X-Men: Apocalypse, 2016.
Directed by Bryan Singer.
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn and Lucas Till.
After the re-emergence of the world’s first mutant, world-destroyer Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.
X-Men: Apocalypse arrives on Blu-ray in a release that includes a digital copy and a DVD. While the film is uneven and tries to shove too much into its story, this edition has a nice set of bonus features for the fans.
The X-Men movies are a curious series. The Marvel characters under Disney’s control reside in a nicely cohesive universe that should hold together for a while longer, but Spider-Man is headed into his third reboot. and The Fantastic Four are trying to find their footing. Meanwhile, Fox’s X-Men films have managed to recover from a weak third entry, The Last Stand, to put together a nice run.
Unlike the Disney movies, though, the X-Men series stepped away from its original continuity to explore prequel territory, starting with the excellent First Class. (The Wolverine movies tie into the X-Men continuity, but I’m not considering them in this review.) Days of Future Past raised the bar higher by successfully adapting a classic storyline from the Uncanny X-Men comics, setting the stage for the latest entry, X-Men: Apocalypse.
Perhaps the X-Men movies suffer from “the third one is the weak one” syndrome because Apocalypse is a letdown from Days of Future Past. (Ironically, that idea is cited by one of the characters when leaving a showing of Return of the Jedi, since this movie is set in 1983.) It’s an “everything and the kitchen sink” kind of film, mixing origin stories for a few characters, including Storm, Cyclops, Angel, and Jean Grey, with a millennia-spanning storyline that has the villain Apocalypse serving a variation of the role Magneto usually occupies (Magneto is one of his henchmen): He thinks mankind is pretty crappy and wants to wipe Homo sapiens out so that he can preside over a mutant utopia. While Apocalypse was featured in some major storylines in the X-Men comics, this movie establishes its own continuity.
The need to introduce new mutants while building up Apocalypse’s scheme results in a story that shortchanges the characters while the movie races from one plot point to the next. For example, Nightcrawler and Angel are introduced in a cage fight, but there’s little opportunity to develop their characters as Apocalypse quickly brings Angel to his side (he becomes Archangel in the process, although he’s never called that).
Nightcrawler ends up at Professor Xavier’s school, but his scenes with fellow newcomers Jean Grey (played by Game of Thrones‘ Sophie Turner in a flat performance) and Cyclops feel rushed since director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Simon Kinberg need to jump between them and Apocalypse’s recruiting efforts, which feature the introductions of Storm and Psylocke. Magneto is Apocalypse’s fourth horseman, and he begins setting his plan in motion, although it’s never clear why he needed any help since he’s established as uber powerful.
Apocalypse’s “I want to cleanse the world of those icky humans” scheme is pretty bland too. While there are plenty of nice character moments along the way, along with another cool “Quicksilver’s point-of-view set to a retro song” set piece, which is even bigger than the one in Days of Future Past, the end result feels like a missed opportunity. The storyline should have been one with a lesser scale, if new characters were going to be introduced and given a chance to breathe, or Singer and Kinberg should have forgotten about bowing anyone new (or only brought one or two onstage) if they really wanted to stick with the Apocalypse story.
Singer addresses his motivations in the X-Men Apocalypse: Unearthed documentary on this Blu-ray, which runs about an hour. Kinberg, the cast members, and others are interviewed too, and Singer and Kinberg pop in for a commentary track as well. There’s also a gag reel, a wrap party video, and a gallery. The last bonus feature, a series of deleted scenes, demonstrates the movie’s narrative difficulties: Many of the scenes would have served the character development well, and in the optional introductions, Singer explains some of the angst he went through when cutting those moments.
Apocalypse isn’t an awful movie, just an uneven one that tries to cram too much into its running time. If you’re a fan, though, you’ll enjoy this set, which also includes a code for a digital copy and a DVD with the movie, the gag reel, and the commentary.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★