Review: X-Men: Apocalypse
X-Men Apocalypse wasn't bad. This third entry into the J-Law/Fassbender reboot of the propular franchise wasn't bad. Not the strongest of praise, but not the faintest either. In an era where comic book adaptations seem to come bi-weekly, standing out from the crowd is a tough task and I would say this is solidly above the median. There is a lot to like here, even if it sometimes can't help but feed the CGI fueled, product-placement machine that is the genre at large. Overall, it works, but it is hard to say much more than that.
The film opens on an ancient scene. Some sort of mythical transfusion is taking place with the pyramids as the backdrop. One half of this transfusion is Apocalypse (played by Oscar Isaac), as he seeks to take gain the powers of someone who is able to regenerate when wounded. This scene is shaken up when an uprising causes one of these stone monuments to collapse, leaving Apocalypse trapped below for centuries.
Fast forward a couple millennia and Apocalypse is back. He seeks to assemble a team of mutants who will fight for mutant control of the planet and the overthrow of government "systems." Along the way, Apocalypse is able to collect legendary mutants like Magneto (played by Michael Fassbender) and Storm (played by Alexandra Shipp). To combat his team, the X-Men must join forces before Apocalypse gains the power he seeks.
While this synopsis may sound pretty silly in a vacuum, it gains a bit of gravitas in execution. Part of that is because of Oscar Isaac's performance as Apocalypse. Completely unrecognizable in the role, his confidence lends credibility to the urgency the X-Men face. It quickly becomes believable that if they do not stop him, there will be nothing but destruction left. Michael Fassbender's Magneto is also a standout, as his intensity does justice to the strain certain events have on Magneto's life. The film is at its best when it is in character study mode. Seeing these obviously fictional beings interact with the very real political consequences of their existence provides a the grit that is the best of the films many textures.
The film is at its worst when it seeks to impress its audience with over-the-top CGI sequences that aren't nearly as fresh and unique as the filmmakers seem to think. There is nothing sadder than a film that thinks it is achieving great heights in moments where it is actually floundering. There is a mind-numbingly stupid explosion sequence meant to show of the powers of Quicksilver that embodies this point. Nothing about it is cool or fresh. It feels like something designed to sell Sunny Delight. And yet they allow the sequence to carry on for several minutes as if they are really impressed with their work.
Overall, it is fairly competent when compared to its peers. It's not groundbreaking. It does enough to get by, but not enough to truly impress. Everything these days has a secondary goal of setting up the next trilogy or franchise expansion, so we will see what this property has in store for future audiences. For now, self-assured so-so.