Film

'X-Men: Apocalypse': The Apocalypse of Comic Book Films

Oscar Isaac as En Sabah Nur / Apocalypse in X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) (Image: Amazon)

The filmmakers' attempt to mask X-Men: Apocalypse's lack of purpose and thematic unity with a stunning density of characters, plot lines, and fan service. But we see behind the mask.

In May 2016, the X-Men film series seemed stronger than ever. It launched with X-Men (Singer, 2000) and X2: X-Men United (Singer, 2003), which set the tone for the comic book film boom that is still sweeping through Hollywood today. Unfortunately, X-Men: The Last Stand (Ratner, 2006) ended the first trilogy on a down note and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Hood, 2009) was a dismal attempt to spin-off a popular character. As a result, the series began to lose relevance.

But X-Men: First Class (Vaughn, 2011), with its new cast, sleek 1960s setting, and exciting spy film flavour, had righted the ship. It was followed by The Wolverine (Mangold, 2013), a huge step up in quality for solo Wolverine films. X-Men: Days of Future Past (Singer, 2014) once again established X-Men films as blockbuster events. Its time travel plot embraced the comic book roots of the series, united the older and newer X-Men casts, and erased the complex, contradictory timeline of the X-Men films. Finally, Deadpool (Miller, 2016) was the funniest, most original superhero film in years, and went on to become the highest-grossing X-Men-related film of all time. The producers behind the X-Men were looking to turn their four-film winning streak into five with the next X-Men team film.

In early December 2013, nearly six months before the release of Days of Future Past, Fox announced that X-Men: Apocalypse would be released in 2016. This early announcement demonstrated the confidence Fox felt regarding the X-Men series, as did the choice of villain. Despite a large, impressive rogues gallery in the comics, there was a distinct lack of variety of villains in the series up to that point. The films too frequently defaulted to Magneto or William Stryker as villains, and needed something fresher.

Basing the new film around the villain Apocalypse was not only a great choice, but one that was unabashedly "comic-booky", something the X-Men films had avoided with a more grounded approach until recently. Perhaps the massive success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) had convinced Fox studio executives that it was financially viable to build films around the geekiest comic book concepts.

Announcements beyond the villain also sounded promising. Apocalypse was intended to conclude the trilogy running through First Class and Days of Future Past, and also begin the next chapter of X-Men films focused on new teenage mutants. Those teenage mutants included Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Storm, characters that appeared as adults in the original trilogy but were never as prominent as their comic book counterparts. As exciting as that sounded, this announcement merely stated that the pre-existing cast would be showcased while the film would also introduce new versions of previously established characters. So, basically, more of the same.

little blue robot by vinsky2002 (Pixabay License / Pixabay)

First Class, however, had a clear, fresh hook: a retro, '60s spy thriller focused on young Xavier and Magneto. Days of Future Past excited audiences with a geeky time-travel romp that doubled as a curtain call for the original X-Men cast. The only clear, fresh, exciting element announced for X-Men: Apocalypse was the villain. If the series was going to continue its winning streak, everything depended on Apocalypse.

In the comics, Apocalypse is introduced as the main antagonist of X-Factor, a series that was designed to reunite the original five X-Men (Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel and Jean Grey) on the same team for the first time in over 15 years. The villain, created by Louise Simonson and Jackson Guice, was teased at the end of X-Factor #5 (June 1986) and first fully appeared in X-Factor #6 (July 1986). Although Apocalypse's powers are always a little ambiguous, something that fatally plagues the film version, his point of view is absolutely clear.

Apocalypse is considered the first human to naturally develop powers, the first mutant. He is essentially immortal, having lived thousands of years, and considers himself to be the father of all mutants. Over those many years, he has lived by the Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest. Thus, he does not strive for mutant supremacy, like Magneto, but rather for being the strongest, and being among the strongest -- whether they be human or mutant -- to survive.

This clear, brutal viewpoint defines Apocalypse throughout his appearances, and he was fairly popular in X-Factor. The character gained greater notoriety in 1995 during the "Age of Apocalypse" crossover event. In the story, a time travel mishap results in the death of Professor Xavier early in his life. This creates an alternate timeline where Xavier is not alive to form the X-Men and Apocalypse takes over the world largely uncontested. For four months, cover-dated March-June 1995, all X-Men books slightly changed their titles and took place in this dystopian timeline. The event was a massive sales success and cemented Apocalypse as a top-tier X-Men villain.

