Superhero Roundtable Discussions is a series on GamingIlluminaughty.com where writers will come together to discuss superhero/comic book movies. Today’s discussion will be on Fox’s, and Bryan Singer’s, most recent entry into the X-Men film franchise, X-Men: Apocalypse. This discussion is going to be full of spoilers.
*Before you read any further, know that we SPOIL THE HELL OUTTA THIS FILM*
Austin Manchester: 2016 has been a golden year for superhero movies. Deadpool was damn-near perfect, Batman v Superman saw the two most famous superheroes on screen together for the first time, and Captain America: Civil War was the epitome of all that Marvel has been building for the past eight years. X-Men: Apocalypse arrived this past weekend and critics have given it a resounding “meh.”
The film is a mediocre, run-of-the-mill superhero story that lacks new ideas. I’ll start with my main criticism of the film and that is that the film just had way too many characters and struggled the juggle them all. The best part of these new X-Men films—the relationship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr —was put on the backburner as a new generation of X-Men took over. The new characters introduced in this overstuffed film include Jean Grey, Scott Summers, Storm, Nightcrawler, Angel, Psylocke, and Jubilee (did she have any speaking lines? I can’t remember). Quicksilver, introduced in Days of Future Past, also joins the team. With all of these new characters, in addition to franchise stalwarts Xavier, Lehnsherr, Raven, and Hank McCoy, each character gets little screen time and even less character development. Their arcs are rushed and some are just in the film for the sake of being in it (Angel and Psylocke were thrown in there just so Apocalypse could have his Four Horsemen). This leaves the film lacking in having a clear protagonist—is it Scott, who seems like he’ll assume his role of leading the team? Jean Grey, who takes over at the end (more on that later)? Charles and/or Erik, who were in First Class? Mystique (only because Jennifer Lawrence is the film’s biggest star and Fox wants to force her into a big role, unfortunately)?
Malaiko: My biggest issue with the film would have to be the villain. A hero is only as good as his villain, and in this case they’re not very good at all. One of Marvel’s most powerful comic-book villains is reduced to a generic one-note villain blabbering on about how he needs to reshape the world in his image because humans have been worshipping false Gods and he’s the one and only one they should worship/respect/fear. His clusterfuck plan in the film seems to change every other scene seeing as how early on it was about destroying the planet and reshaping it in his image and later on in the film all he cared about was transferring his conscience into Professor X’s body for the sake of acquiring his abilities. Speaking of abilities, the movie does a poor job of portraying Apocalypse’s abilities and even more so explaining them. The film went to such lengths to show how overpowered he was that it made it all the more ridiculous the fact that the X-Men managed to defeat him with the Teen Nick versions of Cyclops, Jean, Nightcrawler, Beast, and Mystique.
Manchester: Agreed! Apocalypse really reminded me of Ultron from last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron in the sense that they both come alive, learn about what the world is like (through technology), think that humans are ruining the world and that they need to take over, and then come up with a convoluted plot to destroy the world. Apocalypse was barely given anything to do other than look menacing, I guess? I think he wanted Charles’ body so that he could connect to everybody on the planet and recruit mutants? I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem like that great of a master plan. What I didn’t really understand was why Magneto was manipulating the Earth’s poles. What was the point of that? Did Apocalypse want everyone, humans and mutants, dead? WTF, dude?
Like you, I wish they showed off how powerful Apocalypse was and his abilities. What I gathered from that film, after not being familiar with the comics, is that Apocalypse can control…stuff and turn that stuff into lethal, decapitating dust.
I honestly don’t know how the X-Men defeated him at the end. The movie talked about him like he was some extremely OP, God-like mutant, but he didn’t really demonstrate his power much at all. Can you explain how Jean murdered him? I get the Dark Phoenix thing, but seriously that end scene made no sense. She just…used her willpower to off him? Even though he has a healing factor…and that Logan’s healing factor kept him alive against Jean in X-Men: The Last Stand…damn, these films are confusing AF.
Malaiko: His plot was so stupid, Magneto was basically a puppet this entire movie. One of the most prideful mutants in the franchise reduced to Apocalypse’s errand boy. Like, seriously? Furthermore, his Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were a complete joke. Archangel did absolutely nothing, he was just flying around looking like an idiot. Magneto was just moping around the entire time like Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Storm was so underpowered in the film it was ridiculous. She controls Mother Nature, she controls the elements, and she couldn’t even take out one of the X-Men. Seriously? In fact, had it not been for Psylocke (the only Horsemen who actually kicked ass) she would have died facing Beast.
Don’t get me started on Jean—how she beat Apocalypse was absolutely ridiculous. She did nothing the entire fight and all of a sudden Charles tells her, “Unleash your power, Jean” and she’s like, “I got you, fam” and she magically summons the powers of the Dark Phoenix, a power she didn’t even understand (and neither did Professor X, who tried to help her earlier in the film) nor could she control but for the sake of the plot she was able to unleash it with no difficulty whatsoever and kill a mutant so strong he had completely annihilated an entire city 20 minutes prior to that. It simply made no sense.
Manchester: That final fight with Jean vs. Apocalypse really doesn’t make any sense. The whole battle-inside-their-minds shit didn’t make a lot of sense either. As a moviegoer with rudimental knowledge of the source material (I grew up on the animated series but don’t anything about the X-Men outside of that and these films), I was definitely kind of lost as to why Jean Grey could overpower Apocalypse and seems like you were too and you have much more of a knowledge of these characters than I do. Something these films have not done a good job of explaining, at all, is the Dark Phoenix power inside Jean Grey. I can only imagine what audience members with no knowledge of the source material were thinking.
