The entirety of the X-Men series has had a huge impact on, not only my generation, but the world of cinema as we know it today. 16 years ago, X-Men hit the big screens and was a huge hit. It blasted the doors wide open for superhero movies and was soon followed by a multitude of films that have set the foundation for the superhero-dominated box office that we know of today. Films like Spiderman (2002), Hellboy (2004) and even the incredibly influential Batman Begins (2005), would all probably have never been made if it weren’t for the overwhelming popularity and demand that the original X-Men created.
Since 2000, there have been a total of 10 X-Men movies (including Deadpool, which came out this year, but isn’t really a film in the series). This number is only bested by the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which will have its 14th film released in November this year. Still, it stands out from the Marvel movies, because it is not afraid to put the same characters in every single one of its films.
And this is where I think X-Men will ultimately fail in the superhero-film arms race that we are currently witnessing in modern cinema. After seeing the last film in the series when it came out, X-Men: Days of Future Past, I began to feel worried about the future of the franchise that I had grown up with and loved (until the unspeakable happened in 2009 but we’re not going to talk about that here; go read my review for Deadpool if you don’t know what I’m referring to). I enjoyed Days of Future Past, but… something seemed off. I felt as though I had almost seen the film before. It wasn’t until 2 nights ago, after the conclusion of X-Men: Apocalypse that I was able to put my finger on it.
Hollywood has no vision for the X-Men series anymore. Though many of the X-Men films have been good, I finally realized why I wasn’t feeling the magic in these past two films. The franchise is stuck in an infinite loop of story-lines and character-arcs, and I fear that it will never become unstuck.
All this film’s story is, is a bunch of parts from previous X-Men movies that people love blended together. Sure, that may sound good at first, until you really think about what you’re doing. If you’re going to make a smoothie, you don’t just think about ingredients that you enjoy and throw them in a blender, because that’s how you end up with a “sushi and pumpkin pie smoothie” (and don’t you dare pretend that sounds appetizing for even a second). Just like a smoothie, the separate parts of a story have to compliment each other. This was, by far, the worst part of the film for me.
I’m about to go in-depth about this X-Men smoothie, so please skip ahead if you wish to avoid any kind of spoilers.
The minute they showed Magneto with a wife and a child, I had no hope for this film. You knew they were going to die, and you knew he was going to seek revenge for it. It was predictable, not because of how well developed his character is, but because that’s all Hollywood knows to do with his character anymore. Is there some kind of unspoken rule that Magneto has to be given a speech by Professor X sometime during the film about how “he used to be good,” and that “there is still good in him”? And, not only is there more than one of these in this film, they even hit you with a DAMN MONTAGE of these speeches from previous films!
The same thing happens to Mystique in this movie, minus the face-slapping montage that felt like an insult to the audience more than anything else. For reasons that aren’t explained to us in the film, Mystique has reverted back to her pre-First Class tendencies of being ashamed of her true, blue self. How many times are we going to hear someone convince her that she, “just needs to be herself”? We need originality, not a character-arc that sounds like its been stolen from a classroom motivational cat poster.
And, the cherry on top for me, is how the asses that wrote this screenplay lazily wrote in Wolverine and Stryker; both to piggyback off of X2‘s popularity, and to potentially set up a sequel that we’ve probably already seen by now. For those that have already seen the film, ask yourself, how did this part of the story fit into the overall story of the rest of the film? If the only answer you came up with is, “well, Stryker came to the mansion and took everyone to his base and they had to escape,” then you hit the nail on the head. The answer is, it doesn’t. This part of the film is essentially wasting 30 minutes of your time by playing fan service and extending Hugh Jackman’s record. It takes us out of the central plot line to throw in this short side-story that has absolutely no impact on the rest of the film. This is bad writing at its finest, folks.
Oh, let’s not forget the main story itself. Apocalypse was one of the most cliched and generic super-villains of all time. Honestly, I can’t think of any villain that has been worse in an X-Men film. His motivation is that he wants to be worshiped as a divine figure by the entire world, so his plan is to… destroy the entire world??? I need to lie down for a minute.
Not only is his plan dumb, it’s inconsistent with his character. In the opening sequence, he seems quite content with his situation, as the entirety of the Egyptian empire sees him as a god. Did he feel the need to slaughter all of the humans and create a mutant-only utopia? Of course not, he just wanted to destroy the modern world so that they could throw in some destruction-porn that seemingly had no impact on the story or any of its characters. Seriously, how many people do you think probably died in that finale? It was at least in the 100s-of-millions, but not a word is spoken about it to anyone; least of all Magneto, WHO IS TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WHOLE THING!
