Everything About X-Men Apocalypse is Great Apart from Apocalypse Himself

Monday, 09 May 2016 - 5:00PM
Marvel
X-Men: Apocalypse
Reviews
Monday, 09 May 2016 - 5:00PM
Everything About X-Men Apocalypse is Great Apart from Apocalypse Himself
After X-Men: Days of Future Past raised the game to levels that the franchise hadn't seen since 'X2' back in 2003, Kinberg and 20th Century Fox needed a villain who could successfully raise the stakes for a new generation of heroes, all while being able to bring a trilogy to a worthy close at the same time. In theory, Apocalypse –the world's first and most powerful mutant– should have been the perfect big bad for Charles Xavier and his gifted youngsters to grapple with, but the reality was very different.

Minor spoilers for X-Men: Apocalypse follow


After taking us to the 60's and 70's, X-Men: Apocalypse takes us on a trip to a distinctly more colorful 1980's, introducing a host of new characters who we're all more than familiar with from X-Men's classic comics, movies and TV shows. The future for this new class of mutants is unclear, and some cast members did a better job at staking their claim for a place in the future of the franchise than others. Both Sophie Turner's Jean Grey and Tye Sheridan's Scott Summers (Cyclops) made a solid, if unspectacular debut, but of all the new X-Men on show, it was Kodi Smit-McPhee's Nightcrawler who stood head and shoulders above the rest. In McPhee, Kinberg has secured a young actor of supreme talent, one who is able to inject the right level of humor and heart into a character who plays a crucial role in this movie.



It wasn't just the good guys that got an influx of new talent, though. Apocalypse is known to always have four devoted followers, and after being awakened by a hapless Moira Mactaggert, he wastes no time in setting about the task of recruiting four mutants of varying ability. Through a fortuitous crossing of paths, Alexandra Shipp's Storm is the first to be recruited into Apocalypse's ranks. Olivia Munn's Psylocke and Ben Hardy's Angel follow in her path, but neither are able to match Shipp's performance. In fact, at times it feels like Psylocke and Angel are just there to make up the numbers, which is a real disappointment given the two characters' rich history. Like Nightcrawler, Storm's arc in this movie proves that there could be a bright new future ahead for the X-Men franchise, but the solid foundation laid down by the movie's fringe characters is so nearly let down by a titular villain that fell well short of the expectations associated with his name.

In the build up to the movie's release, a lot of the attention on Apocalypse was focused on his appearance, and while it certainly does make for some interesting comparisons, it's not a crucial factor in the movie at all. More so, the issue is appears to be that Kinberg and his team didn't know what to do with this ultimate X-Men villain. Instead of seeing Apocalypse raise the stakes to a level befitting of the character, we're left with an overwhelming sense that a great opportunity has been missed.



While we may all know that Apocalypse is damn-near all powerful, neither the limitations or awesome potential of his abilities are explored even close to the extent you would expect or hope. In the movie's trailers we see destruction on a massive and terrifying scale, but by the time the actual movie is over you realize that barely any of that has been caused directly by Apocalypse himself. Instead, it is once again the excellent Michael Fassbender who serves as the movie's biggest threat. Magneto, who is seduced back to evil ways by Apocalypse, cements his status as the franchise's most compelling character by traversing some serious emotional terrain, wreaking havoc on our fair planet in the process. 

Of course, a villain can be more than a a simple destructive force, but even that much is sorely lacking, and Apocalypse's motives are at best, only lightly explored. Certainly, Apocalypse can be credited with skill of causing his enemies trouble while barely lifting a finger, but his involvement in the movie seems somewhat empty. What little motivational backstory there is comes when Apocalypse accesses a television, learning that the Earth is now dominated by a handful of 'Superpower' nations like the US and the Soviet Union. Apocalypse, wanting to prove that he is the only true 'superpower' on the planet, sets about encouraging Magneto to start tearing the planet apart while his other minions serve to hold off the advances of the young X-Men team. 

It's not until a mental battle with Charles Xavier do we start to see what Apocalypse might be capable of. During this big climax, Apocalypse has taken Xavier captive and plans to transfer his consciousness into the professor's body, a process that would give him the ability to access and control the mind of every being on the planet. It's only during this battle for Xavier's mind that Apocalypse truly flexes his proverbial muscles, and even then you're left feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

Thankfully, though, there's enough good in the movie to make up for the villain's many shortcomings. 



By far the most enjoyable element of X-Men: Apocalypse comes with the expanded role given to Evan Peters' Quicksilver. Peters is given a lot more leg work in his second appearance, and he deals with it brilliantly throughout. Most of the talk will no doubt be focused on the new Quicksilver 'slow-mo scene', which somehow finds a way to be bigger, better, and even funnier than its predecessor. However, Peters' does a fantastic job with everything that is asked of him, and now the franchise is openly addressing Quicksilver's parentage, there's hope that more meat can be added to the character's narrative bones. As if to ram home the stark contrast between the two characters, there's even a glorious sequence in which we see Quicksilver (temporarily, at least) kicking Apocalypse's arse.

What's most striking is that the movie itself never really seems to believe in its own villain. His ending is overshadowed by its means, and there's practically no consequence to the blockbuster levels of destruction his minions have created. Within mere moments of Apocalypse's threat being wiped out, we're whisked on to happier, more hopeful scenes, which will send a shiver of excitement through even the hardiest of X-Men fans.

While the movie's titular villain dampens proceedings, there's still more than enough to excite and entertain throughout X-Men: Apocalypse. Between the delights of Quicksilver and the strong performances from some of the new cast members, X-Men: Apocalypse proves this franchise still has legs. Along with Quicksilver's involvement, Wolverine's cameo will be a major highlight for fans. Jackman has given many years to this franchise, and while his departure will be hard to swallow, the same cannot be said for another of X-Men's big stars. Jennifer Lawrence might have waxed lyrical about how she would love to return for more X-Men movie action, but her performance in 'Apocalypse' continues to have us thinking otherwise. When all is said and done, it feels as though X-Men: Apocalypse was less concerned with creating an epic trilogy conclusion than it was with ensuring the viability of future movies. At least it succeeded in one of those tasks, although it would have been nice to see it do both.

X-Men: Apocalypse is released in theaters on May 27th.
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