Movie Review: X-Men - Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Rated PG-13: (For Intense Violence and Mild Language)

Running Time: 144 minutes (2 hours and 24 minutes)

Genre/s: Action, Adaptation, Adventure, Science Fiction, Superhero

Released on May 27, 2016 (US Release date, Available For Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by 20th Century Fox

Writers: Simon Kinberg, Bryan Singer, Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty

Director: Bryan Singer

  • James McAvoy as Prof. Charles Xavier
  • Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr/Magneto
  • Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkhölme/Mystique
  • Oscar Isaac as En Saban Nur/Apocalypse
  • Nicolas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast
  • Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert
  • Sophie Turner as Jean Grey
  • Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers/Cyclops
  • Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler
  • Alexandra Shipp as Ororo Monroe/Storm
  • Olivia Munn as Elizabeth Braddock/Psylocke
  • Ben Hardy as Warren Worthington III/Angel
"Everything they've built will fall", exclaimed director Bryan Singer when he found-out that the X-Men franchise was nearly butchered while he was taking a break. Last year, we saw the highly-awaited return of Bryan Singer with the hit X-Men: Days of Future Past, helping the film series get back on its feet in the process, with Deadpool being one of the many other films opening the doors for much more superhero adventures. Recently, we saw the release of X-Men: Apocalypse, but is it as great as X2: X-Men United? Let's find out in Dateline Movies' review of X-Men: Apocalypse. Also, since this movie is currently showing in theaters worldwide, it would be wise to know that major spoilers are inbound.
What is the movie about?

Ten Years after Mystique, played by Lawrence (American Hustle) stopped Magneto, played by Fassbender (Steve Jobs), from using the Sentinels to kill Mutant oppressors, which would have resulted into a twisted future, Mutants and humans have learned to coexist. Prof. Charles Xavier, played by McAvoy (Wanted), has since reopened the Charles Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters with his long-time ally Beast, played by Hoult (Jack The Giant Slayer). Xavier welcomes his two new students, Jean Grey, played by Turner (Game of Thrones), who has trouble controlling her telekinetic abilities, and Scott Summers, played by Sheridan (Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse), who is struggling to control his optic blasts.

Xavier's longtime love, CIA Agent Moira MacTaggert, played by Byrne (This is Where I Leave You) has been tracking down some activity linked to Mutant cultists, leading her to the discovery of the existence of the powerful and omnipotent En Saban Nur, also known as Apocalypse, played by Isaac (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens). He has now returned to take his rightful place as the ruler of all mutant-kind.

Apocalypse recruits Magneto, who recently watched his family die after trying to live a normal life, to his Four Horsemen, which includes a metal-winged Angel, the bounty hunter Psylocke, played by Munn (Date Night), and the former street thief Storm, played by Shipp (Dude), with the latter idolizing Mystique as a hero.

When Mystique learns that Magneto has resurfaced, Xavier bands together Scott, Jean, Nightcrawler, played by Smit-McPhee (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Moira, Beast and Mystique to prevent Apocalypse's cataclysmic plans, and above all, save the world. But will the world ever be the same again?

What we think of the movie?

Acting = (3/5)

This section, and the next, has some major spoilers, so you don't have to worry about reading this part.

I enjoy Sophie Turner's performance in Game of Thrones as Sansa Stark. And speaking of Game of Thrones, someone at 20th Century Fox really enjoys the show as much as we do, because they have already cast three Game of Thrones actors. The first one being Peter Dinklage, who played Tyrion Lannister in the show, appeared in Days of Future Past as Sentinel inventor Bolivar Trask, and the most recent, besides Turner, is Maisie Williams, who is set to play half-woman, half-werewolf heroine Wolfsbane in the 2017 movie New Mutants. Sophie Turner really did a fine job here, as she easily translates the emotional raw power that she displays in her portrayal of Sansa Stark in memorable and remarkable fashion. I can't wait to see more of her take on the Marvel Girl, Jean Grey. All in all, she is one of the highlights of the film. Besides, didn't Simon Kinberg say that they'll be redoing the Dark Phoenix Saga, which was not done justice in X-Men:The Last Stand?

