Scott on Story: There are a lot of pieces in play in Apocalypse and it unfortunately feels a bit bloated. There are four major story threads in the first act of the movie that we jump around in, and most of them are compelling on their own, but lack a cohesion to bring them together. I am interested in many of the characters here, and they develop well enough to keep me engaged, but in the end, the character progression is not as strong as X-Men films in the past, like First Class or X2.
Apocalypse had a lot of potential, but in the end Oscar Isaac’s talents feel wasted here. Singer does a good job of displaying that Apocalypse is powerful, but I never had a firm grasp on what his powers were. His motivation was very clear, but not very enthralling: the ‘mutants are better’ story has been done to death in this series and I would not mind seeing different territory covered here (similar to the story in X2).
My biggest complaint overall with the story is that there are seemingly no consequences for the actions of the characters. The ending could have been much more interesting if they explored the actions of the third act and built on them with some consequences actually being realized.
Max on Story: The trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse boasts a giant crisis -- an ancient super-powered mutant has returned, and he wants to take over the world. Unfortunately, that’s about as deep as the story gets for this film.
But somehow, I found myself enjoying it none the less. Why? Two reasons. The main characters are compelling enough to carry the plot along, and the story of Apocalypse throughout the comics and cartoons have never been a clean-cut, beat-by-beat narrative. Knowing that, I was willing to accept what they tried with this film.
It’s cheesier than previous entries, but I’m thirsty for a more stylized, bright and colorful world with these characters. Still, when I think of important moments in these films, I’ll focus on X2, First Class, or Days of Future Past, and not Apocalypse.
Scott on Form: I have always found that the X-Men movies have had great visual effects and Apocalypse is no different. Seeing Angel and Nightcrawler fly/transport around in battle was very cool, Psylocke’s lightsaber was very cool, and Quicksilver had another highlight sequence here that was incredible to behold.
Ever since First Class, I feel like the X-Men movies have utilized the varied colors of the group a lot better than other superhero movies (here’s looking at you, Zach Snyder) and Apocalypse is no different. The action sequences were largely interesting and varied and I liked how the editing was not choppy/all over the place like we see in a lot of the movies. The pacing of the movie was a bit of a mixed bag. The first act bounced all over the place but was engaging, whereas the second act dragged on. It comes together for a decent third act but does not end with a bang.
Max on Form: I had a few issues with the pacing here and there throughout Apocalypse, admittedly. There are sections of the film that I absolutely loved watching (Magneto’s family scene, Nightcrawler’s fight club, Quicksilver’s rescue scene), but didn’t necessarily gel with the entire Apocalypse arc. These could have been explored to a fuller extent, and would have been served better in that sense.
My only other complaint would be a few of the big comic book splash page scenes in the final fight looked cheap, and that’s never good.
Scott on Acting: The writing was not particularly great in this movie, and many of the performances suffered as a result. McAvoy was good, Fassbender was fantastic, and many of the newcomers to the series were also great (Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler in particular). I already mentioned that Oscar Isaac felt wasted, but I mostly think that was due to poor writing. There was one monologue he had that gave me chills, but it was an uneven showing.
I also felt like Jennifer Lawrence turned in an uninspired performance; considering how much the writers emphasized how heroic her character is, she was rather bland and flat overall.
Max on Acting: As always, Fassbender and McAvoy deliver solid performances as their characters. The film starts with a very Magneto heavy story, which tapers as the film goes on. Yet Fassbender’s performance was still outstanding. I was delighted that newcomers Sophie Turner, Alexandra Shipp, Tye Sheridan, and Kodi Smit-McPhee were great in their roles.
On the flipside, I was let down by Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse. His performance itself was fine, but it could have been any villain of the week.
Scott on Sound: The sound effects were very solid in this movie; Cyclops’ eye beams had a satisfying blasting sound accompanying them, which added to the effect of showing his power. The score was good; there was one scene with Angel towards the beginning of the film where he meets an antagonist and the scene is synced with Metallica’s The Four Horsemen, which was very cool.
Max on Sound: I’ve always thought the musical pieces in X movies were always solid, and this is no alternative. Thankfully, Singer caught on that audiences loved his Quicksilver scene from Days of Future Past, and indulged us some more. Set to a Eurythmics song, this was a fun, if not rehashed, set piece. That being said, I was smiling ear-to-ear the entire time. The only issue I really had was Apocalypse’s voice. He didn’t inspire me to agree with him or strike fear in my heart. His voice was just… there.
Scott’s Final Verdict: Overall, X-Men: Apocalypse certainly is not the finest outing of the series, but was not offensively bad. This was the worst of the main X-Men movies since the soft reboot of the series, and puts a lot of pressure on the next film to step up and reach the bar that the past couple have.
Max’s Verdict: As an X-Men fan, I enjoyed this movie a lot. As a film critic, I found plenty of flaws throughout it. Where do these two ideas meet? Well, I guess they don’t. If you’re invested in the X-Men film franchise and want a fun summer action movie, see this. The film doesn’t really tread new territory, and at times it doesn’t know what kind of movie it is. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, but it lacks the depth of Days of Future Past and First Class. I would say it’s a middle ground film.
