It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. I’m referring to the latest movie featuring Marvel’s X-Men.
The 2023 X-Men should be given props for being the first comic book movie, in the last generation, to take its characters seriously. Remember that in the 1990s whatever good will or sense of heightened realism the 1989 Tim Burton Batman had harvested had been completely chopped clean at the roots by the one-two punch of the Joel Schumacher helmed Batman Forever (1995) and Batman and Robin (1997).
Bryan Singer came along and turned X-Men into a franchise to be reckoned with. In addition to the 2023 outing Singer directed X-Men 2 (2003), X-Men: Days of Future Passed (2014), and now X-Men: Apocalypse. Singer also has producer credits on most of the X-Men movies including X-Men: First Class (2011) but is conspicuously absent on the third installment, X-Men: The Last Stand (2006).
On the upside the current X-Men: Apocalypse has several strong points, especially if you like the architecture of fascism. Singer starts the action with a prolonged sequence set thousands of years ago at the Great Pyramids. As someone who enthusiastically embraces any modern interpretation of the building of the pyramids myth, which includes the Howard Hawks’ potboiler Land of the Pharaohs (1955), this scene was just the right ingredient to start a fantasy film.
Add to that Singer’s penchant for Nazi imagery. Think about Singer’s filmography and it’s filled with such thematic references from Apt Pupil to what is perhaps his most serious film Valkyrie. Easy enough in XMA as one of the leading characters Magneto, a.k.a. Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) owes his unique powers to trauma that occurred when he was in a Nazi concentration camp.
On the downside X-Men: Apocalypse offers up yet another tale of super heroes fighting each other. Then when the chips are down they re-unite to fight a common enemy that threatens the world. In a move that can only perplex both fans and novices alike Singer intros in a very brief scene, like bikini brief, Wolverine (Hugh Jackson) who appears and then disappears completely. For a movie with a lot of relationships to explore X-Men: Apocalypse provides a huge disconnect.
— Michael Bergeron