Saturday, June 4, 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! How can you confine Apocalypse to a single film?!?

X-Men:  Apocalypse – 3 out of 5

The X-Men have been a big part of my life for a long time.  I’ve been a loyal reader of the comics since I was in grade school, played the hell out of their arcade and console games and was an avid viewer of their 90s animated series.  Now imagine my excited when I saw the first trailer for the first film!  I still get that whimsical child-like awe when a new superhero movie comes out but if you had told me when I was a kid that one day Apocalypse, one of the most vile villains the mutant heroes face, would one day grace the big screen, I never would have believed you.  So, with that being said, does X-Men:  Apocalypse live up to their last film and do justice to the iconic and larger-than-life super-villain?  Or is this just another X3?

                                                                                                                      20th Century Fox
Apocalypse and his Four Horseman...posing for their Christian rock band
album cover, I guess.

It’s now the 80s and Professor Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters is going strong despite the fact that the world is now fully aware of the existence of mutants after Magneto’s attack on the president several years earlier.  Xavier (James McAvoy) spends his time educating new students to control their powers—new students like a young Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), while his dearest friends; Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender), are out trying to do their best to exist:  Raven helps wayward mutants and Erik is just trying to live a normal life with his family.  However, when an ancient evil, a being named En Sabah Nur—the dreaded Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac)—awakens to find a world ready for the taking, the mutants must prepare for war.  Gathering himself his four horsemen—the street urchin who can control the weather; Storm (Alexander Shipp), the mysterious Psylocke (Olivia Munn), the winged Angel (Ben Hardy) and, preying on his inner demons and heartache, the Master of Magnetism himself; Magneto—Apocalypse brings their powers to unthinkable limits and prepares to set the world on fire and build a new world on its ashes.  Now it’s up to X-Men to stop the man before he lives up to his namesake and destroys the world.

                                                                                                                      20th Century Fox
"How do I pee in this suit?!?"

I was damn excited for this film to come out.  After how fun First Class was and how epic Days of Future Past (and its amazing Rogue Cut) were, I was jonesing for another hit of that sweet, sweet X-films.  Add the fact that this would be the big screen introduction of one of my favorite villains and I was going losing my mind waiting to see this film.  However, after finally getting to the theaters (just didn’t have the cash when it came out—if Fox would send me screeners, I wouldn’t need cash but, for some reason, they won’t send screeners to a dude who does movie reviews no one reads.  What’s up with that?) and finally getting a chance to see it, I have to say that it didn’t live up to my expectations.  Of course, that isn’t me saying it’s bad.

                                                                                                                      20th Century Fox
It was cool to see Josh Helman return as William Styker.  He's just so good
in that role.

Apocalypse has a lot working in its favor and makes it very entertaining.  First off, the cast is great.  Returning favorites like McAvoy, Lawrence, Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Lucas Hill and more (including a fantastic, albeit expected, cameo that is totally fan service but completely worth it), are all doing a fantastic job and they are matched beat-for-beat by the newcomers to the franchise like Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler, Olivia Munn, Alexander Shipp, Ben Hardy and Oscar Isaac.  Every actor is doing a great job bringing their character to life—even if some of their characters are seen or given as much depth or development as they deserve.

                                                                                                                    20th Century Fox
Let's just make it a fact that there's no role Oscar Isaac
can't do.  His depth of talent seems endless.

The film also has some tremendous special effects going for it and the grand scale of destruction they show that Apocalypse and his Four Horsemen are capable of is really insane to watch.  It really helps establish the threat level that this villain is—in fact, so much of this movie is establishing how dangerous En Sabah Nur is and it almost felt like they were going overboard as it doesn’t deliver a very satisfying finale.  With all the power that Apocalypse has and that the story keeps pushing down your throat by endless repeating how powerful he is, you would think it would result in a bananas ending that would pull out all the stops in delivering great comic book action but, instead, it gives up some really, really easy resolutions.  That's not the kind of developments one would be expecting from this tremendous potential in this tale.  In fact, establishing and developing nearly everything in this film is one of the biggest issues the film has.

                                                                                                                     20th Century Fox
In every single film that Tye Sheridan is in that I review, I always sing his praises.
The kid is talented!

