Widgets Magazine

Film review: Watching paint dry is more exciting than ‘X-Men Apocalypse’

Initially, I was really excited about “X-Men: Apocalypse.” It seemed to have everything going for it. It was supposed to be the culmination of a critically acclaimed and commercially successful revival of a film franchise with which I had grown up. The writer, director and cast from the previous movies were all returning. And an ...

Review Overview

Stars
Rating

40

Initially, I was really excited about “X-Men: Apocalypse.” It seemed to have everything going for it. It was supposed to be the culmination of a critically acclaimed and commercially successful revival of a film franchise with which I had grown up. The writer, director and cast from the previous movies were all returning. And an immensely talented actor (Oscar Isaac) had been cast to play one of the series’ most iconic villains.

But boy, was I wrong. Despite a top-notch ensemble of Hollywood A-listers (Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Olivia Munn) and a budget enough to bankrupt a small nation, the most intense feeling “X-Men: Apocalypse” ever elicits is “meh.” It’s not a good movie. It’s not a bad movie. It’s just an array of sequential pictures that give the illusion of movement. It is 140 minutes of images projected on a screen. I would say it’s like watching paint dry, but you don’t have to pay 12 bucks to watch paint dry.

The film begins in Ancient Egypt thousands of years ago, when the world’s first and most powerful mutant — Apocalypse (Isaac) — is betrayed by his followers and sealed deep beneath the earth. Until 1983, that is, when he reawakens to wreak havoc on the world and cleanse it of the weak and powerless… eventually.

But first he has to assemble a legion of four horsemen to aid him on his quest. Boring, dull horsemen who have about 10 lines in total. Then, he must take control of the world’s nuclear arsenal — so that he can launch all the missiles into space. He does this, instead of having them rain down on Earth, to start, you know, an apocalypse. During this entire sequence, I kept pondering why Singer and co. took a really cool idea and executed it in the most underwhelming, excruciatingly tedious way possible.

Unlike a lot of modern superhero films, this movie doesn’t feel like an overstuffed mess. It has the exact opposite problem — every moment feels understuffed, empty, waiting to be filled with sequences that one might call “substantial.” There are no intense action scenes, no plot twists, no cool visuals. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the recent Marvel movies, but I was at least expecting the occasional joke. This movie has none. The special effects aren’t even that good — a problem for the X-Men series going as far back to 2011’s “First Class.” But special effects weren’t exactly a big problem in “First Class,” because the entire cast was so charming. By “Apocalypse,” however, everyone just feels dead.

And that is the fundamental problem of the movie. Not a single creative individual involved seems to have actually wanted to make it. Bryan Singer is one of the most visually gifted directors that has ever worked in the comic-book genre, but here he safely settles for the occasional bird’s-eye camera angle. Simon Kinberg has written several strong films before, but the script for this one is just laughably bad. At one point, Mike Fassbender’s Magneto collapses to his knees and screams at the sky, “What do you want from me?” A stupid moment for many reasons, not the least of which being it’s very obvious what we want from Magneto. We want him to go back to charmingly killing Nazis like he was doing two movies ago. And the entire returning cast is completely phoning it in on this one. Except for Evan Peters as Quicksilver. He’s still awesome.

But at least the returning cast is made up of seasoned professionals. Even if they are half-assing it, they are still immensely talented. But I can’t even say that about the new cast. The only reason I could determine for why they cast Tye Sheridan as Cyclops was that the previous Cyclops actor, James Marsden, also had a very punchable face. Literally, the nicest thing I can say about his performance is that I wanted to punch him in the face. Though, admittedly, that’s not entirely Tye Sheridan’s fault. His dialogue fundamentally confuses being cocky and being likable.

“X-Men: Apocalypse” isn’t morally repugnant, per Snyder’s snide “Batman v. Superman.” It doesn’t turn your beloved childhood heroes into amoral serial killers, per Snyder’s snide “Batman v. Superman.” But that doesn’t mean it remotely does justice to any of these characters either. Every line is bland; every emotional beat is unearned.

Were the characters in these films ever really likable? Did I ever actually want to spend two hours watching Cyclops? Or Jean? Or Mystique? Say what you want about Marvel’s film output, but no matter how bad any of their films got, I always left the theater curious what would happen next. After “Apocalypse,” I couldn’t honestly care less about Professor Xavier and his goddamn X-Men.

 

Contact Raymond Maspons at raymondm ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Raymond Maspons

Raymond Maspons is a class of 2017 Film & Media Studies major. He was raised in Miami, but born in Los Angeles. One of his particular interests is the unique and subversive thematic or formal qualities that often appear in genre films. Since elementary school he has spent a significantly large amount of his life watching movies and television, and not doing trivial things like homework.