The X-Men franchise isn't really a movie franchise that anyone loves. People acknowledge it and seem to appreciate the things it does right, but it never really gives us anything outstanding. The franchise has been treading on for 16 years now, and it still hasn't delivered anything spectacular. X-Men: Apocalypse had the chance to deliver something unique with some good actors, potentially powerful themes, and the same director who brought the comic book movie to where it is today. Unfortunately, director Bryan Singer and writer Simon Kinberg manage to do absolutely nothing with their heroes and lose them in a brooding and redundant mess of special effects overkill.
I haven't really ever been wholly on board with the X-Men franchise, and with each subsequent movie I become less and less involved with the lore. There are so many timelines and things Bryan Singer has tried erasing (looking at you, X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and the entire story to these movies have become so convoluted that I can barely care to keep up with it. Singer has crammed so many characters into his story that he's lost touch with a good portion of all of them. In addition to having so many characters present in the first place, he's added their past selves as well, and at this point I'm pretty sure he's confused himself and his entire production team. This movie is muddled and jarring at times in its incoherence, as well as its basic squandering of all the characters they have spent 16 years establishing.
So, like any good comic book movie, the story starts in ancient Egypt. Apocalypse is developed, sort of, not really. He's given a very half-baked motive that involves bettering the human race and restarting it, which I can recall seeing in several other, better comic book movies. He really has no deeper motivation other than that, his character is so poorly developed and so surface-level that I have no reason to fear him or see him as tangible human (er, mutant). The problem with a lot of movies like this is that the stakes are raised so high that that's supposed to be enough for the audience to feel a sense of tension or suspense. Apocalyptic events are easy writing tools used to achieve a cheap idea that something is at stake, because it's the entire world, and who can't relate to that? The problem with that, however, is that there's nothing really personal, and the stakes are made so broad that it loses the desired effect in some people. Sure, this is enough for some people, but personally, I feel it's a copout. I don't care if he wants to destroy the world, but give him some better motivation than this. In this age, villains are the most popular part of a movie, and if the villain isn't any good, then a lot of the effect of the movie simply falls flat. A proper villain motivation really does enhance the effect of the movie, and unfortunately, there really isn't anything unique here.
As for the heroes, they are all given these weird restarts that, at the same time, aren't really restarts. I think Kinberg is trying to pick up where these characters left off from Days of Future Past, but none of the preceding events from that movie (or First Class) are really ever acknowledged. They seem to simply be alternate beginnings to these character arcs, new origin stories, and it feels strange. It really shows, too, considering Singer and Kinberg stuff so many new arcs and subplots into this movie that it almost comes off as similar to The Amazing Spiderman 2. This movie is so jumbled in what it's trying to do that I can't even begin to start where the plot is. There are plots about power control, something about everybody hating mutants, something about a Weapon X, and a lot of other things. It's only 144 minutes as well, which isn't nearly enough time to fully develop all of the subplots that this movie is juggling. The script is way too thin to give credence to anything that's occurring and it all comes off as very hallow. The X-Men are reduced to plot devices to segue the story from one action set-piece to the other, and it's kind of sad. These mutants were actually given a better development than most Marvel properties over the years, and Singer is subverting his own creations with this movie.
That's a coherent segue into the special effects and action in this movie, right? Right? Oh, whatever, I don't care. Okay, so there are a lot of people that don't care about story, character, and cohesion when they go see a movie. They just want to embrace a spectacle and have a good time. Well, even this crowd is going to get let down, since the action is actually pretty boring. Sure, there are lots of special effects everywhere and the action scenes are beaten to a pulp with how overloaded they are, but they are boringly filmed and surprisingly static. Filming action is hard, I understand, and when you throw a lot of green screens and CGI into the mix it's even more difficult to film a scene when the actors aren't interacting with anything physical. Bryan Singer seemingly has forgotten how to film this, however, as he enjoys keeping the camera still and likes employing cuts to make the action feel dynamic, or what I like to call, the Taken 3 approach. The action isn't as incoherent and awful as that film's (mainly because it's not shaky or nauseating) but it's not really anything special, either. It's just kind of boring. If you want to go for the sake of spectacle, I guess you'll walk out of the movie satisfied, but that's really the only crowd that will get a lot of enjoyment out of this. The general "summer movie" crowd is sure to be let down by Apocalypse's offerings.
Here's a sentence I really, really didn't want to type: This movie reminds me of last year's Fantastic Four. Christ, what a damning comparison. With how thinly developed the initial incident is, as well as how all of the actors kind of stumble through their performances, and especially the rushed and insulting conclusion, this movie bears far too many similarities to (kind of?) Josh Trank's Fantastic Four. The conclusion consists of a lot of odd, jumbled, and seemingly arbitrary things coming together to suddenly stop Apocalypse and give a rushed ending to this unfortunate movie. It's not well-made, it's not well-paced, and it's not given any care or heart. It's not even middling; it's actually bad. Oh, but you get to learn the origin of Xavier's baldness. You were really itching to know how that happens, weren't you?
In a word, I would describe this movie as "pathetic." The franchise wasn't anything incredible to begin with, but the previous entries in this series were decent enough. They were entertaining and gave you a little something to think about. For once, the heroes weren't elevated above society, and were instead shamed and laughed at for their superhuman abilities. That has been beaten into the ground, however, and it's nothing unique anymore. Now it's just redundant. Singer borrows past glories and just throws them all into this movie, hoping that something will stick to the wall, and unfortunately not much does. Nobody behind or in front of the camera really seems like they're trying here. Everyone seems like they were pressured by Fox to rush out another X-Men movie because it's been two years since one came out, and this was the result. It's a very forgettable and average movie, which is, quite honestly, not how I pictured describing any of these movies at any point of my life. This movie will probably entertain people who are not looking for anything to chew on and who are not very involved with the franchise, but it will almost certainly disappoint everyone else who goes and sees it. Days of Future Past ended on a pretty swell note, and I was hoping that would be the last note for the franchise. Unfortunately, I am stuck with the bad taste of Apocalypse in my mouth, and maybe Fox will kill the franchise before the taste becomes even worse.
Despite everything I've said, you might want to stick around for the post-credits scene. Unlike most Marvel movies where it ends up just being an unfunny joke you waited ten minutes to see, it's a lot more necessary to the plot.