Basing an X-Men film around Apocalypse seemed like a recipe for continued success but, unfortunately, that was not the case. X-Men: Apocalypse is a formless, pointless mess. The film attempts to do a dozen different things, with no thematic or narrative unity binding them. I spent the first hour of the film, as it jumps from place to place, character to character, wondering when the main plot would coalesce before realizing the answer is... never. The main plot never gets going because there is no main plot. While servicing too many characters and narrative threads, the filmmakers fail to form a clear throughline, a definitive plot on which to hang everything.

It feels like there was clearly no compelling reason or vision to make Apocalypse beyond "make another X-Men film", so the filmmakers included every character and idea that interested them. Older characters are either given nothing to do or half-baked character arcs that don't relate to the rest of the film. Newer characters are given some good material, but are mostly held back to be further developed in future films. Many elements seem to be included either out of obligation (repeating a gag from a previous film or providing an origin for future concepts), or as fan service for longtime X-Men readers or viewers. The filmmakers gathered a bunch of interesting pieces, but they fail to combine into anything meaningful because there is no unifying vision. Every character or moment just sits there. It may be good or bad on its own, but it's certainly disconnected from the rest of the film.

Some pieces should have been cut to focus the film, but which pieces? It's impossible to determine which elements belong and which don't because that can only be judged according to the central theme or plot, which does not exist in Apocalypse. There are moments that really work, that I adore as a fan of the comics and films, but they are not enough to redeem the overall film. In fact, these moments of greatness only make it more frustrating, as they indicate a potentially good version of the film that could have existed if there was a clear vision behind it. The great moments merely prevent Apocalypse from being the worst X-Men film and not much more. What a waste.

The central plot should revolve around Apocalypse, but that character and everything related to him make up approximately half the running time. The other half is full of the unnecessary or underserved characters. Furthermore, the character of Apocalypse is completely mishandled. His powers, motivations and plans are never defined, rendering his story meaningless. So even if the character were central to the film, it would weaken the film. In an effort to address every messy aspect, I will begin by teasing out the Apocalypse storyline. To be clear, this storyline does not work on its own, but at least by focusing on it in isolation we can try to understand the intentions of the filmmakers.

X-Men: Apocalypse opens in Egypt in 3600 BCE, which looks and feels a lot like Stargate (Emmerich, 1994). Apocalypse, the ruler, is dying, so his followers parade him into his enormous pyramid. Inside, he transfers his consciousness into an unnamed mutant (Oscar Isaac) with super healing powers, allowing him to live on in that form. But during the transfer, a group of anti-Apocalypse rebels initiate a series of mechanisms that bring down the pyramid. The four main followers of Apocalypse, his four mutant "Horsemen", hold off the attack, but the platform holding Apocalypse falls what seems like thousands of feet underground. The transfer is completed, but Apocalypse remains dormant in the rubble for over 5,000 years. These scenes are very silly and "comic-booky", but that makes it kind of fun.

Unfortunately, the story then jumps to 1983, and the film starts bouncing around scenes and characters much like the beginning of the first X-Men film. But Apocalypse never stops to focus on a single plot. That's the problem.

But I will stay focused on the Apocalypse storyline for now. CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), last seen in X-Men: First Class, investigates an Egyptian cult that worships Apocalypse. She accidentally allows sunlight into the buried ruins of Apocalypse's pyramid, awakening him and causing a shockwave around the world. Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) senses the shockwave, and reunites with Moira to learn more about it. Meanwhile, Apocalypse wanders the streets of Cairo until he happens upon Ororo Munroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp), a mutant with the power to harness weather. Through her, Apocalypse learns of the world in 1983. He doesn't like it. He decides to do something about it, but that something is never clear.

That is because Apocalypse, as a character, is never clear. Perhaps the reason this film lacks a strong central theme is because the ostensible centre of the film is never properly developed. He is played by Oscar Isaac, a fine actor and beautiful man rendered unrecognizable under a ton of goofy makeup and vocal effects. Isaac later described the process of filming Apocalypse as "excruciating". Throughout the film, Apocalypse demonstrates the ability to manipulate sand, transfer into new bodies and gain the powers of those bodies, learn language and history through a television, upgrade the powers of other mutants, upgrade the hairstyles of other mutants, teleport, disintegrate a gun, block telepathy, and create a force-field around himself. Moira calls him "all-powerful", meaning he can do anything, which somehow makes him less interesting.

