicksilver is GREAT, though. But don't even try to figure out the timeline or how old everyone is, it will give you a headache.
— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) May 9, 2016
X-Men: Apocalypse is a tremendous pile of crap. The most groan-inducing movie I've seen in ages and an exercise in boredom.
— Spencer Perry (@TheSpencerPerry) May 9, 2016
#XMenApocalypse is a profound waste of the series' source material, the characters, the talent of the actors on screen, and of your time.
— Spencer Perry (@TheSpencerPerry) May 9, 2016
TL;DR: X-Men: Apocalypse isn’t a bad movie, but it’s bad look for a franchise that needs new life.
— Neil Miller (@rejects) May 9, 2016
I found #XMenApocalypse surprisingly good, Fassbender, McAvoy and Isaac were all good but for me Fassbender was just awesome.
— Kellvin Chavez (@Latinoreview) May 9, 2016
Nothing really happens in X-Men: Apocalypse? Didn't love it, didn't hate it. It has a few good moments but otherwise unmemorable.
— Rachel Heine (@RachelHeine) May 9, 2016
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE: Goofy, even for an X-Men movie. But perhaps its blatant disregard for continuity/characters/tone is part of its charm?
— Barry Hertz (@HertzBarry) May 9, 2016
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X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is dark & destructive & it feels like a period piece in more ways than one. True trilogy capper — maybe one of the last?
— ErikDavis (@ErikDavis) May 9, 2016