I am an avid reader of comics especially those featuring Wolverine or Superman.
X-Men Apocalypse (Poster)
If you loved Deadpool and Civil War, and thought Dawn of Justice was good, then you'll consider X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) infinite feet below average. This review contains spoilers for all of the afore-mentioned movies as well as the previous X-Men installments.
The Plot: Apocalypse, the world's first mutant, has risen again. But he must face the X-Men if he's to achieve his plan of global domination.
Usually, I start my reviews with the good instead of the bad. Apocalypse is that one exception after at least writing more than a hundred reviews on my own blogs. Now, I will try my best to take out the best points of this flick, if I find any. I will also compare Civil War with this one as per a friend's request later on.
To start with, I'm shocked that Bryan Singer was at the helm of this project. Sure, I disliked Zack Snyder for ruining Batman vs. Superman (2016) but at least he managed to take advantage of his frequent collaborator Larry Fong's awesome cinematography. If the people who liked watching this mutant exhibition due to the visuals, they were pale in comparison to Dawn of Justice. The sense of light vs. dark was eminent in the latter. In Apocalypse, the movie starts with a wonderfully choreography sequence of En Sabah Nur being entombed alive. And that takes place so swiftly that we don't even know what's happening. And that's one major flaw of the approximated 150 minutes of running time: The writer, Simon Kinberg, had time to have a professor explain to the American army that the world is being destroyed, which it clearly was, but doesn't leave out any space in such a duration to explain anything about Apocalypse.
Sure, the comic storylines also do not elaborate much on his past, and shooting ancient sequences might've cost a lot. But with a budget of $178 million, the creative team wasted all of its resources of showing us the plot's setting of 1983. I found X-Men: First Class (2011) the worst in the franchise, but Apocalypse achieved the impossible: Being even worse than First Class. In First Class, the sense of right and wrong is prominent throughout the duration with a superb ending. Honestly, it was boring from the start until Wolverine does a cameo, but if you watch that after this you'll get a sense it was infinite times better written than this fiasco.
I was further disappointed because Days of Future Past (2014), one of my all-time favorite movies, had this as a sequel. In DoFP, though there are many elements unexplained due to the inclusion of time travel, the usage of Sentinels and the balance of depicting the amateur and veteran versions of the mutants was exquisite. Especially that scene where the young Professor X interacts with his older self was exquisitely executed. What's even more shocking to believe is that Bryan Singer returned after directing the first two legendary X-Men ventures for Days of Future Past and I knew it wouldn't fail. This glimmer of hope did not follow Apocalypse as it's the worst directed, and written, X-Men movie to date.
Simon Kinberg is an experienced scenarist who has co-penned notable scripts like those of Jumper (2008) and Sherlock Holmes (2009). But I also found out recently that he co-wrote the disastrous X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) as well. It goes to show that Kinberg should not be hired at a literary capacity for the remainder of this franchise.
Moving on to the characterization and design of Apocalypse (who was busy designing the costumes of his new Four Horsemen), it's so bad it can't be written about; it's a mockery of the comic-book rendition of him. I expected Oscar Isaac who is on a high starring in both Oscar-nominated movies and mega-blockbusters recently to save the film. Instead, he makes Apocalypse the worst villain ever, not in personality because that would be a compliment, but his dialogue delivery and rolling of eyes is so funny that I was literally laughing at his theatrics. This character doesn't need a live-action parody because he was a parody of himself in this one.
Furthermore, the worst aspect of X-Men Apocalypse is its treatment of those who are watching, We, the spectators, have watched not only superhero flicks but even Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy. Singer made this film as if he thought we were the most gullible viewers on the entire planet. The screenplay is so much flawed that at the ending when the heroes are about to face off against the bad guy, they are literally shown discussing what they have do to get to him, instead of the director showcasing his expertise (like in the beautiful rendition of DoFP) to excite us with suspense.
X-Men Apocalypse is devoid of thrill and instead of character evolution it is full of character devolution. The writer characterized Magneto as a changed individual who doesn't want mutants to be in charge but works at a factory, and is a family guy. Mr. Kinberg how naive do you think we are? Of course we knew what would happen to his family just as the naysayers arrived. This screenplay is so clichéd it should serve as an official reminder on How Not To Write A Clichéd Screenplay. Yes, it's that bad. So, then Magneto swiftly becomes a Horseman without a thought of conscience. In the comics, Magneto is one of the most strong-willed characters and that's why he serves as both a friend and enemy to Professor Xavier. Here, Michael Fassbender tries his best to give life to a lifelessly-written character.
The movie also tries to repeat the storylines of its earlier entries: Showcasing Professor X successful in running his school, Mystique at odds with him recruiting new mutants, with Nightcrawler, Cyclops and Jean Grey being the new heroic outcasts of society. For the love of all things comic-related, we do not need repetition in this area. The Last Stand and First Class tried this and were only better due to incorporating more action.
