Comic book fans are an increasingly difficult crowd to please, and with good reason. Every year, we are treated to more and more great adaptations of our favorite characters and storylines on the silver screen. But the real danger lies in the anticipation. Some people can set unrealistic expectations for themselves that not even a perfect movie could ever hope to live up to. For that reason alone, any good movie, from any studio, can be viewed as a disappointment to some.
"X-Men: Apocalypse" is such a movie. After the massive critical and financial success of "X-Men: Days of Future Past," the knowledge that Apocalypse would be the main antagonist of the next movie got every X-Men fan excited. Unfortunately, the follow-through wasn't as strong as everyone hoped. With the dust now settled, it's time to step back and realize that "X-Men: Apocalypse" was actually the best X-Men movie yet. Here are 16 reasons why.
16 WEAPON X
While Hugh Jackman's Wolverine was one of the main characters of "Days of Future Past," he wasn't much of a part of Apocalypse. Relegated to a cameo, his scene was a clear highlight, one that gave comic book fans something they had waited a long time to see: Weapon X. With the iconic metal helmet and belt, Jackman got to cut loose and slice his way through a bevy of soldiers in what was – at the time – the most violent Wolverine scene we had seen.
It was also an added treat to have Cyclops, Nightcrawler and Jean be the ones to set him free, considering they are all characters that have significant relationships with Wolverine; antagonistic, friendly and romantic, respectively. It even set up a special bond between Jean and Logan when she was the one who managed to calm him down and give him a small part of his past, just enough for him to regain his humanity and embark on the path to become the Wolverine we all know.
15 THE PHOENIX
"The Phoenix Saga" is one the most popular X-Men stories ever told. Previous movies had given us a small taste of that storyline, but we never got to see it done proper justice. It only left fans wanting a more accurate portrayal of the Phoenix. With the inclusion of a young Jean Grey in "Apocalypse," we saw her deal with the growing power inside of her, and we got to see her reach a boiling point when the Professor begged Jean to unleash her power on Apocalypse.
Finally, we saw the Phoenix in all its flaming, beautiful and destructive glory. As an introduction, this worked splendidly. It only left us hoping for a sequel where we could see the full story of the Phoenix and Jean adapted to the screen. This is the studio's chance to fully embrace the '90s aspect of the X-Men, introduce the Starjammers and the Shi'ar Empire, and head out into space for a sequel that was perfectly setup in this movie.
14 THE SETTING
With television shows like "Stranger Things" and "The Goldbergs," '80s nostalgia is at an all-time high. It only seems right then that this X-Men movie works so well in an era that is a most closely associated with them. In fact, the 1980s featured some of the best and most classic X-Men storylines, which makes them right at home in this time period. Sure, the clothes were different and goofy-looking and the hairstyles peculiar, but it's something that marries itself well to a school of mutant children.
The movie also smartly avoided going overboard with the '80s references and preferred to approach the time period in a more muted manner, focusing rather on the wardrobe department. In '80s garb, a character like Jubilee is right at home. Plus, using a track like Eurythmic's "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)" in Quicksilver's big scene then becomes a familiar surprise that makes you both smile and look forward to seeing the character in action.
13 HUMOR AND DRAMA
In every comic book movie, there is always a fine line between a dramatic scene and cutting down the tension with humor, to the point that the tension is all but gone. It's a danger that has managed to ruin some movies for some people. Thankfully, "Apocalypse" avoids that pitfall. It knows when to be funny, and when to let the drama unfold. A heart-wrenching scene like Magneto losing his family gets treated with the sadness it deserves, and a hilarious scene like Quicksilver running to the rescue gets its chance to shine.
In this movie, Charles gets the chance to mourn his favorite tree, and Cyclops gets to mourn his brother, with neither scene taking away from the other. Not only that, but characters like Nightcrawler and Quicksilver are also used to great effect to bring just enough humor to tense moments that will make you smile without taking you out of a scene. This way, the stakes are never compromised in favor of a cheap laugh.
12 PSYLOCKE AND SINISTER
The "X-Men" movies have never been shy on cameos and Easter eggs, but this time around, fan-favorite Psylocke made it to the screen in the most faithful, comic-accurate costume yet and proved a tough match for the X-Men as one of the Horsemen. With the movie ending with her on the run, there is still a chance to see Psylocke appear in future movies, either in the next sequel, or in a possible "X-Force" movie, where she could be plucked from time by Cable and Deadpool to join their fight.