Sophie Turner is not the only one holding the title of "highlight of the movie" , as there are many more in this movie that have showed-off their talents. One of these is the ever delightful portrayal of Evan Peters as the fan-favorite Quicksilver. While I'll admit that his personality is strikingly different from the one I'm familiar with in the comics, as the comic version is more or less arrogant and a sister's keeper.  X-Men: Apocalypse makes use of the character's already familiar humorous side very well. In Days of Future Past, we only got to saw his awesomeness for one memorable sequence, and now, we get to see more of him, especially in the part wherein the X-Mansion is blown away. In addition, we also see his more serious persona, especially since he just learned that his biological father is actually Magneto.

Michael Fassbender has been playing the same role for three movies, including this one, already. His casting here, as well as his Oscar nomination for his role of Steve Jobs in the movie of the same name, is no mistake indeed, as Fassbender once again shows that he really is born to be pre-2000s Magneto. In this flick, we even get to journey to the brighter sides of Magneto's personal life. In the part where we get to look around Magneto's public life as a regular human, we remember that he is not just some bad guy who despises humans, but rather a man torn apart. Here, we don't see an overly ambitious megalomaniac, we see a villain who realized that there is more to life than killing others. We see him at his happiest when he discovers that truth, and we see him at his weakest when his past comes back to haunt him in a bad way.

New X-Recruits Nightcrawler and Cyclops aren't bad themselves as well. Personally, I can totally see Kodi Smit-McPhee embodying the adventurous and wacky personality of the Nightcrawler. Despite some minimal character development, Smit-McPhee delivers a handful of laughs to make his portrayal one of the few stand-outs. However, I can't usually think of Nightcrawler without remembering the tragic portrayal that was introduced to us in my younger years by Alan Cumming in X2: X-Men United. Regarding Cyclops, Tye Sheridan makes a good Cyclops, and Cyclops is my favorite X-Man. When I look back at the original trilogy, I always wondered why Cyclops wasn't given enough screen time. He is one of the most important X-Men in the comics after all. Sheridan's performance as our ruby-colored eye hero is proof that Cyclops should be expanded more.

This section is getting to long again, so I'll summarize the other good roles so we can move on to the least memorable aspects. James McAvoy injects new energy in his role as Prof. X, especially in the scenes where he talks about Moira MacTaggert. Despite the obvious overuse of her talents, Jennifer Lawrence does pretty good as a heroic slash role model Mystique, but somehow, she still cannot capture the femme fatale personality of the Mystique we know from the comics. Among the newly debuted Horsemen of Apocalypse, Alexandra Shipp's Storm stood-out from Angel and Psylocke, despite the lack of character development. Nicolas Hoult and Rose Byrne aren't far behind either.

While I admit that Oscar Isaac is one awesome actor, as seen in his most recent works such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Ex Machina, there is something about his performance as Apocalypse that makes the villain not quite as threatening as Magneto or Brian Cox's William Stryker was. He gives his best shot, but I think the screenplay is to blame here. I'll get to that later. And besides, his revival scene gave me some chills. The moment I heard him speak, I knew it would be a good portrayal at best.

But Oscar Isaac is not even close to being the weak link of the movie, because at least he showed energy. Ben Hardy's Angel is incredibly lackluster, similar to the same mistake done in The Last Stand. He had a couple of lines, and had one memorable scene, and that is the fight sequence with Nightcrawler. But none of them made Angel a character worth remembering, like in the comics as he should be. Olivia Munn is undeniably attractive, and her commitment to the role was evident prior to even wearing the purple skintight suit, but alas, her efforts were all for nothing. Yes, she had some cool fight scenes, but the underdeveloped stories make it feel like the characters were squeezed in just for hype. Again, I believe the script is to be blamed for all of this, but it would have been better if they tried to add some flavor into their performances. Hopefully the next installments would fix that. X-Force, perhaps?


And where was Jubilee the entire movie? Okay, I wasn't really hyped for Lana Candor's character, but all of that changed when I saw one of the teasers for the movie. It showed Jubilee promoting the school in 80s format. It was nostalgic, it was interesting. I was expecting a little more screen time for the X-Lady. Too bad she was underutilized. Then again, many did say Jubilee wasn't the best character in all of X-Men history. But still, it would've been cool.