The idea of the 4 Horsemen is cool and all; but, it was extremely lazy and doesn’t really make sense. We’re told, in the beginning of the film, that Apocalypse seeks out the 4 most powerful mutants to be his BFFs, and the 4 that we see in the opening sequence definitely seemed like they qualified as 4 of the most powerful living mutants. So when Apocalypse returns, his 4 new Horsemen are Storm (makes sense), Magneto (definitely makes sense), Psylocke (who??), and Angel (oh no… what’s he gonna do? Drop bird poop on people?). The only criteria for these 4 are that they were the first 4 mutants he met and liked. He really should have rethought his requirements before setting out to destroy the world. Hey, Apocalypse, I can fix your problem very easily: recruit Storm and Magneto, head over to the U.S. and let Quicksilver meet and join up with his papa, and then use your influence on a still very young and impressionable Jean Grey. Problem solved, no one can stop you, have fun destroying everything humanity ever built.
There was very little about this movie that I found interesting. The relationship between Jean and Scott was interesting, although it was pretty much negated by how creepy Jean and Logan’s relationship seems now. Nightcrawler was funny, but again, his character had little impact and seemed almost wasted. So, much like Days of Future Past, I think Quicksilver ultimately stole the show.
Yeah, Fassbender and McAvoy are really good as Magneto and Professor X. But guys, the quality of these movies can’t keep riding off of how good these two actors are.
Oscar Isaac was absolutely wasted as Apocalypse. I won’t say he did a bad job, because there are two monologues that he delivers that are pretty good, but he had literally nothing to work with. Like I said in the previous section, Apocalypse, as a character, was very lazy and cliche. We know Isaac is a potentially great actor from previous films he’s done with well-written characters like Ex-Machina, Inside Llewyn Davis, and even The Force Awakens.
I think the largest atrocity in this category was committed by “America’s sweetheart,” Jennifer Lawrence. I pretty much cringed in every scene in which she had more than one line. Her speech to Magneto and her closing speech were unenthusiastic, unbelievable, and…just really bad. I don’t know what happened with her in this film, but she definitely did nothing to try and help save it.
Everyone else with a significant amount of dialogue (Nicholas Hoult, Sophie Turner, and Tye Sheridan) did a decent job with what they were given, but ultimately seemed like they were just along for the ride.
There are a few action sequences that are pretty well done (Wolverine’s escape scene, the scene in the forest, Quicksilver’s one cool part, and Nightcrawler and Angel’s fight), but the rest of the action-sequences are CGI destruction-porn that are really not that great. During the whole “Magneto destroys the world” sequence, I couldn’t help but think that I have no idea what I’m looking at, and that they tried to put so much on screen that it just looks very very fake.
As far as direction, I think Bryan Singer gives us a few scenes that are really well done (the confrontation in the forest, the confrontation in the factory, and the mental fight inside Professor X’s head). But, like most big blockbuster films, most of this movie lacks style or really well-thought-out direction.
For more on the Visuals, see my X-Factor.
The score is okay. It’s basically the same from all the rest of the X-Men films, so don’t expect to be blown away or anything. It rarely enhances the on-screen action and I barely noticed it if I’m going to be completely honest.
X-Factor: 8/10, PG-13
I almost never think about ratings before seeing a film. I almost always assume that every movie I see is rated R. Why? Probably because the majority of the films I watch and enjoy are rated R. When I came out of the theater and just happened to glance up and see the rating for this film, I was actually really surprised. This film’s action has a surprising amount of blood, bone-breaks, and body-horror for a PG-13 film. I think more superhero films need to find whatever balance this film had in order give action sequences a little more “oomph”. When that one mutant mimes that guy into a tiny box mid-air and you hear his bones being crushed; we feel that. When that other mutant melts that guys face off, starting with his flesh, muscles, and then bones; we feel that too. When Quicksilver get a sharp kick to the knee and his leg… AH, I shuddered just remembering it.
I know there are a lot of people who hate that kind of stuff, but it brings audiences closer to the action when we are actually forced to roll with the punches and kicks, just like our characters are.
When a film takes you out of the action by avoiding this kind of violence, we don’t really feel the hits, and we don’t really fear for the character we’re supposed to be rooting for.
If you want to hear more about my point in this section, I encourage you to take a look at this video.
Every Frame a Painting is an EXCELLENT channel on YouTube that is dedicated to educating people on different film styles and why they matter. I encourage any movie-fan to watch his videos.
I’ve never read a single comic strip of X-Men, so before you go around saying that I gave it a terrible score because I’m some comic book fan-boy who didn’t like it because of whatever BS reason those guys tend to come up with, think twice before you start spreading lies. I didn’t like this movie because it contained everything big summer blockbusters are criticized for nowadays: poorly written characters, destruction-porn, and a misunderstanding of what makes a good superhero movie.
If you’re a big fan of the X-Men series, I still think you should see the film for yourself before you let me persuade you into not seeing it. If you aren’t really a fan of superhero movies in general, then this film is just more of the same, so you can safely steer clear of it and save your money.
What hope First Class revived in me for the X-Men franchise seems to have all been washed away. I’m not excited for whatever sequel the studio has planned (especially since it appears that it’s going to be another Wolverine-centric story), but I really hope that they’ll be able to pull their stuff together and get back to making good X-Men movies.