On top of that, there is also the after-credits scene to consider. We now know that part of that scene helped to set up the creation of X-23 and her inclusion in this year's "Logan," but we also got teased that the organization behind this was Essex Corp, a company tied with longtime comic villain Mister Sinister. It's unclear if Sinister will appear in future movies, but we sure hope that this tease pays off in the long run, considering his status as one of the X-Men's most recognizable villains.
11 KIDS BEING KIDS
While the X-Men are a team of super-powered mutants, it's important to remember that they are still technically attending high school. Apart from the teachers, most of them are teenagers. They get bored and they set off on adventures. While the threat of Apocalypse didn't leave much time for teenage shenanigans, the movie did offer us a glimpse of Cyclops and Nightcrawler talking about malls, which prompted them, Jubilee and Jean to sneak out of school.
While most of the scenes at the mall ended up on the cutting room floor, we still saw the kids at there briefly, even exiting a showing of "Return of the Jedi." They then come back to the school inside a convertible car they most likely "borrowed." While these are all small scenes, they are crucial to showcase the human side of the X-Men. These characters are still children, and it makes their achievements and bravery in the face of annihilation stand out even more.
10 MYSTIQUE AS HERO
Starting with "X-Men: First Class," Mystique was positioned as a pivotal figure in the moral tug of war between Professor X and Magneto. After the events of "Days of Future Past," the villain was now put in the position of a hero, though she didn't want to be. As we saw from a poster in Storm's home to the way Nightcrawler and the other children look at her in school, we are reminded that these young mutants look up to her.
While Mystique is on her own for a part of the movie, helping mutants in her own way, she is thrust back into the main conflict. Now in a position of influence and inspiration, she puts it upon herself to lead this new generation of X-Men into battle. This is a departure for the character, who is mostly used as a villain in the comic books, but to see her overcome the odds and break from the mold of her character's history is a nice touch to add to an already complicated character.
9 MOIRA MACTAGGERT
Moira MacTaggert was a great addition to the cast in "X-Men: First Class." She was positioned not only as a strong female character, but also a possible love interest for Charles Xavier. Above all of that, she was also something important to the young X-Men: a mother figure to the Professor's father figure. That made it all the more heartbreaking when Charles decided to wipe her memory of all the they had been through together.
While there was no room for Moira to help Charles in his "Days of Future Past" low point, it was great to see her return to the fold in "Apocalypse." Not only did she allow us to see a more lighthearted Charles in awe of her, she also suited up alongside the X-Men for the final battle against Apocalypse. As a CIA agent with no super-powers, that is no small feat, and she once again proved her mettle. She is an important character to this new cast and one that should stick around for future sequels.
8 MAGNETO TRAGEDY
At the heart of the movie, there is the story of a man who is trying to make up for what he did; a man who had let go of his haunted past and started a new life with a new family to call his own. Erik Lehnsherr's story has always been a tragic one, but the character was dealt another devastating blow when his wife and child were killed in his arms. After killing the men responsible, his pleading screams in the forest, asking "Is this what you want from me?" are heartbreaking, as well as character-defining.
At Apocalypse's side, Magneto then returns to Auschwitz to lay absolute waste to the place where he lost everything and became the man he is. It is a powerful, cathartic moment for the character where he is given the chance to wipe such horrors from the world. Thanks to Mystique and Quicksilver, Erik is reminded to fight for family, no matter who they are, and he's given a final chance when he decides to fight alongside the X-Men in their final battle.
As not only one of the more popular X-Men in comic book history, but also one of the breakout starts of "X2: X-Men United," Nightcrawler was a character that everyone was looking forward to seeing pop-up on screen again. His signature teleportation powers set him apart from the rest of the cast and added a visual flair to the team's antics. While we had a teleporter in the form of Azazel in "First Class," he doesn't hold a candle to the fuzzy blue elf.
This time played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, Nightcrawler was added as an endearing, comic relief character. Introduced in a bit of a tragic mutant cage-fighting ring, Kurt bore no ill will towards anyone and proved himself instrumental in rescuing the X-Men from both Stryker and the Horsemen. With a bit of a rivalry setup between Archangel and him in a sort of angel/demon confrontation, we only hope to see more of Kurt now that he is an official member of the team.
Thanks to his position as team leader in both the comic books and the "X-Men: The Animated Series" cartoon, Cyclops has always been a fan-favorite character. So, it's surprising that he never really got his due in the films department. He was mostly side-lined on the big screen, forgotten or used as more of a plot-device. But "Apocalypse" takes the first step into rectifying that. In fact, after the opening prologue of Apocalypse in Egypt, the first character introduced in the film is Scott Summers.
