“X-Men: Apocalypse” brought high expectations after the reboot that “X-Men: Days of Future Past” produced, in terms of rejigging the Fox timeline. Fans hoped this would result in an attempt at fixing continuity into something that resembled the comics. Bryan Singer’s movie didn’t fully achieve these ambitions (yet again) and ended up being something we just had to accept without explanation so that the franchise would proceed, especially with the revamped history of characters like Cyclops, Jean Grey and Nightcrawler.
It felt like he was rehashing the mistakes of his first two “X-Men” movies, but with new faces, and a similar insensitivity to the source material. While there was an extensive array of mutants on display, they didn’t feel like a true ensemble in a script that was all style over substance. As such, CBR decided to look at 15 reasons why “Apocalypse” was the worst X-Men movie ever!
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for Fox’s “X-Men” movies
15. UNDERWHELMING FINALE
Most X-Men films prior, even “X-Men: The Last Stand,” had a bit of spectacle in its final battle, but watching Apocalypse and his Horsemen tackle Xavier’s roster here was so terribly done and such a rushed ending. The fight scenes between Psylocke and Beast were poorly choreographed, the lightning strikes that Storm threw to counter Cyclops’ optic blasts felt like Saturday night SyFy flicks, and when Magneto and Jean Grey subdued Apocalypse, the CGI faltered badly. The same could be said for when Angel and Nightcrawler tussled.
The SFX throughout this movie felt like a cheap gimmick, and the finale was the biggest letdown. We may have been spoiled by movies such as “300,” “Man of Steel,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Captain America: Civil War,” as well as the bulk of Marvel Studios’ output, but this climax lacked any sort of intimidation factor, especially when Xavier and Apocalypse battled on the astral plane. For a big studio such as Fox, they fell way short of an Apocalypse war, which we’ve seen done better in the “X-Men” cartoons from the ’90s and 2000s.
14. TOO MUCH TEEN DRAMA
A lot of this movie felt like a teen drama, taking away from the end of days essence at hand. These were two contrasting tones that didn’t mix. That ’80s teenybopper feel didn’t mesh well with the bleak picture that Apocalypse was painting when assembling his Horsemen. Xavier’s charges, as per that cheesy mall scene, didn’t connect. Their bumbling friendships, as well as romances, didn’t seem to fit as the director couldn’t even get them down as a believable strike squad. Quicksilver’s daddy issues typified this, as Singer treated serious arcs like jokes.
If these were executed with a bit more seriousness, they would have resonated more, but “Apocalypse” had way too much levity embedded. This character-building should have been done with “X-Men: First Class” with the right characters, but instead, that particular story of Xavier’s prized squad is chucked in here with the rise of En Sabah Nur, making things as convoluted as “BvS.” Singer wanted to go old school, but this wasn’t the place, time or villain for it, as it detracted from the genocide Apocalypse was bringing.
13. A REDEEMED MAGNETO… YET AGAIN
How many times are we going to see Erik Lensherr oscillate between being a hero and villain? Matthew Vaughn kickstarted this with Michael Fassbender’s character in “First Class,” and quite frankly, it’s getting old and highly played out. In that film, he went from hero to villain, in “Days of Future Past” we saw his younger self as a villain and older self as a hero, and now, he goes from a Logan-like peacetime to once more, giving into the darkness as a Horseman. By the movie’s end, he’s impaling Apocalypse with metal objects and redeeming himself to Xavier.
Not even the comics flip the switch that much. We’re not sure why Fox can’t just pick the villainous path for himelf because it’s what he’s best known for with his Brotherhood. There are only so many second chances one can get, and this kind of storytelling makes James McAvoy’s Xavier also come off as repetitive and gullible. In the books, Magneto is still a hero, so hopefully Fox designates this role to him from now on, because it’s complicated tracking what the character’s philosophies are.
12. BOTCHED NIGHTCRAWLER’S HERITAGE… YET AGAIN
It was saddening that “X2” didn’t touch on Nightcrawler’s heritage being linked to Mystique, as she’s his mother (in the comics, anyway). This was a big part of the comics, as well as the cartoons, so to see it not even glossed over was a major issue for fans of the German teleporter. When we saw that Singer was taking this movie back to the past, many hoped that Fox would finally tie him in as Mystique’s blood. It didn’t happen, which was shocking, as Fox were placing such emphasis on Jennifer Lawrence’s character, not to mention they made Quicksilver the child of Magneto.
It would have been very intriguing to see the shape-shifting former femme fatale deal with this topic because her character really needed a new spark, as opposed to being the crutch for Xavier and Magneto’s friendship to limp on. Such hints at Kurt Wagner’s lineage would have also opened room for the blue devil to be tied to a younger Rogue as his foster sister, and perhaps work a family angle like “X-Men: Evolution” did.
11. MADE MYSTIQUE A LEADER
Making Mystique the foster sister of Xavier was a bit of a stretch but it was a retcon we accepted nonetheless. Having her dance back and forth as villain and hero, just like Magneto, however, was so tedious. In “Days of Future Past,” we saw she appeared to be leaning to the more evil side of things, only to be redeemed once more. In “Apocalypse,” she was recruiting to carry out Xavier’s vision when he was toppled by the villain, and she did so in a headmistress-like fashion.
