It’s hard to believe that we are now nine films into the X-Men franchise, which kicked off in 2000 with X-Men and was the catalyst for the “serious” superhero films we know today. Although Blade came out two years earlier, it never had quite the commercial success of the original X movie – which brought in almost $300 million worldwide. That number now seems like a drop in the bucket compared to the billion dollar films that rule the box office today. 2014’s Days of Future Past brought in nearly $750 million – a number that this third entry into the decade-hopping prequels surely aims to best.
Like its predecessors, Apocalypse jumps forward 10 years – this time taking place in 1983 (First Class was set largely around the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and Days of Future Past took place in 1973). Charles Xavier’s (James McAvoy) School For Gifted Youngsters is much more established, and thriving with new students. It is here we are introduced to fan favorites Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) and Jubilee (Lana Condor). Charles and Hank (Nicholas Hoult) run the school, while Erik (Michael Fassbender) tries to live a normal life under a new identity with his wife and daughter. Meanwhile Raven is trying to free Angel (Ben Hardy) and Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee) from an underground mutant flight club in East Berlin.
The film opens in Ancient Egypt, where we eventually learn the first mutant En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac) is worshiped as a god. In all of his incarnations he is joined by his “four horsemen,” who protect him from a betrayal by his followers in this specific flashback. He is protected and preserved there, until awoken by a series of events influenced by Moira Mactaggert (Rose Byrne), who is working there as a CIA operative. After his awakening into the modern world, En Sabah Nur (who will become known as Apocalypse) recruits his new horsemen: Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Angel – and eventually Erik after he suffers an emotional loss. It is up to the new team of young X-Men, aided by Raven (Mystique), to stop Apocalypse from cleansing Earth from humanity and rebuilding with only his mutant followers.
The film is a lot of fun, as learn the origins of the team of heroes we know and love from the comics and the first X-Men films. We get to see Scott and Jean’s first interactions, a young Nightcrawler (who was a fan favorite from X-2), and of course more of Charles and Erik. The latter relationship is one of the most interesting throughout all of the films, not to mention the comic lore. These two “enemies” who were once friends have very different opinions on how mutants should interact with humanity. It is their personal struggles, portrayed through the magnificent acting of McAvoy and Fassbender, which are truly the most interesting to watch on-screen.
Fear not, Quicksilver (Evan Peters) has another incredible slow-motion scene due to the amazing reception of the one from Days of Future Past. This time the sequence is much longer, and a lot more intricate. Although visually stunning, and filled with many laughs, it does come off feeling a bit too long at times. But ultimately it is one of the most fun parts of the film.
X-Men: Apocalypse is a entertaining summer blockbuster, which has the unfortunate timing of being released within a month of not only an incredible superhero film – but just a downright incredible film in Captain America: Civil War. Even with a few weeks time between their releases, it is nearly impossible not to compare the two. And that is where this film will ultimately struggle. Had it been released in February, or March – especially against the lackluster reception of Batman v Superman, Apocalypse might be hailed as the next fun installment in the popular X-Men franchise. Unfortunately, the reality is that it will now only be lost among the cries of “Marvel did it better.”
X-Men: Apocalypse gets a B.