Say what you will about the shitty entries but the X-MEN movie franchise should be proud of itself since it’s the only Superhero Franchise left around that didn’t start before 2008’s IRON MAN exploded into the juggernaut known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which then went on to cause the unfortunate ripple effect of spawning Shared Cinematic Universes for almost every fucking brand out there including goddamned Hasbro of TRANSFORMERS fame/notoriety. After it pulled off the only successful cinematic equivalent of the hated reboot/retcon/New 52 syndrome that plagues the comics industry via the impressive time bending DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014), it looks like the X-MEN movies finally lost steam and gave fewer fucks than it did before.
If X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST was that lightning in a bottle moment for the franchise by serving as both the finale and introduction for two separate timelines, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE is the franchise’s equivalent of a burnout where it decides to kick back, relax and just do what every other Superhero Movie’s hellbent on doing these days: fuck some city up while a superpowered soap opera plays in the background.
In a movie subtitled APOCALYPSE and starring a villainous buff-ass genocidal Smurf who’s numerously referred to as the walking embodiment of the end of times, it’s surprising that literally nobody gives a flying fuck about the impending global genocide that’s about to occur even when it’s staring them in the face. Don’t get me wrong, the characters here love to talk about how the ancient mutant buried a pile of rubble is going to kill everything and there’s plenty of the usual landmark destruction but there’s just no tension to speak of because everyone lacks any actual motive. Characters’ allegiances can change in the flip of a coin while others have sudden moral shifts that drive them to fight for a certain cause because some random shit they didn’t like just happened. Even the overall villain has no actual goal in mind outside of fucking up the world via overblown CGI destruction in Cairo thanks to his version of the Generic Villain’s oversimplified Darwinian logic, so yes, it’s pretty hard to care about a world nearing its doom when no one living in it is going to do the same.
Basically, shit just happened.
On paper, all of these are great bullet points and character beats that could guarantee development for everyone involved but that would only happen if someone in the writing crew gave a shit instead of just calling it a day when Mystique had maybe two new points describing her sudden promotion from fugitive to mutant celebrity/messiah jotted down under her name. Instead, what we get is pretty much more of the same in terms of the established characters’ (like Charles and Beast) internal conflicts while the new guys (like Jean and Scott) just get a convenient summary of events that’ll maybe be developed as the movies go along. Of everyone in the cast, it’s safe to say that Magneto gets the most amount of depth especially thanks to his short yet effective arc about resurfacing from hiding but when everyone else around him just floats through their scenes while showing off what cool mutant powers they got, it’s not saying much.
The movie gives so little shits that when you stop to think about it, almost everything in this narrative was kick-started by dumb luck or ineptitude. For example’s sake and without saying too much, Apocalypse is resurrected only because his fanclub forgot to open the goddamned curtains and Magneto decides to take it out on humanity again because some asshole was too busy staring at birds to pay attention to what the hell he was doing with the weapon in his hands. These are only two of the many moments in the movie where coincidence and stupidity drive the world one step closer to the brink of total fucking annihilation and if Apocalypse was going to follow his philosophy about how “only the strongest shall live” to the letter, his dream world would be empty by the time he turns his murder rage off because of how weak everyone’s presence of mind is. The lack of reason is felt all the way to the end, where the final battle is concluded with a Deus Ex Machina that would only make sense to those who either saw every single X-MEN movie or if they read the comics beforehand. Being the lonely nerd I am, I’m lucky to have done both before watching APOCALYPSE but even then it didn’t resonate with me at all because the Deus Ex Machina just came out of fucking nowhere with one throw-away line of dialogue used to acknowledge its existence. If you don’t get what I’m talking about, it involves psychic fire and birds.
But even if this is definitely not on par with X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST or X-MEN 2, this is still a Bryan Singer movie so you know damn well that even if it lacks in the story department, it’s going to be entertaining as fuck. As a summer blockbuster, APOCALYPSE succeeds in giving audiences exactly what they came for but it doesn’t bother doing anything else after that, which sucks considering that this is first and foremost an X-MEN movie directed by the guy who made it legit in the first place. If you were like me and expecting more of that stimulating writing the (better) X-MEN movies are known for especially when discussing their take on social discrimination and how it affects history, you’re fucked because there’s none of that here. All we get for the price of admission is a collection of visually stunning and cool action set-pieces broken up by a couple of emotional moments that go nowhere plus a shitload of exposition laced filler that fails to justify any of the characters.
And the apparent end of the world, even if we know damn well that it won’t be the end of the X-MEN movies just yet.
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