After defeating Apocalypse, the final scene showed her suited up and training the new team of X-Men, officially confirming what she had been throughout the movie: their leader. Why her? She’s never been that role in the source material. Mystique, as per the earlier movies, has always been better as a shape-shifting lackey and manipulator against humans. Now, she’s given a role that Xavier or a young Scott should have been designated, all to capitalize on Jennifer Lawrence’s Hollywood pull. This felt so gratuitous and came off like the studio just wants to rely on Hollywood A-listers.
10. WASTED A SINISTER OPPORTUNITY
The Mister Sinister (a.k.a. Nathaniel Essex, a mad mutant scientist) tease after the credits began rolling in “Apocalypse” hyped us for the next X-Men movie. It showed Essex Corp. gathering Wolverine’s blood after he broke out from Stryker’s experimental lab, and escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. However, he had unleashed his berserker rage just before to help Scott and his young team escape from the Weapon X facility. A key moment was seeing Jean restore some of his memories, indicating some influence in Wolverine’s next solo outing.
It never came because Fox did away with the Wolverine persona in “Logan,” which was the last hurrah for Hugh Jackman, and focused on the humanized aspect of the character. Even with X-23 as his clone in James Mangold’s movie, there still wasn’t room for Sinister and this particular blood-stealing arc to directly tie in. Did they go the Marvel Studios-Thanos route and tease Sinister for way later down the line? This Sinister sequence felt so wasted from Singer because Sinister’s still in limbo as a villain, waiting to wreak havoc like he did in the comics.
9. GRATUITIOUS WOLVERINE CAMEO
The Wolverine cameo, while we enjoyed it, was totally unnecessary. If anything, Fox could have left it out if they knew they were going to unleash him berserker stye in “Logan,” which would have made us appreciate this rabid attack even more. It felt out of place in this PG-13 film as we couldn’t get gory and too violent. The cameo ended up being nothing more than gratuitous, especially as Jean’s restoration of his memories didn’t even factor in Mangold’s movie. It was Singer shoehorning it in to remind us how much Fox hates continuity, and that he gets to keep toying with the characters as he sees fit.
We’re not sure why Wolverine is a go-to cameo for Fox, as seen with his F-bomb in “First Class” when Magneto and Xavier came searching to recruit him. It’s apparent that they see him as a cash cow and because Jackman lures fans to the seats, they want to milk it, but again, it takes away from the substance of the movie. This cameo could have been Sabretooth, Omega Red, Cyber or perhaps another mutant that needed screen time. It could even have been a chance to bring Alpha Flight in an attempt to expand the universe.
8. SCOTT & JEAN FELT BLAND
Scott and Jean’s romance felt like a drama on the CW, and not like the young love coming-of-age story we expected. It was rarely cute because Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Jean (Sophie Turner) never really developed any chemistry on screen to remind us how much of a power couple they were in the comics. It was nice seeing her help him hone his mutant powers at the end, but other than that, there wasn’t much between them.
Maybe future films will hash out their relationship more, but that’s depending on if Jean survives the purported Dark Phoenix reboot that’s dubbed “Supernova” at present. They’re both young talents, especially from what we’ve seen Turner do as Sansa Stark on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” but there’s an intensity that these two need to have in their complex love. Sheridan, since “Mud,” has shown this potential so we’re hoping their next outing maximizes this promise because they need to be more meaningful to each other, especially if Cyclops is to be her emotional tether to the light side.
7. NO DEATH TO RAISE THE STAKES
This movie was all about fan service and not service to the characters. This was clear with the Jubilee cameo, which was nothing more than a visual tease. With so many faces packed into this movie though, why didn’t Fox pull the trigger of death? First off, almost everyone except Apocalypse had a heroic thread written, so why didn’t the writers use villains as the Horsemen? Was this supposed to be the mutant “Civil War?” Psylocke and Archangel could have been kept for “X-Force” because they were wasted here.
Even when Apocalypse took Havok out, we didn’t see the death, so we’re left wondering why we didn’t get this kind of emotional loss on screen? “The Last Stand” overdid it by killing Xavier and Cyclops, and “Days of Future Past” decided to take out the lesser-knowns such as Warpath and Blink as if they were fodder. Is it that Fox were too scared and wanted to preserve the sanctity of mutant life? This would have been a great lesson, if it were Magneto or Mystique, to teach the youngsters about loss and war.
6. APOCALPYSE WASN’T INTIMIDATING
Apocalypse has been portrayed with such a powerful and regal presence in books and the cartoons. He’s truly a dominating villain, an alpha-class mutant, and that’s to be expected given his belief that he’s the first mutant in existence. Here, Fox lost the essence of the character, as he pandered and came off like a door-to-door salesman. In the lore, he’s such a badass, but here, he’s relegated to a preacher with powers.
