The X-Men villain Apocalypse is like something out of Darwin’s nightmares. A devout believer in the most twisted form of evolution, he repeatedly tests the mutants of the Marvel Universe. The weak are culled. Only the strong survive.
X-Men: Apocalypse didn’t have a very great summer. The movie itself was not great, and its ad campaign, featuring huge billboards of Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse choking Jennifer Lawrence, was roundly criticized for showing excessive violence against women.
Centuries from now, when scholar look back on 2016, they will note several key events. They will discuss the year’s President election, one of the most bizarre and tumultuous in our nation’s history. They will note the deaths of great artists like Prince, David Bowie, and Gene Wilder. And they will ponder with great curiosity the opening credits to Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, surely one of the most bats--- insane moments to ever kick off a $200 million movie.
About two months ago, on a day when I was in no way questioning my career path and life choices, I asked a question: “Is 2016 the worst summer movie season ever?” In early July, it was probably a little premature to raise that issue, but with theaters were filled with dreck like Independence Day: Resurgence, The Legend of Tarzan, and Alice Through the Looking Glass, it was hard not to wonder. At that time, I looked at the Rotten Tomatoes ratings from hundreds of wide releases from the last decade, and found that while the overall scores from 2016 were basically in line with those from ones from each of the last five years, the scores for just the biggest movies, the ones like Tarzan or Independence Day with budgets in excess of $100 million, were way lower this year.
I have a dream job. What could be better than watching and talking about movies for a living? Nothing; the answer is nothing. But lately my job has been a lot less fun than normal, because the movies themselves have been a lot less fun. Quite frankly, this summer sucks.
X-Men: Apocalypse opened in the United States in May; after five weeks in theaters it’s starting to wind down its domestic theatrical run. (Last weekend it grossed an estimated $2.4 million on about 1600 screens.) But while the movie is slowly vanishing from theaters here, it’s yet to even open in certain international markets, including Japan. Over there, Apocalypse doesn’t debut until August, so the film’s promotional campaign continues in full force on that side of the Pacific. That includes this latest trailer, in which the star of Fox’s other (and far more financially successful) 2016 superhero movie shows up to promote his more famous colleagues.
Despite the diminishing returns of the X-Men series, they have accomplished at least one inarguably impressive feat: taking a supporting antagonist like Mystique and transforming her into a great, complex leading character, worthy of her place in Apocalypse as a mutant role model to Xavier’s gifted youngsters. But is she worthy of her own standalone movie? Bryan Singer certainly thinks so, though he seems to be taking Jennifer Lawrence’s contributions to the character for granted.
Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was teased in the second trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, but given that his part was more of a glorified cameo, that little teaser may have felt like a spoiler to some — even though Wolverine appearing in a new X-Men movie is hardly surprising. Hardly. As it turns out, Jackman almost had a bigger role to play in the new sequel, but it was ultimately reduced to avoid detracting from Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique.
Despite the arrival of two major films, this Memorial Day weekend was ultimately a disappointing affair, as X-Men: Apocalypse and Alice Through the Looking Glass both underperformed. The former should ultimately emerge untarnished in the long run, likely making enough money to keep the X-Men franchise breathing. However, the second Alice adventure only confirms what everyone outside of Disney already knew. People don’t like the first Alice in Wonderland and they had no interest in a sequel.
The most pleasant surprise of X-Men: Days of Future Past was Quicksilver, the speedy Marvel mutant played by Evan Peters. Although early promo photos made the character look, well, kind of lame, his big action sequence proved to be the best part of the previous X-sequel. It’s no surprise, then, that Peters has one of the best scenes in X-Men: Apocalypse, and a new video goes behind the scenes to show you how director Bryan Singer and his crew pulled it off.