Some have called X-Men: Apocalypse the most epic X-Men movie yet. And it is an epic, in the sense of the ancient tradition of epic storytelling: long, archetypal tales with tons of characters, a simple plot, and little need for nuanced character development. Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed the movie a great deal. But my low expectations given the mostly repetitive nature of X-Men movie plots weren’t exactly subverted.
The film tells the story of the X-Men taking on the godlike mutant, Apocalypse. The physical embodiment of the Egyptian sun god Ra in this universe’s mythos, Apocalypse was betrayed in ancient times, for nebulous reasons, by false priests. I love when superhero stories cross over into the realm of myth. It allows modern and ancient sensibilities of good and evil, or heroic and villainous, to clash and contrast. It highlights fascinating aspects of how much we have diverged from the old world’s way of thinking about the life and the universe. And it shows us how much has remained the same. Fascinating as the two sides of that coin may be, the script fails to give their avatar, Apocalypse himself, more depth than “generic fanatical god character.”
The mediocre characterization is a shame, because the X-Men comics paint a much more nuanced and interesting portrait. His four henchmen are similarly one dimensional, with Psylocke uttering a grand total of about two sentences in the entire movie. Magneto gets some very moving scenes in which we meet his family and see them murdered when the isolated village he has made his home turns on him for being a Mutant. Its touching, but ultimately the same Magneto story/motivation we’ve seen in every single X-Men movie ever.
In spite of the monochromatic bad guys, the story ends up being carried by Professor Xavier and his students. Sophie Turner doesn’t have a ton of lines to work with, but she makes a perfect Jean Grey (Can’t wait to see more of her!) who plays the foil to Xavier and his need to protect and strengthen his fellow mutants. His character in particular has remained a bedrock of the franchise, played excellently by two, excellent actors. True to the original Professor X in all the important ways, James McAvoy’s portrayal stands out as a unique mentor figure in the sea of superhero and dystopian stories being produced today.
Usually, wise mentor characters are around just long enough to die and spur the real heroes of the story into action. In the Hunger Games franchise, Hamish wasn’t so much dead as defeated, but still left Katniss and her peers on their own to finish what he could not. Charles Xavier in X-Men: Apocalypse is the mentor who is not only there, believing in his students, but also provides the strong shoulders for them to stand on. He’s not a memory or a ghost, but a comrade on the front lines, pushing the team to their fullest potential. In an age where young people often hear from older generations how much they have failed, this kind of father figure, who believes optimism is worth investing in even at the risk of being called naive, really struck me as the kind of role model the arts should lend more exposure to.
The overall highlight of the movie was Evan Peters as Quicksilver. If X-Men writers could consistently combine the wit of his starring scenes with the heart on display in sequences driven by the Professor X character, they would have a franchise rivaling The Avengers. If you are on the fence about seeing the movie on the big screen and in 3-D, do it just for the scenes with Quicksilver. They are pure perfection, and deserve to be experienced in a fully immersive format!
Once the stage is set with Apocalypse preparing to cleanse the world of all too weak to survive, and the young X-Men students are preparing to give their lives to save a world that hates mutants, the film hits an action flick rhythm and rides that beat all the way to the end. We even get a great cameo with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.
If you’re in for a light, fun superhero extravaganza and you’re not too bothered by shallow villains, X-Men: Apocalypse will make for an entertaining night out. Take lots of friends and enjoy the company and the popcorn. If you’re a super fan, you owe it to yourself to at least see it for the Quicksilver scenes. Trust me – you’ll be glad you did.
About Our Rating System:
The Loresworn Order reviews games, movies, TV, books, and music on a four-point scale.
- No Medal, “Not Recommended”
- Bronze, “Okay”
- Silver, “Good!”
- Gold, “Great!”