It you’re a little apprehensive about DARK PHOENIX, you can rest easy knowing that it can’t possibly be as bad as…
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Director: Bryan Singer
Stars: People Under Ironclad Contracts
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: The X-Men have to stop another powerful mutant from destroying the world.
“Well, at least we can all agree the third one’s always the worst.”
That’s an actual comment Jean Grey makes about film trilogies in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE. Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg have to be trolling us, right?
Apocalypse’s greatest power? You guessed it… Jazz hands!
This isn’t the first bad X-MEN movie. We’ve covered LAST STAND and X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE in this column for good reason, but both of those films were famously beset by issues during production. APOCALYPSE just feels like a movie comprised entirely of nobody trying—a director clearly no longer engaged with a franchise he’s been working in for nearly two decades and a group of talented but bored actors whose performances reach exciting new heights of “contractual obligation.”
In fact, I’m going to make one of the drinking game rules “Take a double shot every time Jennifer Lawrence looks happy to be there” because I’m confident you won’t die of alcohol poisoning.
Bobby’s ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS rhino cosplay was off the hook.
The script is also just as lazy. Leading up to another predictable world-ending, CG-laden showdown with almost zero emotional stakes, nothing about APOCALYPSE feels fresh or interesting. The idea of bringing in younger versions of core characters like Jean Grey, Cyclops and Nightcrawler sounds like a great idea, but the film uses them as background fodder so often that their inclusion seems more like a studio mandate instead of being in service to the story (what little of it there is). And as they keep stuffing more and more in to the movie, further diluting anything that actually does work, you end up with a two and a half hour film that somehow manages to feel both rushed and slow. It’s a sting made even worse by the fact that it follows what were two fairly good movies.
Thank God Hugh Jackman retired because this romantic subplot was about to get Icky.
And I know this is nerdy nitpicking, but as an entry in a long-running franchise, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE has to win some kind of award for worst continuity. It blatantly ignores the ending of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST with Mystique and Wolverine, which is especially impressive since Kinberg wrote both movies. I could also buy that the characters had aged 10 years into the 1970s in the last film, but you’ll need an adamantium ceiling to suspend the amount of disbelief that these characters are now in their mid to late 40s. We met Alex Summers in FIRST CLASS as a 20-something mutant in the early 1960s. Now in the 1980s he shows up to support his little brother who is somehow just starting high school. It’s also cute that Quicksilver is still living at home in his mom’s basement, holding on to Professor X’s calling card he got in the last movie—until you realize that an entire decade has passed and he’s pushing 30. (Although his dad Magneto was 10 years old during World War II and still looks 30 in the 1980s, so who knows what’s in their genes…)
It’s funny because it’s true
The one thing that’s definitely not a nitpick? The fact that the worst part of the film is Apocalypse himself. If you’re going to title the movie after your bad guy, you better make sure he’s not a complete joke. Just try not to laugh every time he monologues about how evil and powerful he is while looking like the scrawny love child of Ivan Ooze and Mr. Freeze from BATMAN AND ROBIN. (It’s been awhile since I’ve read the Age of Apocalypse comics, but I don’t recall the character being shorter than everyone else.) His powers also make no sense—one minute he’s beheading and dusting people with his mind and the next he’s struggling in physical fights with the X-Men—as does his plan.
Apocalypse wants to kill everyone and reset the world in order to rebuild it to his liking. Okay, a little cliche, but makes sense. So he takes control of literally all the nukes on the planet. Again, a solid plan. But then he sends them all in to outer space so he can implement his much more difficult plan of… [checks notes]… having Magneto slowly remove all the metal from within the earth so that it kills everyone? Not only is that a stupid idea, but it makes for an unbelievably dull finale where the villain with unlimited power just sits around kicking up dirt.
Apocalypse and the Four Horsemen… the soon-to-be-destroyed world’s greatest Christian metalcore band.
Poor Oscar Isaac, one of the best actors of his generation, is not only saddled with an awful script, but is also buried underneath an unseemly amount of prosthetics and voice modulation. The only good news is that he’s so unrecognizable that I doubt most people realize that the guy who played Poe Dameron is even in this movie. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the actors who play Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen, who spend most of the time in terrible costumes posing with their leader like some terrible prog rock band. They’re also terrible at their jobs as henchmen/women. (SPOILER ALERT: The guy who can fly dies in a plane crash.)
A reminder that Jubilee technically is in this movie too.
Luckily, X-MEN: APOCALYPSE does have two saving graces that keep you from leaving the film completely unsatisfied. One is Quicksilver’s obligatory slow motion rescue, where he saves everyone in the X-Mansion from a fiery death, which is at least fun on a visual level. And the other is a welcome cameo by Hugh Jackman, who finally gets to let out the pure rage side of Logan as Weapon X, no matter how brief (and confusing to the timeline) his appearance may be. Both sequences are completely extraneous to the plot, but you take what positives you can get with this movie.
And, hey, at least it gave us this.
None, but Olivia Munn does wear a very Rob Liefeld-esque costume as Psylocke.
Count down the days until the MCU X-Men! Until then, buy this movie here!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- Exposition is said onscreen
- Apocalypse mentions children, false gods, idols, etc.
- Something confusing or out of continuity happens
- There’s a flashback or reference to a much better movie
- Apocalypse is “leeeaaarrrrning”
Double shot if:
- Jennifer Lawrence actually looks happy to be there
Thanks to Randall and JTR for suggesting this week’s movie!
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.