X-Men: Apocalypse opened to a very sluggish weekend, and looks to be somewhat of a disappointment for the franchise thus far. This is surely a surprise for many, mostly because the same creative crew has been involved basically from the beginning.
Indeed, the X-films seemed to have been improving with each chapter. But this time, perhaps not so much.
The fact is it's not a bad film. Comic book fans and even long time fans of the movie franchise, should be happy. X-Men: Apocalypse delivers favorite characters like Mystique, Professor X and Magneto in very recognizable fashion.
Each one is in the right place in terms of natural character progression, and each actor is in their element. Michael Fassbender in particular explores the full range of Magneto, and the pivotal moment in which he decides to come back as a villain is heartbreaking.
Kodi Smit-McPhee was the perfect choice for Nightcrawler, and brings some much needed light to the film. The same can absolutely be said of Evan Peters, who once again steals the show as Quicksilver.
But the way all of these characters interact with each other is vastly important, and that is the backbone of the story. Seeing them all together on screen is visually satisfying, and it does feel as though a real team is functioning toward the greater good.
This has the feel of an epic movie, and the franchise deserves no less.
But that epic scale is perhaps part of the problem with XMA. The movie must be massive in scope, and the events must be earth shattering; this is what the overall narrative has demanded from day one. Yes it's necessary, but at times it's a bit overwhelming.
The basic premise behind the X-Men has always been the friendship between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr. Their fundamentally different points of view lead to conflict, and that conflict leads to chaos. The more chaos, the more likely it is that the very simple story behind it all becomes lost.
From a logical standpoint, there is no good reason why Magneto should not be on the same page as Professor X. They are different characters with different mind-sets, but more often than not, they usually end up fighting together. Their inevitable split happens all the time, but they always end up coming back together.
So why is Magneto leaving the team once again at the end of this movie?
Magneto's protegee Mystique is once again a major character, and Jennifer Lawrence does a good job acting as the unlikely role model to Xavier's new class. The kids look up to her, and she becomes the link between the two sides.
But Lawrence's public statements that she would not be returning are perhaps looming over this film, as she spends the bulk of her time out of make-up. The first time she's seen in the movie, the camera pans up her very revealing dress, in a moment that just felt out of place. Was all of this a direct result of her comments, and was it done in an effort to make her happy?
But it's the fourth top character in the film that has everyone talking.
Oscar Isaac is a great actor, and he shows his skills in this film as Apocalypse. He is a villain of epic proportions, though his vision of a mutant utopia puts him in the same vein as Magneto. Apocalypse believes he is the shepherd leading his flock to reign over the world, but in the end he discards the Four Horsemen as they either betray or fail him.
However though he did an admirable job, Isaac is perhaps miscast here. Apocalypse is portrayed as more of a smooth talking cult leader instead of an unmerciful all-powerful destroyer. He's selling snake oil to characters that have seen what happens when the world is targeted by their kind, yet they blindly follow him anyway.
Much of a comic book movie's success depends on how the main antagonist is received, and Apocalypse's reception is definitely a concern.
A true highlight of the movie is Hugh Jackman of course. Wolverine is back once again, and though he doesn't speak a word, he really doesn't need to. The berserker killing spree and Weapon-X gear do all the talking for him. He is the most popular X-Man, and his presence may have been short but it was necessary here.
The fact is that X-Men fans deserve a truly epic film. The franchise itself has been engineered to deliver that very epic film. X-Men: Apocalypse is very close to being the epic that should satisfy on every level, but there is just too much about it that feels off.
It does not have the expertly woven storyline and plot points that Captain America: Civil War has. It also does not have the mindless fun that Deadpool has. This should have been a great chapter in the X-Men story, and the perfect third Marvel tale that bookends both Cap and Deadpool.
But it ultimately falls short. Time will tell if Doctor Strange will be a major hit when it debuts on November 4. Of course if it is, then the discussion could once again go back to Marvel Studios versus everyone else. That company has found the secret to making stellar comic book films, while the rest of the industry is playing catch-up. The same could very well be said of the X-Men franchise itself.