Movie Review: X-Men – Apocalypse (2016)

Apocalypse posterCan we all just agree that Magneto is beyond redemption? Sure, it’s all very ironic that someone who survived the Holocaust is now a big believer in “Übermenschen”. And admittedly, his main philosphical argument with Xavier is interesting. If an oppressed minority has enough power to seize control, should they do so? At what cost? Magneto thinks humanity needs to be supplanted by mutants and that this is the only way mutants can live free of persecution. Xavier believes that mutants and regular humans should find a way to live in peace.

Usually, Xavier’s friendship is enough to reign in Magneto’s violent tendencies for at least a while. But every so often, something traumatic will happen to Magneto and he’ll go off the rails, embarking on a murderous rampage that kills thousands. Xavier and the other good guys forgive him for this however, time and time again. I mean, everybody has a genocidal rough patch occasionally, right?

(Some broad spoilers follow.) I really like Michael Fassbender and I like the character of Magneto in principle, but I kind of wish he was not in X-Men – Apocalypse at all. Too much time is spent on him reverting from a somewhat good guy to a monster and back, all over again. It doesn’t help that the traumatic scene that starts off this overly familiar arc is kinda silly. Rather than empathize, you may roll your eyes at the contrivance of it all. There could have been an emotional pay-off at least, and one is clearly steered towards, but it is then abandoned for unclear reasons. Magneto’s path feels redundant and the time could have been better spent elsewhere.

The whole movie is more goofy than it aims to be, with odd make-up choices that make the villain less threatening than he could have been. The most obvious plot hole comes early on. A pyramid has been ‘secretly’ booby-trapped in such a – literally – fundamental way that thousands must have witnessed and participated in the construction of the trap. Yet somehow those not part of the conspiracy are caught completely unaware. Despite the fact that the trigger to the trap is clearly visible on the outside of the pyramid where a massive crowd is standing.

X-Men-Apocalypse-Storm-Comic-OriginApocalypse is yet another Marvel movie villain whose main function is to move the heroes around and to force them into action. Through him, more X-Men are introduced and then moved into position for the grand finale, which aims to line up at least somewhat with the beginning of the first X-Men movie trilogy. (The First Class movies take place before those movies.) Apocalypse himself underwhelms and does not gain enough dimension beyond ‘plot device’.

The highlight is – once again – Quicksilver, who steals the movie with one fantastic scene. That scene does feel like an all too conscious near-copy of his scene from Days of Future Past but it feels perfect within itself and mixes exciting visuals with a smart touch of comedy. Mind you, the science makes no sense and a lot of the people he saves would have ended up dead – because of boring ol’ physics – but the coolness level makes you not care about logic.

X-Men-Apocalypse-Trailer-1-CyclopsBryan Singer returned as director for this, his fourth X-Men movie. His previous entry explicitely wiped the non-Singer third movie (The Last Stand) out of the X-Men timeline and this movie takes another none-too-subtle swipe at it. While leaving a showing of The Return of the Jedi,  Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) observes that ‘Everyone knows the third movie is always the worst’. And indeed it still is, but not by a lot. Apocalypse commits some of the same sins that The Last Stand was guilty of. There’s a lack of coherence and a feeling of attention deficit disorder. There are still a fair amount of the nice character moments that are Singer’s forte, but there are also a lot of underdeveloped heroes and villains. And there are too many only semi-interesting moments of CGI mayhem. The villain for the next X-Men movie is set up in a short scene at the end of the credits. (I hate the wait for those things, and am pretty sure anyone who works at a movie theater loathes them as well.) Time will tell if the new threat brings a much needed different dynamic and delivers a boogeyman with an actual personality.



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