ScreenCritics Adam checks out ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ – is it what Fox’s franchise needed or just a disaster of apocalyptic proportions?
Let’s face it, we always forget about the X-Men. While we all got hyped up for Captain America: Civil War or Batman v Superman, we all sort of forgot that a new X-Men film was coming out and that was a bit unfair really. I get that we rarely get five star films off them, but they have provided plenty of entertaining flicks such as the first two films of the original film, Days of Future Past and First Class. But no, the only film that we get excited about that has mutants in it is Deadpool because it had very funny cussing. But maybe we didn’t hype X-Men: Apocalypse for a reason?
Many years after Magneto (Michael Fassbender, Inglorious Basterds) threatened the president, things have quietened down for the mutants. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, Wanted) has set up his school for the gifted, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games) is hunting down mutants being exploited while even Magneto has settled down to a normal job with a family. However the first ever mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina) emerges and plans to completely destroy the world and rebuild it just for the strong.
For a big blockbuster that promises a whole lot of destruction, and eventually gives it to us but we’ll get to that later, this film is very slow on getting to it. After a brief scene at the beginning where Apocaylpse is briefly defeated, you have to wait for another hour to get a proper action scene. Yes, there’s a fight that’s not even a fight between Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee, Let Me In) and Angel (Ben Hardy, Eastenders), but nothing that will get the pulse racing. So for a lot of the film, you do get plenty of talking. Exposition from Rose Byrne (Bad Neighbors) about who Apocalypse is, Apocalypse gathering his four horseman, Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan, Mud) doing a bit of moping, it’s a whole lot of characters talking. Luckily, the script is decent and the acting very good so this isn’t as bad as you might expect it to, but I feel some parts of the audience may start feeling uncomfortable in their seats until Stryker (Josh Helman, Mad Max: Fury Road) shows up and makes things interesting.
And that brings us to the biggest flaw, the action. Now first off, none of it is that bad. It’s all very well directed and the effects are very good, with some shots looking like they’ve been ripped from the pages of the comics. However, apart from a cool breakout scene with the cameo from an iconic X-Men and Xavier taking on Apocalypse in his own mind, everything here is something we’ve seen before. Yes, Quicksilver (Evan Peters, Kick-Ass) running quick to music is awesome, but we saw it in Days of Future Past. And in the conclusion, so much is being blown up and destroyed the action almost feels meaningless in the same sort of way you just stop caring in a Roland Emmerich film. There are some original ideas here, they just needed more time than the everything blows up one.
The film also suffers from throwing way too many characters into the pot and not giving enough time for any of them. We have lots of new mutants who could be cool such as Cyclops, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner, Game of Thrones), Nightcrawler, Angel, Psylocke (Olivia Munn, Magic Mike) and Storm (Alexandra Shipp, Straight Outta Compton). Jubilee (Lana Condor, Patriots Day) is also in there but that’s a blink or you’ll miss it thing. And while they all have a big part in the action scenes, I barely know any of them as for all the talking that happens, the new guys barely do any of it. The best served are the ones who end up at the school such as Cyclops, Nightcrawler and Jean Grey, but all feel a bit lacking. But hey, Cyclops actually has a reason to be miserable in this film so he’s far more likable than he was in the original trilogy.
But none of their character issues compare to Apocalypse who is one of the most anonymous villains you’ll see in a long time. He wants to destroy humanity because they worship false gods, we are given no idea if these false gods are either Magneo or Xavier or if it is the media in general as we get tiny hints it could be either, but gets no development other than that. He has no memorable features other than the fact he resembles a villain from Power Rangers and talks in such boring threats you feel they could have got any boring actor to do this role, neither mind the very charismatic Oscar Isaac. There have been so many bad villains in superhero film history, but Apocalypse is right up there competing with the woman who tried to kill the world with make up in Catwoman.
This isn’t all bad though. While the director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) does plenty bad in this film, he does plenty good too. He gives Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy a lot to get their teeth stuck into and they remain the best part of these young X-Men films, simply because their stuff still resembles a Shakespearean play in many ways. And while the young cast don’t get much to do, they are able to do well with what they get and I have plenty of hope they could all lead their own film in the future. And as I’ve said earlier in this review, some of the shots in the film do look very awesome and will make comic book fans jump out of their seats in glee.
Bigger does not necessarily mean better and that is certainly the case for X-Men: Apocalypse. This film feels that if it chucks a lot more characters and explosions into the mix, it’ll be a lot more epic and we’ll care far more. But it doesn’t work simply because it fails to get the little things right like making sure all the characters have good motivation and that the villain can occupy more than five minutes of screen time before making us fall asleep. It’s so bizarre as the franchise felt so fresh in recent years thanks to Days of Future Past and Deadpool but in just one film, it all feels so tired again and someone desperately needs to jump in and inject some fresh ideas. But who?