Production Value and Cinematography = (4/5)

As expected in every other action-filled bonanza that came out this year so far, the CGI is spectacular, even if in times it gets carried away. This certain mechanic of the movie is best applied in Quicksilver's highly demanded solo sequence. Fresh-off of Days of Future Past's "Escape From The Pentagon" scene, Bryan Singer doubles the fun and excitement when Havok, played by Lucas Till (X-Men: First Class) accidentally detonates an exposed Black Bird engine, causing an explosion. Quicksilver, seeking the Professor so that he can talk to Magneto, hears in slow-motion that the Mansion is about to explode. The result was a hilarious standout from Quicksilver. From the slow-motion, to the off-the-wall humor, this was the best part in the entirety of the movie.

The special effects during the sequences with Magneto using the Earth's polarity to cause destruction worldwide, and Apocalypse reducing the population of Cairo to five Mutants, were breathtaking. Those were very good and very detailed effects. It reflects just how powerful the film's main antagonist is, but also, it's a little bit too much. With all the carnage and destruction cluttering the screen, it really becomes harder and harder to know what is going on.

The final battle was of course explosive, but was well balanced. It had its quiet moments, and it sometimes made you question if our heroes could even save the world. The psychic face-off between Prof. X and Apocalypse was bleak and emotional. Overall, the special effects, combined with some good camera angles as some commenters in the Internet, were used properly, but is also too much to handle at some points.

Story, Dialogue and Flow = (2/5)

Heads-up! Major spoilers ahead! This goes to the next section as well.

Despite some very good performances and a handful of carefully choreographed scenes, the script and overall story is a huge step-down from a typically great X-Men movie. The script wants to be grander in spectacle by inserting fan-favorite characters such as Storm and Psylocke, only to end-up being an overly cluttered product.

The most cliched and sadly the least threatening villain I have seen so far is Apocalypse. Of course not as non-threatening as Batman v. Superman's Doomsday. Even though he is all-powerful and god-like, nothing, from his amazing grab bag of abilities to his somewhat poetic tongue, made me tremble in fear. Me and my dad would agree that he is basically ripoff of the far more terrifying Hive from Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. And by ripoff, we mean a literal copycat. He has the same power effects as Hive's, and technically the same master plan as both want to place the entire world's population under his mind-control, although Hive just wants the Inhuman population. In addition, they could have fleshed-out his darker side much more than just let him be a stereotypical would-be world conqueror. They could have expanded more on his survival of the fittest philosophy.

Regarding his plans, I read one post in the Internet about a fan's own theories addressing the script's plot holes. Among those was the fact that Apocalypse wanted the "strong to survive" by using Magneto's enhanced abilities to cause disturbances in the Earth's polarity, destroying the entire world as we know it. At that moment, I realized that his plan is to end the world? (No pun intended.) But what's the point of having the strongest survive when everyone else is dead, even the Mutants? Was disposing the world's nuclear weapons supply just a stunt to show-off your powers? That was an intense montage with the right mix of a terrified Stan and Joan Lee cameo, by the way.

Michael Fassbender might have gave me some tears in his performance, but seriously, the whole "will he or won't he be good" scenario has been done to death already. We already know, from the start, that Magneto would never hurt his most trusted friends, even if his wife and Mutant daughter was accidentally killed by terrified policemen with bows and arrows. I hope they would adapt some parts of the Ultimate X-Men Magneto, but then again it might be too much for some youngsters, given that this version is a total psychopath.

But I got to hand it to them, they made the Weapon X scene worthwhile, even if the scene is completely unnecessary. Hugh Jackman's cameo as a post-Adamantium bonding Logan indirectly helped Jean, Scott and Kurt by massacring the entire facility staff in just one go. It was just the right amount of screen time for an otherwise overused character. Also, why is this unnecessary? For one thing, I didn't think William Stryker, played by Josh Helman (Mad Max: Fury Road), served much purpose to the story, except just to satisfy people with a Wolverine cameo. It was nice to see Bryan Singer play a guard then get killed fictionally, though.

