I’ll always love the X-Men. Since their rise to glory in the early 80s, I have a soft spot for comics most rejected and misunderstood heroes, including Cyclops, Jean Grey (aka Marvel Girl), and especially Nightcrawler. They all appear as teens in X-Men: Apocalypse, and their characters are set up to possibly take over future X films. However, Jennifer Lawrence (Mystique), Michael Fassbender (Magneto) and James McAvoy (Professor X) are still the stars of the cinematic X-Universe. With these three heavyweights present, it’s difficult for any other actor to steal the spotlight. That includes the always-exceptional Oscar Isaac as the X-Men’s foe, a centuries old mutant named, yep, Apocalypse. As the world’s oldest mutant, he does a lot of posturing, but most of the cool fight scenes are left for the other X-men and women.
Apocalypse is awakened after being buried during the age of the pyramids being built on the backs of slaves. Once assimilated to the modern world, he picks up where he left off, seeking to have mutantkind take over the world and homo sapiens either enslaved or extinct. This is the age-old conflict of the X-Men stories, dating back to the very first issue by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Apocalypse and his four ”horsemen,” Magneto, Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Archangel (Ben Hardy) wreak havoc on the world, devastating cities and lives, until Mystique circles up an unlikely group of X-Men, including the aforementioned Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee).
Also along for the ride is Evan Peters’ mischievous and cocky speedster, Quicksilver, who once again steals every scene he’s in. Like the previous X-film (Days of Future Past) Quicksilver receives a sequence highlighting his speed abilities and how the world around him moves at slow motion. Timed to the Eurhythmics classic, ”Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)”, this one outshines what the filmmakers did in Days of Future Past. I do wonder if the sequence was originally edited to a Rush song. Quicksilver’s love for the Toronto power trio is evident throughout the film and it’s odd that we don’t hear Geddy Lee’s voice anywhere in the movie.
Here’s the thing about X-Men: Apocalypse: It’s not as awful as many critics would have you believe. Is it a great movie? No. But it is fun, and it manages to juggle the multiple character arcs better than some of the most recent Marvel produced movies. Furthermore, director Bryan Singer still manages to drive home the theme of acceptance to the fore in a thoughtful and meaningful way, something all of the X-Men stories have excelled at, be they comic books, cartoons or feature films. I’m sure that X-Men purists will scoff at how some of the characters’ origins are rewritten for this film, but most purists gave up on these films years ago. X-Men: Apocalypse is in no way the worst of the X-Men films, and it’s certainly more coherent than Batman vs. Superman (which I enjoyed), so this film gets three Toad tongues out of five from me.
While fast moving and fun, Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg try to cram one too many plots into the film. A little more time getting to know the new kids, or to experience more menace from the Apocalypse crew would have been more welcome than the subplot with the military kidnapping mutants. Alas, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine had to be shoehorned into the movie. Bummer. With Jackman signing off after the next Wolverine movie, perhaps they’ll give the character a rest for a while.
Actually, I’d love to see all of these aging X-Men character put to bed for some time (except Peters’ Quicksilver). Director Josh Boone (The Fault in Our Stars) is working on a New Mutants movie that will only feature Professor X teaching a group of new recruits. I can’t wait.
Special features on the X-Men: Apocalypse Blu-ray include deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, a video made especially for the film’s wrap party, a documentary on the making of the movie, and audio commentary by Singer and Kinberg.