X-Men Apocalypse (Spoiler Alert)

X-Men Apocalypse is a 2016 superhero movie directed/produced/written by Bryan Singer and co-written by Simon Kinberg/Michael Dougherty/Dan Harris, all of whom have worked on the scripts for previous X-Men films. The film has earned the love of its audience, with a 7.6 on IMDb, but has so far been a critical disappointment with a 47% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 53% on Metacritic.

Story

The film's set-up is pretty similar to how it goes down in the comics; an ancient mutant named En Sabah Nur has awakened from his slumber and has set his sights on destroying/conquering the Earth, wiping it clean of all  humans, who he sees as the weakest beings on the planet, and leaving only the strong to survive and rule. Now, the X-Men must band together to stop his master plan. Even though the set-up is good I think it's Fox trying to play their trump card after it's already been played. Days of Future Past was such a perfect climax/ending to the X-Men movies because it felt so gigantic. The threat of the Sentinels was the greatest enemy they had faced so far not just because they were physically formidable, but because they were a representation of everything they had fought against through the entire series: prejudice against mutants. What I'm saying is that while the setup is good for a standard superhero movie, it sacrifices the emotional gravity that made X-Men unique. Since they're just going after a world-conquering bad guy and not anything with more emotional significance, you can't help but feel that it was almost a downgrade from the last movie.

The characters are enjoyable, though lacking development. It's not that they don't have personality, it's just that we don't learn much about them. In the previous two X-Men movies, we learned a lot about our main characters and saw them go through some really intense changes by the end. In this movie, the characters are fun, just not as interesting or compelling. The exception to this is Magneto, who contributes the most emotion to the story. You could've easily made this all about Magneto and it probably would've been a satisfying movie.

The screenplay does have its moments of great writing, like the emotional moments with Magneto and a couple of funny moments, but for the most part it's merely serviceable.

There are some parts of the film that don't really work from a narrative standpoint. (Spoilers!) There's a scene near the end of the film where Quicksilver is about to tell Magneto that he's his son, but he decides not to. Instead, Mystique gives a speech about fighting for the family he has left, referring to Professor X, and that draws Magneto into the fight against Apocalypse. Barring the fact that it makes no sense that Quicksilver wouldn't tell Magneto he's his son, here's why this doesn't work as well as the father/son reveal: the entirety of Magneto's development and motivations have been built on his family's death. They haven't built up the relationship between Charles and Eric enough in this movie to make Eric's turn to fight feel genuine. If Eric had learned Quicksilver was his son and then Mystique made the speech about fighting for the family you've got, that would've made more emotional sense. Magneto wouldn't abandon his own son, especially if he's the only real family he has left to protect.

There was also a plot thread at the end of Days of Future Past that I kept waiting for them to address, but they never did. At the end of the last movie, Striker has captured Wolverine. However, it is revealed that Striker is actually Mystique in disguise. In Apocalypse, though, Striker still has Wolverine in Weapon X, Mystique is doing something completely unrelated to any of that and nobody ever explains or goes into what happened to Striker and what Mystique tried to do to save Wolverine. They don't even acknowledge that the cliffhanger at the end of Days of Future Past ever happened. It was a lost opportunity and a disappointingly lazy disregard for continuity.

Technical

Something I've always loved about the X-Men movies is the costume design. Even though the outfits look similar for the most part, they add enough little touches and details that make them not only distinguishable, but unique to each character. In the end scene of the film the characters actually have costumes that look identical to the comic books. Nightcrawler has his red suit, Mystique has her white outfit and Cyclops has his sweet visor.

The prosthetics in this film are pretty good, too. Apocalypse was mostly brought to life with makeup and he looks amazing. Even though he doesn't look 100% like the comic, he still looks cool and intimidating, so I didn't mind. Nightcrawler also looks impressive. I love the details with the little bumps and carvings in his skin.

The acting also manages to hit bullseyes. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to shine as Professor X and Magneto. The others do a good job as well, but the standout in my eyes is Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays Nightcrawler. I'd only seen him in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and he was blandly forgettable. I was worried about how he would portray this energetic, quirky character. After seeing his performance, I honestly can't believe this is the same boring, dull kid I saw in Dawn. I was thoroughly impressed and can't wait to see him as Nightcrawler in future X-Men movies. I think he did just as good a job as Alan Cumming.

The cinematography is surprisingly impressive in places. Sometimes they'll have these grand, epic landscape shots that make you feel how enormous some of these sets are. Other times, however, it can be a bit messy. I remember I was watching a three-way conversation scene in a tight space. The problem was that I had difficulty determining where everybody was in the set. At one point one of the characters turns their head to look at another and I thought, "Oh, that's where they are?" It didn't help that all the close-ups of the characters had their faces in the middle of the screen, with no viewing space and, therefore, no hints to where everybody was in relation to one another.

The editing can be quite messy, as well. Once during the film, they cut to a different take right in the middle of a swooping shot. It was jarring and made the scene feel messy. I also don't understand why some takes were used by the editor. At one point during a scene, they cut to a shot of the landscape right in the middle of an intense conversation. It didn't really add to anything and was tonally distracting.

The technical black spot in this whole film is the CGI. Sometimes it's good, but other times it looks like it came out of an XBox 360 game. Especially with the character models, the CG looks horrendously obvious. It really took me out of the experience and such poor computer gen. quality is inexcusable in this age of filmmaking.

Summary: Despite the myriad of problems with this movie and the fact that it actually made me angry at times, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. There's enough fun parts, easter eggs and interesting characters that I can safely recommend paying full ticket price at least once. I think I can forgive this film's faults because even though it wasn't a particularly intriguing X-Men movie, it was a fun X-Men movie. If you like the X-Men, I say go see it. If you don't like the X-Men, you probably weren't going to see this one anyway.

B-

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