The news of Bryan Singer returning to the helm of a new X-Men movie after Matthew Vaughn’s brilliant First Class had me very conflicted. While Singer was the first to bring us the X-Men on the big screen, as good as those were, the films were pretty flawed. The script in that first film is absolutely atrocious and the second film veers off a good path to another movie entirely in the third act. Even more troubling is that Singer had failed to make a good film since X2. My fears were pretty much realized when Days of Future Past came out and within the first fifteen minutes of the film Bryan Singer seemed to be saying “Who’s playing with my toys? These are mine!”, killing most of the characters Vaughn had introduced off screen. Singer had his own trajectory in mind with for the story and he was going to have it happens no matter what.
Does it sound like I hate Days of Future Past? I really don’t but I do have many serious issues with the film. Yes, it does do a lot of much needed rectifying to this X-Men universe, but it managed to become something that wasn’t a major trend in the full on X-Men films in this series, aside from Brett Ratner’s awful installment, The Last Stand, and it broke my fandom on these movies. To me, the film was completely underwhelming and did nothing to raise my excitement level. To cap off all of that low roar, the film’s big final moment is just a rehashing of Magneto moving the Golden Gate Bridge with him lifting a baseball stadium and placing it over the White House. Really, I know we’re supposed to be in awe with this sort of thing but I was left asking “so what?”
The new film starts off with the character we were teased with in the end credits of Days of Future Past, En Sabah Nur being carried to a pyramid tomb in Ancient Egypt. There, through a special ritual, his disciples are taking him and his powers out of his current body into a Wolverine-like regenerating body, played by Oscar Isaac only to be sabotaged and buried under the collapsing tomb, where he would lie until the 1980s. In an investigation by Moira McTaggart (Rose Byrne), a former friend of Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), an underground group of En Sabah Nur’s end up reviving him to continue his mission goal as the first mutant. To wipe out humanity in order to ensure the survival and dominance of mutant kind across the world.
Meanwhile, ten years after the events of the last movie, Xavier has made his School For The Gifted a refuge for newly discovered mutants, including new characters Scott Summers (Ty Sheridan) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) runs his extensive lab there, pining for Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who is busy around the world, rounding up imprisoned and oppressed mutants like German orphan, Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-Phee), in the hopes of crossing paths with Magneto (Michael Fassbender). The formidable mutant has relocated to Poland and, under a new name, remarried and had a daughter. When tragedy strikes, Magneto reverts to his ruthless ways and finds himself aligning with the first mutant and his newly recruited disciples, Angel, Storm and Psylocke and it’s up to a Mystique led X-Men to stop him from remaking the world in his vision.
All of that seems like an interesting set up, it’s just too bad that all the exposition to get there is horribly clunky and leads you to believe that screenwriter, Simon Kinberg, should have done another pass or eight. All of the characters lack more than a small description of who they are and what they do and, in some cases, even that isn’t clear. Every character has only one motivation and nothing hidden under the surface and you know this because they constantly repeat their plight in the same tired dialogue. This actually angers me because as a comic book, the X-Men are a diverse group with many different motivations where Singer’s X-Men are all horribly one dimensional and completely transparent.
This is one of the major glaring issues with the movie, there are absolutely no surprises in this film. No radical shifts in character, no shocking moments, no deviation outside of the box at all, so, in effect, no real excitement to the movie at all no matter how gorgeous everything looks. Every character’s path is very much a retread of something the series has tried to do before or something very clichéd like Quicksilver needing to connect with his father or Cyclop’s continuing the old adage of the mutant freak syndrome we’ve all witnessed in each of the last films. With such a rich comic background, there is so much room for deviation but Singer plays it blandly straightforward, which hurts the film greatly.
I think this film, above all other works from Bryan Singer in this franchise, proves that we need a revitalization in this series. Trying to wrap this First Class trilogy, it declined on a downward slope into a timeline that’s splintered into a bit of nonsense and is squandered by obvious studio politics that are dictating drawing in audience profits over story cohesion. Case in point, Mystique leading the X-Men for no other reason than Jennifer Lawrence is a massive star so she puts butts in seats. To put it plainly, the filmmakers and producers are trying to do what Warner Brothers are desperately trying to do and that’s further their franchise by any means necessary and, while their product is immensely better than what Warner/DC is making, it is only a grade above mediocre. I give X-Men Apocalypse a two and a half out of five.