If there’s one thing you can count on with this summer’s superhero movies, it’s that the villain will have a truly convoluted plan that makes no sense. In that respect, Oscar Isaac’s titular villain in X-Men: Apocalypse is no different than, say, Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: I couldn’t make heads or tails of Apocalypse’s no-nukes/wait-let’s-destroy-several-cities-anyway scheme, though at least it gives us one delicious moment — where Apocalypse places his hand on a TV set and murmurs “Learrrrrrning” — that I hope will be mortifyingly spliced into Oscar Isaac’s lifetime-achievement montages for decades to come.
The best way to make sense of the plot, I found, is to simply forget about its nuclear stakes: At its heart, this is a movie where the X-Men race to stop Oscar Isaac as he travels the globe giving people makeovers. I’m serious! For at least two-thirds of the movie, Apocalypse labors to recruit his “Four Horsemen,” largely ineffectual mutants like Angel and Psylocke who will stand at his side, battle the X-Men, and allow Apocalypse to give them haircuts. The film is basically two-and-a-half hours of Apocalypse being like, "Let me unlock your mutant potential and maybe zhuzh up your look,” and it suggests that like Cher from Clueless, all this supervillain truly wants is a project.
But are Apocalypse’s makeovers more successful than his plot to defeat an embarrassed Jennifer Lawrence? Let’s go over all the before-and-afters to get a sense of what this blue-skinned telekinetic seamstress can do for you.
First, we should start with the man himself. The movie does not make the wisest choice by introducing our antagonist as a sexy, shirtless normal person: Before you've even had enough time to say, “I thought Oscar Isaac would have a hairier chest,” he is magically swathed in colored latex and given a truly egregious butt-chin prosthetic that makes him look like a less realistic Mac Tonight. I’m not sure what all those head-cords and dread-braids are supposed to be for or why you would want to transform the beautiful and shirtless Oscar Isaac into 1990s one-hit wonder Jane Child, but Apocalypse’s uniform does little to improve the look: This costume features the first of several shoulder pieces so insane that even Joan Collins would request to take it down a notch. Apocalypse, the style battle begins at home. Pull your look together before you start queer-eyeing Olivia Munn, okay?
Later in the movie, Apocalypse heads to Berlin to recruit Angel, a frequently shirtless fighter who resembles an unkempt Spike from Buffy. Apocalypse gives our winged wonder a very popular gay undercut that I’m willing to cosign for, but I’m less high on his decision to replace Angel’s feathered wings with metal machinery: Now he just looks like an AIDS/LifeCycle biker who you glued to the Iron Throne. Surprisingly, this is one of Apocalypse’s most difficult makeovers to pull off. At one point, Magneto is able to excuse himself to take a long-distance telekinetic call from the good guys, because Apocalypse is still busy hand-crafting the new pec armor that will complete Angel’s transformation from a Sean Cody cage fighter into White Falcon. I’m not positive it was time well-spent.
I couldn’t find a still image of Psylocke’s first look, where she skulks in the shadows before joining Apocalypse’s team of Harajuku Girls, but no matter: We’ve got plenty to discuss about Apocalypse’s decision to strap her into an armored bathing suit, give her lowlights the color of Pop Rocks, and top off her look with an uncomfortably situated tit-window serving BoobsForQueens.com realness. This is the outfit Psylocke chooses to wear to a concentration camp, which is less shoah and more shonde. A regular American Gladiator at Auschwitz, Psylocke pulls focus even when she is just standing there listlessly, which is what she does for 90 percent of her screen time.
Credit where credit is due: This is one of Apocalypse’s best makeovers. A white mohawk makes anyone look more arresting, as Stripe from Gremlins can attest, and Storm’s streamlined uniform comes complete with a cape, which is a great accessory to have when your superpower is “New York weather.” Magneto makes an elaborate case to Storm about why this morally ambiguous mutant ought to follow him; really, all he needed to promise was a better fill light and I think she would have been in.
What you think of Magneto’s new look really depends on how much you appreciate Michael Fassbender as a scruffy, normcore lumberjack. I’m fairly sure that if Magneto had Instagrammed the selfie on the left, his brand-new superpower would be inspiring horny teens to comment “daddy” and “ram me with metal please ilu”; once Apocalypse gets ahold of him, though, he’s larded in layers, with body armor that looks like a Transformer’s stomach. Can someone explain to me that weird middle part, where it looks like you could latch a finger in and unzip it? I'm afraid Apocalypse never met an extraneous detail he didn't like; I'd advise him and his posse to observe Coco Chanel's maxim about taking off one thing before leaving the house, but when you're wearing 8,000 things I don't know if it would make any difference. Apocalypse, I'm not sure what to think about your mutant style guide. Let's just be happy you were defeated before the 1990s-set sequel, because the world isn't ready for your take on acid wash.