Max’s Grade: B-
Scott’s Grade: B-
Scott's Note: I gave Batman v Superman a C+, but over time the film hasn’t sat well with me. After writing my review for BvS, I felt like I may have been too critical and I think I tried to make up for it with the score. In reality, I think BvS is more of a C- than a C+
Scott: The writing is on point here and tell a powerful, intricate, coherent story. The biggest challenge for a sprawling ensemble action film like this is to balance the characters and tell an intelligible story, and Civil War is wildly successful at doing that. Each scene has weight and feels important to the overall narrative, which is a complicated tale featuring characters with clear but complex motivations. Each character is given a chance to shine in their own way, from our main cast of heroes, through the supporting cast and the main antagonist. It’s hard to tell which the greater triumph here is; the balance of this cast of superstar characters, or the fact that the villain of this story was so compelling. Marvel movies have struggled in the past to create dynamic and threatening villains, but this movie had a great villain whose motivations were clear and compelling. The story ends in a very interesting way that makes me (somehow) more excited for the next installments in the Marvel series.
Max: Despite some plot holes and wandering storytelling, you have another solid Marvel Studios film. Right off the bat, you can tell this is a better narrative than Age of Ultron. The core of the story—superhero accountability—germinates as we see the two sides form. This almost felt like the heroes HAD to disagree at points, without fleshing it out beyond Tony and Steve. The big set pieces work well enough, even though some are over dramatic for the sake of action. Still, the story carries these moments forward because of how entertaining it is. There’s a moment with Bucky towards the end that could have been a cliche retcon, but it worked. My biggest complaint is the villain’s plan revolves around Tony, Bucky and Steve arriving at the same location at the same time. We hit plot hole territory pretty hard there, but the end beyond that is still enjoyable.
Scott: Rather than launch into a series of superlatives for the cast and crew here, I would just like to say that this is the epitome of the comic book movie genre and succeeds on every level. The editing was balanced and clear, the action scenes were varied and exciting, and the pacing of the film is outstanding. There was no scene that derailed the narrative and I never had to try to put the pieces together on my own. The writers expertly inserted characters into the narrative that we hadn’t yet seen (Black Panther, Spiderman) and they were very natural alongside familiar favorites from past movies. The plot was not entirely predictable and there are very legitimate reasons to side with #TeamCap or #TeamStark.
Max: I wasn’t a fan of the the strobing, handheld camera fight choreography that the first half of the movie utilized. I would have accepted it in the fast paced opening fight, but there were plenty of moments that were just distracting. The later fights let you breathe in the atmosphere, and the film is bettered by it. The extremely large location titles were laughable at times, but you get used to them as the film goes on.
Scott: This was a much more serious tone than past Marvel movies (aside from maybe Winter Soldier) and the performances here were exceptional. I was particularly impressed with Robert Downey Jr. in this one; we all know his Tony Stark as the sarcasm-spewing hero who follows his own rules, but in Civil War he delivers a much more stern performance and shows off an unexpected amount of emotional depth that amount to a powerful performance. Newcomers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland as Black Panther and Spider-Man respectively both create interesting, compelling characters (I have total faith in Holland as Peter Parker after this), and the lengthy ensemble here all shine in their moments. One more performance I’d specifically like to point out is Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo; as the primary antagonist of the film going against a team of literally dozens of superheroes, he was a gripping character and was able to shine in a complex role.
Max: We’re used to charismatic performances in MCU films, and this one is no different. The biggest flaw was that Elizabeth Olsen couldn’t keep her accent straight. I honestly would have preferred no accent over bouncing in and out of one. From the newcomers, Chadwick Boseman and Tom Holland were great in their roles. Ant Man was a hoot, and I’ll have to check out his film now. The highlight for me was Robert Downey Jr., since I haven’t cared for the character since his original appearance. He felt like he lost his mission in subsequent films, and having him back as a wounded man dealing with his past mistakes was almost refreshing. I remembered why I cared about this character.
Scott: The score never stood out to me in this film; to be honest I didn’t even notice it throughout the movie. The Batman v Superman score had better individual pieces (Superman’s and Wonder Woman’s themes in particular), but it felt disjointed to me. This score flowed together well but it did so to the point where it just fell to the background. The action had good, meaty punches, but by this point that is pretty commonplace now
Max: Overall, there was a solid score which matched the film. The music was appropriate and fit the mood and motifs. The sound effects were good, and the audio design was well thought out. I enjoy how the machinery, weaponry, and characters have in depth sounds. The ADR on masked heroes sometimes fall short, which is how I felt about the “Hey everyone” Spider-Man line in the trailer, but they nailed it for the film.
Scott: While not breaking the mold, Captain America: Civil War certainly is at the top of it’s class in the comic book movie genre. The Russo brothers have proven once again that the genre is capable of not just popcorn action, but deeper themes and conflicts. I’m looking forward to the continued growth of the Marvel series, and I’m also looking forward to another showing of this one. #TeamStark
Max: As a whole, this was a solid outing. I enjoyed the film, but it had its flaws. There are plenty of forgettable Marvel movies out there, but this one earned its memorable moments. I would have liked a tighter story with more focus on JUST Captain America, Bucky, and Iron Man. While Wanda and the Vision could be interesting, I felt it detracted from the narrative. It should be saved for a proper Avengers movie. And that’s my final thought. Either wrap every MCU movie in Avengers branding, or let the solo films still operate as single entity adventures. I mean, we sacrificed more Bucky development for what? A robot cooking. Civil War inches above a B+ only because I smiled the entire time.
Scott’s Grade: A
Max’s Grade: A-
The Critical Breakdown
Join hosts Max Rivera & Scott Tennant as they start at the bottom of Rotten Tomatoes and work their way to 100% Fresh.
The Critical Breakdown
THE PODCAST WHERE WE START AT THE BOTTOM OF ROTTEN TOMATOES
The Critical Breakdown
THE PODCAST WHERE WE START AT THE BOTTOM OF ROTTEN TOMATOES
AND WORK OUR WAY TO 100% FRESH.