I previously stated that his powers in the comics are fairly undefined, but the screenwriters had the opportunity to fix that issue here. At least his mission statement in the comics is very clear, but that's not the case in the film. Apocalypse makes grand speeches about the "weak" taking over the world with "false idols" and that he wants to "cleanse" this world to make a "better one". Who are the weak? Why are they weak? What are the false idols? What is his better world? None of this is explained. There are also hints that he's lying about his undefined "better world". But it's difficult to know whether he's lying to his followers because he's never specific enough. In the end, his plan seems to be killing nearly everyone on Earth, then using Xavier's telepathy to control those who remain.

Along the way Apocalypse assembles a new group of his Four Horsemen and amplifies their powers. But if Apocalypse is all-powerful, why does he need the Horsemen? Much of this storyline is devoted to recruiting the Horsemen, and it ultimately feels like a waste of time. Most of the group consists of fan-favourite characters that say and do very little. There is Storm, the first mutant Apocalypse encountered in the present. She steals to get by, but idolizes Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) for the public stand she took for mutants at the end of Days of Future Past. That about sums up her character development. Storm is never named in the film, only in the credits, which indicates her significance.

Apocalypse and Storm visit Caliban (Tómas Lemarquis), a font of information about mutants, and end up recruiting his bodyguard, Psylocke (Olivia Munn), as the second Horseman. She doesn't have a lot of development either. She wants power, I guess. Psylocke leads them to Angel (Ben Hardy), a winged mutant whose wings were injured in a cage fight in East Berlin. Apocalypse amplifies his powers, causing him to grow metal wings, adapting a similar event in the comics. I believe Angel has one line of dialogue after meeting Apocalypse. None of these characters have any impact besides some cool action beats in the climax. Their inclusion is indicative of the unfocused, overstuffed nature of Apocalypse.

Apocalypse and three horsemen (Image source: Amazon)

The Fourth Horseman is Erik Lensherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Erik's tragic backstory and on-off friendship with Xavier has been at the heart of many of the X-Men team films, particularly First Class and Days of Future Past. As a result, viewers are familiar with the beats of a Magneto story. Apocalypse doesn't offer anything fresh or new to the Erik saga. In fact, his story here is offensively cheap drama. In the ten years since Days of Future Past, Erik has assumed a false name and settled down as foundry worker in his native Poland. He also has a wife and daughter, who are introduced solely to be killed off and motivate Erik's story.

In 1999, comic book writer Gail Simone coined the term "Women in Refrigerators" or "fridging" to call attention to the far-too-numerous examples of female characters being injured, raped, killed, or depowered as a plot device intended to move a male character's story arc forward. Simone's critique began a conversation about how female characters are treated in male-dominated superhero comics, and urged comic creators to be more thoughtful in their writing. There are examples of fridging in comic book films, but it's certainly not as widespread as in comics. Erik's family in Apocalypse exist only to die and motivate Erik. That's lazy writing.

That being said, Fassbender is a tremendous actor and he plays his scenes beautifully. Sadly, even his performance can't mask the underlying weakness of the character arc. When Apocalypse is awakened, the shockwave disrupts the foundry at which he works, and Erik uses his magnetic powers to save a worker. This exposes him as Magneto, and the authorities try to arrest him. Erik's daughter uses her animal communication powers to compel birds to attack the police. In the confusion, Erik's wife and daughter are killed by an arrow. He kills the police and sets out to kill the foundry workers who turned him in. Apocalypse approaches him and upgrades his powers, allowing Erik to tap into Earth's magnetic field. Erik feels distraught enough to follow Apocalypse's lead.

Xavier reaches out to Erik telepathically, urging him not to follow Apocalypse, finally allowing this isolated storyline to intersect with the other characters in the film. Apocalypse senses Xavier's telepathy and manipulates it to make every nuclear power in the world launch their nuclear missiles into space. As he does, he gives an impressive-sounding but ultimately shallow speech. My best guess is that Apocalypse sees nuclear weapons as the most dangerous threat to him and, by eliminating them, he feels like he cannot be challenged. But, like so much related to Apocalypse, it's never clear. As a result what should be an impressive display of power -- destroying all the nuclear warheads -- feels pointless.

Apocalypse then teleports to Xavier's mansion to capture Xavier. Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) tries to blast Apocalypse with energy, but instead hits an experimental jet engine and blows up the mansion. This event should kick the film into high gear, barreling toward the climax. Instead, the Apocalypse storyline is put on hold as most characters take an extended detour to justify a cameo by Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). By the time the climax occurs, the film has failed to regain its lost momentum.

Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto (Image source: IMDB)

Apocalypse destroys Cairo, killing an unknown number of people, to create a giant pyramid. He orders Magneto to reach into the Earth's magnetic field to kill most people on Earth. The film depicts global scenes of destruction, including scenes of Manhattan with the twin towers of the World Trade Center prominent in the background (the film takes place in 1983, remember).

In the years before the release of Apocalypse, blockbusters were increasingly criticized for this kind of casual destruction and implied genocide. Captain America: Civil War (Russo Brothers, 2016), released the same month as Apocalypse, specifically and maturely addresses the criticism. Thus, Apocalypse immediately felt outdated with its wanton scenes of senseless destruction.

Apocalypse then takes Xavier into the pyramid to transfer his consciousness into Xavier's body and gain the power of telepathy. Outside the pyramid, the X-Men assemble to fight the Horsemen. The fight is a lot of fun, with good use of diverse mutant powers, but it cannot escape the feeling of weightlessness given that nearly every character involved is underdeveloped. Angel is killed, and Psylocke runs away. Eventually Erik and Storm turn on Apocalypse, attacking him physically as Xavier fights him telepathically. The killing blow is delivered by Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), who taps into her limitless telepathic power, hinted at earlier in the film, to overwhelm Apocalypse. After, there are no consequences for any mutants, not even for Erik, who nearly ended the world.

That is the Apocalypse storyline. Apocalypse is completely undefined, with unclear powers and goals. He assembles his Four Horsemen, three of whom barely even register as characters. The fourth Horseman, Erik, is motivated through the laziest form of comic book storytelling. It's ostensibly the central plot of the film, but it takes up only about half the running time. Besides not working on its own merits, the Apocalypse storyline is drowned out by the other half of the film. That half is devoted to numerous disconnected characters and plot threads that have no purpose and give the proceedings a stunning lack of focus. If the filmmakers had a clear vision, many of these elements would have been cut or modified to be less superfluous. As it stands, however, superfluous rules the film.

Apocalypse takes place ten years after Days of Future Past. Why? Because there was a ten-year time jump from First Class to Days of Future Past. That's the only reason. No effort is made to take the characters from the previous films and age them up. All of the characters from First Class -- Xavier, Erik, Moira, Raven and Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) -- look about five years older rather than 20 years older. Erik is the only previously-introduced character who seems to have progressed in the ten years since the last film, and his progression was to have a wife and daughter that were created to be murdered. Every other character, including Peter/Quicksilver (Evan Peters) from Days of Future Past, appears to be doing exactly what they were doing in the previous film. There's no narrative or thematic reason to jump ten years, so why do it?

James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier (Image source: Amazon)

Xavier has reopened his school and, now that mutants are more accepted, he has grand plans to develop it into a university for mutants and humans. Raven tries to convince Xavier that he's being naïve about peaceful coexistence with regular humans. As the film progresses, precious time is spent discussing Xavier and Moira's romantic relationship from First Class, before he erased her memories. The filmmakers wanted to tie up loose ends from the trilogy that I don't believe needed to be tied up.

Raven, meanwhile, is uncomfortable with her status as a mutant role model since Days of Future Past. And Hank, well, Hank built a new jet. That's all he gets in the film. As Apocalypse attempts to transfer his consciousness into Xavier, Xavier loses all of his hair. This finally gives his traditionally bald appearance the origin story we all needed. In the end, Raven embraces her role and becomes the leader of the X-Men while Xavier looks on, bald and proud of the militia he's creating.

In the press around the release of Apocalypse, screenwriter Simon Kinberg repeatedly stated that the arc of the film was Xavier moving from a pure pacifist to accepting a more militaristic approach. I believe he repeated this idea because, once the film was finished, Xavier was the only character that exhibited any development. In reality, these Xavier scenes are sparsely dotted throughout the film, and the only credible change to the character is his hair loss.

Peter is the best example of a character having no point in the film. He appeared for a standout ten minutes in Days of Future Past. The most memorable scene in that film was a slow-motion sequence featuring him running through a kitchen at super-speed to stop a team of security guards from shooting the heroes. The sequence was dynamic, visually-interesting, funny, and memorable. And then, with his purpose fulfilled, Peter disappeared from the film.