Sure, he needs to wax poetic about his doctrines about only the strong surviving, but we were waiting to see him transform his metal exoskeleton into weapons such as blasters and blades. Instead, we had to settle for someone who was manipulating the powers of others, controlling dust, growing in stature, and of course, being a psychic warrior. These are all fine, but at no point did we see the bloodthirsty warrior emerge, who we read about in comics. They went for subtlety as opposed to the intimidation factor, really wasting Oscar Issac’s talent as En Sabah Nur.
5. WASTED X-ROSTER
This movie felt like the studio’s first real attempt at getting “First Class” down right, however they once more showed they couldn’t manage the roster of X-Men at their disposal. Their choices, most of all, disappointed. The Quicksilver-Magneto arc felt so peripheral and it was apparent that if this speedster was cut from the movie, nothing would be missing. His one-scene spectacle is becoming formulaic, so it would have been awesome to see him, or even Nightcrawler, axed in order to bring back Iceman, who was an original member of the team in the comics.
If Fox wanted to use pertinent faces, then they could have used Colossus (syncing up with “Deadpool”), Shadowcat or Rogue as well, to help stabilize continuity. Psylocke being introduced also felt like a character that should have been kept for “X-Force,” a la Rick Remender’s run. Singer has always shown that he can’t nail the roster down right and include the proper faces in Xavier’s squad, and this was another example of a botched cast, typified by having Jubilee around for no reason.
4. WEAK DEPICTIONS OF THE HORSEMEN
The Horsemen also lacked an intimidating aspect to their characters. They had no distinct personality and failed to truly embody their personas as harbingers of war, famine, death and pestilence. Even Magneto felt flat after being taken in as a disciple of Apocalypse. He was supposed to be transformed into something much more menacing (like what was done to Angel and Gambit in the comics), but instead he, as well as the others, got a power-up to become flashier sycophantic versions of Magneto’s Brotherhood.
Angel, Psylocke and Storm didn’t resonate at all and even in battle, while they looked loyal to the books, their power set and the way those powers were used in the field, failed. The C.G.I. and movie’s overall S.F.X. could have added some flair to them, but when this was added, no positive impression was made either. The Horsemen are supposed to be cerebral executioners, but in this case, we got thugs who grunted, scowled and flinched more than anything else.
3. OVERPACKED CAST
Why couldn’t Singer stick to the famous five X-Men and use Apocalypse with his four henchmen? What was the real purpose of Magneto and Mystique in this story, as well as the other unnecessary X-Men Xavier utilized? It should have been Xavier, Cyclops, Jean, Beast and one other mutant trying to bring Angel back from the dark side. Apocalypse should have been also using villains, and not heroes, as his Horsemen, because this just expanded the cast, giving little room for character development (as Storm and Magneto defected to Xavier).
A smaller cast makes for a better movie, as seen with “Logan,” and having the likes of Quicksilver and Nightcrawler thrown in added way too many faces in. Fox should have streamlined and picked relevant faces, but here, as seen with Caliban and Jubilee added in too, they just wanted to pack more and more mutants in. None of these additional faces did anything pivotal to the plot, so why couldn’t the roster be restricted to enhance the story? Fox can’t seem to get this right at all, as they love big casts and weak character studies.
2. THE PHOENIX FORCE COP-OUT!
Apocalypse proved too strong for the X-Men, including Magneto and Storm, who turned from being his Horsemen into his opposition. Psylocke and Angel were not in sight at the end, so it was left to this new mutant alliance to stop him. They struggled, until Jean unleashed her powers with the Phoenix Force that was apparently awakening. This helped destroy the villain, but it showed Fox lacked any creativity or ingenuity on how to kill Apocalypse.
The Phoenix Force felt like such a cop-out because it seems that Singer’s team just wanted to push along a reboot of the Phoenix Saga, or remodel what “X2” did with Jean. The latter led to the Phoenix-oriented “The Last Stand,” however, in “Apocalypse,” this cosmic entity (as per the comics) was a mysterious deus ex machina and part of Jean’s mental breakdowns. She displayed no previous indications of the Phoenix, so this curveball came out of nowhere. It will be interesting to see how Fox jumpstarts the Phoenix so early, and if they build “X-Men’s” cosmic world around it, such as the Shi’ar Empire.
1. REPEATING THE TRINITY
Fox’s mutant trinity has officially gotten stale. Since “First Class,” they insist on shoving the Xavier-Magneto-Mystique dynamic down fans’ throats. It’s clear the latter two are there as anti-heroes, so why not use Emma Frost instead like the comics did? That would really liven up Xavier’s school, especially with Scott and Jean present. The star power of McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence surely factors in at the box office, but their relationships have run their course on screen.
If it’s one hero that’s needed for future X-Men stories, though, it’s Xavier. We’ve had enough of Magneto and Mystique struggling with whether they’re a hero or a villain, so if the franchise is to freshen up for modern audiences, these old threads of family need to be snipped. It has gotten so repetitive as Xavier always ends up trying to show them both the light when they feel oppressed. They’ll both continuously test him, but he needs to move on so that his students can as well. The franchise needs something bigger and better than these three to carry on.
Thought on our picks? Let us know in the comments what failed for you in “X-Men: Apocalypse!”