As someone raised on X-Men comic books (with over 20 years worth of back issues — including the first appearance of the character Apocalypse — all carefully sealed in plastic bags supported by acid-free boards), I could write a lengthy article based strictly on the discrepancies between Fox’s X-Men movies and the source material. Word counts being what they are, however, I will restrain myself to commenting on the merits (or lack thereof) of this particular film.
To say that this latest installation in the X-Men series is bad would do a disservice to well-meaning films that nevertheless fail to hit the mark. This movie seems almost antagonistically awful to such an extent that a prominent character makes an awkward digression during a discussion of the original Star Wars trilogy, noting that, “The third movie is always the worst.” Such a self-referential inside joke only serves to highlight the lazy writing, ham-fisted direction and lackluster performances that make this film so tedious. X-Men: Apocalypse is a film that seems hell-bent on trolling fans of both the comics and the earlier movies in the series.
Visually, the film is a mess. Most shots look as though one of the gaffers went crazy with pink lighting gels and nobody noticed until it was too late to do anything about it. Many of the effects shots look rushed and cheaply produced, most likely due to a budget-burning computer-generated sequence featuring Quicksilver (Evan Peters) that seeks to recapture the acclaim of the “Time in a Bottle” sequence from X-Men: Days of Future Past. However, while that scene was an unexpected highlight, this sequence stretches the concept of that two-minute novelty into a 10-minute music video that does practically nothing to advance the plot. I don’t think Bryan Singer has directed a good film in almost 20 years, and his stylistic choices here have done nothing to disabuse me of that notion.
In the unfortunate tradition of modern super-hero movies, an exponentially expanding list of characters leads to a lack of narrative focus and severely hampers the capacity for the film’s cast to deliver meaningful performances. Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse looks like the bastard child of Skeletor and Count von Count, and it’s impossible to assess his performance under all the latex and clown paint on his face. Tye Sheridan and Sophie Turner are competent enough to carry their roles, but the dialogue they’re given is so stilted and generic it could almost be pulled straight from Stan Lee’s cringe-inducing work in the original comic. James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence seem utterly disinterested in the proceedings, and Michael Fassbender’s lower teeth seem to be doing all of the heavy lifting on his end.
Were it not for the occasional period costume or pop-cultural reference, one could be forgiven for forgetting this film is supposed to be set in the ’80s. Settings are interchanged with wild abandon, and plot threads are either abruptly curtailed or outright abandoned. For a two-and-a-half-hour movie, this lack of expository coherence verges on the unforgivable. That the film also manages to waste some of the most impactful characters and narratives in the history of comics solidly pushes X-Men: Apocalypse into the abyss of intolerability. The word “apocalypse,” loosely translates to “revelation” from the original Greek; the only revelation here is that Fox needs to return the rights to all X-Men-related properties back to Marvel. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait for the Deadpool sequel before we get another decent X-Men movie. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, action and destruction, brief strong language and some suggestive images.
Playing at Carmike 10, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.