So much of Apocalypse feels like either exposition or sloppy developing that it’s quick to forget that there is a conflict being constructed somewhere is the very muddled story.  The film starts fine as Apocalypse is gathering his forces but as the story starts to branch out and bring in the new X-Men members like Nightcrawler and Cyclops or shows Xavier reuniting with Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne) or decides to do a detour through the Weapon X facility and shoe-horn a needless (but, and I say this from the bottom of my geeky heart, very cool) cameo, you start to lose sight of Apocalypse and what exactly his plan or desire is.  You realize he’s powerful, you realize he’s dangerous and you realize he’s working towards something but I never got the feeling that he was all that focused on his mission because the story felt so cluttered, poorly paced and a tad on the bloated side.  It made for a lot of dragging moments and, when you realize that there aren’t many action sequences in the film, it created a lot of flat-out boring moments.  

                                                                                                                      20th Century Fox
It's so pointless but I loved this scene so much!

It’s a tad disappointing that after doing an X-Men film like Days of Future Past that had a ton of characters and still feel like every role has their parts to play and then watch this one mishandle nearly all the characters.  There are times where arcs are handled very well like when Magneto’s personal tragedy is being used against him by Apocalypse in order to get him join his cause or watching Cyclops learn to come to terms with his optic blast powers that he will never actually be able to control but the other times you have Psylocke and Angel getting no real development (and barely any lines) or a need to include Jubilee (Lana Condor) and never have her use her powers.  (Come on!  I wanna see her fireworks!)  It’s easy to feel like they brought in too many characters and it almost feels insulting when you see two of the Four Horsemen are treated to less development than a cameo appearance of the character Caliban (Tómas Lemarquis).  It was cool seeing this character make an appearance and his scenes are great but the few moments he’s in the film results in him having more depth and a far larger dynamic than two of the associates of the main baddie.

                                                                                                                      20th Century Fox
I'm just going to say it:  I liked Ben Hardy as Angel a whole lot more than Ben Foster.

Apocalypse definitely has some very amazing and extremely entertaining moments that help the story chug along, so it's not just crap shoveled endless.  Once again, Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is a lot of fun and has a very funny and neat sequence that showcases his speed but, at the same time, it feels like director Bryan Singer and the writers were trying to recapture the lighting that was the show-stealing sequence from the last film.  There’s also some very brutal moments with Apocalypse that show how dangerous he is and some very cool sequences during the final battle but none of these moments were good enough to erase how uncoordinated the script felt and how the story felt like it was dragging its feet on so many essential items like action, development and a clear and present conflict.

                                                                                                                      20th Century Fox
Let's be real here:  It's hard to not be head-over-heels in love with Evan Peters.
No, I'm sorry, I said that wrong.  What I meant is that it is impossible to not be
head-over-heels in love with Evan Peters.

Finally, to end this review on a positive note, I really enjoyed the design of nearly everything in the film.  I loved that Psylocke looked like she was taken right out of the comics, I loved the look of the rest of the Horsemen in their uniforms, the tease of the new X-Men costumes at the end was flippin’ great as they are the closest we’ve seen the team of mutants get to their more colorful comic counterparts and I really did enjoy the look of Apocalypse.  I know there was all the hate and, from my perspective, unfair comparisons to the Power Rangers villain Ivan Ooze but I liked the stylized appearance of En Sabah Nur.  Not to mention I really dug Isaac in the role and the audio mixing of creating his voice and making it haunting and threatening at the same time was just fantastic.  In all honesty, with the exception of the cast and their performances, the look of the characters was my favorite part of the entire film.  The cast and their performances come in a close second with the Wolvie cameo and Quicksilver's scene set to "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)" coming up right after that.

                                                                                                                      20th Century Fox
They captured that absolute impracticality of Psylocke's outfit perfectly!

X-Men:  Apocalypse was a very ambitious film and I won’t fault it for that.  Additionally, it’s very hard to follow something like Days of Future Past—that was a movie that restored the franchise to its X2 glory and did us all a favor by erasing the existence of some of the…um…least respectable entries into this franchise.  Did I feel the movie lived up to the potential it had?  No, and, sure, this movie also ends up creating more messy entries into this franchise’s already shaky timeline and it is definitely strange to see a character that is rarely a hero (Mystique) playing the role of leader in the X-Men (but, I get it, J-Law is the money maker in this film so we can’t have her being the bad guy) but the film does deliver on some fronts.  Overall, I walked out feeling the film was okay.  It’s not an example that stands head-to-head with some of the best in the series (which kinda sucks because Apocalypse is such an epic character in the books) but it definitely didn’t find itself in the mud with some of the worst this franchise has to offer.

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