So, I’m NOT a huge comic book fan, I don’t know about a lot of the lore and the multi-universes and who’s who in the Marvel universe. The extent of my understanding of the X-Men universe comes from the episodes of the X-Men animated series from the 90s (1992 – 1997), that I watched as a child and the six X-men films that have come out since then.
So just to be clear, I’m speaking from a place of little to no knowledge about the X-Men narrative universe. I also don’t really care about fidelity to the comics. I just want a good story and I just want to be entertained at the movies.
That being said, I really didn’t like X-Men: Apocalypse.
There were some good moments mixed in there but there were also a number of WTF moments where I caught myself actually thinking I’d rather be at home doing readings for school right now instead of sitting here watching this mess.
Anyway, here’s my list of the things I found good and enjoyable and things I thought could have been better.
1) Jennifer Lawrence in yet another reluctant heroine role. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that her acting lacked about as much conviction as her character in doing the things that needed to get done – i.e. creating a convincing character and leading her fellow mutants in the fight against Apocalypse.
Also, I don’t know if the scriptwriters were trying to sabotage her because they really didn’t give her any good lines. Neither her attempt to convince Magneto to stop destroying the world nor her training speech at the end of the film to the newly re-formed X-Men were particularly convincing.
Also, unlike Rebecca Romijn who played Mystique in the original X-Men trilogy, it always feels a bit like her acting seems to get lost underneath all that blue make-up and body paint.
It’s like when you have a character that’s so much about body and looks, you need an actress that knows how to act with her whole body and JL just seems a little stiff compared to Romijn’s sinuous onscreen presence.
To qualify, it’s not that I don’t like Jennifer Lawrence, I think she was great in American Hustle (2013) (“The power of INTENTION!!”), but I just don’t think she’s right for Mystique or even superhero type roles… To me, she was even kinda mediocre in the Hunger Games franchise too.
2) The accidental death of Erik Lehnsherr’s family in Poland where both mother and daughter get pieced by a single stray arrow fired by a distracted policeman was more eye-roll inducing than pathos-building. I mean how much misfortune can one guy suffer before it starts to feel excessive and silly?
It was just too much (I mean, a single arrow?! There’s only so much melodrama you can inject into a scene before people start to smell the emotional manipulation). It was also just too convenient. Because now, Erik has the perfect reason to join forces with Apocalypse.
3) Talking about convenience, Jean Grey’s convenient power-up at the end was also way too convenient. Yes, I know they mentioned it earlier in the film that she is afraid of her own power and doesn’t have full control of it (Scott not being the biggest freak in the school, her nightmare sequence, using the exploration of the extent of one’s power through Scott as a foil for her, blah blah blah)…
But you never really got a sense of what she could do/ couldn’t do, and in fact the scenes when you DO see her use her powers, she seems to exhibit some pretty fine control over it! So that sudden glimpse of the phoenix at the end while cool looking as heck seemed to come out of nowhere for me… narratively speaking at least.
(and why the hell did it take her so long to respond to Xavier’s plea for help again?)
4) Xavier Vs Apocalypse in the mindscape… how the heck did Xavier lose this fight again? Wouldn’t the laws of this realm in particular be equivalent to the length and breadth of one’s imagination? Did he have less imagination or less willpower than Apocalypse? I find this hard to imagine.
I think it’s the lack of clarity of the rules of all these engagements between the mutants that really got to me. What are they fighting with? What are their powers? What are their strengths and limitations? The inconsistencies were mind-boggling.
(Why did Psylocke’s whips which could slice through concrete like a hot knife through butter not decapitate Beast like immediately?)
5) Having cool new additions to the ever-growing roll call of mutants is great and all but it felt kind of wasteful to introduce them and then not use them.
I still have no idea who or what Psylocke is or does or can do.
This version of a younger Storm looked great and I was kinda stoked about seeing her play a bad guy except that she hardly did anything at all. As far as I’m concerned, Storm is still running on currency chalked up from the animated series because Halle Berry was a terrible Storm as well…
Angel looked great, but I can’t understand how and why he got METAL wings. I mean, I saw the transformation sequence and it looked cool but… how does one even fly with those? It defies the laws of physics…
And why Angel? Out of the millions of mutants on the planet, these are the best fighters they could come up with? Was there a particular criteria or disposition in these mutants they were looking for? So many questions… so confused…
Perhaps my biggest hang up is that although things looked great, slick and high-budget, that’s all there was to it, looking great. There was hardly any rhyme or reason to why things looked the way they did.
6) Scripting. Some of the lines were really atrocious. When Magneto went back to the iron smelting factory to seek revenge on his coworkers for reporting his mutant ass to the police… that spiel he gives about their curiosity over the extent of his powers was completely out of place. I realized later on that that was a set up for the CGI fest at the end of the film only when I got to the end of the film but those lines there and then, were like they were written completely out of order with the unfolding of narrative events.
Dude, they reported you because you’re on the news as a dangerous criminal at large who’s killed a bunch of people. Nobody said anything about being curious about your powers. They just want you locked away for their general peace of mind.
7) And I was watching the film I had multiple flashes of deja vu from X-Men: Days of Future Past! What, did they run out of material?
Here are two instances of repetition that were just so glaringly similar they were honestly a little irritating to watch:
- The all-powerful, shape-changing, more mutant than regular mutants enemy like the sentinels in Days and Apocalypse in this film
- The fight in the minds cape while real enemies are having a physical fight just outside your door as seen in Kitty Pride working on Wolverine’s mind while the Sentinels attack them in Days; and Jean Grey helping Xavier fend off a mental attack from Apocalypse even as the other X-men are trying to fend him off in a physical fight in Apocalypse
Just swap them around… Xavier instead of Wolverine and Jean Grey instead of Kitty Pride
Two things I did appreciate though. Firstly, Charles Xavier meeting up with Moira MacTaggert whose memory he tragically had to wipe at the end of X-Men: First Class (2011). This part was well-written, and more than that the lines were well-delivered. Good comic timing, a health dose of embarrassment and a dash of awkwardness that just makes you want to sweep James McAvoy up in your arms and cuddle him or pet him on the head.
Secondly, Quicksilver’s minimal plot and characterisation. I have to say, I really love what they’ve done with this character. He doesn’t need a lot of screen time nor a lot of lines but they’ve created a really full character that’s full of pathos and this is a positive example of what the writing could be.
Having a character who’s all about speed both in terms of his power and the visual representation of his power using CGI, but having him always arriving too late narratively is the real stroke of brilliance. And it seems like Evan Peters is really making the best of it with his deliberately off-beat and distracted delivery of his lines that makes him seem like a kid with ADHD.
I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with me but the more movies I watch these days, the harder it’s becoming to find something that satisfies me, so much so that I just feel like rewatching things I KNOW I like…
On a completely unrelated side note, here are some titles of films I thoroughly enjoyed that I recently caught:
- We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
- Zootopia (2016)
- Deadpool (2016)
- Civil War (2016)