X-Men: Apocalypse (Plot Spoilers)

X-Men Apocalypse is a 2016 American superhero film starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Issac, and Sophie Turner. It is the ninth installment in the X-Men franchise and is directed by Bryan Singer. X-Men Apocalypse takes place in the alternate reality 1980s created by the previous entry, Days of Future Past. A mutant by the name of En Sabah Nur awakens after thousands of years and, since he is no longer being worshiped as a God, the world must be cleansed and made new again in his image. His henchmen are the Four Horsemen, presumably the basis for the Biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The four people selected in the 1980s are Storm, Angel, Psylocke, and Magneto.Magneto, Professor X’s bipolar BFF/mortal enemy depending on where we are in the movie, was living a peaceful life with his wife and child, hiding out in Poland after attempting to assassinate President Nixon in Days of Future Past. His family are killed, and Magneto decides, of his own will, to join the Horsemen. Pretty much all the characters from First Class with the addition of teenage versions of Nightcrawler, Jean Grey, and Scott Summers, join together to stop Apocalypse from destroying the world.

I was a fan of Days of Future Past. It was a very entertaining and interesting film that managed to undo the entire timeline so things can be made new again while fixing the stupid stuff (basically everything that happened after Singer left the franchise… except for First Class, which was surprisingly awesome). It had emotional depth and character development, something I gushed about constantly in the Civil War review I published yesterday. Apocalypse has none. I connected with nothing on the screen, and even though the fate of the entire world was at stake, I felt nothing. I was honestly bored throughout long periods of this movie. There is a lot of unnecessary exposition that adds nothing to the characters or accomplishes anything for the film in general. There are also several aspects of the film that make no sense from a motivational/emotional/logical standpoint. Why are characters doing this? Why not this? Why feel this way? Why should I care about this?

That last question is the most detrimental flaw of the movie, in my opinion. The world of X-Men first appeared in September 1963, the month of the Birmingham Church Bombing and the height of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Indeed, these characters were created as a direct response to the Civil Rights Movement. The X-Men are superheroes that fight supervillians, yes. More importantly, the mutants fight prejudice against their own kind by the general public. It is a theme that is touched on in every comic or adaptation of those comics. Charles Xavier is a telepathic MLK who wants peace and acceptance. That’s also what Magneto wants, but achieves those goals via force and violence, a la Malcolm X. Right off the bat, with the help of some solid characterization and motivations, these characters should be extremely empathetic to an audience, They were in First Class and Days of Future Past. Here, there is absolutely nothing..

We are introduced to Magneto hiding out in a small remote Polish town with his wife and small child. These two characters are so forgettable I do not remember their names. They are there to die so Magneto can kill the police who accidentally spear them with a bow and arrow, Seriously, they track down Magneto and daughter doesn’t want the cops to take her dad, so she (who can control animals) has a group of birds harass (at no point do they attack, just annoy) the cops, and the wife and kid, who were embracing, get speared by a misfired bow and arrow. Magneto then kills everyone at the factory where he worked because they decided to tell the cops about a wanted terrorist. Seriously, Erik is a straight up terrorist, why wouldn’t the factory workers tip off the cops? Apparently they’re all irredeemable d-bags who must die, because conflict. It makes zero sense. Apocalypse teleports to the factory and, for reasons unexplained, Erik goes with him. Some of the Horsemen are mind controlled. Erik is most definitely not. “I’m angry” is as far as that goes.

Some metrosexual mutant who talks about himself in the third person tells Mystique that Erik is in danger. They never explain how Caliban the Metro Man knows this; his powers are not explained whatsoever, So Mystique goes to the Xavier School, leads Beast on, and begs to go help Erik. Professor X agrees to look for his man crush, but Cerebro ends up being mind hacked somehow by Apocalypse, overloading the Professor and forcing him to telepathically launch the entire world’s nuclear arsenal into space. For a guy who wants to cause the apocalypse, worldwide nuclear disarmament makes no sense. Nuclear holocaust? Perfect logical sense. The whole thing is propped up as this big dramatic deal, but is never brought up again.