Ten years later, he still looks the same and still lives in his mother's basement. He's included in Apocalypse solely to repeat and top the memorable super-speed sequence, this time saving students from the exploding mansion. As the explosion plays out in super slow-motion, Peter runs in and out of the house grabbing students, goldfish, and a dog as "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics plays on the soundtrack. The sequence is fantastic, another exciting, funny, visually-arresting showcase for Peter. But then Peter sticks around for no clear reason. A throwaway joke in Days of Future Past implies that Erik is his father. In Apocalypse, Peter confirms it. Then, in the climax, Raven urges Peter to tell this to Erik.

Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver (Image source: Amazon)

Erik is literally destroying the world because his daughter was killed, and Peter is secretly his son. Peter could tell Erik, pulling him back from the brink to care for his newly-discovered child. But he doesn't. The one bit of potential character development for Peter is intentionally left unresolved for no reason. Normally, when character developments are so heavily foreshadowed, they are paid off in an interesting way. To very clearly set up this development and refuse to pay it off is not daring or interesting screenwriting -- it's fundamentally bad screenwriting.

New characters fare marginally better than previously-established characters mostly because the X-Men producers hoped they would carry the future installments of the series. Scott Summer/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Jean Grey were introduced as adults in X-Men, but here they are teenagers. Scott suffers from headaches and ultimately unleashes uncontrollable energy bursts from his eyes. His brother, Alex, takes him to enroll in Xavier's school for help. Lucas Till appeared as Alex, one of Xavier's first students, in X-Men: First Class. He was in his early 20s in that film, putting him in his early 40s in Apocalypse. So Scott, his brother, is about 25 years younger than Alex. Once again, the time jump is unnecessary and hurts the credibility of the film.

Scott encounters Jean at the school. Jean has powerful telekinetic and telepathic abilities, and her nightmares belie a darker power. Xavier is training her to control herself. The Jean material hints at the classic "Dark Phoenix Saga" from the comics, which screenwriter Simon Kinberg already adapted poorly in X-Men: The Last Stand.

Scott and Jean are soon joined by Kurt/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a German mutant brought in by Raven. These younger characters have some fun sparks of chemistry that are missing from the older characters, and they offer a promising hint at future X-Men films. However, in an already overstuffed X-Men: Apocalypse they are barely given room to breathe. The Kids take a joyride to a nearby mall where they see Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Coming out of the theater, they debate whether Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back is better, while Jean remarks that the third in a trilogy is always the worst. I don't even know what to say about that moment. What was intended as a swipe at The Last Stand, the dreadful third film in the original X-Men trilogy, ends up equally describing Apocalypse. It's either clever self-awareness or deep irony.

Besides Peter and the mansion explosion, the other two highlights of Apocalypse revolve around these teenage characters. The first is the massive narrative detour to justify a Hugh Jackman cameo. After Apocalypse launches the nuclear missiles into space, Col. William Stryker (Josh Helman) comes out of nowhere to capture the main characters outside the ruins of the Mansion. Stryker's appearance is contrived, his choice of only the top-billed mutants is contrived, and taking them to his Alkali Lake facility in Canada is contrived. This all occurs so that Scott, Jean, and Kurt -- stowaways on Stryker's helicopter -- can accidentally discover and release Wolverine.

Sophie Wright as Jean Grey, Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, Ty Sheridan as Scott Summers/Cyclops (Image source: Amazon)

Wolverine, fresh off the procedures that gave him an adamantium-covered skeleton, is feral and looks like he stepped right out of Barry Windsor-Smith's 1991 "Weapon X" storyline from Marvel Comics Presents. He tears through the facility, brutally killing Stryker's men and allowing the captured mutants to escape. As he leaves, Jean calms him telepathically. It's a great sequence in isolation, with a great depiction of Wolverine, but it has absolutely no place in an already overstuffed, unfocused film.

The final highlight of Apocalypse is Jean's defeat of Apocalypse. Xavier battles Apocalypse telepathically, which is nicely set in a shadowy, empty version of the mansion. Apocalypse gains the upper hand, his telepathic avatar grows giant, and Xavier calls out for Jean's help. She strolls into the mind battle, and Xavier orders her let go of her power. In the real world, this manifests as her walking out onto the air, surrounded by the image of a flaming bird. Apocalypse, obsessed with power, seems overwhelmed at the sight of true omnipotence, and his last words are "all is revealed".

As a comic book fan, familiar with Jean Grey's powerful evolution as a character and as the Phoenix, this is one of my favourite moments in any X-Men film. But still, the moment is unearned. Jean's character is undeveloped, her powers unclear, for this to work in the context of X-Men: Apocalypse. I can't imagine how confused a non-fan would be to see the main villain of the film defeated by a character he has never met using powers she has never demonstrated in a battle that was never foreshadowed or set up. It undermines the already weak Apocalypse storyline, and seems more intended to set up Dark Phoenix (Kinberg, 2019) than conclude X-Men: Apocalypse.

