X-Men: Apocalypse.

Posted: June 2, 2016 in Film reviews
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Directed by Bryan Singer. Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence.

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In ancient Egypt a mutant named En Sabah Nur, perhaps the very first mutant, rules Egypt until a group of his followers rebel whilst he is transferring his consciousness to another body, one that can live forever. His great pyramid is destroyed, his four lieutenants are killed, and he is buried under tonnes of rubble.

Flash forward to 1983 and it is ten years since the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Mutants are an accepted part of life, although there are limits to how much they are accepted. In East Berlin Raven/Mystique (Lawrence) infiltrates an underground club where mutants are forced to fight to the death. She shuts down the power whilst a mutant with wings, Angel, is fighting a devilish looking Kurt Wagner/Night Crawler. Angel escapes under his own power, but Wagner uses his teleportation ability to get him and Raven to safety.

Meanwhile in Egypt En Sabah Nur has been finally freed, an event partially witnessed by CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne). In the aftermath of his escape from millennia of captivity En Sabah Nur, or Apocalypse, recruits Ororo Munroe, a young mutant with the power to affect the weather, as his first disciple. The two soon become three as he recruits another mutant named Psylocke as well as Angel. His fourth acolyte is Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Fassbender) who, after tragedy befalls the life he has made for himself in Poland, decides to join Apocalypse in order to pull down the old world to create a new one.

Meanwhile in America Processor Charles Xavier/ Professor X (McAvoy) investigates the appearance of Apocalypse helped by Hank McCoy / Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Moira, who doesn’t realise that she and Xavier were in love because he wiped the memory of it from her back in X-Men: First Class. Meanwhile more pupils join his school, including young Scott Summers, a man able to fire devastating beams of energy from his eyes. Though initially wary of one another Scott becomes friends with Jean Grey, a powerful psychic.

As Apocalypse threatens to destroy the world, the disparate band of mutants and their allies must set aside their differences in order to battle him and his four horsemen, but when he and his allies are so powerful can they hope to stand against him?

 

And so I watched my fourth superhero film of the year after Deadpool, Batman Vs Superman and Captain America: Civil War and going in I did wonder whether I was reaching a point of super-weariness, was this a comic book film too far? So the fact that I walked out two and a half hours later quite happy is probably quite telling. Which isn’t to suggest X-Men Apocalypse is a triumph, but it’s perfectly enjoyable if a little flawed and a little forgettable

Like both BvS and CW it’s too long, clocking in at almost two and a half hours (and a word of warning, there is an end credits scene but I didn’t think it was worth the wait.) There is a lot of setting things up for later in the film, a lot of new characters introduced and old favourites reintroduced and I’m not ashamed to say I was a little confused on occasion. Who’s he? Was she in the last one? None of this really dented my enjoyment, but at times you do feel a little like you’re going through a checklist.

The film’s major flaw is Apocalypse himself. Unfortunately like a lot of comic book villains his motivations are paper thin. He wants to destroy the world and create a new one because…well he just does. He’s just inherently bad. Not that his acolytes have greater reasons for hooking up with him, unless giving them groovy new wings/white hair/bigger boobs (I’m joking—I think) or a purple helmet suffice. Of all of them only Magneto’s motivations hold any water. As such Apocalypse just becomes a dull villain for everyone to fight. He has no real personality, which is a shame and a waste of a good actor in Oscar Isaac who I know from The Force Awakens and Ex Machina can dominate the screen.

Another flaw goes beyond X-Men. I’ve just reached that point where I don’t care about cities and/or iconic landmarks being destroyed anymore (which doesn’t bode well for the Independence Day sequel). It’s just become old hat now, and Civil War was good to shy away from this, for the lost part. So skyscrapers fall, and oh look there goes the Sydney Opera House…shrug…

The dialogue is iffy at times too, lots of “Thank God Mr President” and similarly earnest recitations no normal person would say, and though in hindsight I know Famke Janssen did it as well, I found Sophie Turner putting her fingers to her temple every time she used her psychic powers really jarring. This isn’t a film that lets you figure out anything for yourself.

Where it succeeds in the main is down to the cast, who are great. This applied equally to old stagers like McAvoy, Fassbender, Rose Byrne, Nicholas Hoult and Lawrence (though it’s odd to think of Jennifer Lawrence as ‘old) and to the new young mutants. Game of Thrones’ Turner is good as Jean Grey, although it is odd to hear Sansa Stark with an American accent. Tye Sheridan makes for an engaging Cyclops and Kodi Smit-McPhee is superb as the devout yet devilish Nightcrawler.

Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff / Quicksilver threatens to steal the film (as he did the last one) and his rescue of a whole bunch of people in the middle of the film is almost worth the price of admission alone (as is a certain, ahem, cameo!). Just ignore the bit where he plays Pac Girl while Knight Rider plays on the telly. It’s the most 80s moment in a film that’s curiously subtle about its era much of the time (aside from Turner’s big shoulder pads and McAvoy’s Miami Vice Jacket.)

Singer is a solid director, and the film is rarely boring. So all in all an enjoyable way to spend a few hours, even if, in the grand scheme of things, it seems a trifle inconsequential when put up against something like Civil War, in fact even though it’s more fun, and more coherent, than Batman Vs Superman it lacks the heft that even that film had. And of course it’s nowhere near as irreverently brilliant as Deadpool. Not the worst superhero film of the year so far, afraid that is BvS, but not the best either.

I x-pect there’s be another one though and I x-pect I’ll be happy to go and see it.

 

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Comments
  1. Daaamn, I was hoping they’d turn it into a full-on 80sfest, the superhero movie John Hughes never made!

  2. starkers70 says:

    To be fair it’s probably better that they didn’t overdo matters!

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