"Hope that's the last we've seen of that guy."
The X-Men series seems to be the only one that benefits from lowered expectations, and provided your expectations are suitably low going into X-Men: Apocalypse, you should be just fine. I know that seems like the worst possible thing to tell a person before going into what is ostensibly a decent flick, but I'm telling you, you need to bottom out those expectations for this one. Even the best franchises start to look creaky as they near their second decade, and the X-Men are no exception. The investment of time in this series of films is daunting, and having just come out the other side of a franchise re-watch, I can tell you it's exhausting.
The core ideas at play in Apocalypse are interesting, as they always are in these films. This at least gives us something to digest while the extended orgies of destruction are happening throughout the last hour of the film. Set ten years on from Days of Future Past—though none of these characters look a day older than when last we saw them—Apocalypse opens over five thousand years ago as a mutant named En Sabah Nur, worshipped as a god in these pre-Biblical times, is betrayed by his people while transferring his consciousness into a new body (that of Oscar Isaac) in hopes of living forever. He does indeed achieve a type of immortality as he then lays dormant until 1983 when he surfaces once again.
Ten years on from the Washington D.C. showdown finale of DoFP, Erik (Michael Fassbender) has moved to Poland and assumed an identity where he lives with his wife and daughter while working at a steel mill of some kind that might as well have been called the Foreshadowing Plant. Meanwhile Charles (James McAvoy) is happily running his school for gifted youngsters when he makes contact with Moira McTaggert (Rose Byrne), who just so happened to be there when En Sabah Nur woke up. Elsewhere Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is keeping a low profile after being worshipped as a hero among mutants for saving the President from Magneto's clutches at the end of the last film. When tragedy forces Erik into the company of En Sabah Nur, Mystique, Charles, and everyone else must team up to stop him.
If you're already exhausted, allow me to say that I haven't even mentioned at least half a dozen other subplots, most of them involving brand new characters clearly there to set up future films when Lawrence, Fassbender, and McAvoy have likely priced themselves out the door. There are a lot of positives to this new crop of mutants, and their adventures are mostly engaging, these scenes all start to feel like another stop aboard the who gives a shit express. I have nothing against any of these young actors either, all of whom play their roles quite competently, I just don't have room in my heart for a half dozen more characters at this point in time.
Leave it to Evan Peters' Quicksilver to once more steal the show with the film's single best sequence set to a Eurythmics classic. That there is so much imagination on display in these isolated three minute sequences inside back to back bloated monstrosities speaks more to the power of brevity than anything else. We could use more of his antics in these films and less time taking two minute trips to the mall to bitch about Return of the Jedi and the like. It feels almost like Singer's pouring all of his great ideas into these three minutes while kinda neglecting most of the other one hundred and forty one of them.
The cast is about as good as you can hope for in these films. Most of them manage to register, which is certainly something. Nicholas Hoult continues to be great as the team's Q, despite still not being given much to do beyond creating cool tech for others to use. McAvoy and Byrne get a nice resolution to their relationship, and both are clearly comfortable in their characters. Lawrence is once again in epic IDGAF mode for most of this movie. I wouldn't say she phones it in, because she doesn't appear to be, but she's definitely got one foot out the door in her mind. Fassbender and Isaac get the most juicy stuff in the film, and Fassbender ends up walking away the star of the show. He's got four or five HUGE scenes and he nails them all.
Despite all the pontificating, Apocalypse is really only at war with itself. It can't decide if it wants to be the thrilling finale to a trilogy or a prequel to films yet to come. It wraps up a lot of stuff, but also wants to rotate in a whole mess of new characters for us to care about. When I think about the arcs that were given to McAvoy, Fassbender, and Lawrence, part of me wants these new guys to have their own arcs and not smash them all into the subplot of this film. Had they just focused on giving things a proper send-off, it would have been an infinitely better film, but as it stands, the only war I saw last night was going on inside the structure of the film. I'll get into more spoiler-y details on Tuesday when Brandy and I battle it out over this film.
—Anyone else tired of this Schick Emoji campaign yet? That a Chicago only thing? If so, any Chicagoans sick of it yet? Provided you've seen a movie since The Jungle Book, you've seen this godforsaken commercial. And now that god awful "Ready, shave, shine! Shine! Shine!" jingle is in my head.
—Who kicks a kid out of class moments before the bell rings? Ally Sheedy, that's who! Welcome back, by the way. You were borderline unrecognizable
—What is up with this Sigfried and Roy reject serving as master of ceremonies for Mutant Fight Club? He looks like if the bad guy in Moulin Rouge were one of the good guys.
—While we're in meme territory, Apocalypse did this at least twice...
—You can't have a serious Stan Lee cameo. The minute people see him, they're thinking "Tony Stank" or "I thought he'd be bigger." Stan Lee's a lot like Mike Myers. Don't let him anywhere near a drama
—Maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't let Moira inside Cerebro
—The appearance of this guy near the end just proves my point that these movies cast the best actors in supporting government lunatic roles
Directed by Bryan Singer
Screenplay by Simon Kinberg, based on a story by Bryan Singer & Simon Kinberg & Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris
Produced by Lauren Shuler Donner, Simon Kinberg, and Bryan Singer
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Lucas Till, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Lana Condor, Olivia Munn, Ally Sheedy
Running Time: 144 minutes