The mutant franchise went for the grand slam with X-Men: Apocalypse. An all-star cast, massive budget, huge climactic battle, a few Easter eggs, and a ton of fan service. The sensory overload impressed in many scenes but could not distract from what is otherwise a mediocre movie.
The movie interested me with the emergence of the super villain Apocalypse. He is my favorite villain and considered among the top two or three evil characters from the comic books and Saturday morning cartoon. The blue suited super mutant is a transcendent character in that he does not see the world as divided in a human versus mutant conflict, but one of gods versus slaves. Some mutants are more equal than others. His desire is to reshape the world into a new order with him at the top, and a small cadre of powerful super mutants directly beneath him. He also has a distinctive voice, speaking style, and a messianic complex.
Sadly, Bryan Singer and Co. entirely failed in their crafting of Apocalypse. While Oscar Isaac is a great actor, he was weighed down by cliché dialogue and a bad costume. So much so that there is an internet meme mocking the Hollywood costume, comparing it disfavorably to cosplayers at Comic-Con. Some even compare him to the laughable Power Rangers villain Ivan Ooze. Admittedly, this is a superficial criticism but it is usually something Hollywood gets right.
Anyway back to the substance of the character: Isaac’s lines in the movie sound like Imhotep’s in The Mummy. In fact, this movie is not all that different from The Mummy, a B-rated action flick made for younger audiences. No attempt is made to give any nuance to Apocalypse. He is able to recruit his four horsemen henchmen by simply endowing them with power. Apparently none of them have much issue with killing billions. The exchanges are so brief, and sometimes comical, that it might as well have come from a Saturday morning cartoon.
As I watched the amazing displays of power from the blue antichrist, it quickly got to a point where I was like “wait, what? He can do that?” There seem to be no boundaries or limitations whatsoever. While very powerful in the comics and TV, Singer and Co. went overboard and made him omnipotent. The only way to make any real fight out of it was to bring in an even GREATER, more POWERFUL mutant. Bring on the bay-explosions! The climactic battle at the end is a sensory overload and devoid of meaning. Like Batman vs. Superman, it felt more like a kid mashing his action figures together than a real battle. Lights, explosions, multi-colored energy beams and orbs are plentiful.
The appeal of X-Men has never been the raw power; it has been about prejudice, bigotry, fear, and the courage and wisdom to know when not to use power. Professor X creates the school to help mutants adjust to their powers but also to teach them not to use them for personal gain or to subjugate others. This message is lost in the movie’s awesome light show. Forget about plot, dialogue, or character development. You will not get much of it (not that previous X-Men movies had much either).
Okay, so maybe most of the X-Men movies are like that, fine. My point is that the X-Men universe has so many rich themes and dramatic story lines that it is disappointing they decided to go for the lowest common denominator. It could be so much better than Avengers or Justice League.
Fans were excited about Psylocke’s overdue addition to the franchise, but will be severely disappointed. The talented and beautiful Olivia Munn gets three lines in the whole movie. The franchise has always done a good job of not putting its characters in their goofy, bright-colored, spandex costumes from the comic books. Not here. Seeing Psylocke in her sexy purple comic book costume in Auschwitz was just…wrong.
But enough with the bashing; the movie wasn’t terrible. Truth his the visuals, sound, and martial arts are all first rate and younger audiences looking for a summer blockbuster will be satisfied.
So how does X-Men: Apocalypse compare to other comic book movies? I’d say most of the other X-Men movies are better with the exception of The Wolverine and the first X-Men movie. I’d also say Batman, Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America and the Avenger movies are significantly better as well.
There have been over 20 superhero and/or comic book movies in the past fifteen years. Audiences are getting more accustomed to the light shows, big casts, and celebrity cameos. The flashing lights was enough to captivate and impress audiences before but as time passes it will lose its effectiveness. It is a classic case of the law of diminishing returns. We aren’t on the downward swing yet, but I really think we are getting close. In terms of box office receipts, we are seeing more of a plateau and have yet to see a decline. But it’s coming. I believe we are seeing the beginning of a shift in the demands and expectations of movie-goers. In a year or two, they will begin to skip movies that are nothing but special effects and superstar casts. Easter eggs and fan service will also gradually lose their appeal.
To see if I’m right, we’ll need to compare box office receipts and reviews of X-Men: Apocalypse versus the other superhero movies, as well as the movies in its own franchise. Deadpool is the top grossing X-Men movie domestically at $362 million. It definitely wasn’t special effects-driven nor did it have superstars and cameos galore. The second biggest movie in the franchise was X-Men: Last Stand, which raked in $234 million domestically.
My hypothesis is that Apocalypse will barely match its predecessors and may even fall short. To put a number on it, I’d say it will end up in the low $200 million range domestically, which would be a tiny bit more than its $180 million budget. Generally, movies break even if receipts reach double of the production budget. Theaters, distributors, advertising, and other costs subtract from what the production company receives in the end. Apocalypse probably needs to make more than $450 million worldwide to be considered a success, maybe more.
What about customer ratings? What do the people have to say?
Here is a comparison of the top X-Men movies by Rotten Tomatoes has of today (5/29):
- Deadpool: 4.4
- Days Future Past: 4.3
- First Class: 4.0
- Apocalypse: 3.8
- United: 3.7
- The Wolverine: 3.7
- X-Men: 3.7
- Last Stand: 3.6
So far, the customer ratings has it in fourth while it is probably close to sixth or seventh on my list. Still, you can see audiences weren’t blown away. Entertainment sources are also reporting there are several new movies in the pipeline including Gambit (yippee!), Wolverine 3, and something called New Mutants. If I’m right, you will see a gradual decline in ratings and sales with these three.
That’s just this guy’s opinion.
Paulie Spiceflow is a regular contributor, movie reviewer and unbelievable smart ass. He prides himself on his excessive knowledge of movies, TV, books, internet memes, and pop cultural references. During college, he spent minimal hours studying but took full-advantage of the free internet and lack of bills to broaden his knowledge in numerous genres including spoof comedy, fantasy, Shakespeare, military history, zombies, and cartoons.