This furthermore leads to my point that Apocalypse lacks action except for the final act. It's just Apocalypse going around recruiting mutants in the lamest way possible. This film should not be included in the action genre. Its lack of emotional drama even deems it unacceptable in the category of drama. It should be marked as a tragedy. Fox should be ashamed of producing such a disaster after getting both a commercial and critical hit with Deadpool in the February of 2016. What can I say for the future of the X-Men franchise? My answer is rest in peace (Wolverine 3 and Deadpool 2 being exceptions).
In terms of acting: Tye Sheridan was great at Cyclops, the rest of the portrayals are average, but the worst casting decision was with Sophie Turner from GoT fame as Jean Grey. The previous actress to embody this role was Famke Janssen and although she has more looks than talent, at least she had the slender figure and superior facial features for this role. Turner not only looks uncomfortable in her X-Men costume, she tries her best to be an American version of Sansa Stark, albeit without an equal amount of tragedy. I hated her as Jean Grey as much as I loathed Isaac for what he did with Apocalypse.
What surprised me even more was Jennifer Lawrence giving the lowest performance in her career. Mystique had a major role to play in this film as the motivational leader of the young mutants. Instead, she is seen smirking her way throughout the running time, which itself should've been two hours, or the movie should've started with the ending and become a reverse-moving narrative. Alas, that is not the case, and we are left with bad acting (except for Fassbender and Sheridan), bad writing (Kinberg thinking that the audience won't notice the whole world being destroyed, so he provided additional characters to explain this theory of the end of the world), and bad direction (Singer using his trademark X-Men direction to fast-forward story that could've been written so much better, but he is equally to blame for this mess as is Kinberg, because both direction/writing sucked equally).
Taking the case of Captain America: Civil War (2016), now that was a brilliant achievement. It used hand-to-hand choreography and stunning cinematography, and even with a semi-predictable story, it manages to beat Apocalypse in all three major aspects of film-making: Direction, Writing and Acting. Civil War was also better due to its ideologies of Captain America and Iron Man. Directors of Civil War, The Russo Brothers managed to make a flick that slowly but surely captivates viewers into a thrilling conclusion. For Apocalypse, majority of the watchers were wishing for it to conclude, as in to relieve them from their suffering of such a poorly-executed plot. Even Doomsday's inclusion in Dawn of Justice, and his match-up against DC's trio of mightiest heroes, was better than the entire last battle against Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen (who were designed well but almost all of them acted like models because two of the four thespians, namely Olivia Munn and Ben Hardy, are real-life models!).
The ending sequences are all full of predictable coincidences: Professor X suddenly learning that he can get inside Apocalypse's mind, that too leading him to fight in the Mansion which had been recently destroyed to give us a false sense of nostalgia, Jean Grey using the power of the Phoenix to make way for the next villain in the franchise, and Magneto simply, without any viable reason, joining the X-Men for the sake of just depicting Magneto as an anti-hero. This movie is so unique because Singer used his own X-Men formula and made a gigantic mess of the abundantly messed-up narrative.
My suggestion would be to have used The Force Awaken's formula of using their trademark style. They copied the original trilogy's trademarks in making a visually breath-taking, but literally scarred, blockbuster. Even if Apocalypse makes a lot of money, it doesn't earn one cent of it.
Still, there was some good in this film, which took me to finding it like a needle in a pile of infinite haystacks. Although, Wolverine has a cameo-length appearance, it was nicely filmed. And it also pays homage to his original origins story of being the first Weapon X in both costume design and Hugh Jackman's incomparable performance as the character that brought him international fame.
This further on leads me to compliment the scene where Jean tries to free his mind but can't. This was written and directed brilliantly as it's true (and mentioned in various comic-book storylines) that Logan AKA Wolverine has heavily concealed memories that couldn't be fully revealed when the X-Men saved him in this flick. So, kudos to both the direction of Wolverine slaughtering government agents and the emotional scene between him and Jean Grey that followed.
Quicksilver, again humorously played by Evan Peters, had some awesome moments, but like the venture itself they were prolonged. The overall comic relief, was a little fun, but it could not distract me from the banality of the writing.
Before I give my rating I also wish to say it could've been a bit higher. But X-Men cannot be saved just by the acting of Jackman, Fassbender and Sheridan because it is a colossal waste of 178 million dollars. We have Lawrence and Rose Byrne simply staring into nothingness on-screen and giving half-hearted performances that I never thought they were capable of. I'm not a fan of James McAvoy but at least his storytelling as Professor X of Byrne's Moira MacTaggert's memory loss is better than her enactment of the respective figure.
X-Men Apocalypse does live up to its title by being the Judgment Day of the X-Men franchise. But there is still hope with the upcoming Wolverine and Deadpool spin-offs as both of them will be R-rated and fun to watch. I wouldn't recommend Apocalypse to anyone who doesn't want to watch it, but if you wish to witness it for the sake of argument, then be my guest.
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© 2021 Nisar Sufi