4 June 2016 | xamtaro
Sacrifices thematic depth and complex characters for superficial thrills and repetitive plots
The word "apocalypse" brings to mind an end-of-the world event of biblical proportions. X- MEN APOCALYPSE brings to mind some Japanese anime and a yearning for the better X- men movies of the past. The third in this "new trilogy" that began with X-MEN FIRST CLASS, the franchise reached its high point in the epic X-MEN DAYS OF FUTURE PAST but now tips back down to a rather typical tale of good vs evil intertwined with the usual hero's journey. Thankfully the masterful execution of dialogue and acting chops saves this film from sinking into mediocrity.
There are lot of plot threads to follow. Fortunately or unfortunately it does not require much inferring or complex thinking to follow the story. It is very simple and it is in its simplicity that it loses out on the richness of character than past xmen movies had. Our characters are all reduced to two dimensional archetypes each with familiar story arcs. So familiar in fact that the whole movie is a pastiche of plot points taken from past xmen movies. Eric is the grief stricken blood knight who goes evil with vengeance when tragedy strikes, again. Scott jean and Kurt are the inexperienced loners who have to work together to overcome their challenges, a little like pyro, Bobby drake (ice man) and kitty pryde (shadow cat) in X-men 2. Mystique replaces wolverine as the badass wanderer who is thrown into a leadership position to guide our young loners. Xavier is once again captured and the X-men's home base is compromised, again like X-MEN 2. Powerful mutant with delusions of godhood and a gang of loyal followers is Apocalypse this time replacing magneto's role in the first 3 xmen movies. Call it homage or call it cliché, I feel that this story manages to toe the line between familiar and fresh. The familiar elements gives us a sense of the revolving nature of conflict, that history repeats despite the best intentions. The fresh elements of course add new facets to a film which could have otherwise been a complete bore, thanks to the slow burn nature of the plot which mostly sees both good guys and bad guys gathering their key players for the final showdown. Those who can appreciate a slow build up would love this while those who need their immediate action fix would be left disappointed.
Divisive might be the best word to describe this movie. When the action does come, it is a special effects spectacle of mutant powers on display where everyone.......pretty much stands around shooting things at each other. Oh look, the villain is getting the upper hand! Let's shoot more! Where physical stunts and fights come, they are a thrill to behold except the dated wire work which feels artificial. Interspersed between these divisive battles are particular scenes of movie magic. Quicksilver (last see in DAYS OF FUTURE PAST) returns and we get to see the full extent of his powers once again only on a larger scale. And at least this time he has a purpose in the story other than being a just a miraculous attempt. But as mentioned earlier his motivations are touched on but not explored. His character is simplified into yet another archetype.
Beneath the visual spectacle, the movie under utilises its cast of characters. Ty Sheridan's Scott Summers could have been great as the new audience surrogate, going from meek bullied loser to taking his first steps as confident leader of the X-Men. Instead he is also shoved into the background after his introduction. Kodi-smith mcfee's more feline looking Nightcrawler is also another intriguing character sidelined. Instead we get more Charles Xavier and more Eric playing out their character drama like star crossed lovers. Don't get me wrong, they are fantastic actors, especially Michael Fassbender completely nailing the tragedy of Eric's character arc. But their story came to a decent close in the last movie and this one just feels like more of the same.
Apocalypse himself is a villain that is as equally divisive as the movie itself. On one hand, it seemed that the creators were going for the "all powerful but frail" type of villain ala emperor Palpatine of Star Wars. The snake-like menace that Oscar Isaac exudes through his sinister delivery is betrayed by a design that borders on corny. Oversized platform boots, plastic looking Armour and an ill defined set of powers all downplay the threatening presence of the villain. His motivations could have been much deeper. A commentary on modern commercialism replacing the religions of old perhaps as the new "cult following"? Or a criticism of humanity's arrogance and self glorifying nature? Maybe even a critique on how common folk are quick to idolise mortal "false gods" of the influential and powerful? No, no and no. None of that thematic depth here. Apocalypse is merely your Saturday morning cartoon variety villain who wants to destroy the world to rebuild in his image.
It is not a bad movie per se. Visually stunning, an easy-to-follow plot and well cast characters set to a script filled with witty dialogue that does not overdo the comedy. The acting is professional and the music by John Ottman is a grand thematic continuation of But for a grand finale it pales in comparison to films like X-MEN 2 by glossing over its deeper themes of social commentary especially, in the treatment of mutants as an allegory to prejudice against social minorities. It lacks the urgency, high stakes tension and emotional depth of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and the chemistry among the cast is no where near XMEN FIRST CLASS. I would place it as a middling entry into the X-men franchise that succeeds in opening the doors to a whole new generation of X-men movies.