I already mentioned this one before, but just to reiterate. The story did not give Angel and Psylocke proper character development. The theme of discrimination is also, for some reason, both evidently worn-out and unerused, leaving the movie lacking emotional depth. Overall, the story would have be better if it was polished a little bit, and made Apocalypse much more dangerous. Also, isn't there a certain cliffhanger from Days of Future Past involving Mystique and Wolverine that needs a proper resolution?

Ending, Originality and Story Fulfillment = (3/5)

This film was good, but overly inferior to the other entries of the film series. I was expecting, as Bryan Singer in some interviews, that the movie would delve deeper into the historical background of Mutants as promised, but not dragging of course. I most certainly did not hear a history lesson about the source of their powers. The main villain was weak, and really indecisive when it comes to his plans and beliefs. Angel and Psylocke are no different, with minimal dialogue preventing them earning a spotlight.

However, the final battle was an emotional ride. Despite some unsteady shots, just seeing the X-Men dish it out against the Four Horsemen was amazing. Quicksilver gets a shining moment again when he tries and fails to defeat Apocalypse single-handedly with his super speed. Psylocke here gets some redeeming quality when she gets to use her fighting moves against the team. 

The best parts are of course its most quiet moments. One of the best among that batch was when Quicksilver, helping Mystique approach Magneto, wanted to tell Magneto that he is his son, but instead did not reveal it when he sees the kind of bad guy Magneto is. Prof. X and Apocalypse's telepathic duke-out was very pivotal, as we see that Prof. X is no match against Apocalypse even with his best powers. It only took Jean Grey unleashing the Phoenix Force to finally put an end to Apocalypse's madness. During this battle, we get to see Storm switching to the other side as well when she learns Mystique is an X-Man, leaving us to wonder what would our heroes would think if they found-out that we are doing some bad things as well. Also, I guess Angel won't ever get a shining chance at redemption ever again now that he is killed in-battle. That's a shame. It's just as unnecessary as Havok's presumed death. It's labeled as "presumed" because his body was never found after the X-Mansion's destruction.

The ending scene was a nostalgic moment. With Magneto hopefully not turning into a villain ever again, even repairing the Mansion (Did they find Havok's body or did they accidentally throw him into a trash bin?), Magneto asks Prof. X before parting ways again about what would he feel if someone tries to attack the Mansion again, to which Prof. X replies the same line Prof. X said in the first X-Men movie. The film then ends with a shot of the team in complete costume (Seriously, they really need to get the color yellow back.), and the team training in the Danger Room, leaving a hopeful and possibly good future.

Don't forget to stay tuned until the end of the credits, as we get to see a tease of a potential new villain in Mister Sinister, who you might remember is mentioned frequently in our Spotted! 8.5. I won't spoil it here, because I have spoiled enough already, but the scene isn't that memorable. Some might get excited because they know what "Essex" could mean, while others might just say, "Huh?". Then again, post-credits scene are suppose to keep us guessing.

Overall Evaluation = (4/5)

Concluding the First Class trilogy with an optimistic tone, this film attempted to juggle a handful of characters, only to make the film crowded but leave audiences looking forward for the next generation of X-Men films.

TOTAL = 16/25 (Pleasant Entertainment)

Despite some stellar casting, great special effects and an impressive direction from Bryan Singer, X-Men: Apocalypse suffers from a "been there done that" villain and a weak story, but is entertaining enough to keep audiences wanting more.

Oh boy. I feel like this is going to be Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice reincarnated, given that the critics say it is not that good, while the fans are clawing all those who disagree. In all honesty, this was a little bit of both. Critics are right because the story is not that special, and the fans are also right because it has good entertainment value. It's really just all a matter of perspective. With X-Men: Apocalypse leaving us to wonder what Mister Sinister is up to, we can only hope that the R-Rated Wolverine sequel, and Hugh Jackman's final movie in his contract, would deliver a thematic punch, and please, for the love of all that is holy, don't overuse the CGI, especially with the claws. It would also be neat to see him use his trademark yellow spandex in the movie. You can take a look at the deleted scene from The Wolverine below to know where he got it, but it's a little bit low on quality. With that, we close this review of X-Men: Apocalypse. See you next time!


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