I recall walking into a small theater in 2000 to see the first X-Men movie. It was half packed and we had no idea what to expect. We had to be the youngest of the group that streamed in, filled with middle aged men and twenty year olds with Nirvana shirts. About 2 hours later we walked out in shock, having no idea what we just witnessed. It was revolutionary. 16 years later, I walked out of an advanced screening of the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse not in shock (the genre is too diluted), but content with where we are now.
To be fair, we have had over 50 comic book movies in the past decade and a half. There actually might be more, but who can actually keep count? Being a comic book fan (in some circles entitled “geek”), I have taken the majority of these installments with a benefit of the doubt. It is hard to translate years upon years of character development into a 2 hour movie. Yet, the formula worked. When the original X-Men movie hit the pavement running in 2000, it sprouted everything from Spider-Man to the Marvel behemoths that have been breaking a billion dollars without a sweat. Some have felt the comic book genre has destroyed the film market, but that’s for another time. The film at hand, X-Men: Apocalypse has been under scrutiny since the titular villain, Apocalypse, was revealed last year. The villain portrayed by celebrated actor, Oscar Isaac, was vilified as a knockoff of Power Ranger’s Ivan Ooze (OK I do see the similarities), and the bar was then set very low.
Early reviews even came and went, some even stating it was the WORST movie in the X-Men franchise, which means that person never saw X3 (I’M THE JUGGERNAUT B*TCH). The issue is that we have come to a point of comparison, but for all the wrong reasons. I digress, this is a review after all. The movie starts off in ancient times, giving us a glimpse of a strange Egyptian ritual that involved En Sabah Nur (still don’t understand why this was the original Arabic name that means “The good morning”), which supposedly yielded immortality. Of course he is betrayed and is locked in his tomb for what seems like forever. Fast forward to the 80’s the realm of bad hair and new mutants to be found. We meet a young Cyclops as he battles bullies, and a naïve Nightcrawler as he is saved by Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique (not as endearing as she was in the first 2 installments). Origins are now seen as a passerby experience, as we also saw an angry Angel (confused by his origin story), and an apparently established Jean Grey (Sansa Stark with an American accent). As the now revived Apocalypse recruits a “can’t place a finger on her accent” Storm, he gains knowledge of the horrors of the world since his entombment. We quickly move to more of his recruitments, from a grieving Magneto (an amazing scene that was lifted almost identically from the comics) to an underwhelming Psylocke (contrary to popular belief, Olivia Munn’s mother is actually Vietnamese). James McAvoy’s Professor X is subsequently captured in one of the best scenes of the movie (AGAIN thanks to Evan Peter’s Quicksilver), which sets up Mystique leading a very young X-Men core to battle against supposedly the strongest mutant in the world a.k.a.
Ivan Ooze Apocalypse.
Phew. That was a mouthful. If it seems a lot goes on in such a small block of time, you’re right. But, this is where I have to disagree with the hate this film has gotten. X-Men movies have never been to me at least, universe building as their Avengers or Justice League counterparts. Heck, even the comic itself was always based on discrimination and fear of minorities that blossomed in the 60’s. They built a self contained world, one where you only really care about the protagonists. Yes, this is my long winded way of saying that Apocalypse is as ridiculous as Zoom on CW’s The Flash, but it’s okay because our protagonists are enjoyable. A young Scott Summers reeling off a huge loss, a still learning Jean, a scene stealing Quicksliver, and a really fun Nightcrawler truly make this film bearable. Which is actually a benefit, as Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult feel muted (not really phoned in, but not the tremendous performances of First Class and Days of Future Past).
Once again seeing a villainous Magneto can feel repetitive, as it truly does dull Oscar Isaac (again, why cast him when he is going to be unrecognizable in voice and image?). And yes, the third act fell apart, but it did make some great groundwork for future installments especially with Jean Grey. But the callbacks to the first trilogy between Magneto and Professor X were pretty awesome, and we legitimately received a complete story, which is wholly appreciated. So was I happy with the results? Oh yeah.
I didn’t forget about the dreaded Wolverine cameo which in fact wasn’t dreadful. It fit the mood and era perfectly, and our mid credit scene absolutely set up Wolverine 3. And NO there is Taylor Swift cameo. As sad as that is this is a definite must see for movie goers and enthusiastic alike. Terrible? Absolutely not. Killing the film industry? Nah. Jaw dropping and shocking? No, not at all. But that’s OK. SNIKT!
X-Men: Apocalypse opens on May 27th. Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Oscar Isaac. Directed by Brian Singer. (PG-13. 144 minutes.)