I recently saw the movie X-Men: Apocalypse and here are my thoughts. As my readers know, I am a big comic book fan and I try not to miss these films. The X-Men, of course, are characters from Marvel Comics who deal with the implication of being born with genetic mutations which manifest as what people would call superpowers. This film is the sixth in the X-Men series (the third in the latest run) and ninth in the franchise.
The second X trilogy has turned out to be much superior to the first; however, as they are technically within the same franchise, the continuity is a disaster. While seeing the previous films is, obviously, helpful to understanding what is happening and why in the latest movie, one cannot look too deeply into those past films as the continuity and consistency is so lacking.
This film finds Professor X’s mutant school to be thriving, Mystique to be in hiding, and Magneto living out an ordinary life with an assumed identity. There seems to be a relative détente between mutants and humans at this time. Unfortunately for mutant kind, the ancient (and possibly first) mutant, Apocalypse, has found a way to revive after millennia of hibernation. While not clearly explained, Apocalypse seems to have the ability to absorb the abilities of other mutants, but also employs an unexplained technology that was even available to him in ancient Egypt. Apocalypse appears to be a god to the ancient Egyptians, but he is betrayed and trapped, buried under a collapsed pyramid until, in the 1980s, Moria McTaggart observes people trying to recreate the ancient technology to revive him.
Apocalypse, once revived, resumes what was left undone in ancient Egypt, and recruits four mutants (Magneto, Psylocke, Storm, and Angel (turned Archangel)) to be his “Horsemen” to accomplish his goals. Of course, Apocalypse’s advance puts him into conflict with the X-Men and, as mutants are the source of the unrest, the government as well.
This movie had a lot of potential, especially since the last two X films were pretty good. Unfortunately, insufficient thought went into the movie and it resulted in a pretty generic goodguy/badguy conflict with practically no explanation.
The motives and purposes of Apocalypse are never really explained. I guess he feels mutants are superior to humans and, therefore, he should rule them, but that does not seem much different from Magneto’s inner-conflict over the past five films. I am guessing, of course, as Apocalypse’s lines are pretty succinct and little is known about him, where he came from, and what he wants to accomplish, aside from simply dominating the world. How he acquired his various powers, and what they are exactly, is also never explained. The same goes for the Horsemen. Aside from Magneto, who has a long history in the films, the Horsemen had few lines and little exposition is dedicated to revealing who they are and what their interests are or even what their powers are.
The carnage also is ramped up far beyond any prior film. As the extent of Apocalypse’s powers is not shown, they, at least, seem to be sufficient to cause worldwide destruction. The destruction is just ridiculous and the total lack of involvement of anyone else in the world aside from the X-Men to stop it is totally unrealistic. Although I understand high stakes is supposed to make the conflict important and compelling, I think having lower stakes and more personal conflicts a welcome change and often make for better stories; Ant-Man and Marvel’s Netflix series are a testament to this.
I have to say the performances in the movie are very good and the character development of the main cast (Magneto and those on the X-Men side) is well done.
Just as an aside, why can practically every super hero, or super hero group, find happiness, levity, and fun, while the X-Men, and other mutants, are constantly dour, persecuted, and sullen? Weird.
In sum, this movie has a lot of great elements and a lot of potential, but it is diminished by a lack of development of the villains. It is a fun and entertaining film if you just do not think too much about it.
Three post-scripts: Olivia Munn’s casting as Psylocke is genius. She looked exactly like her comic book counterpart. Also, Hugh Jackman, as Wolverine, makes his obligatory (albeit brief) appearance in an X movie (as he apparently must in every X movie), this time in a critical (and violent) scene in his Weapon X persona. Finally, Quicksilver has yet more well done, and funny, scenes moving at high speeds as everyone else seems stationary from his perspective.