X-Men Apocalypse sets the viewer up for an impossible task–think of the X-Men 92’, without comparing it to the movie you’re currently watching. The movie teems with old-school shout outs to the cartoon we all know and love. From the semi-inclusion of Jubilee to Apocalypse and Weapon X, X-Men Apocalypse is Fox’s first real step towards bringing the cartoon version of the X-Men to life. And while the movie is entertaining, I could help but spend most of time thinking about a movie that didn’t exist.
Let’s Talk About Apocalypse
Let’s start with the elephant in the room of any X-Men review; Apocalypse. Does he look like the Apocalypse from X-Men ’92? No. In fact, if he did, he wouldn’t fit in the universe that Fox has created from the multiple X-Men stories that we’ve seen in the past 10 years. His look fits the aesthetics the movie presents, however my biggest gripe against the movie version of Apocalypse is that he never comes across as this menacing terror. Unlike the Apocalypse that we remember from the cartoon, he’s just another bad guy the team must defeat–Not the ‘God’ that required all the X-Men, Cable and handful of other mutants to defeat over the course of multiple Saturday mornings. The movie presents him as the first mutant; A being with powers unknown, but you never see truly witness these powers. Throughout most of the movie, his eyes change colors and then “the magic” happens. Hell, if you were to ask me what his main powers are I would say unlocking the hidden powers of other mutants. He’s not a telepath, nor a physical juggernaut; he just is. What I miss the most; the voice. Oscar Issac does a great job portraying Apocalypse, but his voice lacks the ferocity to match the character. There are moments where the voice effects kick in and it pays off, however those moments are few and far between.
Still Trouble Balancing A Diverse Cast of Characters
X-Men directors have yet to figure out the formula to juggling a group of diverse characters. Their solution in the beginning was to rotate the team around one character, Wolverine, but that solution didn’t really work as the movies quickly became ‘The Wolverine Show: featuring the X-Men’. Unlike The Avengers, which have only four main superheroes and a rotating cast of super friends, the X-Men roll deep; with a team ranging from 5 – 8 members. Each of those members with a background and relationships that could span multiple movies on their own. As directors attempt to figure out the perfect formula, we’re left having to deal with the results of failed attempts. Apocalypse’s four horsemen are never given time to develop, they just blindly follow Apocalypse because that’s what they need to do. Alexandra Shipp, who’s yet to land a role that will give her some creative freedom, is placed on the sidelines. The same goes for Olivia Munn (Psylocke) and Ben Hardy (Angel). Each of them have great presentation, but we never see their character’s true potential. The movie never gives us time to build a rapport with them, so their shift in loyalty at the end of the movie is devoid of any kind of emotional pay off.
The villains aren’t the only characters who have trouble with the balancing act. The heroes have their own set of problems as Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Mystique, has to fill in as the central figure for the X-Men team, but is only here for a check. I’m not going to go so far as to say Jennifer Lawrence is some terrible actress, but you can tell she wasn’t trying to do more than the bare minimum on screen, and it shows when everyone around her is in an emotional state and she’s standing there like Daria. There are moments when the team needs her to deliver the ‘halftime motivational speech’ and she just phones it in, killing the vibe completely. The movie also fumbles with balancing the cast of young heroes. Jubilee, who I thought was going to be a part of the team, was the movie’s T-Dog. Just hanging around so we know her for the next movie. Cyclops and Havoc’s relationship feels forced, leaving much to be desired during a character’s fateful demise.
A Familiar Story
Outside of the characters, the story doesn’t move outside the realm of the familiar. Similar to a simple Saturday morning cartoon, we’re introduced to a bad guy who is hell bent on destroying the world. X-Men Apocalypse loosely builds on Days of Future Past, which actually proves to be somewhat of a problem. The time traveling adventure of Days of Future Past comes to a confusing intersection when the young X-Men save Weapon-X from Alkali Lake. Why are we visiting a place that has nothing to do with *this* version of the X-Men with a version of Wolverine who, for all we knew, shouldn’t even exist? It’s not so much of a stretch to believe what’s happening on screen, it just feels unnecessary. Like they couldn’t make a movie without Wolverine. Of course there are your usual comic shout outs. Like Scarlett Witch, Magneto understanding that he could shift the world off its axis if he wanted to and the stinger after the credits. But all of those elements couldn’t save the movie from making me wish I was watching the X-Men ’92; costumes and all.
Fox needs to stop playing and use the X-Men 92′ as the foundation for their cinematic universe. I know the idea of playing close to a specific comic universe is frowned upon in some circles, but it’s about time to take a chance. We’ve seen everything there is to offer from this imagining of the X-Men universe. As much as I like Wolverine, it’s time for him to take a back seat to the *team*. Mystique damn sure can’t be the lead team, and so we’re left we a void, making it the perfect time to focus on the team. We’ve seen the success the MCU and Deadpool have had with playing close to the comics, while allowing some freedom of expression. Fox is on the right path the mature tone and atmosphere that it created with the previous X films. Now it’s time for the X-Men to play closer to the television universe and bring us what we’ve all secretly been waiting for, a live adaptation of the cartoon.