X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) — Magneto needs to get off his high horse

“I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul that comes to my school looking for trouble.”

Justin’s rating: Sweet dreams are made of this

Justin’s review: Boy did I make a big mistake. You see, I took it upon myself to finish up the X-Men film series on the site, seeing as how we only had it about halfway completed as of 2020. But then I got sloppy and approached the final six movies poorly, watching the best first and leaving the mixed bag for after. Nobody claimed that great planning was my mutant superpower.

In any case, it has to be done. I’ve always been curious how the series continued after the rather excellent Days of Future Past, which wrapped up in Sentinels, the future, and the 1970s into a great package. Now with Apocalypse, we’re brought into the ’80s to see how the younger cast is faring.

At first, all seems like they’re faring very well. Apocalypse jams in almost more of the famous X-Men roster than in any other movie before it, and each new sighting was a jolt of geeky pleasure to my brain. Psylocke! Nightcrawler! Angel! Cyclops! Quicksilver! Jubilee! Beast! Even a smattering of Wolverine!

It’s been 10 years since Magneto attempted to kill Richard Nixon and the Sentinel program was discontinued. Magneto’s living in peace with his wife and daughter, the X-Men have yet to be formed as a permanent group, and various characters are discovering their place in the world. Yet all of this is thrown up into the air when a super-powerful ancient mutant named Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) from Ye Olde Egyptian Tymes is unearthed to bring a civilization-destroying threat to the world.

Apocalypse starts recruiting his “four horsemen” — Psylocke, Storm, Angel, and Magneto — to whom he bestows upgraded versions of their powers. Once he begins his rampage, it’s up to Professor X’s not-quite-ready-for-prime-time players to form into the X-Men we know and love and battle this threat.

I had heard not-so-great things about X-Men: Apocalypse, so I came into this expecting a real letdown. However, much of it works pretty well. It’s a nice continuation of the First Class storyline, helping to bridge more of that gap between the past and the X-Men of the original trilogy (despite so many plot holes and continuity issues that careful scrutiny sees the backside of these films held together by chicken wire and duct tape).

There’s certainly a great pedigree of actor talent here, especially James McAvoy (Prof X) and Michael Fassbender (Magneto), who give Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen a serious run for their original paychecks. And the ’80s setting, which is used sparingly, fits well. The pop culture references, the wardrobes, and the Cold War vibes are a perfect backdrop.

But it’s not perfect. There sour jelly at the center of this donut is its antagonist, who is as tiresome as his scenes are long. Apocalypse never seems like a real character, just some dude set to “god mode” and set loose. Superhero movies either need great villains or great threats, and this has neither.

I could nitpick several other things, such as how Jennifer Lawrence seems to be phoning it in to the point where she’s not even wearing Mystique’s trademark blue skin most of the time (nor Hank’s Beast, which really bummed me out). There’s absolutely no reason why Mystique is made the de facto leader of the X-Men, other than Lawrence’s star power, but boy is she not the right pick for this role.

I also felt the lack of a central theme or message to really tie this film together. Finally, the runtime is too long, making this feel more like a marathon than it had to be. Am I the only one tired of these plus-sized superhero flicks?

That all said, it’s certainly not anywhere near the worst of the X-Men films and fills the role of a popcorn flick. The Quicksilver rescue sequence, in which our favorite superfast mutant outraces an ever-expanding school-destroying explosion to save everyone, is worth the price of admission alone. And I thought that there were some genuinely funny and genuinely moving moments that left an impression.

An apocalypse this wasn’t, either for the plot or the franchise. Acceptable middle-of-the-road mutant fare, moving on.

Didja notice?

  • Guess we wandered into Stargate for a minute there, whoops
  • Guy just got turned into a ball, that couldn’t have felt good
  • Really neat tunnel time travel sequence with that pumped-up music
  • Cyclops has a bad start in the bathroom
  • Angel vs. Nightcrawler
  • “Watch where you’re going” is a great thing to say to an obviously blindfolded person
  • That was Professor X’s favorite tree!
  • Magneto’s “Is this what I am?” scene is so heartbreaking
  • Decapi-dust
  • Oh it’s the old “touch the TV/computer to learn everything about our language and culture” trick
  • We all wanted to know how Storm got her white hair, yes? Well, you’re going to find out anyway.
  • “I’m blue!” I love me some Nightcrawler
  • Psylocke’s trademark purple psi-dagger made my day
  • I was hoping Angel would get his metal wings. Wish granted.
  • Don’t bag on Return of the Jedi!
  • The Quicksilver rescue scene is amazing (of course)
  • The goldfish are saved at least
  • Beast’s makeup is not great
  • About time that Weapon X got loose, although it’s a little heavy-handed
  • All CIA agents know how to fly supersonic jets

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