The mansion explosion, Wolverine cameo and Phoenix moments are all excellent in isolation, but each one is completely unearned and unnecessary in the context of the larger film. If you include every possible character and concept in one film then, statistically, I suppose a few of them would have to succeed.

X-Men: Apocalypse fails because it has no reason for existing other than a desire to make another X-Men film. It throws together characters from the previous two X-Men films in a half-hearted attempt to conclude their character arcs, and new characters with either no purpose or room to develop. Meanwhile, the main villain's storyline is relegated to only half of the runtime, which may actually benefit the film since the storyline is completely mishandled. A few elements work due to the strong cast or solid source material, but these elements never distract from the unfocused mess of the film. Beyond all of that, this film feels like a step backward in the series.

In terms of structure and even specific scenes or dialogue, Apocalypse tries to emulate the first X-Men film from 2000. But whereas X-Men was groundbreaking at the time, comic book films evolved in the 16 years since. This film was released mere weeks after Captain America: Civil War, another film featuring an enormous cast of super-powered characters. Civil War is mature, focused, deftly juggles its cast, and satisfyingly pays off long-term character arcs. Apocalypse is regressive, unfocused and so overstuffed that no character has a satisfying arc. Watching these films back-to-back, the contrast could not be more stark.

Apocalypse was not helped by its director, Bryan Singer, who was by all accounts a mess during production. Around the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, multiple lawsuits accused Singer of sexually assaulting minors from the late-'90s through the '00s. The lawsuits were dismissed, and Fox hired Singer to direct Apocalypse, but more rumours continued to swirl about Singer's alleged criminal sexual activities.

His professional behaviour became increasingly erratic. During filming, he arrived to set late and unprepared. He was described as "emotionally very frail", and broke down crying if confronted about his behaviour. He paid for a revolving door of guests to be on set or stay in hotels nearby. Many days, director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel would be forced to direct the film on Singer's behalf. Despite all of this, and the dreadful film that resulted, Singer was hired by Fox yet again to direct Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). He exhibited identical behaviour on the set of that film forcing Fox to finally fire him with just three weeks left of filming.

In early 2019, The Atlantic published an in-depth investigative report of the allegations against Singer and his recent on-set behaviour, which seems to have finally ended his tendency to fail upward in Hollywood ('Nobody Is Going to Believe You', by Alex French and Maximillian Potter, March 2019). It's impossible to quantify how this situation impacted X-Men: Apocalypse, but one has to imagine the film would have been better served by a director who did his job properly and was not an alleged sex criminal.

X-Men: Apocalypse was not well-received upon its release, and its reputation has only grown worse over time. It spoiled the momentum of Fox's X-Men series, although the studio would still release the instant-classic Logan (Mangold, 2017) and the well-received Deadpool 2 (Leitch, 2018) in the following years. In retrospect, Apocalypse was the death knell of the X-Men team films. Three years later, most of the main cast returned for Dark Phoenix, but the shockingly paltry box office of that film demonstrated that Apocalypse has killed off nearly all interest in further X-Men films. At the box office, Apocalypse made $155 million in North America, selling 37% fewer tickets than Days of Future Past. Worldwide, it dropped 27% from its predecessor to $544 million.

Now that Fox is owned by Disney, and the X-Men will likely appear next in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, X-Men fans can only hope that a reboot will finally deliver a consistent, faithful adaptation of the property that is worthy of the comics. By destroying the series, Apocalypse cleared the way for Disney to do just that. Maybe Apocalypse was right, maybe you need to destroy this world so you can build a better one.

Stan Lee Cameo Corner: Stan appears in front of his own house hugging his real wife, Joan B. Lee, as they watch the nuclear missiles launched by Apocalypse. That is 27 cameos in 41 films.

Credits Scene(s): After the credits, a team of men enter the Alkali Lake facility to take a test tube containing Wolverine's blood. It's Bryan Singer placed in an "Essex Corp" briefcase, indicating that possibly Mr. Sinister would appear in a future in future X-Men or Wolverine films. Like so many things in Apocalypse, this does not pay off.

First Appearances: Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp, and Kodi Smit-McPhee all returned for Dark Phoenix, because no one knew the series was already dead

Next Time: The MCU gets magical, interdimensional, astral and, well, just plain Strange.

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