Directed by Bryan Singer, X-Men: Apocalypse is the newest film in the X-Men franchise that follows the alternate timeline X-Men series that began in 2011 with X-Men: First Class. It follows the past iterations major characters such as Professor Charles Xavier aka Professor X (James McAvoy), Eric Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Raven Darkholme aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), En Sabah Nur aka Apocalypse (Oscar Issac), Hank McCoy aka Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), Scott Summers aka Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey aka Phoenix (Sophie Turner), Elizabeth Braddock aka Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Alex Summers aka Havok (Lucas Till), Peter Maximoff aka Quicksilver (Evan Peters), Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-Mcphee), Ororo Munroe aka Storm (Alexandra Shipp), William Stryker (Josh Helman), Warren Worthington III aka Angel/Archangel (Ben Hardy) and Jubilation Lee aka Jubilee (Lana Condor).
Good god that’s a lot of people.
This time around, an ancient mutant from the past awakens in the form of Apocalypse, who sets out to remake the world again the way he thinks it should be. Typical villain stuff. Again, its up to the X-Men to stop them. This time around, the X-Men are pretty much scattered around the world in the 80’s trying. Professor Xavier and Hank McCoy are teaching mutant children how to control their powers at a special campus. Mystique is rescuing mutants from oppressive humans. Magneto is living in Poland with a wife and daughter. And, of course, Apocalypse eventually brings them back together.
The problem with having an ensemble cast, especially one of this size (I mean look that first paragraph), is that you need to spend time making sure that each character get a satisfying arc that makes sense for their character. This is the root of the problem with the film. If I were to watch this movie by itself without having watched the previous eight films, I would think these characters have no arc. In fact, I think the only one that seems to have any kind of an arc would be Magneto and maybe Jean Grey. And even then, they’re arcs aren’t that satisfying because time is taken away from them in order to accommodate the other people.
This film requires that you have seen the past three movies of this timeline (First Class and Days of Future Past), in order to feel as if this is a satisfying conclusion. If you’re interested in watching the X-Men movies, this is not the movie to start with. It does not stand on its own and requires too much of my memory of the past films to make it emotionally engaging.
Oscar Isaac plays the part of Apocalypse well, even if he reminds me a lot of Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy. He is not a villain that is very interesting to me. He does his whole “this world must be cleansed” spiel and we’re just expected to go with it. Magneto ends up as the character with the most depth as a man who believes that war and destruction is all he will have in his life.
He’s not the only one who plays his part well. Every actor and actress in the film plays their role admirably, but again, not enough time is spent on the characters that matter to make me feel emotionally invested in their struggle. In the end, I was just watching for the action, which was disappointing. I came for an X-Men movie, not a Michael Bay movie.
In the end, it’s a competent summer blockbuster. It does the job it set out to do even if you won’t really spend a lot of time talking or thinking about it once you’ve left the theater. It just doesn’t feel as polished as previous films. It’s no X-Men: The Last Stand by any means but it’s not Days of Future Past. If you’re looking for fun X-Men action, there are worse options, but this won’t be the film you immediately turn to if you want to watch an X-Men movie. It’ll just be the third movie of the trilogy that you’ll have to watch because you might as well because you’ve seen the other two.