There is a joke in X-Men: Apocalypse where the younger members of the X-Men (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Jubillee and Nightcrawler) go to see Return of the Jedi, as the film is set in 1983. Two of them are arguing about which Star Wars film was better, the original or Empire. Jean says “Well, I guess we can agree that the third one is never as good”. This one joke, likely intended to be a jab at X Men 3: The Last Stand, reflects what was wrong with this film. The main reason that a lot of part threes aren’t as good is because they are wrapping up what happened in the last two films. Luke finds out that Vader is his father and wants to know if it is true. A bunch of other stuff happens and doesn’t really present anything new because they are trying to wrap up the hero’s journey from the other two.
This film has the disadvantage of trying to wrap up the First Class/Days of Future Past/Apocalypse trilogy and trying to connect it with the first X-Men trilogy or at least the X-Men team as fans know it. So, it has a lot to do, which explains why this film seems episodic. It jumps around to a bunch of different storylines just so the characters can come together and fight in the disaster movie-style finale, appropriate for a movie with apocalypse in the title.
After a prologue that explains who Apocalypse is, set in ancient Egypt, the story jumps around between Magneto, Mystique and Charles. Magneto has spent the last ten years or so trying to live a normal life in the woods somewhere until a tragic mutant hate crime sends him back into villain mode. Mystique has seen going around trying to protect mutants, including freeing two of the underused side characters in this film from a club where they are being forced to fight. Because the world saw her blue form on the news during the finale of the last film, she is hiding in her more human form, allowing the filmmakers to put more Jennifer Lawrence looking like Jennifer Lawrence in the film. And Charles is becoming the Professor X that we all know from the more traditional version, save for his hair, which happens later. I won’t spoil how he becomes bald, but its more interesting and more in tune with his character than Lex Luthor going to prison and getting shaved like everyone else in prison in BvS.
We get a more interesting origin story than we’ve ever gotten for Cyclops (I know he got his own comic once, but I didn’t read it yet), but it is brief and he isn’t given much to do afterwards. He meets Jean, connecting him to something that we know about present day Cyclops, but Jean isn’t given much to do either. Same for Nightcrawler, Jubilee, Storm and Angel. I don’t know any more about Psylocke than I knew before I walked into this film. I know that she looks good in her costume and that the pink energy thing is called a ‘psychic knife’. And I only know that from playing Marvel vs. Capcom 2 back in the day. Quicksilver is given a more interesting role and a slow-motion speed scene similar to the one in Days of Future Past that is very funny.
Apocalypse goes around recruiting mutants into his (four mutant?) army, using his powers to enhance theirs until he has four “horsemen” for his obligatory Bible reference. Oscar Issac is good in the role, but (again) not given much to do. In The Force Awakens, he was a side character. Here, he is the main villain, a title character, and should have been more interesting. The X-Men that are on Charles/Mystique’s side find out what is going on and try to stop the end of the world with Mystique (Dark Katniss?) leading the charge. A bunch of stuff is destroyed and there are some cool fan service things, including showing a more heroic side to Professor X than we have seen before. I was a little annoyed that they spoiled the best cameo in this film in the trailers (SNIKT!) but his scene is long enough to be cool and it is the best version of beserker rage that we have seen on film. Although, Colonel Stryker shows up pretty randomly in the middle of the movie with little to no set-up to this cameo other than his being in DOFP.
Basically, X-Men Apocalypse is a bunch of stuff you wanted to see in an X-Men movie with good actors and little to no story to hold it all together. It is the worst X-Men movie directed by Bryan Singer, but not the worst X-Men movie altogether. It is better than X-Men Origins and, as Jean alludes to in the film, better than X-Men 3.
6 out of 10.