X-Men: Apocalypse could in some ways be called X-Men: Remix. A lot of characters we’ve seen before get reintroduced since the timeline was reset in Days of Future Past. Conveniently, this let them recast younger actors for almost every role. There’s also a very odd mix of keeping some character’s backgrounds, or at least pieces of them, but wholly disregarding others.
Ororo as a thief in Egypt, check. Nightcrawler from a circus in Germany, check. But they also have new histories for some characters. Angel was a cage fighter, as was the cameo we got of Blob. Cyclops grew up with his parents. Psylocke seems to be an out and out villain. Caliban shows up, very different from any of his comic book incarnations.
They also draw on the established movie history. There are a lot of flashbacks from First Class, with the tangled relationships between Mystique, Havok, Magneto, Moira, and Professor X. I won’t go as far as you need to see First Class to get all this movie, but I think it would help a lot. Days of Future Past gets referred to frequently. Oddly, while Quicksilver is back, his sister, who should grow up to be the Scarlet Witch, is never even mentioned.
The movie itself has a prologue featuring Apocalypse himself (although I don’t think he’s ever directly referred to by that name) at the height of his power in the Egypt of 3600 BC. Not everyone thinks he should be in charge, and the events then show how he ends up in our era. The transition from that time to the modern day (well, mostly, it’s in the 1980’s) is cleverly done during the opening titles.
Days of Future Past was ten years ago, with Magneto’s attack on Washington, and mutants being revealed to the world. There are a lot more of them than most people realized, living various lives in hiding. Xavier’s school is around and has grown, with a lot of students there. Apocalypse awakening sets the events in motion. Before the main plot kicks off we also see the start of Cyclops/Scott’s story and his first meeting with Jean Grey. They show what Magneto has been up to since Days of Future Past, and they dump more tragedy on him.
Apocalypse learns about the modern world remarkably quickly, and collects what will become his Horsemen: Storm, Psylocke, Angel, and Magneto. Apocalypse’s plan actually does change the world, both in good ways and bad. The initial confrontation between the X-Men and the Horseman is ugly, but Quicksilver shows up just in the nick of time and saves almost everyone, in a scene that compares to his Pentagon fight scene in Days of Future Past. There is one casualty. Then, the school gets attacked by the military improbably quickly, with some prisoners taken. This leads to a sort of glorified cameo by one of the most popular X-characters in either the movies or the comics, and the new team coming together. They also leave a large number of kids out cold on their own on the lawn, but we’ll just ignore that, like the movie did.
The students end up going after Apocalypse when he takes a prisoner to further his own ends. The team that is thrown together is an interesting mix of powers and ages, running from veterans to pretty much learning they had powers five minutes ago. There is a lot of action, as you’d expect, but many of the characters also seem to spend a lot of time watching a major fight without doing anything more than more or less going, “Oh, this is bad.”
Eventually, some allegiances shift, and the good guys win, after another casualty. By the end of the movie, there’s a new status quo, with one of the more famous X-Men set pieces finally showing up. There is, of course, an end credit scene (hey, it’s a Marvel movie, don’t leave when the credits start). This gives a big hint as to who the next villain is going to be.
I thought it was uneven overall. There were some great moments, many of them centered around Quicksilver. It was a good movie that could have been improved with a few minor changes. One character died because someone made a mistake, and the others mostly seemed to react with a shrug and an, “Oh, well.” Some characters that got a lot of build up in the previews and interviews didn’t get to do anything. The action was great, I’ll certainly give them that.
Most screwed over character in the movie (who didn’t die, minor spoiler): Psylocke. Olivia Munn trained hard for the role, I’ve seen the videos. She looked amazing in the costume, which was one of the closest to the comic book version they had. But she largely posed in the background. Her one big fight scene involved her using powers that I’ve never seen in the comics that didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. The ones who got killed got treated badly in my opinion, too.
Most screwed over character not in the movie: I’d say Iceman. Of the five founding X-Men, he’s the only one that didn’t show up at all. That’s a damn shame, because not only do I really like the character, I thought Shawn Ashmore did a good job with him in the earlier movies. I’d also give honorable mention to Scarlet Witch for not showing up even after being seen in Days of Future Past, and so much being made about Magneto’s family. Maybe they were trying to cut down on confusion with the totally different version of Quicksilver from Avengers?
What I liked: It was a fun action movie, and that’s really the most important part. The fights and effects were good, and the plot made sense for the most part. Really, that’s what you need for a good action flick, and they accomplished that. Olivia Munn looked stunning as Psylocke. The Blob’s cameo even had him in what was more or less his comic book costume. The extended cameo by the very popular X-character was done well, and established a bond with another character that one has been linked to a lot in the comics. The bad guys that came over to the good side had decent reasons for doing so. The villain hint at the end was well done. Quicksilver stole the show once, and almost a second time. Stan Lee, of course, popped up, but this time so did his wife.
What I didn’t: There was a lot of standing around. The big event that helped defeat Apocalypse I saw coming a mile away, and they didn’t come up with a good reason for it taking so long to happen. Psylocke didn’t get to do much. The character deaths were largely shrugged off. There were several different chances to do character cameos, especially a hint of the upcoming Gambit film, and they let them slip away. That’s something the Marvel Studios (Avengers) movies handle really well.
I’ll give it a solid 3 out of 5. It was fun with some nice visuals. I’ll go see the next one. I just think it could have been better without a lot of major changes.