Scott F. Evans
Can we all just finally admit that the X-Men franchise isn’t very good? This is the eighth film in this way-past-its-expiration-date series. Of that eight, maybe two of them are decent. Maybe. Fox has been cranking these things out since the beginning of the century with spin-offs and even a midway reboot followed by another reboot which basically did away with the previous films.
The studio started with the first three X-Men films, X-Men, X2, and X-Men: The Last Stand in 2000, 2003, and 2006 respectively. Director Bryan Singer jumped ship before Last Stand started shooting and was replaced at the last minute by Brett Ratner. The fourth film, X-Men: First Class was released in 2011 with Matthew Vaughn directing and a completely new cast of younger actors. First Class was set in the 1960’s and served as a reset to the series. This was followed in 2013 with another Wolverine sequel titled, simply, The Wolverine. The Wolverine takes place directly after The Last Stand and doesn’t reference First Class at all. Singer returns in 2014 to helm X-Men: Days of Future Past. It was designed specifically to straighten out the franchise’s confusing timeline. By the film’s end, it had basically erased the first three X-Men films and both Wolverine solo projects.
Or created a separate timeline.
Point is, this franchise is a mess and needs to be put down.
Singer returns with screenwriter Simon Kinberg, a few of the First Class cast, and several new faces for X-Men: Apocalypse. Even with the new additions, it’s become painfully clear that everyone involved has run out of things to say. Magneto, played for the third time by Michael Fassbender, has the exact same character arc from every X-Film he’s been in. This time he gets a family in an attempt to switch things up, but the result is the same old story. To Fassbender’s credit, he’s such a great actor that I can’t tell if he’s just phoning his performance in or really trying to elevate the stale material he’s been given.
James McAvoy, in his third outing as Professor Xavier, is also an excellent actor. But you can see him desperately fighting to make something out of this exhausted screenplay. He always seems to be just on the verge of tears. Honestly I’m not sure if the text calls for such emotion or if McAvoy is just that frustrated.
Conversely, the top-billed Jennifer Lawrence sleepwalks through this. This is also her third time playing Mystique and it’s clear that Lawrence is over it. She’s rarely in the character’s signature blue appearance and delivers her dialogue with the least amount of effort possible. As bored and detached as she is, you’d think that Singer and Kinberg would either recast or write the character out. Nope! Instead, Mystique is shoehorned into this plot and about as useful here as Wolverine was in Days of Future Past.
Evan Peters, who stole the show in his initial appearance in Days Of Future Past, is back with more to say and do. While his function is no different than it was the first time, his scene is longer and still as enjoyable.
Poor Oscar Isaac bows as the evil Apocalypse. If ever there was a disservice done to a stellar actor, it is this. Buried under pounds of prosthetic makeup and hobbled with hackneyed comic book dialogue, Isaac is criminally miscast as the titular villain. The role could have been played by a bodybuilder with his lines dubbed in by any voice actor and it wouldn’t have mattered one bit.
Final thoughts on X-Men: Apocalypse… it’s nothing that you haven’t seen before. The story is painfully simplistic and filled with superfluous emotional flourishes that want desperately to be significant. None of the performances stand out enough to justify investing two and a half long hours of your time. The spectacle, which features more destruction than all of the past superhero movies combined, is so common now that it’s become tedious.
Just like this entire franchise.