Rating: 1 Star
The following review contains spoilers.
There’s a scene in X-Men: Apocalypse where, for a brief second, it seems like the movie is finally going to be about something. Apocalypse has captured Xavier and is forcing him to use his psychic powers to broadcast a message to every person on Earth. Apocalypse wants to create a world based on survival-of-the-fittest, where only the strong survive, but Xavier changes the message at the end imploring on the strongest to protect those who are weaker, not dominate them. This is the fundamental difference between Xavier and Apocalypse’s philosophies that the movie could have been based around, but it’s also the only time anything resembling a philosophy is introduced.
In the end, Apocalypse just wants to destroy the world because he’s a bad guy and that’s what bad guys do, and the X-Men want to stop him because that’s what the good guys do. X-Men: Apocalypse doesn’t tell a story in the traditional sense, but instead relates a series of things that happen, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
There are some other moments in this movie where it feels like there was supposed to be a story there but they forgot to finish it:
Jean Grey defeats Apocalypse by unleashing the full force of her power, but Xavier calling on her to let loose doesn’t have any impact because it’s never foreshadowed. If Apocalypse was willing to admit The Last Stand into its canon – a flawed movie but way better than this disaster, pathetic “The third one’s always the worst!” jabs aside – they could have played off that film’s story of Xavier forcing Jean to suppress her powers for years, and turned his call for her to go full Phoenix into some kind of character growth moment for both of them, but they didn’t bother.
There’s some kind of subplot about Xavier wiping Moira’s mind in First Class, but again there’s nothing there. It’s not clear why now is the time for him to change his position on mind-wipes (after 20 years), or what impact that should have on the characters or the audience. After he restores her memories, we don’t get a good sense of her reaction or how their relationship develops from here (or why she was in this movie and especially why she was in the climax to begin with). You’d expect her to be naturally horrified at this terrible violation, but apparently not?
Xavier wants to have a school, not a super hero team. Beast built a jet or something because he thinks they need to be prepared for war. At the end, Xavier finally forms the X-Men (which he formed in First Class 20 freaking years ago, but whatever). This feels like it might be a story, but there are so many missing parts, and there are no character moments giving it any weight or meaning. At the end when bald James McAvoy is glowering at the team getting ready to have some Danger Room exercises, is he proud? Is he sad? Both? Neither?
All the “you still have a family!” stuff with Magneto, Mystique, and Quicksilver goes nowhere. Magneto decides to destroy the world because his family died, kills possibly millions of people, changes his mind, and everyone leaves as friends. It’s really not clear what the morality of this universe is in which no one in the X-Men cares that Magneto walks away from the worst instance of mass murder imaginable, or where a bunch of teenagers let an anonymous monster out of a cell and watch as he brutally slaughters dozens of U.S. soldiers (they just step over the bodies without comment). In the comics the Four Horsemen are often depicted as brainwashed, but apparently they have free will here, and Storm, Angel, and Psylocke have simply decided that killing billions and destroy all the world’s infrastructure is just a darn great idea (and actually, now that I think about it, wiping away Singer’s X-Universe and building a new one on the bones might be the best case scenario at this point).
Storm and Nightcrawler look cool.
The Quicksilver scene is visually interesting.
McAvoy and Fassbender continue to be good actors working with awful material.
The Quicksilver scene is just a copy of the scene everyone liked in the last one. He’s even listening to a song again. It’s like the first time Saturday Night Live repeats a popular sketch with the same beats but a slightly difference premise: it’s still funny, but it’s a little less funny, and in a couple more goes it’ll be, “Ugh, not this again.”
The characters fail to use their powers in interesting ways, and the things that make them interesting in the comic are adjusted so that they’re less interesting. Beast is a brilliant guy trapped in a beastly form? Eh, he can change back and forth whenever. Psylocke can focus her psychic energy into daggers that disrupt the nervous system? Eh, now they’re just force blades that cut through stuff or whatever. Apocalypse has complete control over his own body? Eh, now he can just do literally anything when convenient (including teleport!) and nothing when inconvenient.
This is the ninth X-Men movie (if you count the spin-offs) and the third X-Men prequel and it’s a 2-and-a-half-hour origin story for the X-Men concept.
The mansion blows up for no reason, and Havok dies for no reason. Then they rebuild the mansion in an afternoon because they still need a mansion and it was blown up for no reason so they might as well bring it back, because who cares. The Wolverine cameo happens for no reason. Stryker captures two of the X-Men and Moira for no reason. It’s set in the 80s for no reason. Jubilee is in the movie for no reason (and uses her powers exactly zero times!). Psylocke is in the movie for no reason.
Apocalypse makes a big deal about wanting the most powerful mutants and then just enlists literally the first four mutants he sees to be his horsemen.
Why can’t Xavier just go bald? Why can’t Storm just have white hair? Why does everything need a special origin?
At the end of Days of Future Past, one of the signs that the timeline has been significantly changed is when Stryker’s team captures Wolverine, but then the audience sees that it’s actually Mystique pretending to be Stryker. That movie was released two years ago and made by all the same people who made this one, and yet in the intervening time the filmmakers apparently forgot they filmed that scene, and now Wolverine is just a prisoner of Stryker’s anyway. How incredibly stupid and lazy. You can come up with any kind of no-prize worthy in-universe justification you want (it’s been 10 years, so I guess Stryker just captured him again anyway after Mystique went off to do something else) but from a storytelling standpoint it’s completely ridiculous.
This movie is so dull and pointless and misguided that it makes me wonder if I vastly overrated Singer’s other X-Men movies.