The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘X-Men: Apocalypse’: Sure, critics have hated it. But here are 5 reasons you should see it.

After "X-Men: Apocalypse," 20th Century Fox's last hope is a foul mouthed mutant in a red suit. (Video: Erin Patrick O'Connor/The Washington Post, Photo: Photo Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

THE GOOD NEWS: “X-Men: Apocalypse,” despite the early negative word, will not bring about the fall of the “X-Men” movie franchise.

In recent months, we’ve seen “Batman v Superman” disappoint audiences and “Captain America: Civil War” wow them. Now, the middling “X-Men: Apocalypse” (officially opening Friday) is just good enough to keep things going for this Fox franchise.

That’s right: There needn’t be any calls for Marvel Studios to ride in to rescue the “X-Men,” as Marvel did with Sony’s cinematic “Spider-Man.” Part of the problem here, in fact, is that the massive critical and commercial success of Marvel Studios over the past eight years has warped our expectations of what a successful superhero movie needs to achieve.

‘Apocalypse’ is shaping up to be the worst-reviewed film in the X-franchise

Truth is, Marvel movies can still exist outside the storytelling grasp of Marvel Studios, despite its reputation for the sure-handed imprint of authenticity. “Deadpool” proved that in February. Now, given that “Apocalypse” isn’t the end of the world creatively, “Deadpool” doesn’t have to “save” the future of 20th Century Fox’s mutant-superhero movies.

That’s not to say “Apocalypse” is without some key flaws. The pace is surprisingly slow for a movie with so much action. And if there is a weakest link, it sits with the title villain. Apocalypse, whose appearance in an “X-Men” film has been highly anticipated by fans for years, is the least compelling element of this movie. If a name is in the title, that name should help power the movie. He doesn’t.

The grand scale of this character — who’s a dominant force in the comics — just doesn’t pop off the screen. Perhaps Apocalypse would have been better served by being entirely rendered in CGI — a la Ultron in the “Avengers” franchise. Apocalypse has a few moments, but you keep waiting for him to be spectacular; instead, he’s just there.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to a welcome youth movement within the mutants: Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey and Nightcrawler don’t disappoint.

Because of the less-than-stellar reviews, I kept expecting this movie to disappoint me. But it didn’t. Aside from the dullness of Apocalypse himself, this movie provides the type of ride we’ve come to expect from Bryan Singer’s X-movies. Concerns assuaged, I’d welcome Singer’s next “X-Men” outing.

“Apocalypse” won’t change the course of superhero films. Prior to the creation of Marvel Studios nearly a decade ago, this movie might have been an “event,” as were its X-predecessors, which helped birth the current wave of superhero cinema. But in an era in which Marvel dominates, this “X-Men” movie accomplishes a more minor feat: It’s just good enough to keep the franchise going.

Here are Comic Riffs’s six takeaways (five of them positive) from “X-Men: Apocalypse”:

1. The kids are going to be all right.

I was skeptical about this film going with such a young cast for such major characters as Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm. Fortunately, the youth movement mostly passes muster. Minus the overdevelopment of Jean Grey’s character (for obvious reasons that we’ll get to in a second), each character does okay in the brief moments they’re given.

2. Jean Grey provides hope for future days.

I initially doubted the casting of Sophie Turner. Perhaps her “Game of Thrones”/Sansa Stark-ish-ness would disrupt the illusion of her being Jean Grey. I was wrong. Turner is believable as a character who has the potential to be the world’s most powerful mutant who contains hints of a darker destiny. It is no secret that the Dark Phoenix Saga is back on the table for forthcoming “X-Men” films. Turner steps up when it’s Jean Grey’s time to shine — so much so that the Dark Phoenix route seems the best next step for the “X-Men.”

3. Oscar Isaac is tangled up in blue.

Apocalypse just doesn’t deliver in this film, let alone captivate. Oscar Isaac’s natural charisma is buried beneath a wall of blue makeup. (The Apocalypse from the ’90s “X-Men” Saturday morning cartoon remains the best take on this character.) Ultron was a convincing and menacing villain as complete CGI creation in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”; perhaps Singer should have gone that route with Apocalypse.

4. The Jim Lee visual experience comes to the fore.

Parts of “Apocalypse” looked like a Jim Lee-rendered comic come to life. That’s a good thing if you remember the early ’90s X-Men comics that Lee illustrated — the one that had such an impact on the industry. This franchise is finally getting away from the all-black look. “X-Men: First Class” gave us the classic ’60s, blue-and-yellow style from the comics. This time, with “Apocalypse” set in the ’80s, we get some “X-Men” threads with a lot more color. That represents a smart and fun move, ahead of this franchise possibly moving into the ’90s if another sequel is made.

And the most Jim Lee-esque character? Olivia Munn’s Psylocke, who delivers the kind of lethal sexiness for which her character is known. Munn delivers the action with stylish fun. And if Psylocke makes it to a sequel, let’s hope she’ll get more to say.

5. This franchise can survive without J-Law.

Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique is presented as a hero to all young mutants, after her efforts in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” If this movie proves to be her “X-Men” swan song, the franchise will go on just fine. It could be for the best, actually, that Lawrence moves on, so we can see more development of Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm. Here’s hoping the now-bald Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) stick around, though.

6. Quicksilver strikes back strong.

Evan Peters’s Quicksilver returns in fine form. This character comes bundled with great fun, and Singer continues to give the character some true highlights. Quicksilver survived the fan outrage over his look in “Days of Future Past” and delivered that movie’s top moment. In “Apocalypse,” he’s given another chance to shine. Gratefully, Quicksilver tops his “Future Past” debut.