There were a lot of things I was expecting X-men: Apocalypse to bring to the table. I expected a continued evolution of the returning cast members from the previous two films. I expected a decent if not strong plot and some good action thrown into the mix. Imagine my surprise then when I mostly received a strong dose of disappointment.
Taking place exactly 10 years after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past, we find the main players all trying to move on with their lives. Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) has put all his energy behind the School For Gifted Youngsters and it is now a thriving haven for new mutants. Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) works to rescue mutants from dangerous situations and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is a common working man in Poland, trying to escape his past.
Even as our characters and the world around them try to move on, a sinister force awakens from a 5,000 year slumber. Yes, it is none other than the first mutant. He is known by many names but for our purposes he will be known as...wait for it…..Apocalypse (played by a heavily made-up Oscar Isaac).
Honestly, that’s the first 90 minutes of the 144 minute film. Xavier works with his students and faculty, including ever-loyal friend Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) and newcomers Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) and Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan). Apocalypse assembles a new group to become his revived Four Horsemen, including Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy) and Psylocke (Olivia Munn). Kurt wrestles with his morals...well he does that for the last 54 minutes too.
Needless to say too much of the film is devoted to setting the stage for the potential end of the world, which would be fine if there was any sense of development of the characters or the story. Unfortunately most of the movie seeks to clean up the past, set things up for the future (a whole 20+ minutes is devoted to a nearly-pointless interaction with a third party) and prepare for things that may or may not ever come to pass.
There are a ton of characters to keep track of and more than a few cameos large and small from the extensive Marvel mutant lexicon. Heck, I haven’t even mentioned Evan Peters returning as Quicksilver, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner or Lana Condor as Jubilee. Yet while Days of Future Past did the same thing for a purpose, this one doesn’t seem to know what to do with half of them.
On a final note, I try not to be too negative with specific actors or actresses but after having seen the film I feel the need to call Olivia Munn out. In an interview for the movie she claimed that she did all of her stunts which itself is an admirable goal. However, it looks like she was a bit ... less than truthful. Not only was her claim of doing it all because her stunt-double didn’t know enough martial arts kind of a dick move, but there seems to be evidence that she did indeed use the stunt double, at least for the more dangerous stunt testing prior to final filming.
I bring this up both because I feel like no actor or actress should ever diss the people that take on most of the danger, but also because Psylocke is in the movie for less than 10 minutes total screen time, with maybe 90 seconds of actual fight time.
All this adds up to about 44 minutes of a really strong film and 100 minutes of editable material. X-Men: Apocalypse is a big, loud splash of a movie but the bloated runtime and overabundance of characters did nothing to excite me as a film or a set-up for the next iteration of the X-Men.
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Olivia Munn, Lucas Till
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Simon Kinberg, Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris
Running time: 144 minutes