X-Men: Apocalypse definitely rises above its positional counterpart in the original X-Men trilogy, even though it may not hold up to the standards of films in its current timeline. While generally entertaining and sometimes downright fun, this film is dragged down by poor character development and a second attempt to shoehorn in the Phoenix saga without taking the time that storyline deserves. This, along with the amount of time it spends making sure to set up films that were released over 15 years ago, makes me think keeping the continuity between the two trilogies may not have been the best thing.
Let’s rewind a bit and talk about the titular villain Apocalypse or En Sabah Nur. Several of the trailers and early photos of the character were criticized heavily by fans who believed his appearance to be that of a cheap knock off of one of the most powerful comic book villains with particular focus on the effect placed on Oscar Isaac’s voice. While Apocalypse does show his power quite often, he rarely has the opportunity to stand alone and be a villain. He is often placed around normal people, who are often a similar size to him which takes some impact away from a super villain, or lined up with his “Horsemen” who often overshadow him. You never feel like he was a villain that couldn’t be stopped, you are just waiting to get to the point where the X-Men would stop him.
Not everything about Isaac’s villain was bad, in fact one of the main pressure points for the character, the voice, I believed turned out very well. It was the only thing about him that truly set him apart. His voice intensified, not just in volume, but in feel when he was using his power, but softened when coaxing a mutant to follow him. His true powers are never really defined but he does not just snap his fingers to kill people, he always has a method which mostly involved manipulating stone to crush or consume his victims. Finally, it may not have been complex, but his master plan was not convoluted or misguided. He wanted all of the Earth destroyed and either manipulated or forced the mutants around him to get it done.
There were several new characters brought into this film who were very fun and engaging but extremely underdeveloped. Psylocke, played by Olivia Munn, was of particular interest as she seemed to be the most formidable fighter of the villain band, but rarely spoke or gave us a reason to care about her character. This is especially troubling as she leaves the group in anger at the end in what was probably supposed to be a powerful moment but ended up being a useless scene. Even Angel (Ben Hardy), a character that I expected to be given a rebirth from his X3 debut, fell flat as he was only used to make the horsemen an even four.
The main event of the movie was in Jean Grey’s (Sophie Turner) fantastic unleashing of power in the shape of a giant flaming phoenix. Once again, these films use such a small amount of time to tell a very important part of X-Men history, the fusing of Jean Grey with The Phoenix to become one of the most powerful heroes in Marvel continuity. With this character seeing so little development while Wolverine has been given 8 films to tell his story, I am left to wonder where is the outcry. Why do people care about giving Black Widow a solo film so much but everyone is fine with Jean Grey remaining a second rate hero? Sophie Turner’s performance in this role was brilliant and I hope whoever picks up the reigns for the future films can see the potential telling this type of story.
This review may seem to be a little over negative but I did enjoy the movie for what it was. Even though director Bryan Singer may not have wanted you to pay attention to the characters, the actor’s performances were fantastic across the board and worthy of your attention. If nothing else, X-Men: Apocalypse is an entertaining way to spend an afternoon and a fun addition to the 2016 blockbuster season.