With many main characters to juggle, Cyclops was positioned as one of the main members of the young X-Men team. From the first use of his powers to his first mission, Scott is brought to the forefront of his team, and we see him take his rightful place as the head of the team in the final shot of the movie. As much as this movie was about Professor X, Magneto and Mystique, it was also about Scott and his rise to the rank of team leader.
5 APOCALYPSE'S GOAL
Regardless of how you felt about the character's design, there is no denying the fact that Apocalypse was a force to be reckoned with. After returning from eons of sleep, he found a world he no longer recognized, one consumed by false gods and greed. Coming from a simpler, yet more arcane time, he saw nuclear weapons as a crutch and a menace to humanity, and decided to expunge the Earth from the threat (which was also one to his rule). While he could have used them to wipe out everyone, he chose not to.
Seeing himself as the father of all mutants, Apocalypse wishes to protect his children. As both father figures and teachers to mutants, this makes Charles and Apocalypse similar in some ways. But while Charles seeks to defend those without power, Apocalypse saw that the humans had evolved to be weak, and he aimed to create a cleaner, better world, with only the strongest at his side. While there is no doubt that this is a villainous plan, one can certainly understand Apocalypse's views -- he thought he was saving the world.
4 THAT MIND BATTLE
The battle against Apocalypse took a whole new turn when Charles decided to level the playing field by taking us inside the Professor's mind: a place where he has control, where he can stand on his feet and physically fight. With the construct of his house appearing around him in the fog, this was an exciting showdown to witness. There, we got to see Charles unleash his full strength onto Apocalypse, and we got a taste of what it was actually like to be the world's most powerful telepath.
As strong as he is, though, Charles proved to be no match for the might of Apocalypse. And it was then that comic book fans got to see Apocalypse use one of his more recognizable powers when he changed his body mass to turn into a giant and beat Charles to a pulp. It was only when Charles was able to let Jean into his mind that they were, together, able to turn the tide of this battle and in an awesome display of telepathic power.
The Quicksilver introduction was easily a highlight of "Days of Future Past." Saying that, viewers were left hanging when they learned that Pietro would not be joining Wolverine, Charles and Magneto in their quest to save the future. As one of the breakout stars of the series, fans cheered when they saw Quicksilver return on the doorstep of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters and save literally everyone from an explosion in a brilliantly shot sequence.
But this time, his involvement didn't stop there. After being kidnapped by Stryker along with the other X-Men, we saw Quicksilver suit up alongside them. Not only that, he also became the heart of the team when he tried to lift everyone's spirits in the jet, before the final battle. He fought Apocalypse head-on, helped convince Magneto to return to the side of good and was made an official member of the team by the movie's end.
The Charles and Erik relationship has always been at the heart of the X-Men series. With "First Class," we got to see them meet, become friends, and then enemies. But there was always a respect between the two, one that saw them constantly at odds with each other in "Days of Future Past." With Apocalypse, this story could be seen as coming full circle when the movie ends with Charles being right about his friend. He always saw the good in him, and Erik decided to let go of his pain and hate.
By the movie's end, we saw Erik help rebuild the Professor's school in a very heartwarming scene. While Magneto wouldn't stay at the school, he left on good terms with his old friend, after a small exchange that called back to the same exact lines used by Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen at the end of the very first "X-Men" movie. However, with the revelation of Quicksilver's lineage still up in the air, there is still a chance to see Magneto return once more.
1 THE FINAL SCENE
It's no secret that the comic book fans have been waiting a long time for the X-Men to drop their black leather outfits in favor of more colorful, comic-accurate costumes. "First Class" gave us a nod to the iconic yellow-and-blue costumes, but they were introduced as flight suits more than superhero outfits. Once again, the final battle in "Apocalypse" unfolds with the team wearing flight suits. But when we reach the final scene of the movie, we finally get to see the X-Men wearing their recognizable costumes that harken back to the '90s animated series.
Not only that, we also got to see these costumes in the Danger Room, with the young team ready to fight against sentinels under the tutelage of Beast and Mystique and the watchful eye of Professor X. As much as this scene is an end, it's also the promise of a new beginning, with a fully-costumed team led by Cyclops. It's a promise that leaves us excited for whatever comes in the next movie.
Do you agree that X:Men: Apocalypse doesn't deserve the hate? Or do you think it has earned its ire? Let us know in the comments!