As for the other X-Men fighting, the actions scenes were lackluster and the Horsemen were pretty wimpy outside of Psylocke. I’m glad you mentioned how they made Magneto a puppet in this film because they really wasted one of my favorite characters in all of comic book movies. Erik Lehnsherr is one of, if not the most well-developed and written character in all of these superhero movies and for this film the screenwriters didn’t use him to his fullest potential. Wasted opportunity, honestly. I loved the scenes with him and his family in Poland, but I feel like that development is thrown out the window when Apocalypse shows up and is like, “Come with me” and Erik’s just like, “Sure, bro.” I wanted more from his character.
Malaiko: They did a horrific job explaining the Dark Phoenix side of Jean’s powers, in fact they didn’t explain it at all! I guess their goal was to set up how powerful she is/is going to become but with no explanation. I doubt the average moviegoer unfamiliar with these characters will understand what happened in that moment.
Magneto was absolutely wasted in this film and so was the Wolverine cameo, in my opinion. Obviously Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine had been the central character in all of Fox’s X-Men films with the exception of First Class and here we find him prisoner of Colonel Striker in what amounted to one of the most forced cameos I’ve ever seen in a superhero film. His appearance in the film contributes absolutely nothing to the plot and his interaction with some of the other mutants (apart from Jean), who he unknowingly helps “rescue,” was pointless. I love Wolverine and if they were going to put him in the film they should have found a way to insert him in a way that didn’t detract from the overall story of the film. The cameo scene wreaked of post-production interference from the big bosses at the studio and his cameo was wasted and to me it was one of this movies biggest sins.
Manchester: Yeah, while seeing Logan go all berserker on some poor shmucks was pretty cool, like you said the scene did absolutely nothing for the film! Those characters really didn’t need to get captured anyway because them being captured didn’t serve the plot at all and only bogged it down. Definitely interrupted the pacing.
I feel like we’re shitting on the film a little more than it deserves though. This is not a terrible film, but it is probably more forgettable than other superhero films. No scene really stuck out to me as being overly great or memorable other than the scene when Erik loses his family. However, these is still some good here. The acting is strong all around, the CGI is well produced, I like the new mutants, especially Nightcrawler and Jean, and the theme of mutants not being accepted is good, although I think it may be getting a little redundant at this point. Honestly, I feel like 2014’s Days of Future Past set the bar so high for this franchise that I was just left a little disappointed by the final product here. Maybe once I view it again I’ll like it more. It was still an enjoyable film, about on par with Batman v Superman for me. Take that for what you will.
Malaiko: I feel like as fans our expectations as well as our standards are higher than the average viewer. To me this movie fell flat most of the time although it did have some good points such as like you said the Wolverine cameo, because who doesn’t like Wolverine kicking ass, as well as Psylocke. Olivia Munn kicked ass as the character and given a better script and more screen time to really flesh out the character I feel like she could be one of the more interesting new characters in the franchise. The Quicksilver scene at the X-Mansion was also pretty damn cool and he definitely stole the show once again this second time around, each scene just making us want to see more of him in the films, which hopefully they will do in the future.
Overall I think this new cast is talented and with the right direction they could turn this ship in the right direction. For now we’ll have to turn our eyes to Wolverine 3, which will be rated R, promising plenty of berserker rage Wolverine in action-packed fight scenes
Manchester: For sure! I think Sophie Turner and Evan Peters are the only two semi-famous actors in this next line-up of X-Men (not counting Jennifer Lawrence, because who the hell knows what Mystique will be up to next) so I’m looking forward to see these new, young actors really get the time to flesh out their roles.
The Wolverine is one of my favorite films in the X-Men franchise and I’ve been eagerly looking forward to Logan’s next solo outing, especially because Patrick Stewart will be along for the ride. The end-credits scene hints to Mr. Sinister being the villain for that or Wolverine’s next movie, right?
Malaiko: Yes the end-credits scene does hint at Mr. Sinister, but whether or not he’ll be the villain in the next X-Men film or Wolverine 3 is too early to tell. Reports have said that Wolverine will face off against Weapon X and The Reavers in his last outing as the character so my hunch is for him being the main villain in Wolverine 3.
Manchester: I’ve heard that director Bryan Singer wants to do an X-Men film in space and that producer Simon Kinberg is thinking of redoing The Dark Phoenix Saga (which could make sense after the end of Apocalypse), so they may have been randomly teasing Sinister for a future film, either a main X-Men film or even the Deadpool sequel.
Regardless, the next film in the franchise will be Wolverine’s next film. After that we have Deadpool 2 (can’t come soon enough), a Gambit movie (why???), and a sequel to Apocalypse. What are you looking forward the most?
Malaiko: I would have to say I’m looking forward to Deadpool 2 the most. The first one was one of the best superhero films in years, so a sequel I’m definitely looking forward to it.
I’m also looking forward to seeing how Hugh Jackman will end his run as Wolverine. Hopefully they do the character justice.
Manchester: I’d have to say I’m looking forward to Deadpool 2 the most as well because the first one was just so damn good and with the sequel they’ll have a bigger budget, allowing them to do more.
Overall, even after the average X-Men: Apocalypse, I’m really looking forward to the future of this franchise as it is rich with characters to flesh out on the big screen and full of stories to tell.
And that concludes this Superhero Roundtable Discussion! Be on the lookout for more and if you have any suggestions for topics, make sure to drop a comment below! We thank you for reading!
What did you think of X-Men: Apocalypse? Leave a comment!