Rating: PG-13 (violence, action and destruction)
The last two movies in the X-Men franchise have successfully rebooted the series with new actors and really focused on the tumultuous relationship between Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender). The great cast coupled with story-lines that delved into themes of brotherhood, discrimination and prejudice served as a great foundation for the films while still providing enough spectacle to keep the audience entertained.
Now, rounding out the new trilogy, comes the latest film from director Bryan Singer. X-Men: Apocalypse (XMA). Taking place in 1983, 10 years after the events of Days of Future Past, we find Professor Xavier and Hank McCoy (Beast played by Nicholas Hoult) still taking in young mutants into their School For Gifted Children, persevering with their dream of one day mutants and humans living together. Erik has shed his alter ego of Magneto and is in Poland, happily living under the guise of a simple metal worker, with his wife and daughter. All seems well until the return of Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), the world’s first mutant, who is hell-bent on making humanity worship him as their God.
The main thrust of the story features Charles and Hank, leading a group of X-Men consisting of newcomers Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) along with fan favourites Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Quicksilver (Evan Peters) as they face off against Apocalypse and his four horsemen, Storm (Alexandra Shipp), Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn) and Magneto. It’s an interesting premise and, when it works, provides a good set-up for the new generation of X-Men.
Unfortunately, there is a lot in the movie that doesn’t work.
While McAvoy and Fassbender once again get to show off their impressive acting chops, the relationship between Charles and Magneto that drove the previous two movies is barely touched upon here. In fact the two actors share very limited screen-time, which is a shame because (as shown in multiple flashbacks to the first two films) any scene with McAvoy and Fassbender carried with it a huge sense of pathos and credibility that really legitimised the X-Men films. Instead the focus moves on to the new members of the superhero team.
The latest additions to the cast fit in well with the established team, but I wish the audience had a bit more time to see them grow and develop. Cyclops and Jean Grey were the only characters that really had any substance or depth to them. The others seemed to be there to drive the plot along. Jubilee (Lana Condor) comes across as more of a glorified extra, and Nightcrawler is relegated to being the X-Men’s Uber and the biggest casualty is Rose Byrne‘s Moira Mactaggert, who’s just there for comic relief. A real step backwards from the role she played in First Class.
Luckily Evan Peters’ Quicksilver fares better. As with Days of Future Past, he gets another chance to showcase his impressive speed, and once again this scene is a show-stealer, and it highlights one of the film’s saving graces, it’s humour. While I enjoyed his début performance in Future Past more, his character in XMA still brought in the laughs. But once again Quicksilver didn’t seem to be that relevant to the story. His character had an arc that seemed to be heading somewhere but then surprisingly fizzled out.
Jumping to the bad-guys camp, Oscar Isaac does his best to give Apocalypse the gravitas and menace the character deserves, but unfortunately he doesn’t come across as intimidating as Apocalypse should be. The character in the comics is 7 feet tall, 140 kg and his physicality projects the threat that he is. Isaac in costume is the same size as all the other characters on-screen and really doesn’t seem that intimidating. To be honest, despite his penchant for delivering speeches to all he meets, I never really understood what his real motivations were. Apocalypse talks a lot about removing false gods and remaking the world, but he never explains what his vision of the new world is. Add the fact that the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, who are built up to be some huge threat, ultimately never live up to their hype and come across as another set of cannon fodder, and you get another set of ho-hum villains that serve as excuses to create action set-pieces.
Speaking of which, the action and special effects in XMA were well-done, especially in the afore-mentioned Quicksilver scene, but in this day and age where every movie features great visuals, if you don’t have a great storyline and entertaining characters, explosions and awesome CG are not enough. The script of XMA is full of plot holes that are glaringly obvious and took me right out of the movie, and certain plot points were so telegraphed that you could see them coming a mile away. Events seemed to happen just to get people from point A to point B, and if it meant that logic had to be dropped along the way, then so be it.
XMA had a good pedigree to work off from but ultimately didn’t live up to it. Instead of being something that elevated the superhero genre, it’s actually another generic comic book movie.
Oh and there’s a scene at the end of the credits, but be prepared to hit Google after watching it as it’s sure to leave a lot of the audience confused as to what is happening. (If you’ve watched the movie, an explanation of the scene can be found here.)
I give X-Men: Apocalypse a 6.5 out of 10.