For those of you have not seen X-Men Apocalypse and if you're a fan, I have one word: Phoenix. If you're a fan, when you see it, you will get it, if not take a fan and have them explain it to you. If you are reading critics who are negative on this film, chances are pretty good they are not comic book nerds or have not followed even the animated series. For this movie, it's going to be complicated. My wife complains that too often when she goes to these movies, she feels like she's missing something since she didn't follow comics when she was a kid or an adult. She was also not the one who got up and watched shows like Thundercats and X-Men on Saturday with our son. I was the resident nerd and truth be told, I have always loved these things.
So, going to see X-Men Apocalypse for those who haven't followed the series or is a neophyte to the X-Men movies, it's going to have a few gaps for you along with back stories. The other problem is that it is pretty clear that Apocalypse is setting up the franchise for years to come. It seeks to correct the feeble attempt of setting up what is called the Dark Phoenix saga in X-Men III: Last Stand at which X-Men Apocalypse takes a pretty good potshot. The timeline of the film is in the space between the last battle in Days of Future Past and Wolverine waking up at the school at the very end of the movie. (I would like to point out that Stryker being actually Mystique in Days of Future Past at the end of the movie makes no sense and that it still doesn't.)
The other problem a newbie is going to face is that the original Apocalypse story is huge. I think the original storyline ran for something like 50 plus comics. The movie makes all kinds of references to that series, and I have to admit, I had to look some of them up. What this means, to some there may be some holes, but to others, there will be some awesome Easter eggs to discover. I liked the movie, but I am a nerd and have followed X-Men for a long, long time.
If you haven't seen the movie, you may want to leave at this point and come back after you've seen it. There be spoilers here!
SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!! SPOILER ALERT!!
Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), who was once worshiped as a god, is the oldest of mutants. He has gained the ability of transmuting or transferring his consciousness to other mutants. With each change, he gains that mutant's power making him basically indestructible and immortal. Now, he has found Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) who he wants for his ability to enter and control all minds, human and mutants alike. He gathers his four protectors, as he always has. They are Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel (Ben Hardy) Storm (Alexandra Shipp) - yes that Storm- and Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Apocalypse enhances the mutant ability of each. Magneto has a whole new pain and hate to channel because it is in this movie that we learn of the killing of his wife and child.
With the taking of Professor X, the audience sees the rise of the young X-Men. The ones that director Bryan Singer has been promising since First Class. There is an adventure where Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Quicksilver (Evan Peters) and the CIA human Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne), who was the love interest of Professor X in First Class, must all be saved by young X-Men from the evil Colonel Stryker. Of course, in the saving, we get a sampling of Weapon X which was the time that Wolverine was turned into a killing machine. We are given the first X-Men who are Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). By the end of the movie the full team is assembled with the X-Men now joined by Quicksilver and Storm who has realized the error of following Apocalypse. The X-Men are trained by Beast and Mystique but under the watchful protection of Professor X. No, it's not all the X-Men. We still are missing Rogue, Gambit, Iceman and Jubilee, although Jubilee does make a small appearance in the movie. There is also the return of Havoc who is Cyclops' brother.
I do want to take issue with Mystique being an X-Men leader. Mystique has, in the comics, always been sort of nebulas as a character. No one seems to know her age or allegiances. There was even once a story line that she was the mother of Nightcrawler. We all love Jennifer Lawrence but creating all this storyline just so she can appear more in the movies in her latex lack of clothing is kind of getting in the way. I have never been sure why Mystique doesn't wear her trademark white dress from the comics. There is actually only one costume that needs to make its appearance, and that is Wolverine's yellow spandex costume. Mystique is a fun and interesting character. She should not, however, become the lead character.
I also loved the best sequence in the movie which steals the show. Quicksilver's saving of the students at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. It is truly a wonderful scene. There is also the wonder of the costumes that Quicksilver wears especially his tee shirts. When we see the speedster again, he wears a Six Million Dollar Man shirt. In the saving seen he wears a rock tee, emblazoned with RUSH on the front. What a great selection.
A word about Apocalypse: In the comics, Apocalypse is an imposing and fear-inspiring person. While Oscar Isaac is a strongly centered actor, the character just doesn't have quite that awesome visceral reaction. Yes, the movie does talk about Apocalypse's incredible power, but other than his traveling ability, he doesn't come off quite as fearsome in the movie. Overall, though Apocalypse is a great introduction to the story arc which may be happening, given the events at the end of the movie. It's just that he isn't well developed.
X-Men Apocalypse is well done, but may be a bit confusing for the uninitiated. Is it the best X-Men ever? No but it is a long way from the worst. I enjoyed the movie, and it is a good follow-up for Days of Future Past. There are plenty of homages to the comics of the 80s and pop culture in general. The 3-D is probably not worth the extra cost. I look forward to the next one. I will buy the Blu-ray.