By Jim Foote
X-Men: Apocalypse is the third in the NEW trilogy, following up First Class and Days of Future Past. What the X-Franchise is good at pulling off is they take a particular time period and or storyline from the comics, turn it on its head, and run with it. They make some changes to fit their existing timeline(s), but nothing sacrilegious.
To keep it short, sweet, and spoiler free since '93 (only a few of you will get that, and you deserve a high five), I'm going to leave out a few things that would otherwise... not necessarily spoil you, but may give you clues along the road to spoiler-ification.
That doesn't happen here.
Each character manages to get decent screen time. And if they get less than another character, there's surely a reason. The alignments and motivations are all there, and while some do get more build up than others, everyone gets their moments. The younger X-Men, Cyclops, Jean, and Nightcrawler, all get their due on the team. They all shine in their own ways. And somehow, all three characters come off better than they did their first time around in the franchise.
Timelines and specific dates are always murky waters within the X-Men franchise. This time, they mastered it. We know it takes place during the fall of 1983. We see a "Now Playing" sign for Return of the Jedi and get two music tracks in Sweet Dreams and Metallica's Kill 'Em All album both were out by Fall of 1983. Furthermore, a certain character is seen doing Michael Jackson's famous Moonwalk, which became popularized on television in... you guessed it... '83. The attention to detail with things like that are what really brings the movie together.
Without going into too much story and working with what was already given with the trailers and promotional material, we know Apocalypse has awoken and come to find the world in a very unacceptable place. He decided his best course of action is to tear it down and "build a better one." He gets his horsemen and goes about his "plan." Again, some of the characters get more lines or time than others, but it all works and makes sense. There's never a point where you forget about one character who's been lost in the shuffle. Everyone's counted for and not in a messy way.
The only real gripe in terms of character time, I do wish Angel/Archangel was in it a bit more, or rather has a larger presence. Instead, it's given to Apocalypse, which let's face it... isn't the worst idea. You can see and feel Apocalypse's disgust at the world and he truly believes he is there to fix it.
The length of the main fight at the end all makes sense. You see why it needs time to develop and eventually resolve itself. We get the fights billed in the trailers you've seen. Beast vs. Psylocke, Nightcrawler vs. Archangel and most of all, Cyclops vs. Storm. My body was ready for that showdown, and it did not disappoint. Some seem to want your typical punch-kick-punch fight that becomes an action spectacle that really has no meaning. This is not that. Everything that happens, happens for a reason. There's a simple cause and effect to every action. Some characters leave differently than they arrived.
Everyone was floored at how amazing Quicksilver's featured scene was in Days of Future Past. It was amazing, I'm right there with ya'. But believe me when I say his scene in Apocalypse outdoes it, easily. I'm not going to try to describe any part of it, because you need to be able to take it in fully. Just watch it. It will amaze you.
Next up, we have Ol' Wolverine himself. It's no secret he makes an appearance. I'm not saying anything about it other than he's used perfectly. Although, the sad thing about it is now we know there's only one more Jackman Wolverine performance left. Do not recast him. Move on. There are so many X-Men characters, you're not tied to one character.
The performances were all solid to great. At times, it DOES look like Jennifer Lawrence just didn't want to be bothered spending that much time in the body paint. They do have a clever way of justifying it, although I wish she spent more time as Mystique and not just Jennifer Lawrence (as hot as she does look in her first get up). McAvoy and Fassbender are once again the pillars they have been throughout the revitalized series. Tye Sheridan gets more material with which to play Scott Summers than James Marsden ever had. The real surprise is Sophie Turner as Jean Grey. She puts in a performance miles... worlds... galaxies better than she ever was as Sansa Stark.
Now, if you'll allow me to go a little more geek on you than usual, there's another thing I wish to touch upon. In the comics, Scott and Jean are arguably the most well known couple of the X-Men. Their love is rarely matched and their wedding was a big event. Sure, as comic storylines go, it all got twisted and fucked eventually, but that's neither here nor there. Point is, in the original X-Men trilogy, you never got a sense of their connection. They were just another couple together because we expected them to be. That's why everyone wanted her to be with Wolverine. There was no reason for the Jean/Scott romance to even exist. It was dry. It was bland. It was... wood. In this movie alone, however, you get a real connection forming between the two that really makes you go, "well they belong together." That's real character progression.
At the beginning of the year, out of Deadpool, BvS, Civil War, and Apocalypse, I was looking forward to this one the most. I wanted my boy Cyclops to be done right and this story to raise the stakes and really lead the franchise forward in a natural but satisfying way. As much as I loved Civil War (I gave it an 8.5 out of 10), Apocalypse is now the standard for favorite comic book movie of the year. I absolutely loved it and urge you to check it out.
Also... stay for the credits. There's an extra scene. Not telling you what. That is all.
I give X-Men: Apocalypse 9 Pissed Off Havocs out of 10.