I’ve seen 4 Super Hero movies this year, though Deadpool sort of falls into its own category, the other 3 all have the mega conglomeration effect of doom where there’s a shitload of characters and it’s impossible to service all of them simultaneously. Batman Vs Superman had the fewest and somehow still managed to be the worst of the bunch, Captain America and X-Men both have an insane number and battle it out for the “not quite as good as Deadpool” throne. The thing with Captain America films previously is that they only had a small number of characters in them which allowed for a much different, enjoyable experience, but the new Cap is basically just Avengers 2.5, except Chris Evans is in almost every scene this time. Apocalypse has always been a super over the top megavillain so it makes some amount of sense that X-Men would try to have as many characters as humanly possible in there; additionally X-Men just works as a setting for massive numbers of characters to begin with.
So, the question is which film handles the burden better, and the answer is quite easy for me; in X-Men there are quite a few strong character moments for at least half a dozen different characters in the film, maybe more like 8-9; in Captain America there’s only like 3 or 4 even though there’s like 5 times as many characters than that in the film, so while the individual performance of Robert Downey Jr. might be the second best thing in either film (second to the mighty Fassbender, naturally) it doesn’t really make that much of a difference in the long run because there’s just a shitload of dead weight along with him. That’s not to say X-Men doesn’t have its share of weak characters either, but the situations that they’re placed in at least work a little better and it doesn’t feel wholly manufactured. Hell X-Men actually has a fucking villain in it instead of some jackass that runs around behind the scenes because people didn’t like Age of Ultron that much.
Alright so enough of the comparison talk (mostly compensating for absent previous reviews), let’s dig a little deeper into X-Men: Apocalypse itself. The best moments work extremely well, Magneto’s brief family life, another fucking amazing Quicksilver music montage, Wolverine straight murdering a bunch of people; but there is a fair amount of cheesiness to be had as well. Apocalypse is a really great villain for a cartoon and a pretty poor one for a film adaptation, that said I think the movie did a pretty good job of making it work, they even included “Yo this dude gets BIG!” without it being completely absurd. However there’s a lot of James McAvoy sweatily saying stuff to himself, and that kind of only works if Fassbender is involved somehow, since McAvoy is destined to be a pretty good foil for much better actors, beginning with the Last King of Scotland.
As far as the general cast of characters: Cyclops is played by the kid from Mud, Mud is the best theatrically released film from 3 years ago (in the era before Edge of Tomorrow and Mad Max) and a Palme D’or participant from 4 years ago, kid from Mud is a fantastic actor so good shit there. His older brother (?) Havoc is okay, I guess he looks like an edgy 80s cool kid or something? Seemed better than previous performances. Sansa Stark plays Jean Grey and her accent is even more weird this time, she’s not even in the same universe of attractiveness as Famke Janssen so needless to say it doesn’t work very well, apart from being a poor actress (though good for angst and still better than Daenerys). Nicholas Hoult is no longer Nux, sadness; he’s still good as Beast though. Angel is a terrible character in everything and he was vaguely passable in that role here. Nightcrawler seemed to be impersonating previous era Nightcrawler, whatever. Storm was evil for a while, so that was new; just gets way out acted by Oscar Isaac in every scene. Psylocke was around and did action stuffs, good for her. Quicksilver was absolutely great of course and Jennifer Lawrence was alright. Rose Byrne is in this movie, no fucking clue why.
Overall I liked this film a fair amount better than Captain America and it might be the best “Power of Friendship > Super Bad Guy” Superhero movie since Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s far from perfect but it does fit in rather well with the rest of the X-Men universe, which thankfully has always had a somewhat unified vision instead of just an identical template to work from like the rest of Marvel. Can Josh Brolin outdo Oscar Isaac is the question of the future, unfortunately I don’t know as much about Thalnos cartoon/comicwise so it’ll be a tougher performance to judge. I do love me some Brolin though.
Aside: Hugh Jackman has now been in 8 X-Men Movies, though he just had a (great) cameo in First Class, outclassing Robert Downey Jr.’s 6 appearances. Supposedly he’s not coming back but that seems to be a common tune for Super Hero actors. It felt like Christian Bale was Batman for an eternity but it was just 3 movies, and even the atrocious Tobey Maguire only graced our presence for a mere 3 as well.