REVIEW: ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ Strengthened By Character Arcs, Except The Villain’s

After 2014’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” that jumped around with time travel, Director Bryan Singer has returned to a more linear concept for the latest mutant adventure.

In the new “X-Men” story, audiences get introduced to En Sabah Nur, better known as Apocalypse. Labeled the first mutant in history, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is a man who considers himself a god and survived through the ages by transferring his consciousness to a new body. The last time this occurred, though, was in ancient Egypt and Apocalypse ended up getting betrayed and trapped in rubble.

Fast forward to the 1980s, the film starts up with Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) now running a fully functional school with multiple students. Through contact with a character from one of the previous films, Xavier finds out that Apocalypse could be returning, and in doing so, bring his friend Magneto (Michael Fassbender) out of the shadows.

Singer’s latest “X-Men” film is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to its storytelling.

Giving the movie its greatest strength were the film’s subplots with the main characters. “Apocalypse” was able to explore multiple character arcs, from Xavier fitting in to life as a professor, to Magneto trying to find peace and Mystique (played by Jennifer Lawrence) questioning her next step in life.

While these arcs are playing out, the movie also makes it a priority to tell the stories of the students at the school such as Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee.)

The multiple subplot that play out makes for a character driven film and anytime the emotions and relationships are explored, the picture becomes much more engaging.

With that said, though, the character bringing all these subplots into converging was lackluster. Simply put, Apocalypse was a boring villain. He had little personality and zero connection to the rest of the “X-Men” other than being an obstacle they had to stop. It led to his scenes feeling disconnected in a way to the rest of the movie.

Another issue with “Apocalypse” was the runtime, clocking in well over two hours. While there was plenty of story to tell, some moments still felt unnecessary. Specifically, there is an action sequence in the second act that felt shoved in just to have a cameo.

As previously stated, though, the movie has legs to stand on thanks to its lead characters and a main reason for them working so well was because of the performances.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender both reprise their roles as Xavier and Magneto for a third time and they are brilliant. In McAvoy’s scenes, he perfectly portrays the genius professor and man of peace while still displaying some vulnerability and showing that he doesn’t have all the answers yet.

Fassbender meanwhile captures his character’s rage and pain that are constantly intertwined, allowing the audience to understand his motivations.

Like in “Days of Future Past,” Lawrence brings a cold and reserved performance to the character Mystique, and it works for the most part considering what her character is going through.

Supporting cast members such as Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Even Peters as Quicksilver and the newcomers Sheridan, Turner and Smit-McPhee, helped round things out, too, for a diverse band of characters.

Problems come up again, though, with the movie’s villain. Oscar Isaac is a brilliant actor, having turned in phenomenal performances in “Ex Machina,” “Inside Llewyn Davis” and the most recent “Star Wars” film. Unfortunately, Isaac is completely wasted here since Apocalypse is a rather dull villain and he had so much makeup on that he was nearly expressionless.

In terms of action, the movie does deliver some very exciting moments. Similar to “Days of Future Past,” there’s a scene with Quicksilver where he has to use his super speed power and everything around him is in slow motion that is a lot of fun to watch. There’s also some solid moments in the film’s climax.

“Apocalypse” likely could have been an even better movie had it trimmed some of the second act and included a better villain. However, the movie has enough good focus on its lead characters and features some fantastic performances along with action to warrant a 3.5 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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