One of the disadvantages of going to see a film a little bit after it comes it out is that you’ve already heard everyone else’s opinion. You go in with at least a small amount of your brain made up. If everyone you trust says it’s shit, you expect it to be shit. If everyone says it’s great, well you get the picture. This can go one of two ways. You either end up cementing that opinion or being pleasantly/horribly surprised. Heads up, this review will contain all the spoilers.
X-Men Apocalypse sits firmly in the middle of that spectrum. General opinion appears to be that the latest X-Men film pales in comparison to the last two efforts and once again, they’ve fucked it up on the third one. However, the truth is nowhere near that dramatic. Last Stand this is not. There are a lot of good parts to Apocalypse it just happens to be wrapped up in a load of old shit.
Central to which is Apocalypse himself. Even if you ignore the fact that he looks ridiculous (I mean why cover up someone as pretty as Oscar Isaac?), he is an enemy that rivals the blandest of superhero movie villains. Motivated apparently by the invention of television or something like that, he wishes to destroy the world so that he can rule it… Not sure what he’s going to rule, but there must be something. On top of that, we are never actually told what he can do. His super powers are based on what the writers need him to do rather than actual sense. So at the end when he apparently slows down time in order to deal with Quicksilver, you have to accept it, it’s what he does.
Surrounding the big blue bastard is the Four Horsemen, who somehow get even worse treatment. It seems to be a law that if you put Angel in an X-Men film he gets a shit time, and that doesn’t change here. Ben Hardy probably has a total of twenty words and his genuine highlight is when he is listening to a rather on the nose Metallica song when Apocalypse turns up to recruit him. He can at least be thankful that he won’t have to come back to the role next time around as he seems to shuffle off his mortal coil come the end of the film. The same can’t be said for Olivia Munn’s Psylocke, who looks pretty cool (although she could maybe use a few more items of clothing) but is handed chicken shit and expected to make chicken salad. She does alright, but it still tastes of shit.
Magneto and Storm are treated better, but their storylines are threadbare at best. At the start of the film Magneto has settled down with a gorgeous family, and if you can’t figure out within five minutes that they are for the chopping block, then you aren’t trying. The only less shocking moment is when he turns his back on Apocalypse and realigns with his frenemies at the end of the film. Storm meanwhile lays the seeds for potential in the future but in the here and now is underserved by what surrounds her.
Thankfully, those on the light side of the Mutant divide are treated a hell of a lot better. Central to that is Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Nightcrawler, who is delightful. An awkward, bumbling type watching him grow into his powers is brilliant fun, and Smit-McPhee will hopefully play that character for years to come. Tye Sheridan and Sophie Turner also lay down healthy roots for Cyclops and Jean Grey. Neither of those characters were particularly well served the first time Fox had a go at them but this time round, they seem determined to make up for that. The hint of the Phoenix when Grey unleashes her powers at the end of the film suggests that path will be tread again, let’s just hope they get it right this time.
Exhaustingly, after all of that we have barely even touched on most of the other characters so let’s get them out the way quickly. Moira McTaggert: pointless. Charles Xavier: some dramatic balding. Beast: rivalling the Horsemen for lack of activity. Jubilee: forgot she was there. Wolverine: why did they reveal that cameo ahead of time? Mystique: actually I’ve got a bit more to say about that one.
Because it’s a damn shame for the X-Men franchise that Jennifer Lawrence has become one of the biggest things on the planet. In doing so, she has forced them to move her front and centre and at the same time morphed her into Katniss. Gone is the rather kinky confidence that that character has displayed in the past (even during Lawrence’s time as her) and instead, we have an unwilling hero on our hands. It doesn’t fit, and quite frankly it is a bit dull.
Outside of that substantial cast, Apocalypse feels like a movie that has missed every other superhero movie that came out in the last few years. It goes back to a well that has been drawn from before and that well is dry. For Christ sake, there is a scene where Cairo is apparently destroyed and not one of these ‘heroes’ seems that upset that roughly 7.772 million people (as of 2006 so take a few away since this is the eighties) will have been taken with it. Throw in the fact that the film follows the original X-Men film beat for beat (even taking some dialogue straight from it) and the whole thing feels hackneyed. Which by the way is in direct contrast to its cast who have apparently failed to age in the last twenty years of in movie time.
Which kind of sums it up. There is a lack of creative spark to this film. Even when the inevitable Quicksilver scene team comes around you can’t help but feel like they are just repeating what they did before and doing it worse. There are moments in X-Men Apocalypse where I came so close to getting on board. However, when the big blue bastard hits the wall, it all turns out to be a bit shit.