X-Men:Apocalypse Opinion - Director Bryan Singer Couldn't Top "Days of Future Past"
Summary: Bryan Singer ("Days of Future Past") brings together all of the younger generation X-Men (and some new faces) in a film that is entertaining, but more so as a collage of individual moments, ultimately resulting in a film that is weighed down by the coherence of superior previous franchise entries.
Walking into the theatre for "X-Men Apocalypse", I had two burning questions I wanted answered. The first being "What the heck was that post-credits scene from Days of Future Past?", The second being, "Can Bryan Singer ever top the beloved Quicksilver scene from Days of Future Past?" Both these questions were solidly answered, but beyond that I don't see much of a point in this X-Men film. The good news for this film is that the reason this film seems kind of a nothing is because of what has already been accomplished in this 16 year old franchise. The reason you see this film hanging around a 47% rottentomato score is probably because we've already seen so many things of similar effect occur in this very franchise, therefore it is by no fault of its own that X-Men Apocalypse has most other critics going "Meh..."
As always, let's recap how this film starts off, without any major spoilers. The film starts off in Egypt, where we had the "Days of Future Past" post credits scene, along with a good old Charles Xavier monologue about mutants and power. This scene introduces us to En Sabah Nur, or as comes to be known, Apocalypse. While undergoing some sort of transference of body in order to stay immortal, there's a rebellion conspiracy of sorts which ends with Apocalypse ending up deeply buried beneath the rocks, having nearly completed the transference. So far so good, I guess. What I understood, at this point of the film, is that Apocalypse was some sort of super-revered Supreme Chancellor of the region who means to continue to live forever, seen as a god by many, but as a false god by others, and this rebellion that got him stuck under the rocks for tens of thousands of years is the only reason society and history progressed and transpired as it did today. What do I expect at the end of this first scene?, Apocalypse wakes up some way and wants to resume control over the world. Not an original villain motive by any means, but I hoped Mr. Singer would bring some unexpected and novel things to this film to make for a more compelling villain. But this was not the case, as I would go on to find out.
Bryan Singer has always been great at bringing these characters together in a manner that involves character development for all the on-screen X-Men as well as putting them together on adventure. This much is evident from "Days of Future Past", "First Class" (which he produced, not directed) as well as the first two X-Men movies. This film, however, starts off with most of the X-Men disbanded and separated in various parts of the world. Magneto has a wife and a daughter in Poland, Raven has disappeared to East Berlin after the events of Days of Future Past and Charles has initiated the Xavier School for the Gifted with Hank (Beast). A series of events take place that ultimately brings them together, but on either of two sides. One side, the primary antagonists' side, is led by Apocalypse, who is awakened in 1983 by some cult thanks in part to CIA Agent Moira McTaggert, (who I think made it possible for Apocalypse to be born? She pulled up the rug and let the sun shine in on the golden pyramid thing, which by the looks of things, was the only thing that was stopping the re-awakening of Apocalypse. If this was the case, then the fact that these cults have been failing to re-awaken this dude for over 10,000 years is a serious appalling plot-hole.) On the other side is the X-Men led by Xavier. The conflict that this movie ends with is acceptable, but the events that lead up to this point raise more questions than they answer.
Issue one: Apocalypse's intentions/motives. I'm not sure whether this millenia-old god-like ex leader of Egypt wants to rule over the world or simply end it. I am on-board with his statement that everyone is following blind leaders and so on and so forth, it makes sense in his perspective that humanity has lost its way without his presence, and that the fact that absolute power in the hands of one cannot happen in this age of laws and society is absurd in his mind. But after multiple recruitment speeches, one of which convinces Magneto to join him after he suffers yet another loss, Apocalypse goes on to literally destroy the world by way of amplifying Magneto's powers in order to disrupt and wreak havoc with all the metal in the Earth. What does that really achieve? And if his aim was to wipe the Earth clean of its current human inhabitants, why in God's name did he have all the nukes of the world exit the Earth's atmosphere, leaving the Earth nukeless? Why not just use those nukes to achieve the same destruction he wanted? If you tell me Apocalypse wants a world of only mutants, in order to continue his version of the progress of evolution, I would ask you, how is this any different from X-Men First Class, wherein Sebastian Shaw intended to start WW3 in order to jumpstart the era of mutants. Too many questions and confusing courses of action make Apocalypse a powerful yet not-so-convincing villain. But hey, its Oscar Isaac! Enjoy and look on!
Before more issues, I'd like to give props to this film for giving us another Quicksilver scene that, in my opinion, tops the one we'd seen in Days of Future Past. One of the reasons this scene works better than the previous one, which I'll admit was an extremely hard one to top, is that the stakes are really high. The other is that Quicksilver's character is fully fleshed out in this one scene. His quirkiness and his teen tendencies are displayed through a series of funny actions he does while saving everyone in the scene, from stuffing a dogs mouth with a slice of pizza to placing a dart right on path with the bulls-eye of a dart board in slow motion to taking a quick sip of Coca-Cola. And to top it all off, a great song to go with this hilarious sequence of events.
Many new faces in this film are given zero character development and are just there to account for the 4 mutants needed to satisfy the "4 Horsemen" requirement, but some others are given a reasonably good amount of screen time and end up having important roles to play in the events of the film. Olivia Munn, who played my favourite character in HBO's "The Newsroom", is almost completely wasted in her role as Psylocke and only appears to do what Deadpool would almost certainly sarcastically applaud "SUPERHERO LANDING! HERE IT COMES!". Angel, the mutant with the eagle wings is almost completely useless to the plot. Ororo Munroe, better known as Storm, is introduced to us a pickpocket struggling to survive in Cairo, and it was more believable that she would join Apocalypse, given her current circumstances and the amount of power Apocalypse gives to her, her character is given slight less than sufficient time on-screen, but I'm more or less fine with that. Jean Grey, played by Sophie Turner, better known for playing Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones, is also given a good amount of screen time, and we get to see some similar themes from the original X-Men trilogy, i.e. Jean fears that she is too powerful to be controlled. We also see Scott Summers, or Cyclops, and his character was probably one of the best developed ones in this film, his role was also a big one in this plot. A major character of the franchise has a cameo in this film, and it is quite the shock reveal.
Another issue: Erik (Magneto) seems to be constantly flip-flopping between choosing Charles' way of trying to integrate mutants with the current human society peacefully and the alternative method, which involves ending humanity and establishing a mutant-led world, and its getting redundant and repetitive fast! The screen-writers use Magneto's family almost entirely as a plot device to get him going bad again, and Erik is seeming more and more like a man without real conviction who can be easily swayed by either moving speeches or tragic events. Magneto is an insanely powerful mutant, and his character would do much better with some solid conviction.
Apart from these and a couple other issues that weigh down on this film, X-Men Apocalypse delivers a good amount of entertaining action sequences and themes. The climax is a feast for the eyes with some really good X-Men nostalgia and awesomeness to follow the confusing courses of action of Apocalypse, Magneto and others. We get to know the real reason Xavier loses his hair, the reason Storm has white hair and some other minor fan-satisfying reveals. But, although by itself the film stands as pretty good action packed high-stakes film, the reason it suffers is that we've seen these thematic elements way too often right in this very franchise. The repetitive nature of needing to save the day from a destruction-mongering villain has been done repeatedly and is getting tiring in the way its being portrayed. Perhaps Mr. Singer would have found more love for this film had he taken a bold new direction for this film, as was done for Deadpool. But nevertheless, unless they find some ground-breaking new creative direction for the X-Men franchise, things are getting repetitive fast, and they risk losing fans of this franchise.