It’s hard not to feel sorry for X Men: Apocalypse. Released a year earlier, it would not be getting the critical mauling it has been receiving in recent weeks.
You may have missed how now, since one Marvel Cinematic Universe movie managed to fill its run time without destroying a city, it is unfashionable and downright reprehensible to have a comic book movie where any destruction happens.
How reviewers and the public expected a movie called ‘Apocalypse’, named after a character called ‘Apocalypse’ to go is beyond me. This is a many-thousand-year-old, immortal super-mutant with the power to dissolve humans who, hauntingly, decided to end the world after watching five minutes of 80s television.
I am, of course, being slightly disingenuous about this. ‘Critical mauling’ is a strong phrase for a movie with a 47% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Also, attaching too much weight to Rotten Tomatoes reviews is risky. One review classified as calling the movie ‘rotten’ gave it a 2.5/4. That’s the Rotten Tomatoes way of a equating a firm handshake with a punch in the face.
There are other flaws in this movie beyond CGI destruction. An extended Wolverine cameo furthers the plot in no-way other than to show us how old Hugh Jackman now looks. When Jackman first played Wolverine, Jean Grey actress Sophie Turner was four years old. That is madness.
The characterisation of the villains in this movie is also too breezy in places and leaves a lot for the audience to assume, while it’s also too heavy elsewhere, like Magneto doing the same thing he has been doing for the two previous movies.
Unlike the well-trodden path of Magneto, our new cohort of young X Men, like Jean Grey, Nightcrawler and Cyclops, have arcs in this that you may find it difficult to buy if you haven’t seen the original films. Although, you should always leave out The Last Stand.
One thing I particularly liked about X-Men: Apocalypse is that it didn’t feel the need to tread familiar ground and explain to us that Jean Grey is worried about her powers, or that Cyclops and Nightcrawler feel like freaks. This was all established in X-Men films 15 years ago, and the movie leans heavily on the characterisation established in those to make understanding the characters easy without labouring it. It works well, and the young X-Men are responsible for some of the movie’s more intimate moments.
However, are these flaws enough to poo-poo X-Men: Apocalypse as a comic book also-ran? Not at all.
It’s ambitious, for one thing, and tries to tell lots of little stories about ‘new’ characters in the midst of a big one about major characters we’ve known for a while. This sometimes creates a pace issue, but there isn’t a scene other than the Wolverine cameo in this movie that isn’t enjoyable or revealing in some way.
The action is stunning. The director Bryan Singer tells the story with such energy and flair that it’s hard not to get taken in every time the pace picks up. Also, there’s a proper mutant on mutant showdown in the final act, which I sometimes think these movies miss out on.
World-ending destruction, as we’ve previously established, is now a sin. However I would argue in this movie it’s not only entertaining, but justified. The villain is so powerful that, going into the final act, you don’t know how he will be defeated. That helps justify the high destruction dished out throughout.
But also, for the franchise going forward, X-Men: Apocalypse establishes the fraught relationship between mutants and humans. They were outed to the world in Days of Future Past but, until now, no-one could quite comprehend their potential for destruction. This will lay interesting foundations for the next steps in the franchise where, hopefully, the way that mutants fit into a human world is addressed in a way that evokes the plot of X-Men, but does it better than Batman v Superman.
Is X-Men: Apocalypse perfect?
No. It’s a bit bloated, and struggles with pace. But, for the most part, it’s a very good X-Men movie. It moves characters forward and is an enjoyable watch, with laughs, drama and spectacle in all of the right places.
What did you think of X-Men: Apocalypse? Do you think it has been unfairly treated by critics? Let me know in the comments section.