Take Bryan Singer, the director who brought us X-Men, X2, and X-Men: Days of Future Past, the three films largely regarded as the best three films in the X-Men movie franchise to date, add a cast which includes several Oscar and Golden Globe winning actors and so many nominations amongst them you would be silly to even bother trying to wave sticks, and finally mix in some veteran special effects studios that have worked on some visually groundbreaking action films, including some of Marvel’s best films, and apparently you get an incredibly amateurish, ridiculous bit of cinematic garbage. This is one of those recipes in which too many good ingredients make a product which ends up being really foul .
There are a few pleasant things to say about X-Men: Apocalypse. Kodi Smit-McPhee’s turn as Kurt Wagner a.k.a. Nightcrawler is wonderful. The character is written well, and Smit-McPhee runs with that good characterization and nails Nightcrawler’s naive charm and good heart which makes him such a fan favorite. Michael Fassbender also turns in yet another good performance as Magneto, though I don’t feel the writing for the character was that great in this case, but more on that later. This is the first time that Xavier’s School for Gifted Students really seems like a school and not just an opulent building with kids in it that gets blown up, and seeing it in that light, the light that it should have been all along, really shows what opportunities have been missed in all of the earlier films. Finally, Evan Peters is wonderful once again as Quicksilver, and even though I felt his showcase scene here is really just a rip off of his scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past in an attempt to get some cheap goodwill, I can’t deny that Peters really is a lot of fun to watch.
That’s about it for the good.
As for the rest, we have a poorly written movie with half-assed performances and even more half-assed special effects work. Kinberg, the main writer for the screenplay, gives us a script that doesn’t understand its source material, clumsily rams characters’ motivations into the script unless motivations are just glossed over completely, has completely unmemorable dialogue, characters that don’t seem to serve any purpose to the story at all, and uneven pacing. Singer doesn’t obviously help any of this with his directing or story work, either, or at least if he did, I have to wonder how this script could have been green lit at all.
The special effects work in the film, particularly the really effects intensive scenes toward the climax of X-Men: Apocalypse, are so sloppily done that they are nearly unforgivable. Perhaps the visual artists were trying for a unique style, but what ended up happening was visual effects that are distracting with just how unrealistic and obviously added in they were. Some bits like Angel’s wings and Nightcrawler’s “bamfs” were well done, but anything done on a larger scale looks like something that would have called attention to itself even 10 years ago, let alone in a modern film.
The acting in this film, other than the handful of performances mentioned above, is either phoned in or amateurish. Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, in particular, stands out as she glassy eyed monotones her way through all her scenes refusing to put on the blue makeup and body suit which is the trademark of her character. It doesn’t help that the writers are doing everything they can to make Mystique, a semi-regular villain in the comics, into a main character despite the fact that doing so makes no sense whatsoever even when you just take the movie universe into account. James McAvoy isn’t given enough to do here, and when he does get a chance to show off, he blows the opportunities. Oscar Isaac is miscast as the titular villain, and while there is nothing particularly wrong with his performance, it simply is a character that doesn’t suit him in the first place. Finally, the rest of the actors, particularly Olivia Munn as Psyloche, give their all, but with really bad direction and end up just looking terribly hammy especially with the wooden performances of the veterans.
The X-Men franchise is one of widely varying qualities. The best of those films to date had been directed by Singer, but his streak has unfortunately come to an end. Right now I’m not sure whether I’m rooting for the next film to right the franchise’s course, or if I want more failures so Fox will give Marvel back their characters to do not just properly, but perfectly.
Rating: 3.0 out of 10