Moira McTaggert, Rose Byrne’s competent CIA agent from First Class, reappears here having had her memories of the events of the aforementioned film wiped by Charles. (I must admit, his reason for doing so isn’t very clear in First Class, I’m assuming it’s so Moira can live a normal life.) She reappears in this film. Whereas in First Class Moira was an intelligent, resourceful, skilled and independent woman who connected with Charles on emotional levels which lead to their attraction and love, here she seems a hollow shell of her former self with her character completely neutered. She doesn’t even really advance the plot  She’s hunting Apocalypse for the CIA, but other than a pointless Nancy Drew-esque scene in the beginning, she has no reason to be involved. She’s there to provide flimsy inner-conflict for Charles. In the scene where she is reintroduced to Charles, (who she doesn’t remember ever meeting)  Professor X, one of the most intelligent, well-spoken, cultured human beings in the Marvel Universe, and the second-most powerful psychic in the universe, is reduced to a nervous, stuttering, awkward creep that makes Peter Parker look like Brad Pitt, She is there to provide a love interest to Charles and nothing else. I know I’m spoiling the movie, but I needed examples to illustrate my point. In every good story, the characters and their motivations drive the plot. In a bad or forgettable story like this one, the plot drives the characters and their motivations. This leads to scenes in movies not making a lick of sense or just being plain boring to an audience.

Fox figured out that people enjoyed DOFP, but couldn’t figure out why, which would explain the nonsensical scene where Wolverine shows up for no reason, the film goes full monster-slasher movie for three minutes, Wolverine runs out in the snow, and nothing else happens. It was like a whole other movie, and it was not a kid-friendly sequence in any way. There’s no consequence and it left me scratching my head.

The acting in this film is very good, (for the most part) I must admit. McAvoy, Fassbender, and Turner would be compelling and interesting if it wasn’t for the subpar script. They didn’t have a lot of effective material to work with, but they tried. The two leads emote quite well. That doesn’t mean it was all good on that front, either. Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Issac, and Alexandra Shipp phone it in here like an unlimited talk and text plan. Oscar Issac, an actor brimming with charm, wit, and charisma is a walking piece of cardboard here, Lawrence doesn’t want to be there, and I suspect Shipp is just not all that good of an actress. Isaac and Shipp make their already uninteresting, one-dimensional characters even less interesting, and Lawrence’s lack of enthusiasm (as well as the constantly contradictory actions and emotions of Mystique as a character) turns a once well-rounded, interesting and multidimensional character into… one that isn’t anymore. Olivia Munn is a great and underrated actress who played the most entertaining character on HBO’s The Newsroom, in which all of the characters are pretty entertaining.

Here, Munn has about three lines and no character development. Literally three lines. There’s no character arc whatsoever. She is the most static and flat character I have seen in a film recently. Her job here is to stand there and look sexy. The way Munn and her talents are wasted here make 007 seem like a major proponent of equal treatment for woman. It is clear that Singer or whoever is in charge of that kind of thing did not think highly of Munn at all, and that waste of talent is a real travesty.

X-Men: Apocalypse is not a horrible movie. It is not insulting nor does it nefariously exploit an unsuspecting audience. It is entertaining at brief points, but is mostly simply a snooze. It is a disappointing use of iconic characters that I theoretically should connect with more than those in Civil War. Professor X is a cultured, well-spoken, wheelchair-bound genius, come on! 🙂 Unfortunately, a really bad script with numerous plot holes or things that don’t make any sense period completely derail this movie. Even things that end up making logical sense don’t connect emotionally. As a fan of First Class and DOFP, I’m curious what happened. Studio interference would be my guess. Much like Moira McTaggert, I feel my memories of this bore leaving my mind even as I type this. I just saw this yesterday, so that is saying something. If you want good superhero action, watch Civil War again. If you just want something to see, my mother went to see Jungle Book by herself. I have yet to see it, but from what I’ve heard it’s very very good. In any case, it is bound to be more memorable than this, although that admittedly isn’t setting the bar very high at all.

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